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Universities offering in-state tuition to out-of-state students

Posted by gradefund on January 15, 2009

Universities offering in-state tuition to out-of-state students

http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2009-01-12-in-state-out_N.htm

ST. LOUIS (AP) — For 20 years, Southern Illinois University’s student numbers have languished, proving so vexing it cost a top administrator his job in 2006.

Much of the problem, the chancellor contends, is that would-be students from Illinois bolted to other states on the promise of sweet tuition deals.

Now, the university is fighting back: This fall, it will begin offering in-state tuition to first-year students from neighboring Missouri, Kentucky and Indiana.

Across the country, a bidding war of sorts has developed over prospective students seeking bargains in a bad economy. While some universities have long tried to lure students across state lines with lower tuitions, such incentives are gaining popularity as the nation’s financial meltdown has withered families’ college savings and home equity to help pay soaring education costs.

 

 

“We’re certainly seeing an acceleration of that” push to offer tuition cuts for its out-of-state scholars, said Bob Sevier, senior vice president of Iowa-based Stamats, a consultant to colleges and universities about marketing, student recruitment, fundraising and strategic planning.

“It’s something that should have been done a long time ago. This is not a gimmick. This is good public policy,” Sevier said.

And to Sam Goldman, Southern’s chancellor, it’s unavoidable. “We’re in probably the most competitive environment I’ve ever seen in higher education right now,” said Goldman.

Other universities have similar designs on recruitment.

In North Dakota, for example, the state’s Board of Higher Education recently approved offering in-state tuition to out-of-state and international prospects.

That’s something Minot State University last month pushed to make big use of by hiring two new recruiters, hoping to lure more students from Canada and Washington state.

Such efforts come when “the economic downturn is kind of churning the college market a little bit,” prompting many colleges and universities to evaluate ways to remain viable, Paul Hassen, a spokesman for the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges.

“The higher education market changes constantly, and each institution has its own challenges and opportunities,” he said. “Programs such as offering in-state rates to out-of-state students or some other way of packaging a pricing structure will occur. It’s a matter of fiscal survivability.”

Last month, an independent report on American higher education flunks all but one state — California, which got a C — when it comes to affordability. The biennial study by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, which evaluates how well higher education is serving the public, found that almost everywhere the average family’s cost of education is up.

In Illinois, the average cost of attending a public four-year college has jumped from 19% of a family’s income in 1999-2000 to 35% in 2007-2008.

At Southern Illinois, tuition has jumped from $2,865 in 1999 to $6,975 this year for in-state students; during the same span, non-resident tuition ballooned from $5,730 to $17,437. The school’s student numbers shrank by 1,650 along the way to 20,673 now — well below the 24,084 that went there in 1990.

That lagging enrollment came to a head in November 2006, when the university’s president, former five-term congressman Glenn Poshard, ousted Walter Wendler as the Carbondale school’s chancellor. “We’re the only public university in the state losing students. We have to turn this around,” Poshard said then.

In trying to do just that, Southern Illinois University’s board voted to extend in-state tuition to first-year students from Missouri, Kentucky and Indiana. After the first year, the students could qualify as Illinois residents.

Such moves apparently have worked elsewhere. According to Hassen’s group, Penn State from 2005 to 2008 has seen 47% more out-of-state students accepting offers from the school since it began offering a reduced tuition rate at 19 of its 20 campuses for the student’s first two years.

Other university systems, while also trying to pad out-of-state recruiting, aren’t feeling as generous.

University of California officials, for instance, reportedly are mulling expanding its out-of-state recruiting but not give those students in-state rates. Out-of-state students in that university system now pay $20,000 a year more than in-staters — a premium that can be a handy revenue stream when the state’s budget is tight.

In Carbondale, Goldman says it’s far too soon to tell whether Southern’s tuition push to lure more out-of-state students is making a difference, though he insists the feedback so far has been encouraging.

“I’ve bumped into people from out of state here who have said, told me point blank, that because we reduced it they are coming here,” he said. For each student, “the tangible difference is $10,000. It’s that much. It’s like we’re giving them a scholarship; it’s not, truly, but that’s the equivalency.”

Posted in Cheaper Tuition, Economy and School | Leave a Comment »

6 Rules That Can Help You Afford a Private College

Posted by gradefund on January 9, 2009

6 Rules That Can Help You Afford a Private College

http://www.usnews.com/articles/education/2008/12/24/6-rules-that-can-help-you-afford-a-private-college.html

Posted December 24, 2008

Jackie Steffen separated from her husband and lost the family home to foreclosure just as her oldest daughter, Rhiannon, was applying to colleges. Steffen, who works as a legal secretary in Chicago, says that wiped out her savings and quashed any hopes of borrowing to pay her daughter’s tuition bills. Yet Rhiannon is now a sophomore at $42,000-a-year Illinois Wesleyan University and will most likely graduate with less than $30,000 in debt.

More than 2 million families have lost their homes to foreclosure in the past two years. And economists warn that 3 million more families could lose their homes in the next couple of years. Many struggling parents fear that such financial difficulties may crush the college dreams of their children. But as the Steffens discovered, college is still possible if everyone in an extended family pitches in with wisdom, hard work, sacrifice—and some good luck.

“I think many of the families facing foreclosure today are hardworking, but with the accumulation of housing expenses and medical bills, they just get in too deep,” Jackie Steffen says. “These families are not lazy. They are willing to make an effort to keep themselves afloat. I guess that’s why I feel families facing foreclosure will eventually see their situation turn around for the positive. And I think that most students in college, or approaching college, are not looking for a free ride. They just want a little assistance, which I think is out there,” she says.

Here are some of the hard lessons the Steffens learned about paying for college during hard times.

1. Keep close to family: Jackie Steffen’s credit was ruined. She couldn’t qualify for any kind of loan to help her daughter cover the gap between the aid and the cost of attendance. Luckily, Jackie had long had a good relationship with her parents. “My mom and dad are retired, and they are not rich,” but they want their grandchildren to succeed, she says.

“Family is very important,” Rhiannon agrees. Without the help of her family, she wouldn’t be able to afford college, she says.

2. Students should take responsibility and action: In hard times, parents can’t do it all. Jackie says it was important that her daughter request her grandparents’ help cosigning an education loan, since it really was for Rhiannon. “It helps if the student initiates the request,” she says. “She had to promise to pay it all back. It is her responsibility, ultimately.” The experience taught Rhiannon that she and her family couldn’t secure enough loans to pay for her school, so she was energized to apply for scholarships. It turned out to be “a lot easier to ask someone for a reference or help with a [scholarship application] essay than it is to get someone to lend you $40,000 to get through school,” she says.

3. Apply to several different kinds of colleges: Rhiannon applied to a local in-state public university as a backup, as well as several private schools. But after counting up all her scholarships, it turned out to be no more expensive to attend her first-choice private school. Studies show that students who give themselves lots of college choices—including cheap in-state public universities and generous private schools—receive more financial aid than those who have limited choices.

