To a college finance geek like me, this is what I imagine ‘earning’s season’ must be like for a Wall Street whale. Several reports about college costs, value and debt have appeared in national publications, and I’m mired in college numbers. It seems like every time I hit refresh, I’ve got a new financial report / statistic or indicator of the state of college costs on my screen.

Rising college costs are a big problem for our country, for you, and especially for our students who are graduating with high debt and facing challenges finding employment that is equivalent to their degree.

High college costs are not going away, but there is something that you can do now, for your family, to minimize the challenge. I’m not going to B.S. you by saying that it will be easy. There is nothing easy about paying for college. But you can reduce the burden by taking action now, before it’s too late.

Let me summarize:

  • A new White Paper on student indebtedness from the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute reveals that student debt is not entirely attributable to high sticker prices. The other major culprit is school generosity (or lack of it). In other words, schools that have more generous financial aid policies by meeting 100% of demonstrated need are less likely to send graduates out into the world with a mountain of debt. Where to find those generous schools? You can click here to download my Resource Guide for a list of them.
  • TIME Magazine’s cover story this week, A Special Report on Higher Education, includes a discussion on college debt, but it also highlights the trend towards online learning, or MOOCs (Massive Open Online Colleges). These potentially game-changing services will not replace the standard bricks and mortar college campuses, at least not anytime soon, but they do offer educational services at a fraction of the cost (as in free!). With pressure on colleges to control their rising costs, these MOOCs could serve an important role. The top 50 colleges will remain in demand, as there is value in attending class, interacting with top professors and students, and receiving an actual degree (MOOCs don’t offer a degree…today). But those colleges in the middle of the pack are already facing pressure from the government to justify costs (in fact, all colleges are), and that pressure will likely increase from the marketplace as students may opt for alternative higher ed options.
  • And finally, just this week the College Board released a study showing tuition increases of 5% across the nation. The average tuition nationwide is $8,655 (in Florida it’s closer to $6,100). There is nothing spectacular or surprising in this increase, but what is worth noting is that only one-third of full-time students pay the full price. So my brilliant math helps me conclude that two-thirds of all full time students are getting a discount (down from 82% previously), either through merit or need-based aid. How to become one of the lucky 66%? Have a sound, integrated, college admissions and funding strategy…and then you execute that strategy.

The college admissions and funding process is like a game. If you know the rules and work them to your advantage, you can win. If you stay in the dark and remain ignorant of those rules, you will lose.

If you’re concerned with finding, getting admitted, to, and paying for a top college for your student, then you need to listen up and take action. Click here to register for one of my workshops.  You’ll be glad you did.

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