Discussion about Admissions & Financing
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Discussion about Admissions & Financing

I received an email from my Board President, Ron Miller, that was written by a gentleman in Prince Georges County in response to an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal Jan 3, 2008http://www.opinionjournal.com/la/?id=110011074

My response was directed to him, but I felt that it had some valuable information to share on the SoMD CAN blog.

Dear Mr. Andoh;

I was forwarded your post to your discussion group, and read your comments with great interest.

There are several factors that need to be considered during the selection process of the institutions our students apply to. First and foremost, keeping in mind your dismay over the admissions process, is whether the school has a “need blind” admission policy. A “need blind” admission policy, simply stated, is one that admits students based solely on their merit to be a productive and successful student at the institution and not on their financial need (or lack thereof).

During the 15 – 20 Financial Aid Night presentations that I give in the Southern Maryland region, I’m generally hit hard with questions from middle class families about why the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) does not request information regarding the families consumer debt. The answer is always – because the U.S. Department of Education’s philosophy is that they are not the primary source of funding your student’s higher education aspirations … that falls on the family and the student. The U.S. Dept of Ed Federal Student Aid funds are there for those who demonstrate financial need as determined by the Federal Methodology calculations. The result of the calculation is called the EFC (expected family contribution – what the Dept of Ed reasonably expects you to be able to pay toward the COA [Cost of Attendance] of any given institution.)

I’m often dismayed at the current culture of college admissions, myself. I am the parent of a bright (but totally unmotivated) sophomore son. Does this spell doom for his chances to be admitted to a fine institution of higher learning? I certainly hope not! One step that we are taking as a family is to save prodigiously for college costs – yes, we would be considered “privileged” by most (including admissions personnel), but we also know the consequences of not saving for college tuition/fee, room/board. Our EFC is going to be calculated higher than most COAs. There is a very good calculator onwww.finaid.org that allows you to input income and asset information for the purpose of receiving an estimated EFC. Very good step for all families to take! That way you are equipped with information about how much the colleges/universities are going to expect you to be able to contribute to the cost of attendance at their institution.

There is a terrific book written several years ago by Thomas LaVeist, Ph.D. and Will LaVeist – 8 Steps to Help Black Families Pay for College: A Crash Course in Financial Aid. Step 1 in the book is about “getting your mind right” … about college, about personal finances, about how it all relates to a student’s future success.

Back to the topic of college admissions. If you have a son or daughter like mine, quite average – but rather extraordinary in the scheme of things! – is involved in a sport, a club, community experiences, then what are you to do? Don’t set the student up for a fall by having them concentrate on ONE school only. They can have dream schools, but please encourage your student to have in hand at least five schools that will want to admit that student. Pick schools where the student is solidly in the top 25% academically (and folks, that may mean NO Harvard!) There are approximately 3,800 institutions of higher education out there! Also, choose schools that fit the student’s personality … would you send your student to a school in NYC if they are totally uncomfortable in a large city – look for greener pastures, literally. Visit the schools, skip the beach retreat this year and drive around the Midwest or the Atlantic Coast. There is no experience greater for choosing a college than an actual visit to the campus. ALL websites and catalogues show the gorgeous buildings and the “pretty” people lounging in the quad.

Mr. Andoh, thank you for your questioning perspective of this rather daunting time in the lives of our students (not to mention the stomach churning created for the parents!). Just a reminder, for parents of senior high school students, NOW is the time to complete the FAFSA. Go to www.fafsa.ed.gov to start the process. Download the FOTW Worksheet for a paper copy. I always find that it works better to complete the worksheet before actually completing the online version. You can estimate 2007 taxes if you are not prepared to complete your 1040 or 1040A just yet. Also, be aware that “taxes withheld” is much different than the FAFSA question of “taxes paid”. Taxes paid is referring to the amount of taxes you pay on your taxable income (AGI – deductions and credits).

Please don’t let me hear another family say, “But we make too much money and have too many assets to be eligible.” The FAFSA is the gateway to opening up opportunities for financial aid from Federal, State, Institutional, and Private Scholarship sources. And financial aid includes grants, loans, scholarships, and work programs. I’ve been at this for 18 years, not much has changed except for the tremendous and outrageous cost of tuition/fees and room/board at higher education institutions.

The adage “knowledge is power” is absolutely true in this case. Contact me if you have any questions! I’d love to hear from you.

Happy New Year!

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