4. Tell EVERYONE that you need help paying for college: Rhiannon’s grandmother happened to mention to her accountant that her granddaughter needed scholarships. The accountant suggested she try a foundation whose finances he also happened to manage. Rhiannon did, and won $75,000 worth of scholarships from the foundation—enough to relieve her of most of her college debt worries. “I learned that scholarships and money opportunities could literally come from anywhere and end up meaning the world,” Rhiannon says.

5. Communicate with your schools financial aid office: After she figured out how much it would cost to go to each school she got into, Rhiannon wrote a letter to her first choice, IWU, explaining the family situation and asking for more aid. IWU boosted her aid. Students “shouldn’t be afraid to be aggressive” about explaining their true needs to a college, Rhiannon says.

6. Dont despair, and keep trying: Rhiannon worked hard, earned good grades, and applied for lots of scholarships. In the meantime, Congress passed legislation making it a little easier for parents with mortgage trouble to get educational loans. And Jackie found affordable housing for her family and started working herself out of her financial hole. “Sometimes it seems like things are never going to get better. But, slowly but surely, they do,” Jackie Steffen says.

Posted in Alternative Payment, Cheaper Tuition, Financial Aid, Rising Tuition | Leave a Comment »

Getting the most bang for your college buck

Posted by gradefund on January 9, 2009

Getting the most bang for your college buck

http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2009-01-07-best-value-colleges_N.htm

By Sharon Jayson, USA TODAY

As college admission deadlines wind down and families submit financial aid applications for next fall, freshmen in 2009 will be the first to start college clearly in the throes of the recession.

What this will mean for students and colleges is just beginning to be understood. But one thing is clear — now, more than ever, students and parents need to make every education dollar count.

 

 

The Princeton Review’s list of 100 “Best Value” Colleges for 2009, released today by The Princeton Review and USA TODAY, aims to help them do just that.

The education services and test-prep company’s annual list ranks the top 10 public and private colleges and universities; the rest are listed alphabetically. Deemed No. 1 Best Value for a public university is the University of Virginia in Charlottesville; No. 1 among private campuses is Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pa.

Value is about more than just cost, says Robert Franek, Princeton Review’s vice president for publishing. “We didn’t want to put schools in the project that just had low sticker prices because that didn’t necessarily mean value.”

And questions of value take on added significance in this economic downturn.

“In the past, when recessions have been reasonably mild and short, people planning to send kids to four-year colleges continued to send them to four-year colleges and worked it out. But in the past, we haven’t had college-educated parents laid off from jobs,” says Tom Mortenson of Oskaloosa, Iowa, who publishes a higher-education public-policy newsletter. “This recession looks to be different.”

From 2004 to 2007, The Princeton Review’s results were published in a book, America’s Best Value Colleges, and data appeared on the company’s website. This year, through a partnership with USA TODAY, the full list and analysis are in an interactive database on USATODAY.com. The Princeton Review, based in New York, is not affiliated with Princeton University.

College costs have skyrocketed in the past 10 years. At public campuses, for example, in-state costs are up 37%, according to data from the College Board, a non-profit group that tracks annual tuition increases. This year, it says, average total charges for tuition, fees, room and board are $14,333 for in-state students, $25,200 out of state. The average total at private campuses is $34,132. Institutions themselves provide the largest source of grant aid — representing 42% of all grant aid, the College Board says.

Out of the USA’s 643 public four-year institutions and 1,533 private four-year campuses, The Princeton Review regularly analyzes data from approximately 650 campuses that it considers the best, although Franek says the schools in the mix do change from year to year. Of the 650, about 100 didn’t provide enough information to be considered as Best Values, says Ben Zelevansky, who directs Princeton Review’s data analysis.

The selection criteria looked at academics, costs and financial aid, using the most recently reported data from each institution for its 2008-09 academic year. Additionally, 160,000 to 175,000 student surveys provided input for the academic ratings.

The Princeton Review’s aim was to determine the average annual cost that a freshman paid for the 2008-09 school year, Zelevansky says; for public institutions, the determinations were based on calculations using a combination of in-state and out-of-state tuitions.

At the University of Virginia, the No. 1 Best Value for public schools, this year’s tuition, fees, room and board totaled $18,499 for in-state students and $37,749 out of state. The average grant UVA offered (including scholarships) totaled $9,531. The average 2008 graduate’s debt was $16,847.

UVA president John Casteen says AccessUVA, a financial aid program, is an effort to meet student need and has been funded since 2004. The current undergraduate enrollment is 13,726.

But today’s economic climate means cutbacks are expected, Casteen says. “We are in the middle of squeezing a great deal money out of the university’s administrative processes.”

At top-rated private college Swarthmore, with 1,480 undergraduates for the 2008-09 year, the total cost is $47,804, with the bulk — $36,154 — for tuition. But the average grant is $30,073. The school did not report the amount of student debt.

Alfred Bloom, Swarthmore’s president, says he expects increased financial aid will be needed. “We’ve had a long tradition of assuring that students can accept Swarthmore offers without regard to financial circumstances.”

At each of the top two campuses, about 70% of students graduated debt-free in 2008. But aid is not the only criterion for inclusion, says Zelevansky.

“This is not a list of America’s Best Financial Aid Packages,” he says. “This is a list of schools that provide the best balance of a strong education and a reasonable cost of attendance. The bottom-line cost for families is our concern here.”

Not listed are public schools including University of Wisconsin-Madison or University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill; missing among private schools are New York University and George Washington University, the USA’s most expensive four-year campus.

“You can still get a solid education at a good value from a school that didn’t make our list, but the schools on our list really go above and beyond,” Zelevansky says.

Posted in Cheaper Tuition, Education Incentives | Leave a Comment »

Colleges Profit as Banks Market Credit Cards to Students

Posted by gradefund on January 9, 2009

Colleges Profit as Banks Market Credit Cards to Students

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/01/business/01student.html?ref=education#

 

Published: December 31, 2008

EAST LANSING, Mich. — When Ryan T. Muneio was tailgating with his parents at a Michigan State football game this fall, he noticed a big tent emblazoned with a Bank of America logo. Inside, bank representatives were offering free T-shirts and other merchandise to those who applied for credit cards and other banking products.

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Fabrizio Costantini for The New York Times

Bank of America employees on the Michigan State campus offered giveaways like water bottles, backpacks and games to persuade students to apply for credit cards and other bank services.

Fabrizio Costantini for The New York Times

A Fifth Third Bank display offered bottles of water, tuition raffles and a bicycle as an inducement to get incoming freshmen at Michigan State University to open credit card and other accounts.

“They did a good job,” Mr. Muneio, 21 and a junior at Michigan State, said of the tactic. “It was good advertising.”

