Given the economic times, more students and families are anxious to find "free money", such as scholarships or grants to finance a college education (see results of SLA Flash Survey on Financial Aid Counseling). Perhaps that is why services purporting to "find" these scholarships and grants will be "coming to a college near you" if they are not marketing on your campus already.
"Syracuse's new Money Awareness Program, or MAP, is aimed at students
with a high debt burden. It's a way for the university to make sure
upperclassmen who are struggling with their finances are able to make
it to graduation."
Thanks to Kaye DeVesty, Director of Financial Aid and Scholarship programs, at Syracuse for answering my follow-up questions about their MAP program:
1. Can you talk about how this idea came about at Syracuse; what was the
main driver? Was it concern about amount of private loans students were taking
I received this email this morning from Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (CA-14):
"I just signed
on as a cosponsor of H.R. 3510, the Roosevelt
Scholars Act of 2009. The bill would create a new, elite scholarship program to fund graduate level study in exchange for a civil service commitment to areas across the federal government. H.R. 3510 would also establish a foundation to administer the application process, selection of scholars, and ongoing support activities
associated with these scholarships. The scholarship would provide full tuition, support for room and
board, and a stipend for graduate study. In exchange, the scholars will complete an internship with
a federal agency and, upon graduation, complete a minimum of three years of civil service.
H.R. 3510 would provide the much needed pipeline of professional talent
for the federal government which is facing a workforce crisis.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimates that in approximately five years, the government's
top scientists, engineers, physicians, mathematicians, economists, and other highly specialized professionals
will be retiring. The bill will initiate a major recruitment effort that utilizes our nation's expansive
network of colleges to meet vital government staffing needs and serve the American public."
What about college discounting? Earlier this week, Inside Higher Ed had an article about one school bucking the discounting tide. The article cited this amazing statistic that "Between the early 1990s and 2007, average tuition discounts for
first-time freshmen grew from 27 percent to 39 percent, according to
the National Association of College and University Business Officers." I knew college discounts were common but 40% was higher than I would have imagined. The article goes on to note that "many college presidents say they offered even larger discounts this
year -- convinced that it was necessary to double down at a time when
affordability was such a concern for families. With college endowments imploding this is not a long-term solution.
What are the folks in the trenches seeing? How did families manage this fall?
Update: Here were comments from one reader:
"Most of us baby boomers were only in the stock market for
retirement funds, so that was never part of the plan to pay for college.
The drop in home values did affect us, but we took a 15 year
mortgage when our son was 3, and the house is now paid off. So we have enough
equity (even with the drop in value) to help pay the tuition bill if we need to
borrow, and money that was our mortgage payment is now going to the college to
pay our family contribution.
We never planned on a private loan - it would be home equity or
PLUS if we needed it. The son took the full sub Stafford and a Perkins loan,
so he is doing a good share of the borrowing.
The biggest hit we took was on the son’s 529 account. Even invested
conservatively, it dropped 35% of its value. The change in the student aid
rules, to count it as a family rather than a student asset, played a big role
in our ability to get enough financial aid to cover what we could not afford.
Hooray for colleges that can commit to meeting full need, and to
those using the federal methodology to determine that need – which today is a
more realistic view than including homes and other children’s assets like the
other need analyses currently in play! The transparency of the methodology
allowed us to determine if our financing plan was realistic at a private
college, but public colleges were an option as well.
The bottom line – planning – even with a multiplicity of
financial setbacks (loss of job, single worker for many years, and loss of
employer provided tuition support), it appears that we will make it possible
for the son to be at the best college for him."
Given the current state of the economy, I thought it would be worthwhile to understand what financial aid administrators are experiencing on the front lines today. By counseling students and families, financial aid administrators gain insights as to what matters to their "customers." The list below indicates that families are focusing on "free money" first by asking about scholarships/grants and work study/job opportunities.
This headline, "Scholarships for College Dwindle as Providers Pull Back Their Support," caught my eye since a recent SLA Flash Survey (full results out on Wednesday) found that Scholarships/ Grants ("free money") were the #1 item that families wanted to discuss in counseling sessions.
Here are some highlights from the article:
While scholarships are most needed due to the weak economy, that same weak economy has led to their reduction:
"The recession has led foundations, corporations, state governments and
colleges themselves to reduce their support of providers of
scholarships, and in recent months programs have been reduced or
canceled outright. The cuts come as economic conditions make it harder
for families to pay for college and as more unemployed people look for
financing for retraining."