The rising cost of college tuition is surely the most discussed topic in the college admissions field these days, which is why staff members in Western Reserve Academy’s College Counseling Office are working to help our families make the wisest decisions possible.
“With Sarah Lawrence College having surpassed the $60,000 tuition barrier (at $61,236, the first college to cross that threshold) this year, many industry analysts believe that the tuition trajectory is unsustainable,” said Director of College Counseling Jeffrey Neill. “Now, more than ever, financial awards are figuring prominently into the final decisions of students when they are making their college choice.
“We have seen an incredible influx in the amount of information we are asked to provide our current parents dealing with college affordability, scholarship opportunities, and even personal family finances. We now make regular referrals to a local financial planner who can help with everything from budgeting to setting up 529 plans.”
While more families are choosing colleges based on the amount of financial aid a particular school offers, Neill cautions that parents and students should look beyond just the “sticker price” of attending a school.
“While many of the more selective colleges tend to be more expensive, those schools are much more likely to offer generous financial aid packages because they want the students they accept to actually attend,” he explained. “As such, we encourage our students and their families to go through the process of determining their financial situation, but then not to stop at the initial sticker price. They should look at other factors, including yield rates, average financial aid awards and the total amount of aid granted at a particular school.
“There are real reasons for why college costs so much, but limiting the list based exclusively on sticker price is one of the greatest challenges we face. What we encourage is for students who are applying for financial aid to produce a college list of six to 10 schools that includes an array of institutions with a range of likelihood of financial opportunities.”
Starting this year with students in the Class of 2014, the College Counseling Office is requiring students to apply for at least one scholarship. The office is supporting the effort by maintaining a database of more than 85 scholarship opportunities through Naviance, a web-based college counseling software system.
“There are thousands of scholarships available, so we strongly encourage students to research opportunities, particularly those in their hometowns through service or membership organizations such as local Rotary, Kiwanis, or Lions clubs,” Neill said. “For parents, it is also worth inquiring whether there are any scholarship opportunities through their employers.
“WRA students have much to be proud of and to offer college campuses, and we hope to accentuate and to highlight them with this program.”
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