PROSPER ACT: More Federal Money For Colleges, Less Financial Aid For You

The PROSPER Act will cut $15 billion in student loans if it becomes law. In December 2017, the Republicans just pushed the PROSPER Act through the House without hearings and despite calls from the college communities, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Sound familiar?

The bottom line: This bill will make college MORE expensive for students and working families. Students will have to borrow more money and pay more to pay down their loans. Don’t be fooled by it’s name: PROSPER Act: Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform Act.

Once again, the Republicans have framed this act that will mislead Americans to vote for something that will ultimately hurt the people who need financial aid the most! Check out this article that lays out how student loans will change if the PROSPER Act is passed.

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You Shouldn't Have To Choose Between Financial Aid and Crushing Debt

If you have trouble reading the financial aid letters and awards documents that you received with your acceptance letters from colleges, you’re not alone. Colleges send vague letters with mixed messages about what it will cost to attend. One would think that colleges would write letters that inform prospective students about their financial aid offers: 1) How much they will receive in grants and scholarships each year (free money!), 2) how much they will receive in loans (money to pay back after graduation), 3) how much their parents can borrow (money that parents back in monthly installments), and 4) work/study and student employment (paid jobs on campus). After all, wouldn’t colleges want students to get their degrees and prosper?

Doesn’t look like they do.

UAspire, a nonprofit company that promotes college access and affordability, recently reviewed 11,000 financial aid award letters from 900 colleges. They found that one third of these financial aid letters didn’t define what type of money the student was to receive (loans and grants) and camouflaged parent contributions by subtracting their financial responsibility from the total cost (making it look like the parents didn’t have to pay anything!). Other letters didn’t use the words “loan” and some didn’t indicate the total cost of attending.

Yikes!

When you have super excited kids wanting to attend colleges that are out of their family’s financial comfort zone, many students accept offers before realizing the incredible debt they will face upon graduation. For the poorest families, college tuition took about 20% of their income back in 1990, but today, tuition takes about 75%. This is creating a deep divide between those who can afford college and those who can’t. Do we really want a college education for just the wealthy?

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My Baby Is Getting Her MBA!

Just returned from Chicago where Jaclyn received her MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Yes, my baby walked the stage with her class of 2018. This has been quite a whirlwind for Jaclyn as she moved to Chicago last June to join this exceptional group of MBA students. 

We had a blast as we celebrated with her Kellogg friends and family for several days.  So excited to see what marketing opportunities Jaclyn will have this September when she completes her coursework at Kellogg.

I’m so proud of the dynamic young lady that Jaclyn has become!


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Law Schools No Longer Require The LSAT For Admissions

According to the American Bar Association (ABA), law schools are no longer required to use the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) to be accredited by the ABA. That doesn’t mean that you don’t need to take a standardized test to apply to law school, it simply means that law schools can choose which tests they’ll accept because they won’t be required to use the LSAT.

The College Board couldn’t be more pleased with this decision because most law schools will probably accept the GRE, which is offered by the College Board. When looking to see what tests offer the best predictor of success in law school, most find that the GRE and the LSAT result in equal predictive values.

So, if you’re law school bound, you now have options. Like high school students who can take the SAT or ACT, law school applicants who didn’t do well with the LSAT may do better with the GRE.

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Is College Just For The Rich?

When I was a college student, anyone could pay for their own college education with a summer job and a Pell Grant (or scholarship).  Back then, Pell Grants covered almost 80% of the tuition.  Today, Pells only cover about 18%. 

Public colleges – you know, the ones funded by your hard earned taxes – were established to provide an equal opportunity for all students who wanted to get a college degree.  Anyone from any background could lift themselves out of poverty and into a successful career by sheer grit and determination. 

I’m worried that the divide between the haves and the have nots is going to create class wars. Socioeconomic status dictates who has more opportunities to advance themselves than race, gender, or religion do. 

When bright and eager students from low-income families don’t apply to colleges because they don’t want to start their lives in debt, that’s a big red flag in my book.  The wealthy students spend 4 years at elite campuses – I remember my father telling me that my college was like a country club! – taking classes, living in dorms, partying every night, and not worrying one bit about paying the $250,000 or more for a bachelor’s degree.

Yes, two years at a community college does reduce your college tuition by 50% but only 35% of low-income students actually transfer to a 4-year college.  When that much-sought-after bachelor’s degree is the surest way for low-income students to break out of poverty, these stats just aren’t fair.  


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Thinking About Getting An MBA? Think Again.

Considering getting an MBA?  Think again.  Many full-time MBA programs are changing the direction of their programs, and MBA grads are giving these programs low rankings. Although the international MBA programs are continuing at major universities, domestic programs are scaling back their executive MBA and MBA markets because of these 3 reasons: (1) employers are reluctant to pay higher salaries; (2) many MBA programs offer online courses; and (3) grad students are losing interest in the MBA programs. Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, and Simmons College have closed their MBA programs and that seems to be a new trend, but full-time MBA programs at the most elite colleges will continue.

