Subscribe to this Blog
Today's Blogs
    The Checkup:

The Start of a College Trend?

Last week, Harvard announced a new policy on paying for an education at the elite, Ivy League college.

Some of the highlights:

* Families with incomes between $60,000 and $180,000 will pay a sliding scale tuition up to 10 percent of income.

* Grants will replace the usual loans in financial aid packages.

* Home equity will no longer count when assessing a family's ability to pay for college.

The New York Times calls Harvard's announcement part of a broader trend. "Amherst, Williams, Duke , Stanford and Princeton have all made moves in recent years to remove loans and increase aid," the Times reported.

And former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent, who has also spent time as a trustee of Williams College and Fairfield University, speculates that the financial success of endowments at elite universities will have a trickle-down effect. The endowments at Harvard, Yale, Amherst and Williams range from $1.7 billion to $35 billion, Vincent writes, adding:

"These powerful investment returns will change tuition pricing and financial aid -- and not just at Harvard. A scholar who follows these matters closely recently told me that he anticipates that the elite private colleges and universities will, in the not-too-distant future, stop charging tuition to any student whose annual family income is below the top 5% of all American families -- currently around $200,000."

Does this mean we've seen the peak of the cost of a college education -- which the College Board lists as nearly $24,000 a year for a private four-year school and about $6,000 for a four-year public school? What do you think of Harvard's move? Do you worry about paying for your kid's college education or do you expect loans, scholarships, student jobs and grants to cover the costs?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  December 19, 2007; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Teens
Previous: Tagging Kids 'Special' | Next: 16 and Pregnant

Comments


I think this is a good start. The problem is the vast majority of kids will not get into schools like Harvard, Yale, and Duke. And these same kids will still need a college degree to obtain a middle class lifestyle. I would like to see more funding at smaller private schools and four year state schools (the ones without the huge endowments). I think most community colleges are still quite affordable but their prices are really going up as well. My question is with kids taking classes in warehouse type rooms on computers (with out a human teacher), where do schools get off charging the fees that they do? They keep saying it is about technology. But industry, government and schools have brought technology into the work force and class rooms with out the increases twice the rate of inflation. No, I don't see my kids having to take out loans, grants or work study to obtain a four year degree at a state school. But we make a decent income and can afford to put away lots of money each month (since birth). Most families (more then 75%) in this country don't make the income to do it. Not that starting at a 2 year school is so bad. I am totally not convinced that the general education at a four year state college is any better. It just costs more and the students might be of a higher caliber. But the education they offer seems to stink in my opinion.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 19, 2007 7:52 AM | Report abuse

the price tags will continue to rise but no one will pay full price any more. Kind of like MSRP for cars

Posted by: working mom | December 19, 2007 7:52 AM | Report abuse

Don't count on it. Most colleges do not have anywhere near $35,000,000,000 in funds sitting around to use for tuition.

Do the math. Harvard has 6,715 undergraduates. Tuition, fees, and room and board total $45,620. That means if everyone paid the full load, Harvard would take in a total of $306,338,300 in tuition, fees, room and board.

That's one percent of their endowment. In other words, take one percent off the rate of return on their investments and every undergraduate goes for free.

No other school can afford that. I have a daughter at a highly rated, private, liberal arts school whose endowment is measured in the tens of millions. There's no way they could afford to lose the money they take in in tuition, fees and room and board.

And don't even get started on the state schools. The only ones with endowments anywhere near Harvard's are Texas and Texas A&M, and that's because Texas law says that of all the oil royalties the state collects, two-thirds go to fund the University of Texas and one-third goes to fund Texas A&M. If they didn't have 40,000 students each they could make college free (but it's pretty darned close as it is if you're an in-state student).

What strikes me the most is the reason Harvard's doing this. It's because they thought that some students were missing out on the "full Harvard experience" because they had to take part-time jobs to help pay expenses/pocket money. Now no student will have to work; they can get the full experience. Some of us think that working and helping put yourself through school is a part of the full college experience.

Posted by: Army Brat | December 19, 2007 7:53 AM | Report abuse

Nope. Lucky me, I live overseas so my kids can go to a very good University for almost nothing. Afterall, I'm paying all these ridculously high European taxes for something, right?!

