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24 August 2012


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Interesting and depressing. However, I think it's important to take all factors into consideration. My dd is attending a 4 yr private college, yet with her scholarships and PSEO credits she is paying pretty close to what she would pay at a 4 yr public school. Obviously that's something we can take into account.

Although this is more about the discrepancy between income and college costs, I think it's very important for students to keep in mind that they won't have all the data they need until they "get there" and I fear some may use information like this to make their plans too soon.


" My dd is attending a 4 yr private college, yet with her scholarships and PSEO credits she is paying pretty close to what she would pay at a 4 yr public school. Obviously that's something we can take into account."

Yes -- assuming she can afford what she would pay at the 4-yr public school!

For a lot of people, even that would be out of reach. It's the size of the out-of-pocket cost, not the apparent generosity of the discount, that matters when it comes to counting up the debt.

"I fear some may use information like this to make their plans too soon."

Have a plan, but be flexible. I think I'd rather have a variety of possible plans ready to go too soon, than have no plan until it was too late.

My husband and I were both lucky: we won full academic scholarships for our undergraduate educations, and I chose a field in which graduate school was fully funded by my research assistantship and fellowships. PSEO we can probably assume will be there, but I am not going to assume that all (or any, really) of our children will qualify for academic scholarships. (If they do, bonus.) I want to have several rough plans in place by the time each child starts 9th grade, plans that can be refined as we get closer to launch.


Working through the posts in order. I'm a little surprised at your assuming no academic scholarships since you clearly have not going to college at all on the table as a viable option. Might getting or not getting academic scholarships ba a possible deciding factor for whether a given student should go to college or not? So the decision strucure might be: you will pay for college in part with academic scholarships; if you don't earn scholarships, we will reevaluate whether college makes sense for you,

There's actually a fair amount of support for thisin the data on who college benefits in earning terms as well. Those who go to college but don't do very well show the worse average outcomes in terms of earnings, etc.


It isn't so much that I'm "assuming no academic scholarships," as I don't feel it's wise to count on them. "Assuming there will be academic scholarships" sort of feels, to me, like planning my retirement with the expectation that there will be Social Security.


Added: Yes, it definitely occurred to me that not getting significant merit scholarships could be construed as evidence that the student isn't college material. But 5 to 15 years from now, it could also be construed as "the education bubble has burst and schools are no longer flush with cash with which to offer merit scholarships."

The other thing is that partial scholarships are possible, and also nonrenewable scholarships. I also wonder if the very different preparation of the homeschooled child might cause there to be a disparity between actual ability to gain value from postsecondary education, and the colleges' desire to use the child to plump up their entering class.


Darwin: Mark is asking me to ask you to clarify what you said about data in your second paragraph.

Those who go to college but don't do very well show the worse average outcomes... compared to which group?


Adventures in spouting off from memory and then seeing if I can back up what I said.

I think what I was recalling the Aademically adrift study. This summary based on it deals with employment. When they look at students quintiles by an academic ability test, average incomes for the quintiles are pretty similar, but unemployment for those in the top quintile is 3%, those in the middle three 7%, and those in the bottom 9%. Given how long term unemployment can hit your lifetime earnings, having 2-3x higher unemployment is going to make a big difference in the long run.

I'm not finding is at the moment, but I recall that earlier stages of the same study basically showed at those in the bottom quintiles of academic ability going into college didn't really improve measurably in academic ability during their 4+ years. So you've got a triple hit of low achieving students both not learning much, taking out more loans because they don't qualify for scholarships, and then earning less in the long run when they're out.

While recognizing that this is part of my self justification for going to college/encouraging college that I'm trying to work out, my line of thinking on scholarships is: it's highly likely that colleges will continue to give some sort of assistance to those students who lift their overall stats -- those in the top 20% or so of incoming students. Those are also the students likely to get the most benefit from college. So I think it makes more sense to build some level of scholarship into your college assumptions (and reassess if you don't get it) than to build a set of assumptions whereby you talk yourself out of even trying for college on the basis that it will be too expensive if you have to pay for the whole thing out of pocket.


Link: http://highered.ssrc.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Documenting-Uncertain-Times-2012.pdf


Darwin: Thanks for the link. I will peruse it.

I have been trying to put my finger on exactly the conundrum you describe. I admit, I'd like it better than most other outcomes if my kids turned out to be the sort who can most benefit from a college education, then went to college, excelled, and leveraged that into being able to comfortably support a family. It seems that if we focus too much on the expense and risk of college, we might destroy the kinds of attitudes that make that path more likely. Setting kids up to hold themselves to a high standard seems like a good idea.

Perhaps the key is to hold kids up to a high standard of performance in whatever they do -- not up to a high standard of appearances. I want them to find a path that makes each of them an attractive investment. To produce something that others will value. But at the same time we must not lose sight that their true value is in who they are and not in what they have.


Btw, Darwin -- I think it is important to remember that even if tuition is paid, attending college full time still entails an economic cost, namely the lost income of four years' wages and advancement in some other career. That's why you still have to get your money's worth out of it even if it's "free." Some BAs would not offer as good a chance of stable work as, say, a welding certificate plus two years of work, or the first four years of apprenticeship as an electrician.

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