Bank of America’s relationship with the university extends well beyond marketing at sports events. The bank has an $8.4 million, seven-year contract with Michigan State giving it access to students’ names and addresses and use of the university’s logo. The more students who take the banks’ credit cards, the more money the university gets. Under certain circumstances, Michigan State even stands to receive more money if students carry a balance on these cards.

Hundreds of colleges have contracts with lenders. But at a time of rising concern about student debt — and overall consumer debt — the arrangements have sounded alarm bells, and some student groups are starting to push back.

The relationships are reminiscent of those uncovered two years ago between student loan companies and universities. In those, some lenders offered universities an incentive to steer potential borrowers their way.

Here at Michigan State, the editors of the student newspaper wrote this fall that “it doesn’t take a giant leap for someone to ask why the university should encourage responsible spending when it receives a cut of every purchase.”

At Arizona State University, students set up a table on campus last spring to warn of the danger of debt and urge students to support limits on on-campus marketing.

The contracts, whose terms vary but usually involve payments to colleges or alumni associations that agree to provide lists of students’ names, have come under harsh criticism in Washington.

“That is absolutely outrageous, the sharing of students’ information with the banks,” Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York, who oversaw a June hearing on campus credit card marketing, said in a recent interview. “That should be outlawed.”

College campuses are one place that young Americans are introduced to credit and the possibility of spending beyond their means, a problem now confronting the nation as a whole. For banks, the relationships are a golden marketing opportunity. For colleges, they are a revenue source at a time of declining public funding. And for students, they help pay the bills and allow more shopping.

But debt incurred in college becomes a serious burden at graduation, especially in a recession in which jobs are scarce. A survey of more than 1,500 college students by US PIRG in Washington found that two-thirds had at least one credit card. Seniors with balances had an average debt of $2,623 on their cards.

University officials say that their agreements with card issuers comply with the law and bring in valuable revenue.

“It provides money for scholarships and other programs,” said Terry R. Livermore, manager of licensing programs at Michigan State. He said that the program was aimed primarily at alumni and the university would not include sharing student information in future credit card contracts. “The students are such a minuscule portion of this program.”

Jennifer Holsman, executive director of the alumni association at Arizona State, said the association tried to teach students about responsible uses of credit. “We work closely with Bank of America to provide educational seminars to students in terms of being able to get information about how to pay off credit cards, how not to keep balances,” she said.

Credit card issuers say that they try to educate students to use cards responsibly and that the cards they offer on campus have more restrictive terms than cards offered to alumni.

“The available credit for undergraduates is capped at $2,500,” said Betty Riess, a spokeswoman for Bank of America. “We want to take a fair and responsible approach to lending because we want to build the foundation for a longer-term banking relationship.”

Ms. Riess said the bank had agreements with about 700 colleges and alumni associations, making it one of the biggest, if not the biggest, card issuer on campuses. She said that only 2 percent of the open accounts under those agreements belonged to students, but also said it was not possible to determine what percentage of program revenue resulted from fees and charges on those student cards.

Stephanie Jacobson, a spokeswoman for JPMorgan Chase, wrote in an e-mail message that the bank had fewer than 25 contracts with colleges or alumni associations and that while some of the contracts gave it the right to ask for and use lists of student names and addresses, the bank had not done so since 2007.

That may be because football games present a marketing opportunity that requires no address information. Abigail D. Molina, a second-year law student at the University of Oregon, applied in 2007 for a Chase Visa offered at a tent outside a football game. In exchange, she received a blanket.

“I mostly wanted the blanket,” Ms. Molina said. She added that this was her second university credit card. In 1994, when she was an undergraduate at the university, she applied for a card at a booth on campus and then accumulated about $30,000 in debt, almost all of it on the card. In 2001 she filed for bankruptcy. Looking back, she said it was “shockingly easy” to get the card, even as a first-year student.

Mr. Muneio, the Michigan State student, said he did not apply for a Bank of America card because he already had two Visa cards. “The last thing I need is another account to keep track of.”

Many students are unaware of the contracts that universities have with credit card issuers and do not question the presence of marketers on campus or applications in their mailboxes, despite recent protests on a few campuses.

Sometimes, the contracts have confidentiality provisions. Universities may try to distance themselves, stating that the contracts are only between alumni associations and banks. But the universities provide alumni groups with lists of current students’ names, addresses and telephone numbers, which the groups pass on to banks.

The New York Times obtained information about and, in some cases, copies of contracts between lenders, public colleges and their alumni associations using open records requests. Because private colleges are not subject to open records laws, they are not included.

While most universities contacted for this article did not provide detailed financial information on the contracts — the University of Pittsburgh, for example, confirmed only that it had an agreement — two did share numbers.

The alumni association of the University of Michigan is guaranteed $25.5 million over the term of its 11-year agreement with Bank of America. Under the agreement, the association agreed to provide lists of names and addresses of students, alumni, faculty, staff, donors and holders of season tickets to athletic events.

Much of the money goes toward scholarships, said Jerry Sigler, vice president and chief financial officer of the alumni association. He was unsure what students were told about the program.

“Students are generally told how they can opt out of having their information publicly displayed in directories or provided in response to requests like this,” Mr. Sigler added. “But it’s not to my knowledge specific to the credit card program.”

Michigan State University gets $1.2 million a year but is guaranteed at least $8.4 million over seven years, according to its agreement. The contract calls for a $1 royalty to the university for every new card account that remains open for at least 90 days, $3 for every card whose holder pays an annual fee, and a payment of a half percent of the amount of all retail purchases using the cards.

For cards that do not have an annual fee, the bank pays $3 if the holder has a balance at the end of the 12th month after opening an account, a provision that appears to give the university an incentive to get cardholders into debt.

A few schools have adopted policies that prohibit sharing student contact information.

Ball State University’s alumni association, which has a contract with JPMorgan Chase, does not provide information on students, said Ed Shipley, executive director of the association. “Who we market to is our alumni because that’s our purpose,” he said. However, the bank is permitted to set up marketing tables at athletic events.

The University of Oregon, whose alumni association also has a marketing agreement with Chase, stopped providing student addresses as concern grew about student debt, according to Julie Brown, a university spokeswoman. The university still permits marketing booths at athletic events.

Some research suggests that students may be using credit cards less frequently, in favor of debit cards linked to their bank accounts. A survey last spring by Student Monitor, a Ridgewood, N.J., company that tracks trends on campus, found that 59 percent of undergraduate students had debit cards, up from 51 percent in 2000.

But universities have arrangements with banks that offer debit cards too, perhaps raising some of the same issues that the credit card deals do.

At New Mexico State University, for example, students are given the option of opening a bank account with Wells Fargo if they want to convert their campus identification into a debit card.

The accounts are not mandatory, said Angela Throneberry, assistant vice president for auxiliary services at the university. But, she said, “There’s some revenue sharing that happens as part of this.”