Posted by: foreign mom | December 19, 2007 7:55 AM | Report abuse

I'm not optimistic that this move will help curb the high cost of colleges b/c as foamgnome says, most kids cannot get into these schools. I think moving from grants to loans is very important, however, because few families can afford to save enough or have enough in current income to pay the ridiculous tuitions at private colleges. So, the student takes out loans and they graduate with a debilating debt. I hope other colleges follow suit. As for us, we tell our kids all the time that University of Maryland is a great school, if they will even get in there! And, on their website it estimates that tuition, room and board and other expenses is $24K a year.

Posted by: PT Fed Mof2 | December 19, 2007 8:10 AM | Report abuse

PTFedMof2: "And, on their website it estimates that tuition, room and board and other expenses is $24K a year."

Huh? How do you get that? According to http://www.umd.edu/bursar/t_ftug0708.html
for Maryland residents, tuition is 3,984.25 per semester; room is $2,643.50 per semester for regular room; and board is $1,783.50 per semester for the Campus Plan. By my math, that comes to $8,410.75 per semester, or $16,821.50 per year. Where's the other $8K coming from?

Posted by: m2j5c2 | December 19, 2007 8:19 AM | Report abuse

We are hoping that either my husband or I is employed by a University by the time our kids get there. His Dad is a college coach and the tuition remission program got he and his siblings free tuition at there choice of about 300 schools. You still have to pay room and board, but the savings is huge.

Most of us don't have kids who will get into an Ivy League school and graduating and beginning adult life with large debt poses all kinds of problems. It is great that Harvard can make these changes, but what can smaller state universities do to make education more accessible for the tens of thousands of kids who attend?

Posted by: Momof5 | December 19, 2007 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Make your kids work for their college education. I went back to college after being out in the work force a while and paid for all my tuition, books, living expenses off campus, car and insurance by working two jobs, 7 days a week. If I can do it they can do it. Stop spoon feeding them.

Posted by: Is it Friday yet? | December 19, 2007 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Longtime no comment.

foamgnome just hits the nail on the head with this one: In the long run this will actually hurt the stratification of the educational system by pulling money out of the "tier-b" schools and state schools that have long benefited by attracting bright but non-affluent students. The only thing that keeps the admissions process from going entirely out of control will be the limited number of spots available at these institutions.

An obvious solution to this is more public investment in state schools to keep them both competitive and affordable, but I have serious doubts that this will be attainable in the near future. Another option is to see more public schools investing in fundraising as I understand is going on at several Virginia public universities now.

Posted by: David S | December 19, 2007 9:20 AM | Report abuse

David S: "Another option is to see more public schools investing in fundraising as I understand is going on at several Virginia public universities now."

All public universities have been involved in fundraising - at least all the ones I know about. I graduated from Purdue; I've been dunned repeatedly about their recent fundraising drive. They bring in about $400 million per year in fundraising. (And that's only the "big drives", not counting the annual requests from the Statistics and Comp Sci departments, the School of Science, the Alumni Association, etc.)


Posted by: Army Brat | December 19, 2007 9:33 AM | Report abuse

My Dad used to say no matter how many times you move, how many times you change your name, there are two things that can always find you. The IRS and the college alumni association. I was actually proud that my graduate school couldn't find me for 10 years. But when they did finally track me down, they have hounded me since.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 19, 2007 9:42 AM | Report abuse

foamgnome, consider yourself lucky you got away that long! The Purdue Alumni Association should teach lessons to the FBI, CIA and NSA.

Item #1: I graduated from Purdue and moved to Maryland. Within a week after setting up in my apartment, I got a long letter from the alumni association. It noted my starting salary, the fact that I was single, the cost of living in this area, and, combining all of this information, "suggested" an annual contribution level they considered appropriate. (My response is unprintable. :-)

Item #2: I took at job teaching at the Air Force Academy and moved to Colorado. What would you suspect the first item of mail I received in Colorado would be? That's right, a letter from the Purdue Alumni Association, congratulating me on my move and notifying me of activities going on in the Rocky Mountain region - and, oh by the way, suggesting more opportunities to contribute to the school. (Again, my response would not make it past the WaPo.com filters. :-)

Posted by: Army Brat | December 19, 2007 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Its not hard to find colleges that are willing to give you money. But students have to give colleges a reason to invest in them. If you or your child isn't performing academically but can still get into a school, your going to have to pay more for it. I feel that money is going to the right people in the university system: people who need it and people who earned it.

