Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Published in the Signal February 25, 2011.  Click here to view.

The number of students applying to enter the University of California in the fall 2011 is at an all-time high. The State College System has also seen a large increase in the number of applications. A significant note is that out-of-state and international student applications have increased, 10.7% and 22.5% respectively. This is significant because it is happening at the same time as funding, staff, and course offerings are being reduced. The predictable result is this: the bar for admission is being raised and the cost to attend continues to climb.

If you have college bound students this should have your attention. When out-of-state students are being recruited for the tuition they bring, (the State and UC systems have hired recruiters to bring in out-of-state and country students) California students have fewer opportunities at the in-demand schools. While the cost of attending has increased, the length of time it takes to graduate has also increased, a double hit financially since students are not only spending more, but doing it for longer periods. Currently, just 37% of full time students graduate in 4 years.  Six year graduation rates have become the standard to measure a college’s performance.

A 2007 survey of incoming freshmen conducted by the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute indicated a real disconnect between student perception and the reality of paying for college. In that survey only 9.5% of surveyed freshmen were not sure if they would have sufficient funding for college, while 90% showed little or no concern. A benefit of the deep recession is that more students are aware of the  cost of college, the most recent survey indicating that students are more concerned they have been since 1971 about their, or their parent’s, ability to pay for school.

Today, students and parents are gaining a new appreciation for the value of a college education, and the realities of paying for it. With the average annual cost of the CSU system at $20,787 and the UC system at $29,400 understanding the financial aid system is critical. Students and parents should look to build a partnership between the school, the government, the student and parents, and know how to leverage each of those pieces. Also, it’s important to realize that a less expensive school that takes longer to graduate from may not be the bargain it appears to be.

While college is no guarantee of success, nor the only path to success, the statistics are undeniable and compelling. The better educated one is the greater one’s lifetime earnings will be. Additionally, the more education one has, the less likely he or she was to be unemployed during  the recent recession.

The college application process starts when high school does. To be positioned to choose colleges that offer the greatest opportunity to thrive , the student must take the right classes, earn high grades, take the ACT and SAT tests, and engage in the outside activities that make him or her more attractive to their desired schools. These activities happen though-out your high school career, although it is never too late to start planning for success.

The goal of good college planning is, ultimately, admission to the school of your choice. When its time to apply the student with a choice of colleges has the greatest advantage. Doors are not opened just because the student took the right classes or has the grades and test scores. Additionally, doors are opened because the student has researched and identified desirable colleges and because he or she has developed a strategy  to pay for that education.

The final step will be to evaluate those acceptance letters in the Spring!

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