By Brian Witte
Excerpted from U.S. News & World Report
Your safety school should be the college or university on your short list that serves as a backup if your target and reach schools do not work out in your favor. It is still a safety school, though, so your choice hardly matters – right?
Perhaps not. Take Howard, for example, whose primary safety school was a large state university with affordable tuition. When his target schools failed to offer sufficient financial aid, this university became his only option.
His target campuses had been small liberal arts colleges that complemented his innate shyness with class sizes that would ensure he met other students and spoke with his professors. At the large state university, Howard drifted for five years and struggled to make friends and select a major that he loved. He graduated, but college was hardly the transformative experience he had dreamed of.
Howard's story highlights one of the downsides of attending a safety school – it is only safe in terms of admission. There are real dangers in not choosing your safety school wisely. Here are key factors to consider when selecting a safety school.
• Intellectual engagement: You may have chosen your safety school because you were almost certain that you would be accepted based on your GPA and test scores. If so, you may quickly find that you are struggling because your classes are too simple for you.
• Available majors: Another danger of attending a safety school occurs if your focus shifts. Many students ultimately choose different majors than the ones they imagined in high school. These individuals may later realize that their safety school has excellent programs in particular concentrations but that it struggles to provide an elite education across the full range of academic programs.
• The intangibles: A third danger – one that Howard discovered – is that your safety school is a poor match in one or more categories. This may be school size, whether the campus is claustrophobically small or bewilderingly large.
Treat your safety school as a true option. Research its culture, majors, financial aid and academic rigor. It will not meet all of your criteria – it would be a target school if it did – but it should satisfy most of your requirements.
Too often, students do not take safety schools seriously until it is too late. Ensure, in short, that you could thrive at your safety school if you were to land there.
Brian Witte is a professional SAT tutor with Varsity Tutors. Read his article in full as it appeared on usnews.com here.
By Doug Webber
Excerpted from fivethirtyeight.com
The rapid increase in the cost of college in recent decades — and the associated explosion in student debt, which now totals nearly $1.3 trillion nationally — is all too familiar to many Americans. But few understand what has caused the tuition boom, particularly at the public institutions that enroll roughly two-thirds of all students at four-year colleges. Many commenters, particularly in the popular press, focus on ballooning administrative budgets and extravagant student amenities. Those elements have played a role, to be sure, but by far the single biggest driver of rising tuitions for public colleges has been declining state funding for higher education.
It is true that today’s students enjoy better amenities — usually in the form of nicer gyms, dorms and dining halls, though some campuses feature lazy rivers and climbing walls — than I or, especially, my parents did during our time in college. It is also true that today's universities employe far more administratorsand staff who don’t have any direct role in either research or instruction. When my father attended the University of Florida1 in the 1970s, professors were required to also serve as academic advisors and meet individually with students to plan their schedules. Today, schools retain many staffers whose role is to assist both faculty and students. Some of those jobs are easy to mock: One frustrated grad student built a job-title generator that spits out bloated titles such as vice executive for the committee on dining relations.
And it is also true that professors (at least those on the tenure track) are paid better than the people who held those same jobs years ago. Average salaries for full professors (the highest rank) at top public institutions exceed $160,000 annually. Salaries for full professors have risen 12 percent in excess of inflation since 2000.
All of those trends add to the cost of college, but not by that much. At most, about a quarter of the increase in college tuition since 2000 can be attributed to rising faculty salaries, improved amenities and administrative bloat. By comparison, the decline in state support accounts for about three-quarters of the rising cost of college.
Consider Pennsylvania’s four public research institutions, one of which is Temple. Average tuition revenue per student (adjusted for inflation) increased by $5,880 between the 2000-01 and 2013-14 academic years (the most recent available data). State appropriations per student have declined nearly $4,000 over the same period, from about $7,750 to $3,900. Put another way, if Pennsylvania restored funding for higher education to its 2000 levels, Pennsylvania’s public research institutions could reduce tuition by nearly $4,000 per year without altering their budgets. For students, the impact could be even greater once loan fees and interest were taken into account.
By contrast, imagine that each of these institutions cut per-student spending for student services, administration and instruction back to 2000 levels, then passed those savings on to students in the form of lower tuition. How much would students save? Reducing student services would save each student $380 per year. Dropping all those new administrators would save $150 per student per year. And rolling back spending on faculty salaries would save $850 per year for the average student. Together, those three categories have added $1,380 to the cost of attendance since 2000, about a quarter of the total increase. At least some of that spending benefits students directly: Student-service spending has been found to increase the likelihood of graduating, and increased spending on instruction leads to higher earnings later in life.