Posted by: jenni j | December 19, 2007 10:00 AM | Report abuse

jenni j: Do you know this from personal experience? I am not trying to be mean or anything. But I know my colleague's son had a 1400 on his SAT's (6 years ago) and a 3.7 from Crofton which I think is Anne Arundel county. He did not get any $$ from the University of MD and only a small scholarship to attend North Eastern. Even with the scholarship to NE, the difference was still more then the total cost to attend Univ of MD college park as an instate student. I am not doubting lots of kids can get small amounts of money in private scholarships, Pell grant (if they qualify), or directly from schools. But that still won't make it affordable for the mass majority of kids. Seriously a 1400 and 3.7 is pretty darn good. Not ivy league contenders but very good for a state school and he did not get a dime.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 19, 2007 10:29 AM | Report abuse

"Posted by Army Brat @ December 19, 2007 09:33 AM:

"All public universities have been involved in fundraising - at least all the ones I know about. I graduated from Purdue; I've been dunned repeatedly about their recent fundraising drive. They bring in about $400 million per year in fundraising. (And that's only the "big drives", not counting the annual requests from the Statistics and Comp Sci departments, the School of Science, the Alumni Association, etc.)"

I didn't mean to imply that they are not engaged in fundraising. I probably should have been more explicit in stating that it is the quantity of fundraising that I was talking about.

I tried to look up the story from the Chronicle of Higher Education again, but I can't find it now. It was something to the flavor of the Virginia State Uiversities trying to become privately funded but still "public". I assume this was a reference to maintaining things like in-state tuition.

Posted by: David S | December 19, 2007 10:41 AM | Report abuse

"Make your kids work for their college education. I went back to college after being out in the work force a while and paid for all my tuition, books, living expenses off campus, car and insurance by working two jobs, 7 days a week. If I can do it they can do it. Stop spoon feeding them."

Gee, and is it a coincidence that your posting name is "Is it Friday yet?" So all that hard work got you a job that you can't wait is over for the week. Yeah, genius, that's what I want for my kids. Go away and stop posting your tripe, you little loser. Go spoon-feed yourself some Kraft macaroni and cheese and BE QUIET!!!!

Posted by: Get A Life | December 19, 2007 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Get A life- you chickened out yesterday and I still see your yellow stripe of fear.

What is your solution to the special education issue you whined about all-day yesterday.

Are you going to be an adult about it or just whine?

Posted by: DCer | December 19, 2007 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Get a Life: You are pathetic.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 19, 2007 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Regarding the scholarships.

The only people I know who got scholarships fought like heck to get in front of the scholarship boards. They were highly specialized and required lots of diligence. We're talking about kids being forced to stay in the Boy Scouts until the got Eagle when they hated it, kids forced to lead church programs they didn't believe in, kids forced to start in a major they didn't want anymore just to cover two years of costs. Or classically, one of my best friends who was forced to stay in the marching band for four years and used to drink before practice because she hated it so much.

I mean one parent here got a $1000 per semester scholarship for their kid.

The money is NOT out there, it's very very difficult to get any scholarships. LOANS are out there and easy to get, but the scholarships are really hard to figure out.

And as far as people graduating with large loans- that's our new society and it's not changing back to the way it was, so we just have to lump it.

Posted by: DCer | December 19, 2007 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Oddly enough, much of the increase in tuition/room/board goes to things that Americans actually value in their universities. For example, students used to be in dorms with communal bathrooms for an entire hall. Now, everyone is in suites with, at most, 4-6 students sharing a bathroom. Many students in the suites don't even share their bedrooms anymore.

This may seem stupid, yet colleges across the country are changing amenities like this because it's what incoming students want and what incoming students' parents expect. Other similar amenities include the recreational facilities and the student center (and all its related activities).

Posted by: Ryan | December 19, 2007 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Ryan, seriously do students and parents really expect this or since some schools have chosen to do this, other schools follow suit. Also that should have nothing to do with tuition increases. That would be simply room fees or possibly board fees. I do believe college cafeterias have come a long way since I was in school. But all this talk about kids expect this, kids expect that. If the parents could make a choice between dorm A (the exclusive one with all the amenties) or dorm B (no real ammenties but 40% cheaper), dollars to doughnuts, parents would choose B. Unless your so wealthy that having your kid have their own bathroom is just sooo important to you, you would choose dorm B. Not to mention at a lot of state universities a huge percentage of kids now live off campus because the universities do not even have enough housing for their undergraduate students. No, I really think this is a way universities can force parents and students to pay for the upgrades that they want at the school.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 19, 2007 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Having gone through the scholarship hassle last year with my oldest daughter, and getting ready to start it with my son next year, my experience is that scholarships ARE out there IF:

1 - you're targetting the right school; that is, a school that very badly wants students like you;
2 - you meet the right criteria - membership in an organization, parents work for a certain company, or ...