Posted in Cheaper Tuition, Economy and School | Leave a Comment »

State higher education incentives should be based on market principles, says Michigan Sen. Wayne Kuipers

Posted by gradefund on December 12, 2008

http://www.mlive.com/flintjournal/voices/index.ssf/2008/08/state_higher_education_incenti.html

State higher education incentives should be based on market principles, says Michigan Sen. Wayne Kuipers

by Wayne Kuipers | Flint Journal guest writer

Monday August 04, 2008, 4:29 AM


Wayne Kuipers

Editor’s note: This is a guest column by State Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland. Under the name “If You Ask Me,” each week The Flint Journal runs a guest column on a topic of interest. Read more by guest columnists.

The Kalamazoo Promise launched a nationwide discussion of private funding for public higher education. And while the program helps many students pursue degrees, efforts to adopt a statewide program still don’t address larger problems.

The legislation in the state Senate to create “Promise Zones” would provide both state and local dollars for many disadvantaged students.

The problem is funds don’t go directly to students, but to the state higher education system.

This limits students’ opportunities to use funds as they see fit. The “Promise Zone” legislation also provides no incentive for students to stay in school beyond their freshmen year.

Given the condition of Michigan’s economy, we need a bold plan making higher education affordable and rewarding students who attain degrees.

Funds should go directly to students. This lets them use our tax dollars to attend the university that best meets their needs. Each school would be compensated based on how many students it attracts and graduates. This puts the onus on universities to provide programs that help students find careers matching today’s marketplace. Ultimately, schools meeting the needs of more students will get higher funding.

The Plan also addresses “brain drain” — students leaving the state upon graduation. Employers often complain of too few qualified employees in Michigan to fill positions.

Under the proposed plan, students who work in Michigan after graduation could get low or interest-free loans to help with college costs. The plan’s primary goal, obviously, is to encourage more Michigan students to go to college by making it more affordable.

I recently presented this plan to Lou Glazier, President of Michigan Future, and members of his board of directors. They, too, share my belief that getting more kids in our universities is tantamount to the state’s economic recovery.

“The most prosperous places in the country are those with the highest proportion of adults with a four-year degree or more. Unfortunately, Michigan ranks 34th in college attainment. So finding better ways of encouraging far more of our kids to graduate from college and stay here after college is economic growth priority No. 1,” said Glazier, whose nonprofit focuses on generating ideas to help the state succeed in the Internet Age.

Of course there are many details left to hash out; including the possibility of providing tax incentives for Michigan companies to hire Michigan graduates. But embarking now on a market-based system that gives high school graduates more options in higher education is good for our educational system and the Michigan economy.

Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, is a state senator.

Posted in Cheaper Tuition, Education Incentives, EducationalSpending | Leave a Comment »

How I Got Into College: 6 Stories

Posted by gradefund on December 12, 2008

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122765578387658069.html?mod=rss_Today’s_Most_Popular

How I Got Into College: 6 Stories

Many seniors in the Class of ’09 — that’s more than 3.3 million students — are now applying to college. For many, it’s a time fraught with paperwork, essays, interviews and road trips. And after all that work, it comes down to a letter or an email: In or out?

Theo Rigby for The Wall Street Journal

Told his chances of getting into Stanford were low, Matthew Crowley, above, applied anyway — and was accepted.

Admissions are expected to be as competitive as ever, and many schools say even the economic downturn has not slowed the onslaught of early applications. At Cornell University, early applications are up 9% from what they were this time last year; at Amherst College, they are up 5%; and at Barnard College, the rise is 8%. The acceptance odds are still long; many highly selective schools accept fewer than 20% of applicants.

Counselors, admissions staff and parents can all provide useful advice for getting in, but some of the best tips can come from the most recent veterans of the application frenzy: college freshmen. We’ve asked a range of students to share what they’ve learned.

Dare to Dream

Matthew Crowley was set on going to Stanford University last fall, but all the signs told him he wouldn’t make the cut. He plugged his grades and test scores into a computer program that tracked college-acceptance statistics and came out on the low end of a graph for Stanford. Guidance counselors at Kent Denver, a private school he attended in Englewood, Colo., did not include Stanford on a list of suggested colleges. And he says a college adviser his family hired for $2,800 told him not to bother applying.

But Mr. Crowley, who at age 16 started a company that built and tested skis, didn’t like being told what not to do. He remembered his father, who died when Matthew was 11, telling him, “What’s the harm in trying?” He sent in his application early, but also applied to seven other schools.

Soon he got the news that Stanford had put him on the wait list, meaning a slot for him could open up later. Then, while hanging out in the basement with his brother, he got the email from Stanford: accepted. Mr. Crowley ran upstairs with the news. “It was the greatest joy I’ve had as a parent other than giving birth,” says his mother, Melissa Crowley.

Now a freshman, he’s majoring in product design and was accepted to a small class led by Banny Banerjee, the director of Stanford’s design program. Prof. Banerjee once worked for IDEO, an innovation and design firm that Matthew had admired so much, he toured the company’s Boulder, Colo., office as a 9-year-old with his father. “I walk into his class and I can’t stop smiling,” Mr. Crowley says.

Advice: Have a backup plan, but don’t get scared off by long odds. “It pays off to keep on going for it even if you’re told you can’t do it,” he says. His mother says with the next kids, twin high-school juniors, she’ll seek advice that is realistic but still “gives them hope.”

Keep It Neat

When Dartmouth College rejected Ramond King last December, he blasted Radiohead’s “Let Down” and tried to figure out why he wasn’t at least put on the wait list. He had a 3.9 grade-point average his senior year, took five Advanced Placement courses and won the headmaster’s cup, an award to the student who showed the most personal growth at the Branson School in Ross, Calif.

A few weeks later, as he was finishing 13 applications, Mr. King’s college counselor called with a possible explanation. On his application, where he’d described his course load, Ramond had spelled chemistry as “chemestry” and literature as “literatre.” The errors appeared six times.

“When it happened, of course, I’m freaking out,” Mr. King says. Before he’d sent that Dartmouth application, his mother, father and sister had studied each word, scouring for mistakes. But the errors were on a page he filled out on his own and gave to the guidance office to complete with recommendations.

In his next round of applications, the errors were corrected. This time, he was accepted to five schools, including Cornell, where he is now a freshman. He says blatant misspellings can be fatal to an application: “I try and laugh about it now,” he says.

Advice: Check every section of an application immediately after finishing it, as well as before sending it. Many college counselors recommend printing out an online application and proofreading the hard copy.

Practice Makes Perfect

Three days after she received her first college rejection, Sophie Nunberg started a Facebook group for others who were turned down by their top choices. Over the next few weeks, the senior at the International High School of San Francisco returned to the online group as rejections and wait-listings arrived from eight of the 12 schools she had applied to, including Columbia, the University of Chicago, Vassar and Swarthmore. “I was very upset,” she says.