National trends for all public four-year schools mirror those from the research institutions of Pennsylvania, although there are sizable differences across states. In the median state, South Carolina, the decline in state appropriations explains 81 percent of the increase in tuition revenue. Only three states — Alaska, North Dakota and Wyoming — have kept funding for higher education on pace with inflation and enrollment growth. In 17 states, the price of college would have actually declined since 2000 if funding had been kept constant and the schools applied that money entirely to students’ tuition bills. While state funding has rebounded somewhat during the economic recovery following the Great Recession, most states’ increases have not kept pace with enrollment growth.
The picture is a bit different at private schools, which do not receive state funding but have nonetheless seen substantial tuition increases. At private nonprofit colleges, the spending categories described above — student services and faculty and administrative salaries — together explain most of the tuition increase over the past two decades. Among for-profit institutions, it is much more difficult to pin down a reason for tuition increases, though recent research suggests that one big cause is the generosity of federal student aid: Some institutions may be raising tuition in order to capture as much government-backed money as possible.
The overarching message is that there is no single cause of the tuition boom. The reason for rising costs differs based on the type of institution and the state it’s in, and even varies over time. But, at least among public institutions, the dominant factor has been a steady decrease in support for higher education on the part of state legislatures.
Doug Webber is an assistant professor in the Department of Economics at Temple University. Much of his labor economics research focuses on the economics of higher education. Read Webber's full article, including detailed institutional data, as it first appeared on fivethirtyeight.com here.
By Judy Mandell
Excerpted from The Washington Post
Watching your kid sweat over college applications? Wondering which college is the best fit for your child and how to help them make that happen? We asked dozens of admissions officers to reveal the truth about admissions today. Here is what some of them told us.
Martha Blevins Allman, Wake Forest University dean of admissions: Concentrate not on being the best candidate, but on being the best person. Pay attention to what is going on in the world around you. If you do those things, not only will the world be a better place because you’re in it, your greatest admissions worry will be choosing which college to pick from. I look for beautiful, clear writing that comes to life on the essay page and offers insight into the character and personality of the student.
Tim Wolfe, College of William & Mary associate provost for enrollment and dean of admissions: Essays can help an admission committee better understand the individual and how he or she will add to the campus community. They are also an opportunity for us to evaluate a student’s ability to communicate through the written format. Whether you major in physics, history or business, you’ll need to write and be able to share thoughts and ideas with your professors and fellow students. The college application is an opportunity for the student to share his or her story and allows students the opportunity to add their voices to this process.
Ken Anselment, Lawrence University dean of admissions and financial aid: Writing an application essay might feel like you’re singing for the judges on “The Voice,” hoping that what you write will get them to pound their giant button, turn their chairs and say, “I want you.” It’s true that your voice is what we are looking for. When you write your college essay, use your authentic voice. If you’re a serious person, write your essay with a serious voice. If you’re a funny person, be funny. If you’re not a funny person, your college essay might not be the best place to try on that funny writer voice for the first time.
Stefanie Niles, Dickinson College vice president for enrollment, marketing and communications: Nothing is more important than a high school transcript showing strong academic performance in a solid curriculum. We want to admit students who will persist to college graduation, so knowing that you can do the work starts with a thorough review of high-school performance. The essay also matters; we want to see that you can write, what you write and what we can learn about you. We want to enroll students who will contribute to the life of the campus, so we are eager to see how you have contributed to your high-school community or the community in which you live.
Chris Hooker-Haring, Muhlenberg College vice president for enrollment management: Think about your extracurricular contribution — community service, athletics, the arts and elected leadership. What are you good at and what do you care about deeply outside the classroom? The college application process is a wonderful opportunity for self-discovery. You will find out things about yourself, what motivates you and what excites you. This is a passage to an exciting new chapter in your life. We want to get to know you and your story, and we want to help you in this process.
Judy Mandell is a freelance writer. Read her full article as it originally appeared on washingtonpost.com here.
By Willard Dix
Sept 9, 2016
Excerpted from forbes.com
Annually, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) publishes its State of College Admission report. It’s a clear snapshot of college admission landscape based on data collected from hundreds of institutions. The report offers a sober, disinterested look at what students and families (not to mention admission officers and high school counselors) must deal with as they contemplate the college process.
Major news outlets focus on sensational items like single-digit acceptance rates and astronomical test scores needed for admission, but the NACAC report provides broader context. Its data are taken from the annual Admission Trends and Counseling Trends Surveys that NACAC conducts among colleges and high schools. Without fanfare or hype, it highlights important aspects of the admission environment. And although geared to practitioners, it’s clearly written and authoritative, with helpful graphics and charts.
These numbers may seem mundane, but they provide an antidote to scare headlines about A+/1600 students who don’t get into Ivy League schools. Guess what? Hundreds of others didn’t, either, and they’re all going to college somewhere. Students with less than perfect numbers (which is most of them) can take heart as well–someone out there likes them.
Willard Dix was an admissions officer at Amherst College for eight years and college counselor at a Chicago private school for six. For Forbes, he covers the college admissions process and how it affects families. Read his full article as it originally appeared on forbes.com here.