October 20, 2008

It's Going to be Competitive

In the wake of the current economy, you would think that college admissions will slack off a bit from the intense and selective creature that they have morphed into in this past decade. However, my prediction, based on my experience, is that it will be just the opposite. Why? You ask. That's a very good question. At first, it would not seem to make any sense, right? Financing college over the course of the next four years will be more difficult than ever as the value of the dollar grows weaker and universities and colleges across the country maintain (or even raise) their costs and fees. But this will not be the application deterrent that we might expect. It may, very well, be a determining factor in selecting which college a student will attend after offers of admission have all been gathered and assessed. However, what will happen with the actual application numbers and, thus, the offers of admission, will be startling for most young students and their families.
I believe that what we will see in another five months as the admission decisions are flowing in and students are anxiously checking their mailboxes on a daily basis, is that fewer and fewer students are getting in to fewer and fewer schools. This is happening because the number of applications will rise like the phoenix this year. This is the case because parents are going to tell their students to apply to even MORE colleges and universities than ever before. Why would they do this? For a few reasons, actually.

It's an ego thing. Parents want their kids to feel like they have been accepted into schools. Even if a student can only, ultimately, choose ONE university to attend, a parent wants their son/daughter to be admitted to ALL of them.

2) So many smaller liberal arts colleges are dropping their application fee and increasing their marketing material. This means that if they only require one essay or, better yet, participate in the commonapp.org, completing that school's application is a no-brainer.

3) Parents are going to advocate that their son/daughter apply to the wealthiest institutions this year, regardless of whether their chances for admission are realistic or not. They will have their kids do this because in the past year there has been so much more information circulating about these well-endowed schools awarding the most significant financial aid packages and in tough financial times, there's nothing that seems more valuable than having your kid take on a little extra responsibility (filling out yet another application), paying a $50 application fee, rolling the dice and seeing if it pays off in the end, with an offer of admission and a healthy financial aid package.

4) Parents still want their students to apply to all of those cool, out-of-state schools, but they also want to make sure that there will be in-state options also, seeing that in-state tuition is going to be looking all the more attractive this year. This will definitely cut down on the anxiety that comes with paying tuition bills when there seems to be no current end in sight, with regard to this financial mess.

5) Being that the universities are still in the business of making money, they will begin to accept a higher number of qualified foreign students to enter their gates. Foreign students ordinarily pay full tuition and fees. If a university wants to award more financial aid to those qualified domestic students but don't want to decrease their overall revenue, they will have to start admitting a higher number of internationals. If they do this, then the same (or, if I'm right in my above ideas, a larger number of applicants) will be competing for an even smaller percentage of domestic student slots.

In other words, what I have heard this year from an overwhelming number of parents is that they still want their kid to be able to apply to all of those great out-of-state and private schools, but they know that it's really unlikely that they would consider a $40,000 per year education in this economy when, for that same amount, they could cover the entire degree, practically. Because this financial turn of events has been so quick and unexpected, this was never a thought that they expected to have to consider when the college search process began.

Anyhow, that's my thought for the day. Please stay interested in education. It means the world.

October 2, 2008

Higher Education and the Election

Granted, the most pressing issue in this current election is not funding for higher education, access in higher education or any other area of higher education, as we know it. In fact, one of the most distressed and failing programs of W.'s Presidency is his N.C.L.B. education policy. So, should this be at the front of the minds of all voters? No. I don't think it should be. There are far too many other issues that require more pressing attention from our lawmakers. Especially considering the fact that education, like religion, should not mix with politics. Furthermore, at our universities and colleges in America we have the most intelligent and literate members of our society- in all different vocations and fields- who should, by themselves, be broaching the subjects of admissions access, affordability, job opportunity post-graduation, and overall higher education policy reform. I have always been a believer in the autonomy of colleges and universities. The effect of dependent institutions on local government is evident currently in the State of Florida. It is here, that the vast system of state universities is going so broke because of ill policies and mismanagement at the political level, read: mismanagement at the political level, not the university level. So, while there are definitely more urgent matters that should be factored into the vote on November 4th, is there still not some need to overhaul a failing and struggling highly politicized system. In other words, should education be at the forefront of the issues? No. Should it be a consideration in this election? Most certainly. Because, when the war is over and the market recovers and houses need selling and the U.S. starts to turn again, the only thing that will ever save us from destroying ourselves, the only element that will help us to persevere with calm and rationale through difficult cycles and times, is education. Not kindergarten and not college. Not high school or middle school. But the entire system, from top to bottom. The whole kit. Everything that we want our future to be, the future of our children and the future of our world, relies on us, as a country, getting smarter and becoming more well-informed. We must, as a society, recognize in our education system, the most rich resource that we have available. If nothing else in our country is truly a democracy, but instead a republic, education is the one opportunity that should afford all with equal opportunity and a level playing field.
Don't know if it makes any sense, but I feel better after writing it.