She started to look back over her applications to figure out what had happened. When she re-read her essay for Columbia, where she’d applied early, she sounded like she was posing as a kid who could only thrive in a city. Her applications to Swarthmore and Vassar emphasized her love of writing but revealed little else. But her essay for Wellesley, where she was accepted, really stood out — because it sounded like her.

Her ease came partly from her familiarity with Wellesley — her mother is a graduate — and partly from her impatience with twisting her essays to fit what she thought admissions officers wanted to hear. Her two Wellesley essays about working for Planned Parenthood and her mother’s influence on her life came naturally: “I just wasn’t afraid of being judged.”

She’s now a campus tour guide, touting Wellesley to prospective students. “If it hadn’t been for a hard year and very difficult admissions, I might never have come here, and I might not be as happy,” she says.

Advice: The more applications she filled out, she says, the better they got. So she advises students not to rush an application for the sake of applying early. College counselors recommend avoiding clichéd essay topics, such as community service, unless they’re essential to a student’s identity. Students can also consult how-to books to view sample essays.

Cast a Wide Net

Virat Gupta was at the top of his class at Detroit Country Day School, president of the student council, captain of the cross-country team, captain of a public-speaking team and secretary of the honors choir. So when he applied to about 10 colleges, including four Ivy League universities, he felt pretty confident.

Fabrizio Costantini for the Wall Street Journal

Virat Gupta, now at the University of Michigan, wasn’t accepted at the four Ivy League schools where he applied.

In December, Columbia University rejected his early application. In April, he was put on the wait list by Duke University, University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown and Rice. Rejections came from Yale, Cornell, Northwestern and Washington University in St. Louis. He got the news while on vacation in Paris. “I had a couple of breakdowns,” he says.

Last fall, Mr. Gupta was accepted at two in-state schools, the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, but he considered them “safeties” — schools he had a strong chance of getting into — and barely paid them any mind. Now he’s a freshman at the University of Michigan, where he says he enjoys working in student government and singing in the men’s glee club. “I really, really like it,” he says. He thinks less about transferring than he used to, though he still may send applications to some schools that rejected him. “It’s not the end of the world,” he says. “Everything will end up working out.”

Advice: Students shouldn’t just apply to dream schools and safeties, but schools in between as well. “And make sure that all the schools you apply to, you’re pretty sure you’d be willing to go there,” Mr. Gupta says. In his view, the pressure of college is nothing compared to the stress of getting in, he says. And he still has big plans. “I’ll do my best and get into a killer law school,” he says.

Just Do It

Mari Huessy says she was expected to be “the pride of the high school” in Essex Junction, Vt. But when December of her senior year rolled around, she was overwhelmed by the prospect of applying to 10 different colleges. “I totally freaked out,” she says.

Her approach: apply only to her top choice, Grinnell College in Iowa. An aspiring writer, she’d been hoping to attend the school ever since ninth grade because of its top English program. But she froze when it was time to follow through on her dream. She didn’t visit the campus or interview with the admissions office. She struggled with her essay about imagination. “It was really bad,” she says. Her rejection notice came on April 1, her birthday.

Instead of applying elsewhere, she took a year off after high school to teach English at a school in Germany, hoping the experience abroad would strengthen her bid. When application season came around the next fall, she spent nearly two hours speaking with Nancy Maly, Grinnell’s interim director of admission, describing the ways Germany had changed her.

Two days before Christmas, Ms. Huessy’s parents called to tell her she got in. “It was incredibly, incredibly wonderful,” she says. The 20-year-old freshman says the gap year didn’t just help her get into Grinnell; it also enabled her to make the most of college once she arrived. She’d given her major a lot of thought during her year off and gained confidence from living in a foreign country.

Advice: Had she visited a number of campuses, Ms. Huessy says, she probably would have gotten excited and applied to more schools. Many school counselors urge students to apply to at least 10 colleges, and some say seniors should apply to extra schools this year to give themselves some lower-priced options. Ms. Huessy also tells peers not to apply at only one school: “I got lucky,” she said.

Know Thyself

Caitlin Flood, the oldest of six children, turned down Georgetown, which costs about $50,000 a year. She also passed on Cornell, too, worried she’d feel timid in big classes at a school with more than 13,000 undergraduates.

After visiting 40 campuses, Ms. Flood of Bellerose Terrace, N.Y, discovered Lafayette College. The Easton, Pa., school offered $16,000 in financial aid, and she thought she’d thrive in a freshman class of 600 students.

The choice surprised some classmates at Mary Louis Academy in Queens, N.Y. “It was hard for me,” she says. “Most people hadn’t heard of Lafayette.” For three weeks, she questioned turning down two elite schools. But she also knew she didn’t want to worry about a mountain of student loans, and she didn’t want to go to a pressure-cooker school where she’d feel guilty if she left the library before 2 a.m.

Since starting her freshman year, she’s joined the College Democrats and the school’s law society. She’s also helping kids with educational projects at a local community center. She says she adjusted to college right away, while some friends at big universities still haven’t gotten comfortable.

Advice: Ms. Flood suggests setting limits on campus visits; touring dozens of colleges just ended up confusing her. To get up to speed on financial-aid options, students can use calculators found on the prospective schools’ Web sites. The National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities also has financial-aid resources at information on its site at www.ucan-network.org.

Write to Ellen Gamerman at ellen.gamerman@wsj.com

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An E-Mail Plea: Help Pay My Tuition!

Posted by gradefund on December 12, 2008

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1838738,00.html

Student entrepreneur, Max Stephenson

An E-Mail Plea: Help Pay My Tuition!

Student entrepreneur, Max Stephenson
Mike McGregor for TIME

The e-mail looks like a scam: “I have to come up with big-time cash,” writes Max Stephenson. The 18-year-old is headed for New York University, he explains, but his mom is on disability, his dad works three jobs, and all his grants and loans only cover half of the school’s $50,000 annual tab. So to cover the gap, he’s hoping 10,000 friends of friends of friends will each put $2.50 in the mail or send the money via PayPal. “If you’re worried I am one of those internet rip-off artists, call NYU’s admissions office at 212.998.4500,” his e-mail continues, “and ask for someone in international admissions — they handled my admissions as I was recruited to play ice hockey for Russia and spent last year there.”

The thing is, his plea is legit. And two weeks after Stephenson sent his e-mail to 300 of his friends and his parents’ business contacts — and asked them to forward it to anyone they could think of — he says he has already received close to $6,000 from more than 2,000 people. Only a dozen or so e-mail recipients have written to him asking if he’s a swindler. “Everybody’s been really nice about it,” he says. “As nice as I guess you can be to somebody you suspect to be scamming you. It hasn’t been, ‘Oh, you dirty bleep-bleep-bleep,’ but, ‘Don’t try to scam people.’ No curse words or anything.”