Seems that grad students are preferring the master’s programs that can be completed in just 9 months and at about half the cost of an MBA.  These programs are more specialized so students can focus on finance, accounting, international business, management, marketing, economics, or business analytics.

Hmm. Sounds like you might consider avoiding more student debt in lieu of gaining specific business skills for half the cost.  Or, apply your knowledge and skills set where you’re currently working and reap the financial rewards and bonuses.

[Source 1] [Source 2]


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If You Missed The May 1st College Decision Deadline, You Still Have Options

While May 1st WAS the deadline for most private and selective public colleges, there are plenty of colleges still recruiting students for Fall 2018.  Only 36% of the thousands of colleges in the US have filled their incoming classes by May 1st.  Yup.  So BREATHE.

There are over 400 colleges that still have spaces for fall undergraduate enrollment according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling.  Check out which colleges have openings using this easy-to-use list:

https://www.nacacnet.org/collegeopenings

And, if you don’t like any of these 400 colleges, you can always go to a community college and transfer into your #1 college junior year.  You do have options!


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Guidance Counselors: Not Available To The Students Who Need Them Most!

When high school students at public schools in wealthy areas have access to better classes and better college advising than others, we are increasing our divide between the haves and the have nots.  Some public school students have engineering, robotics, speech and debate, over 20 AP courses, and excellent introduction to high-paying careers in STEM, while students from inner city ghettos don’t have basics like AP classes, honors courses, and the breadth of courses that selective colleges require for eligibility to attend.

The average high school counselor works with about 450 students, while counselors in poorer districts can have upwards of 1,000 students. These students from low-income families rely on their school guidance counselors to choose the necessary courses to meet minimum requirements for college but when their counselors are struggling to handle the sheer volume of students, they don’t have time to offer the support the college-bound students need to look at majors/careers, GPA and SAT/ACT averages, and financial aid. 

It seems unfair that students who attend public schools in wealthy areas have smaller counselor/student ratios and better courses offerings than students who attend schools in poverty-stricken areas.  Wouldn’t we want those underserved students to get more help?  After all, wealthy students work with private college advisors and most only meet with their guidance counselors for class schedules.  Hmm.


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Been Waitlisted? Check Out This FANTASTIC Table of College Waitlists!

If you’ve been offered a place on a college waiting list, don’t hold your breath! This year, colleges have offered more students on their waiting list than their entire freshman class size.  Brown University admitted 2,566 students to fill 1,719 spaces for their freshman class this fall. Considering this is an elite Ivy League college, they should easily receive deposits for all of these spaces.  Right?  Well then why did they offer an additional 2,724 students a place on their waiting list?

Brown isn’t alone.  Just about every college offers waiting list.  Not only do colleges want to unsure that they have a full class of freshmen but these waiting lists give colleges the stats to keep their admit rates low.  Many families rank their colleges choices by admit rates – the more difficult it is to get in, the more desirable it becomes.  Simple supply and demand.

Some of these colleges have waiting lists with over 3,000 students but they admit only 20.  Odds don’t look good.  But colleges do want to know if you would attend if admitted, so letting them know that you would accept their offer off the waiting list could improve your chances of getting in.  Good luck, and check out the source link below for a fantastic table of colleges with waiting lists, how many students are on them, what percentage are admitted, etc.:

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Why Do Colleges Admit Students In Front Of Video Cameras?

Many colleges have changed their marketing strategies to recruit top students.  Instead of sending the “large envelope” to congratulate students on their acceptances, colleges are sending giant mascots, balloons, and gifts to their most coveted applicants.  At Merit, students have received handwritten letters from the dean, and Yale actually called one of my daughters three times to encourage her to accept their full-scholarship offer.  Wheaton filled a bus with admissions officers/staff and drove out to a student’s high school to surprise her with the news (captured on YouTube).  These stories have gone viral on social media building hype about college acceptances, which only benefits the colleges and the very few who get in. 

I wonder if this type of extravagant marketing leads to self-doubt, anxiety, and depression among the tens of thousands of students who don’t get into their top colleges.  When these other students see colleges rolling out the red carpet and offering gifts to a few lucky students, the vast majority of college applicants may suffer in silence as they receive rejection letters.  Social media already creates an unrealistic view of how “happy and successful” everyone else’s lives are compared to themselves. 

At Merit, I recommend that students keep their college lists, GPA, and SAT/ACT scores to themselves.  That way, if they get rejected from their top colleges, they don’t have to share that sad and disappointing news with their friends, relatives, and social media.  It’s tough enough to deal with rejection when students open those small envelopes.  Having dozens of people ask if they got in or having video cameras on them as they check their inboxes, can be devastating.  I hope colleges stop their public hype about accepting a few students to promote their brand.  Let’s give all students the decent respect of choosing their colleges and making those final announcements privately.   


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