(I'm talking merit-based scholarships, NOT need-based grants. Those are often out there as well, but it's a different game.)

My oldest daughter had good grades and good SAT scores at a Howard County High School. She knew that she wanted to attend a small, private liberal arts school in the East or possibly the midwest, so she targetted schools like Emerson College, Northwestern University, Ithaca College, Loyola College, etc. She applied to eight schools. One school came after her - they offered her early admission and a substantial scholarship. Two others accepted her and grudgingly offered small scholarships. A couple accepted her but offered no financial aid except loans. And a couple of schools did not admit her (that's okay, you should have "stretch" schools).

She visited (again) all of the schools that had accepted her, and eliminated a couple of them. We went back and forth with the schools that made her final cut, and emphasized the factors that made our daughter unique. She wound up going to the school that sought her out so much - they gave her the best scholarship; it was in the right location; it was the right school; and she felt appreciated there.

Our son's a high school junior. He's got outstanding SAT scores but a weaker GPA at a Catholic high school. He's being heavily sought by a number of Catholic colleges, but he thinks he wants to major in Computer Science or Electrical Engineerings so he's not sure any of them are right for him. In terms of scholarships, we're looking at academic awards, as well as scholarships set up for graduates of Catholic high schools, etc.

In our experience, it's not nearly as bad as DC'er would lead you to believe, nor is it anywhere near as rosy as jenni j would lead you to believe.

Posted by: Army Brat | December 19, 2007 12:48 PM | Report abuse

foamgnome (wow, a use for some of the Purdue Alumni Association garbage), the most recent solicitation I got from Purdue described the new residence hall they're building. It's an entire building of private rooms, each with its own private bathroom (including shower). Groups of about 20 rooms will share a common/TV area and kitchen. It's specifically being built because they're getting so many students who've always grown up with "their own" of everything and don't know how to/don't want to learn how to share.

You hit the nail on the head, though - if one college offers something like this, in order to keep up other colleges that compete for students have to offer the same thing.

(For example - a small but growing trend now is "gender-neutral housing." That means roomates can be of any gender; they don't put girls with girls and guys with guys. The original reason for this is that there were issues assigning roomates to gay students. Now, a gay guy can room with a girl, or a lesbian can room with a guy, or whatever. See http://www.coloradocollege.edu/Students/QSA/gender-neutral-housing.html for an example explanation.)

Posted by: Army Brat | December 19, 2007 12:54 PM | Report abuse

... don't listen to them, I think you're a hoot!

Posted by: to Get A Life | December 19, 2007 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Granted, my college application process was over a decade ago, but I didn't have a really difficult time finding merit scholarships/grants (law school, however, was almost entirely loan-funded). I wound up at a small, private liberal arts college in Virginia that offered me over $15K/year in merit scholarships and grants - I think my mother paid between $5-6K out of pocket each year and I had very small loans to cover the rest. I also turned down a full scholarship to the honors college at the University of South Carolina (which was in-state for me at the time) because I really wanted to leave SC! My GPA was excellent - I was ranked 5th in my graduating class of 300 or so students - but I think my SATs were around 1360. Not exactly Harvard material but I went to a college that was a great fit for me.

Posted by: VA student | December 19, 2007 1:17 PM | Report abuse

I have to say I also disagree with DCer's pessimistic view. Scholarships aren't growing on trees, but if you've honestly been focused on getting the scholarship prize, educate yourself on how the system works and really make it your goal- then getting at least some money isn't tough.

If you wake up junior year and realize you haven't been making all As, don't have top scores, aren't in any extra curriculars and haven't made any real impact on the world around you since you've been alive...then yeah it's going to be hard to get someone to give you money.

Posted by: Liz D | December 19, 2007 2:15 PM | Report abuse

If your kid is a smart cookie, look for schools that offer academic scholarships. My siblings and I were each able to get $10,000+/yr, Just through the school's scholarship programs - private universities. Also, check with the alumni assoc, sometimes they have scholarships for "legacy students" - those going to the same school as Mom/Dad or even Aunts/Uncles, etc.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 19, 2007 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of South Carolina, if an in-state student wants to go to an in-state college in South Carolina, there are state scholarships that cover most of the tuition for everyone with a 3.0 GPA or higher and some minimum SAT score (they've changed it a little, but 5 years ago it was 1200).
I know Georgia has a similar program.

Maybe more states should implement programs like that.