A recent high school grad from Glen Gardner, N.J., Stephenson is sending out his e-mail solicitation at a time when students’ financial needs are expanding and the loan market is shrinking. A slew of peer-to-peer lending companies geared toward the college set — including Virgin Money, GreenNote, Fynanz, and CapAlly — have sprung up in the past year. Borrowers create Facebook-like profiles detailing their backgrounds, interests, and financial goals, and lenders choose the students who seem particularly appealing — or appear most likely to pay back the loan. The companies play matchmaker, then keep track of who owes what to whom.

It’s too soon to tell whether this business model will work. Meanwhile, Stephenson is taking a slightly different route. Instead of promising to repay the money, the future sociology major is trying to motivate givers by offering them a souvenir. “If you will send me $2.50 in the next week or so, I will send you a piece of my graduation gown,” he promises, in a kind of collegiate variation on relics of the cross. “For $3.50, you get a piece of my cap.”

To help keep his end of the bargain in four years, he is keeping a spreadsheet with contact information for all of the donors who did not send money anonymously. Among them is Chris Sperry, a sponsorship manager in Atlanta who put $5 in the mail for Stephenson even though the two of them have never exchanged a single word. Like other donors, Sperry says he wants Stephenson to have an easier time paying for school than he did. “It’s a shame that you get saddled with [loans] right out the gate,” Sperry says, recalling that during his own years as an undergraduate, he worked three jobs to offset tuition costs. “It’s tough to get ahead when you have that anchor weighing on you.”

Stephenson’s solicitation explains that for safety reasons, he provides potential donors with a P.O. box instead of his home address. And the natural-born promoter also directs PayPal users to route the money using his e-mail address, MStephenson@AccessHybrid.org. “In case you’re interested, I have plans to use my college education to improve our environment,” he notes toward the end of his tuition plea, which explains that AccessHybrid is an organization he set up to help college and vocational students buy fuel-efficient cars. “I found the work incrediably [sic] satisfying,” he adds in what would have been a pitch-perfect letter, had he bothered to run a spell-check. (To see the evolution of the college dorm room click here.)

Posted in Alternative Payment, Cheaper Tuition, Economy and School, Financial Aid | 2 Comments »

The New Battle over Financial Aid

Posted by gradefund on December 12, 2008

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1838722,00.html?iid=sphere-inline-sidebar

The New Battle over Financial Aid

Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.
Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.
Fraser Hall / Robert Harding World Imagery / Corbis

In-state tuition. For decades, it was the one advantage big state schools had that even the Ivy League couldn’t match, in terms of recruiting the best and the brightest to their campuses. But these days, that’s no longer necessarily the case. Starting this September, some students will find a Harvard degree cheaper than one from many public universities. That is, of course, if they can get in.

Harvard officials sent shock waves through academia last December by detailing a new financial-aid policy that will charge families making up to $180,000 just 10% of their household income per year, substantially subsidizing the annual cost of more than $45,600 for all but its wealthiest students. The move was just the latest in what has amounted to a financial-aid bidding war in recent years among the U.S.’s élite universities as they try to ease concerns over staggering tuition bills.

Though Harvard’s is the most generous to date, Princeton, Dartmouth, Yale and Stanford have all launched similar plans to cap tuition contributions for students from low- and middle-income families. Indeed, students on financial aid at nearly every Ivy stand a good chance of graduating debt-free, thanks to loan-elimination programs introduced over the past five years. And other exclusive schools have followed their lead. Williams and Amherst colleges in Massachusetts, North Carolina’s Davidson College and Virginia’s William & Mary all replaced loans with grants and work-study aid starting last year. And several more schools are joining the no-loan club this fall, including Maine’s Bowdoin College and California’s Claremont McKenna College. “Applications were up 11% last year,” says Davidson president Tom Ross. “That tells us a lot more families now see Davidson as an affordable option.”

Even more schools have taken steps to reduce debt among their neediest students. Among them: Caltech, which this year began replacing loans with grants for American students with household incomes below $60,000, and College of the Holy Cross, which offers free tuition to students from its surrounding community in Worcester, Mass., if their family makes less than $50,000. And many public and private universities now offer similar packages to state residents who are at or below the federal poverty level of $21,000 a year for a family of four. “Students’ tuition, fees, food, books and a place to live are all covered in full,” says Rick Shipman, financial aid director at Michigan State, which has offered a loan-replacement plan since 2005. “All they have to think about is learning when they’re here.”

But experts caution that families shouldn’t expect to see most financial-aid packages rise to the level of Harvard’s largesse anytime soon. Over the past few years, Congress has gotten fed up with wealthy schools hoarding their enormous endowments — Harvard’s reached $35 billion last year — while still regularly raising tuition prices. The average tuition and fees at private four-year colleges rose 14% in the past five years, according to the nonprofit College Board; the increase was 31% at public schools. Fees themselves at many public universities are skyrocketing, even as tuition holds more or less steady. “It’s fair to ask whether a college kid should have to wash dishes in the dining hall to pay his tuition when his college has $1 billion in the bank,” U.S. Senators Max Baucus (a Democrat from Montana) and Chuck Grassley (a Republican from Iowa), the leaders of the Senate Finance Committee, wrote last January in a letter to the 136 American colleges with endowments of $500 million or more.

Although Harvard and other wealthy schools may appease legislators with more generous aid packages, the trickle-down effect might be minimal. Mark Kantrowitz, a financial-aid expert based in Pitsburgh, Pa., who runs the website Finaid.org, predicts that fewer than 5% of schools will do away with loans entirely. That’s because the vast majority of schools don’t have large endowments they can tap to supplement lower tuition revenue. Many still depend heavily on net tuition to pay for operating costs, including faculty salaries and facility maintenance. That may be especially true at public schools — which educate 75% of undergraduates in the U.S., compared with the Ivy League’s 1% — as funds decrease substantially during the ongoing economic downturn.

“All schools want more low-income students, a higher percentage of students who get grants instead of loans,” says Morton Schapiro, president of Williams College and an economist who studies financial aid. “But they simply can’t afford it.”

Indeed, pressure to keep up with the Ivies in this respect could end up being detrimental to less affluent schools. Michael McPherson, an economist and former president of Minnesota’s Macalester College, warns that some may choose to increase class size or skip prestigious faculty hires in order to offer more generous aid packages. In the end, “they risk sacrificing quality to mimic the big boys,” he says.

To avoid such an outcome, Davidson — whose $446 million endowment ranked 143rd in the U.S. last year — is tapping alumni and other private donors to pay for its loan-elimination program. The school has already raised $15 million of the $70 million needed to fund the initiative. And should Davidson have trouble getting alums to kick in enough cash, the school’s trustees have pledged to dip into operating reserves rather than raise tuition costs. “This is the right thing to do to make sure every kid, no matter what their family’s income, gets a first-rate education,” Ross says.

