Copyright (c) 2008 Karen Bolton
With the rising cost of college, it is important to utilize as many cost cutting strategies as possible. Let’s explore some top academic and admission strategies to help reduce the cost of college.
Career planning is often overlooked during the college planning process. However, this is one of the most important decisions that students will make. Without proper career planning, many students take 5-6 years to complete a degree. Many students receive degrees in declining growth fields or fields with a surplus of applicants and cannot find employment after graduation.
However, this can play a critical role in reducing the overall cost of college. A contributing factor in the college dropout and transfer rates is a lack of career planning and a failure to make college decisions based on career goals. Research by the US Dept of Education and American College Testing show that each year, approximately 50% of college freshman leave the college in which they first enrolled. Of the dropouts, about 30% transfer to other colleges at least once, and 20% transfer twice and typically take 6 or more years to complete a 4-year program.
Students who receive career planning prior to college selection and attendance have few major changes and college transfers, graduate on time, and tend to be more goal- and academic-focused. You may want to check out web-based career planning services at www.careerdimension.com and www.myroad.com.
2. Use Smart Admission Strategies
Apply where the student is academically above the incoming freshman class profile. Private colleges place a premium on good students and will often use tuition discounts to attract them to their campuses.
Apply for admission early. The student should submit an application to the college as soon as possible in the senior year of high school (September through December). After a college begins to fill the upcoming year’s freshman class, the need for the college to offer a tuition discount diminishes. Colleges need to complete their enrollment quotas as early as possible, so they often offer scholarships (tuition discounts) to the students who apply early (even students who do not qualify for need-based aid).
Apply to schools that have a low enrollment yield factor. The lower a college’s enrollment yield (yield percentage), the higher the probability of the student receiving tuition discounts. The enrollment yield is calculated by dividing the number of students enrolled by the number of students admitted. Enrollment is key to a college’s survival. Many colleges select students for admission to their school, only to have them enroll in another school. The colleges have a constant battle to fill seats every year (lesser-known private colleges are even more challenged because they must compete with the low cost of public universities and the popularity of the elite private schools).
The student should also apply to private colleges. Many private colleges have declining enrollments due to their high cost and competition from low-cost universities and popular elite private colleges. These colleges often give a tuition discount to students to fill empty seats at the college. Private colleges must compete with less-expensive, state-subsidized public universities.
Many private colleges offer incredible financial award packages to attract good students. Plus they offer smaller class sizes, which increase the student’s chance of attaining a degree in four years. Be sure to include a few private colleges in your selection process. You might be surprised with the outcome.
The student should apply to six to eight colleges. Do not limit your ability to negotiate the price of college. Apply to several colleges to maximize your financial opportunities. By applying to several colleges, the student is given the opportunity to receive a tuition discount from one college and use that discount to ask for a comparative discount, or better, from the college the student prefers to attend. Try to pick at least several schools where your child lies in the top 25% of the incoming freshman class. This strategy is more applicable to students attending private colleges.
If the student is planning to attend a private college, the student should create competition between colleges. The following types of colleges will create competition for your child:
A college in the same athletic conference
The student should apply to colleges that are competitive in the same area or location, athletic conference, or intellectual fields. The most competition often occurs between colleges that are in the same athletic conference.
An in-state public university
Even though you plan to go to a private college, always apply to a good in-state public university. The public university’s low cost may force the private college to offer a tuition discount to make its cost competitive with the public university’s cost. Low-cost public universities are the private colleges’ main competition.
A similar college outside of the student’s region of residency
The student should apply to similar private colleges that are located outside of the student’s region of residency. Most private colleges try to achieve regional diversity in its student body. The college may offer tuition discounts to entice students who are located in a different region.
3. Use the CLEP Program and AP Tests to Reduce the Cost of College
College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) is a widely accepted credit-by-examination program in the United States today. Although Advanced Placement (AP) courses are usually taken by above-average students, CLEP exams seem to benefit the average student and also the non-traditional (adult ed) student. The CLEP examinations are a series of examinations in undergraduate college courses that provide the student with the opportunity to demonstrate college-level achievement and achieve college credit. The examinations, which are sponsored by the College Board, are administered at colleges year-round. All CLEP exams are delivered on computer, providing test takers with instant score results. Be sure to check the college’s CLEP policy before taking any exam. The CLEP program can help students save time, save money, and advance to more specialized courses.
Perhaps the easiest and most effective way for a student to stand out academically for admissions is to score well on Advanced Placement (AP) tests offered by the College Board (www.collegeboard.com). While these studies are for the academically gifted student, they can represent real dollar reductions in the cost of college. The student can receive a full year’s credit and be granted sophomore standing from more than 1,400 higher education institutions by earning satisfactory grades on enough AP Examinations.