Posted by: Katie | December 19, 2007 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Re: Katie's comment - Georgia has the "Hope Scholarship"; it's how they use the lottery money. See http://www.gsfc.org/hope/ for details. Basically, if you graduate from a Georgia high school with a 3.0 GPA or better in core academic courses, you go to a Georgia public college free - the scholarship pays tuition fees, and $300 per year for books. (Room and board are your own responsibility, but still...) If you go to a private college, the scholarship pays an amount essentially equal to what a public college costs.

(Still remember my brother in law fighting with his son. The kid needed to get an A on his last Math final to graduate with a 3.01 GPA; otherwise it would be 2.99. That's the difference between four years of college, free, and Mom & Dad having to pay. My nephew got the grade, but it was NOT pleasant, because he just did not get it.)

Posted by: Army Brat | December 19, 2007 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Posted by Army Brat @ December 19, 2007 12:54 PM:

"foamgnome (wow, a use for some of the Purdue Alumni Association garbage), the most recent solicitation I got from Purdue described the new residence hall they're building. It's an entire building of private rooms, each with its own private bathroom (including shower). Groups of about 20 rooms will share a common/TV area and kitchen. It's specifically being built because they're getting so many students who've always grown up with "their own" of everything and don't know how to/don't want to learn how to share."

Amazing. And to think that part of College used to be about learning to live with people you don't like or at least are different from you.

That said, I would imagine that the priciest items are any kind of capital investment - particularly aquiring land/equipment or building new buildings whether they are residential or academic. Single rooms for students may seem expensive, but you should see the pricetags on some of the research tools that are used in Academia, particularly in the sciences.

Posted by: David S | December 19, 2007 2:51 PM | Report abuse

In our experience, it's not nearly as bad as DC'er would lead you to believe, nor is it anywhere near as rosy as jenni j would lead you to believe.
-----

Actually, I think I just took a negative view toward the exact process you suggested. My parents refused to spend money on college visits for us, so everything that involved having to get ourselves "in front of" the powers that be became a huge hassle for me. I visited our state school by driving there with a friend and that was my sole college visit.

So we're in agreement with the amount of effort it takes to get a scholarship- you just took a more care-free attitude toward visiting multiple colleges.

I'll let that one sink in, as it is for me.

Posted by: DCer | December 19, 2007 3:11 PM | Report abuse

DCer, for what it's worth, my parents made it clear that (a) they were not paying any of my college expenses; (b) they were not paying any college application/visit expenses, except for ACT/SAT registration fees; and (c) they were not filling out the financial aid forms (e.g., whatever the equivalent to FAFSA was called in the late '70s), because they thought it was none of anybody's business how much they made and how much they had. I went to college on academic scholarships earned based purely on merit, without financial need entering into it - and by working three jobs (gas station, grocery store, and on campus).

While I'm very proud of my accomplishment, it's nothing that I would want to subject my own children to. So my kids have been told the parameters all along - we will take them to visit campuses within reason (there must be a legitimate interest/chance of them going there; we'll make the trip as cheaply as possible - e.g., out and back to Chicago in one day, which involved visits to both Loyola/Chicago and Northwestern); we will pay necessary testing and application fees; we will pay tuition/room and board within our abilities. They also know their responsibilities - they have to do the work; they have to get the grades; half of all the money they get - job, allowance, whatever - goes into their college savings fund; and they're responsible for their own spending money in college.

We think it's a fair deal.

Posted by: Army Brat | December 19, 2007 3:34 PM | Report abuse

As a VA resident, my spouse and I are enrolled in the VPEP program for our child. So we're not really worried about cost, since it will be taken care of. Our child will be informed of the deal, they will get the money if:

1) They go to a state school. We are not paying anything above what we have put into VPEP so they can go "find themselves" at a "school that fits."
2) Their major is approved by us. We both had frilly majors the first time through school and had to go back. Having learned our lesson, we will not waste the money for our children.
3) They complete college in 5 years. If it takes longer, then that's bad planning and we're not paying for it.
4) Their GPA remains at or above a level deemed appropriate by us (obviously we will be more understanding of a lower GPA if they are a Chemistry major than if they are an Economics major)

Posted by: Anon | December 19, 2007 6:41 PM | Report abuse

I should add: if our child doesn't like the restrictions, then of course we won't disown or even be angry. The only result is that our child will not get our money for school. They are more than welcome to pay for it themselves!

Posted by: Anon | December 19, 2007 6:44 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 

© 2010 The Washington Post Company