To pay for its loan-elimination program, Bowdoin will earmark approximately $22 million, or about 16%, of its $140 million operating budget. Claremont McKenna, which has 1,200 students, has said only that the school plans to increase its financial-aid-grant budget by $1 million.

Of course, the colleges that don’t offer such tuition breaks know they will likely lose students to those that do. But don’t expect state schools to start rushing in. Even public universities that have large endowments have yet to embrace no-loan programs. Take the University of California system, whose $6.4 billion endowment was the 12th biggest in the nation last year. The UC schools already educate more poor kids than their Ivy League counterparts, both in terms of absolute numbers and as a proportion of their student bodies. Even at the system’s flagship schools, UCLA and Berkeley, more than a third of students live in households making less than $40,000, compared with just 10% at Harvard or Yale. That means that replacing loans with grants at the California schools would cost significantly more. Add in political pressures to avoid increasing tuition and fees — a large percentage of which go to fund financial aid in California — and the idea of eliminating all loans is a nonstarter.

So for now at least, a student whose family earns $90,000 would have to pay as little as $4,500 to go to Harvard but would get little to no financial aid to help cover Berkeley’s annual cost of $25,000. A no-loan program “is not a sustainable solution for us,” says Berkeley chancellor Robert Birgeneau, who is heading a task force charged with examining how to keep college affordable for all families in the state. “We’d likely not be able to help the poorest students as well down the line.” (To see the evolution of the college dorm room click here.)

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How to Get Scholarships in a Bad Economy

Posted by gradefund on December 12, 2008

http://www.usnews.com/articles/education/2008/10/21/how-to-get-scholarships-in-a-bad-economy.html

How to Get Scholarships in a Bad Economy

Six tips for getting more grants as part of your college financial aid package

Posted October 21, 2008

Financial aid experts say the current economic troubles will very likely make the competition for scholarships more fierce than ever. They expect about half of all college students to receive at least a little free money to fund their education. To maximize your chances of getting aid in these tough times, experts recommend that students:

A freshman enters the admissions and financial aid building at Harvard University.

A freshman enters the admissions and financial aid building at Harvard University.

1) Be the early bird. Start applying for scholarships and lining up low-priced college options right now. “You want to make sure you are the first one in line,” says Cheryl Maplethorpe, director of financial aid for the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. Many grants are awarded on a first-come-first-served basis, she notes. And many low-cost colleges are cutting off applications especially early this season. College students who haven’t already filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid this year should do it as soon as possible. (High school seniors have to wait until January to apply for next fall.) You can search for nongovernmental scholarships by asking your high school counselor, your college’s financial aid office, and your college’s department for scholarship possibilities and advice. Many are also listed on websites like this one, scholarsite.com, or the College Board.

While there aren’t many private scholarships still awarding money for this academic year, students can—and should—start applying now for private scholarships for next year, because some of the biggest and best private scholarships, such as those offered by the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, have October deadlines. And the most popular cheap four-year schools in California, including San Diego State University and Sonoma State University, will stop taking next year’s admissions applications for many types of students November 30.

2) Ask the boss. Check with the student’s and parents’ employers to see if they offer any kind of education or scholarship benefit.

3) Try low-cost colleges. Prepare applications (including transfer applications for students already in college) to some low-cost, in-state community colleges and public universities to provide a “financial safety school” option, says Eileen O’Leary, assistant vice president of student financial services at Stonehill College in Easton, Mass. That way, even if you don’t get any free money, your bills still will be much lower.

4) Become a catch. Prepare applications to at least two (or even more, to increase your chances of setting off a scholarship bidding war) public and private schools for which you’d be a catch because of higher-than-average grades or some special skill or talent. Students whose grades or test scores are higher than the school’s average have a good chance of receiving merit grants. “Put as much detail as possible into your college application,” says Sandra Bartholomew, dean of enrollment management at Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vt. “Colleges have money to award for lots of nonacademic credentials” like leadership, community service, environmentalism, visual and performing arts, etc., she adds.

5) Fill out forms in January. As soon as possible in January, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to qualify for aid next fall. While it is easier to complete the form if the student and parent have also filed their taxes, it is better to fill out the FAFSA with estimates (which can later be corrected) early than to wait past February 1. Students hoping to attend one of the approximately 300 schools that also require the College Board’s more exhaustive CSS/Financial Aid Profile application should also complete that before mid-February.

6) Appeal. Draft an appeal letter if the student has any financial difficulties not covered by the FAFSA, such as a parent’s job loss or mortgage problems. The student should send letters explaining the problem (with documentation, if possible) to any target schools and private scholarship programs, financial aid officers say. The letter to schools should request a “professional judgment review.”

 

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Going Off to College for Less (Passport Required)

Posted by gradefund on December 5, 2008

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/01/education/01scotland.html?_r=1&ref=education

Going Off to College for Less (Passport Required)

Kieran Dodds for The New York Times

Isobel Oliphant, center, and her friend Savanna Cummin attend St. Andrews in Scotland.

 

 

Published: November 30, 2008
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — Isobel Oliphant felt she was making an offbeat choice when she graduated from Fox Lane High School in Bedford, N.Y., and enrolled at the ancient university in this quiet coastal town of stone ruins and verdant golf courses.

“I thought I was being original,” said Ms. Oliphant, now in her third year at the University of St. Andrews. “But my high school class president came here, too. And when I got here, it was all ‘Hi, I’m from Massachusetts,’ ‘Hi, I’m from New York.’ ”

St. Andrews has 1,230 Americans among its 7,200 students this year, compared with fewer than 200 a decade ago.

The large American enrollment is no accident. St. Andrews has 10 recruiters making the rounds of American high schools, visiting hundreds of private schools and a smattering of public ones.

With higher education fast becoming a global commodity, universities worldwide — many of them in Canada and England — are competing for the same pool of affluent, well-qualified students, and more American students are heading overseas not just for a semester abroad, but for their full degree program.

Ryan Ross of Annapolis, Md., applied only to St. Andrews; McGill University in Montreal; and Trinity College in Dublin. “I knew I wanted a different experience,” said Mr. Ross, now a freshman studying international relations at St. Andrews.

The international flow has benefits, and tradeoffs, for both sides.

For American students, a university like St. Andrews offers international experience and prestige, at a cost well below the tuition at a top private university in the United States. But it provides a narrower, more specialized course of studies, less individual attention from professors — and not much of an alumni network to smooth entry into the workplace when graduates return to the United States. For overseas universities, international students help diversify campuses in locations as remote as coastal Fife, home of St. Andrews.

Just as important, foreigners are cash cows. While students from Scotland and England and across the European Union pay little or no tuition at St. Andrews, Americans pay about what they would as out-of-state students at leading American public universities.

Although admission to St. Andrews is intensely competitive for European students, with at least 10 applications for each seat, many Americans who would be long-shot applicants at Ivy League schools can find a place at St. Andrews.

