Financial Aid Award Letters
For many students and families the college acceptance letters have arrived. Some hang in the kitchen and others are locked under a pillow. But, one critical part of the equation is needed, the Financial Aid Award Letter. They’re coming!!
Financial Aid Award Letters outlining institutional, federal and state need based aid will be arriving over the coming weeks. This is part two of equation. With the arrival of the Award Letter students and parents are closer to understanding how much it will cost to attend the school of my choice. How affordable will my final choices be?
Figure Your Net Tuition Cost
To assist with making sense of the numbers I created a very simple tool, Net Tuition Cost Worksheet. Using the Worksheet students and parents can map out the cost associated with attending a specific college and most importantly why the Net Tuition Cost will be. The simple formula is Cost minus Aid = Unmet Need, the Net Tuition Costs.
By mapping the numbers for each institution, applied and accepted, one can calculate the difference in the actual cost of education, the impact of scholarships, need based aid and what the Net Tuition Costs one will need to mustered for a student to attend. The Worksheet shows where tuition assistance will come from, how much will be from the college, federal resources and even resources like external scholarships. Plug in the numbers received for each and college offering acceptance and aid. Does College A offer more in “merit aid” than College B. However, will College B offer more in “need based aid” and actually make it more affordable for a student.
Use the Net Tuition Cost Worksheet to visualize the breakdown of cost minus aid = net tuition cost. This is a critical component to the process of analyzing choice. What college choice will be best? Academic and personal development is must! But, affordability, affects the long term personal financial options. A decision that lies with each student and family.
You approach a fork in the road. You are pressed to make a decision. Do I turn left, right or go straight? Will my GPS guide me?
College Right After High School?
Many high school students, parents and young adults find themselves in a similar situation when it comes to decisions on what path to follow after high school. Thankfully, there are different choices for an individual to reach their goals and aspiration. Finding the fork in the road is key!!
However, over time society has not shinned the brightest light on all options. But why? Attending college right out of high school has historically been the path that students are all encouraged to follow. A path that is appropriate for 75% of a graduating class. For students interested in pursuing their education but not ready for the traditional path, alternatives are available and should be strongly considered.
Today, is it critical to expose young minds, as early as Middle School to the different types of roles, jobs and professions that as a nation and society we need (will be needed) to remain competitive and financially strong. Roles that many times take different educational paths after high school, but each are valuable to the student and their future. Paths launched through a high school experience designed around a college prep, vocational/technical education and/or a blended combination. A students academic, personal and financial background as well as aspirations and goals are key factors to determining the path.
Which Path is Yours?
High School to College – the traditional route to a 4-year public or private college. Focused on an outcome that provides a gateway to graduate school and/or a professional career in any number of industries. Students who follow this path are typically enrolled in a college prep program (or combination) with a GPA equal to a B- or better and following mandatory state equivalent academic courses for acceptance in a state college. Students take college prep, Honors and AP course. Individuals seek acceptance 4-year public and private colleges and universities throughout the U.S., Canada or internationally.
Associates to Bachelors – students who struggle academically in high school but have the aspirations to complete a Bachelor Degree program can turn to the successful A2B program option. Students begin at the Community College level developing their college readiness (academic and personal) full-time (working part-time), complete their 2-year Associates Degree transferring to complete the remaining 2 years at a 4 Year college and/or university. Many states, including Massachusetts sponsor “transfer’ programs that offer tuition incentives. The A2B Program is a very important option for all students including those seeking a financially affordable option. (example: Mass Transfer)
Earn and Learn – individuals who wish to enter the workforce but continue their educational path attend college can also find options. Options including Community College, Continuing Education/Professional Studies Program in a wide area of disciplines and focuses. Students generally work full-time and school part-time. Individuals come from work forces in financial, health care, retail, hotel management fields. Many states offer programs to assist individuals pursue this option including incentives to commit the this post high school options (example: Commonwealth Commitment)
Gap Year – time between high school and college when students with aspirations for college but are not ready to enroll, take a break to evaluate their next steps. Many individuals need this time to mature, evaluate and plot academic and career options. Individuals during this one-year span will pursue volunteer services, enroll in non-academic courses, internships and/or work. This is not a period that this author endorses as a “travel the world” option.
Technical and trade – property owners know the critical importance of a professionally trained technical and/or trade individuals. But today plumbers, electricians and contractors are joined by organizations looking for individuals with skills in technology, cyber security, healthcare, aviation & auto mechanics, wellness, manufacturing and 3-D designing. Individuals can enter these professions directly from vocational technical high school, trade unions and/or trade and technical colleges.
Military Service – a role that calls for a special type of man or women who is willing to place their county and its citizens before their own Individuals who are called to this role are high school and/or college graduate with academic and personal character positioning them to meet the enlistment eligibility criteria of the specific brand of service. Individuals select from a wide range of Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) that include communications, administrative, technology, engineering, infantry, equipment and others. Once one completes their service commitment they are able to take their training and leadership skills in pursuit of an educational and/or workplace path.
Supporting Options and Choices
Parents and extended support groups, you have the greatest responsibility to be remain the advocate for your student(s). Educating young minds on the options after high school needs to be introduced as early as middle school and re-enforced throughout high school. High school seniors and those who have left high school undecided (17-25 years of old), must be encouraged to their specific education path. Parents and extended support groups need to be vigilant and aware of biases willing to placing barriers in front of students. Supporting different paths to achieve desired outcomes should be the goal for all students and parents.
Civic, business and educational leaders must focus on providing guidance and direction that supports different paths to education and careers. Championing all paths through greater education and exposure at an early age can plant great foundations for individuals and overcome the opportunity gap to help young adults gain financial stability and personal happiness.