“I applied to, and got into, some American liberal arts colleges, like Skidmore and Trinity,” said Savanna Cummin, a St. Andrews student who was not admitted to Brown or Harvard. “But I thought my time and my money would be better spent here, that I’d get more out of the experience, and it would be a better credential.”

Stephen Magee, the vice principal at St. Andrews, sees no problem with admitting Americans who may be marginally less qualified than the European students.

“Am I wrong to say I don’t care if they can’t get into Harvard?” Mr. Magee said. “If a Scottish parent asked why their very talented child did not get in to St. Andrews, when so many Americans did, I would tell them to ask the government, which encourages us to take international students, but caps the number of local students they will pay for.”

Mr. Magee emphasizes that Americans are not displacing homegrown students, since St. Andrews would not be allowed to admit additional applicants from Scotland or England if it cut back American admissions.

The Americans at St. Andrews cluster in a few departments: art history, English and, especially, international relations, where more than 100 of the 350 freshmen are American.

St. Andrews, its reputation burnished by Prince William’s recent attendance, is not the only ancient Scottish university with an influx of Americans. The University of Edinburgh has more than 1,250 American students, many drawn by the veterinary program, although they are less visible among its 25,000 students.

Expatriate education is expanding. This fall, at the National Association for College Admissions Counseling conference in Seattle, where admissions officers from American universities mingle with the counselors who help shape high school students’ college choices, there were representatives from the University of Waikato in New Zealand, Seoul National University in South Korea, Jacobs University Bremen in Germany, the University of Limerick in Ireland, as well as dozens more from Canada and Britain.

Scottish universities have a different approach from American institutions to education. Students apply to the department they wish to study in, and specialize from the beginning, with no requirement that they take courses in many different fields, as is generally the case in the United States.

For some Americans, the Scottish system represents a kind of happy medium, with early specialization, but some room to explore areas outside their major, and even change majors, during the first two years. English universities, with their three-year, entirely specialized programs, are a harder fit for Americans.

Some Americans leap at the chance to concentrate on what they love, and avoid subjects they dislike. Sam Dresser, a graduate of Hastings High School in Westchester County, N.Y., spent much of his high school career immersed in religion and philosophy — Nietzsche, Sartre, Schopenhauer, with a teacher or without — sometimes to the exclusion of other subjects.

“My math and science grades were not so good, and I’m not going to do anything with them when I’m out of school, so I loved the idea of only studying what I’m interested in,” said Mr. Dresser, now a freshman at the University of Edinburgh, taking courses in psychology, logic and introductory philosophy.

The Scottish admissions process is straightforward, mostly a matter of meeting numeric benchmarks. While requirements vary among departments, St. Andrews generally wants SATs of 1950 (out of a possible 2400) and a 3.3 grade-point average, and the University of Edinburgh looks for a 3.0 grade-point average and balanced SATs of 1800, as well as two Advanced Placement scores of 4 or 5, or scores of 600 or more on two subject tests.

Applicants write no essays on their most-admired public figure, or what they learned from their summer travels in Guatemala, or, as Mr. Dresser put it, “those hilarious American college-admissions essays on ‘If you were going to sing a song in a talent show, what would you sing and why?’ “

Students need not present themselves as the well-rounded package of perfection, as many feel they must to impress American admissions officers.

“The fluff is irrelevant,” said Rebecca Gaukroger, a recruiter for the University of Edinburgh. “It’s built into the U.K. system that students will have strengths and weaknesses, and if a student wants to study chemistry we don’t need to know if they’re good at history.”

Scottish universities do expect students to know where they are headed, and to be intellectually independent, recruiters and students said.

“Before I came to the University of Edinburgh, I went to Hamilton College in upstate New York,” said Lucea Spinelli, a second-year politics and philosophy student. “It was very beautiful, and very fun, almost like summer camp, with all kinds of extra help available. It’s like they hand-feed you everything. I had one teacher who gave my paper back for revisions until I got an A-plus. That wouldn’t happen here. There’s not that kind of hand-holding.”

Ms. Spinelli said she missed the close relationships she had with her American professors, but she and her roommates, fellow New Yorkers, all revel in the cosmopolitan feel of Edinburgh, the ease of travel around Europe, and the international friendships.

“Last night, in our flat, I looked around, and in one room, there were some people speaking Swedish, others speaking Italian and others speaking English,” said one of the roommates, Lucy Lydon, “And I thought, this is wonderful.”

But other Americans say they have been less than impressed by a system in which there are few assignments, and there is almost no help from professors. “Feedback on essays ranged from very little to none,” said Ben Wilkofsky, a philosophy student at Edinburgh. “There is no feedback on exams.”

As a result, he said, it is something of a mystery how students are expected to improve their work.

Many Americans also say that, with the drinking age at 18, many of their classmates seem to be spending far less time in the library than in the pub, starting with Fresher’s Week, an orientation period that can seem like one long pub crawl.

There is a broad array of student clubs — serious (the Philosophy Society, the Humanist Society), hedonistic (ChocSoc, for chocolate lovers, or the Water of Life Society, devoted to whiskey tasting) or peculiarly Scottish (Edinburgh’s Highland Society and the St. Andrews University Tunnocks Caramel Wafer Appreciation Society) — many of them meeting at pubs.

For Scottish students, it does not go unnoticed that so many American students, and English ones, come from expensive private schools.

“A lot of the people I grew up with associate St. Andrews with money and don’t come here because they don’t think they would be comfortable,” said Katy Alexander, a fourth-year Scottish student.

Last year, after two years in town, Ms. Alexander moved back to her parents’ home. “Part of the reason I moved home was that it feels like an English-American colony here,” she said. “I look at the architecture and think about the history, and sometimes I wish it was more Scottish. But it has broadened my views. I now know that they’re not all alike.”

For all their intellectual independence, some American students said their parents played a large part in their decision to go to Scotland. Mr. Dresser, for example, said his mother, poring over college information on the computer, was the one who proposed applying to Edinburgh.

“My mom got very, very into the college process,” Mr. Dresser said. “At the time I was, O.K., do we have to talk about college every night at dinner? But in retrospect, it was very helpful.”

American parents’ involvement in the college-admissions process — and the helicopter-parent phenomenon, with hovering parents keeping close watch on their children’s lives — has been a continuing revelation to Scottish admissions officials.

On a recent recruiting trip in New York City, as she talked to a reporter in an East Side coffee shop, Ms. Gaukroger was spotted by the mother of an Edinburgh freshman. (“Rebecca, is that you?” the woman said, delightedly. “I don’t want to interrupt, but I have to tell you how well things are going.”)

Ms. Gaukroger remembered her well: “I think I met her at a college fair, and she came to visit in Edinburgh, and we also had lunch once,” she said.

“Scottish parents don’t get so involved in choosing a university. For better or for worse, when we’re recruiting American students, we involve the parents more. It makes sense that American parents are different, because they are investing a lot of money and sending their children far away.”

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