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Financial Aid: Why is buying a degree like buying a car?

packattack1018packattack1018 36 replies7 threads Junior Member
It's a rhetorical question, but I'd like to know. I can't logically explain why colleges feel we must play these games like a car dealership.

"Mr. Jones, this is the latest model higher education, complete with community involvement, study abroad, undergrad research, and student body diversity. What's it gonna take to get dear daughter to take our acceptance letter today? What payment are you looking for? Yeah, I know that cost of attendance figure is a bit intimidating, but don't worry! Nobody really pays that amount! Let me see what my financial aid office will do for ya. What's her ACT score? Do you make less than ______? PERFECT! We can make you a great deal on this education!"

Does no-one else find this a bit ridiculous and disingenuous? Why the smoke and mirrors? Wouldn't this whole process be a lot simpler and less stressful if colleges all set a REALISTIC cost of attendance, cut out all the nonsense and gave out financial aid based on actual need and maybe for the top 5% of the accepted class for merit and be done with it? FAFSA is a complete joke but yet is the holy writ for aid. A form that is supposed to determine your need doesn't take debt into account but any asset counts against you. It would really be so much easier if we did away with the scholarship weekends and the pretentiousness that accompanies them in favor of a genuine sticker price for an education along with assistance for those in need and perhaps an award for a small number of high achievers.

Maybe I'm missing something, if so, please enlighten me. And no, it isn't sour grapes. I myself, was a recipient of an award from one of the so-called scholarship weekends and DD qualifies for numerous merit packages. I just find the whole process very daunting, unnecessary, and wasteful.
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Replies to: Financial Aid: Why is buying a degree like buying a car?

  • Eeyore123Eeyore123 1971 replies25 threads Senior Member
    College is one of the few places in our economy that practices price discrimination. Although it may be daunting, it is necessary and helpful. Without it, many would be shutout of the process completely.
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  • BelknapPointBelknapPoint 4955 replies19 threads Senior Member
    FAFSA is a complete joke but yet is the holy writ for aid. A form that is supposed to determine your need doesn't take debt into account but any asset counts against you.

    So, what kind of debt should FAFSA take into account? Primary home mortgage debt? FAFSA will then need to start asking about primary home equity. Any kind of consumer debt? That's a good benefit for those who can't harness out-of-control credit card spending on goods that aren't a necessity. The car loan for that BMW 7 series? The personal loan taken out to finance the vacation to Maui?
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  • PublisherPublisher 11376 replies152 threads Senior Member
    OP: Isn't that what state public universities do with respect to cost of attendance & scholarship merit awards ?
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  • itsgettingreal17itsgettingreal17 4110 replies28 threads Senior Member
    I don’t understand this rant at all, especially as it relates to competitive merit scholarships that require a scholarship weekend. What is pretentious about it? And why should merit scholarships go away? I can’t thibk of a good answer to either of those questions.
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  • packattack1018packattack1018 36 replies7 threads Junior Member
    Have you not read the posts on here and the articles in other publications about "brag" scholarships? Money that schools basically give to well qualified but not exceptional kids as a sort of lure to get their attendance? I'm not saying merit aid should go away, I'm saying the term "merit" is being diluted and/or abused by some schools as a way to look like a better deal. And I didn't mean this post to quite be a rant, (although I'll admit it is, to a degree) I'd just like to understand the reasoning behind the tactics.
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  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone 24827 replies20 threads Senior Member
    I think it is more like buying a house and the neighborhood having an admissions committee and they cut the price for the master gardener or the athlete who will compete on the community swim team.

    That doesn't happen, but the government may subsidize the mortgage for vets or low income buyers.
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  • RiversiderRiversider 934 replies111 threads Senior Member
    There shouldn’t be a need for aid. End all aid , lower cost for every young person. If someone wants to study, they’ll have to work part time and pay 20% of their income once they get fully employed after graduation, until debt is paid off. No freebies for anyone, no matter your parents are poor, middle, upper middle, wealthy, filthy rich, dead or deadbeat.

    Good academics and other talents should get you admission to good colleges, good majors and good jobs but not free money.
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  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Forum Champion Financial Aid, Forum Champion Alabama 84346 replies1049 threads Forum Champion
    Have you not read the posts on here and the articles in other publications about "brag" scholarships? Money that schools basically give to well qualified but not exceptional kids as a sort of lure to get their attendance? I'm not saying merit aid should go away, I'm saying the term "merit" is being diluted and/or abused by some schools as a way to look like a better deal. And I didn't mean this post to quite be a rant, (although I'll admit it is, to a degree) I'd just like to understand the reasoning behind the tactics.

    Are you talking about the privates that have inflated their tuition just so that they can flatter applicants by giving them a $10k-15k per year merit scholarship? They send out a letter saying that they’re awarding you $40k or $60k of merit paid out over 4 years. The more modest-stats students and their parents are bedazzled and feel that they must enroll so as to not leave money on the table? It’s all just smoke and mirrors ...a marketing ploy.
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  • CU123CU123 3718 replies77 threads Senior Member
    Well if that is the case the people paying the full rate have really got to ripped off.
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  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone 24827 replies20 threads Senior Member
    My daughter went to a school where I do think merit is awarded to attract good students. However, there are some full pay students so they must have figured out the ratio of those of us who just felt flattered to those who were willing to be full pay.

    Athletic scholarships aren't called 'scholarships' at all. They are officially Grants-in-Need. Nothing need based about them.
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  • PublisherPublisher 11376 replies152 threads Senior Member
    Grants-In-Aid ?
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  • MypooronlyMypooronly 12 replies2 threads New Member
    I feel the same! We are going through this with our only child this year and feel like the pricing at private schools is very clouded, there are so many personal variables that will affect what you pay regardless of academic metrics (so it's hard to make comparisons to similar students that have gone before us). I'm afraid the options in the end will be the in-state public for $15K/yr or the various privates for $35-$45K/yr and nothing in between. But we truly won't know until the process plays itself out.
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  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone 24827 replies20 threads Senior Member
    Yes you are right, a Grant in Aid (not need).
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  • KnowsstuffKnowsstuff 7377 replies34 threads Senior Member
    I understand what the Op is saying. We were told this by friends when applying to colleges. This is especially true of the private Lacs. Lots of comparing numbers with each program to get our best deal. Even some negotiating to get sa better overall package. Good thing my daughter was in demand. 😉
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  • austinmshauriaustinmshauri 9874 replies380 threads Senior Member
    Colleges do give out aid based on actual need. They just don't agree with people who think they should give up their assets so families can protect theirs. They aren't in the business of underwriting people's lifestyles either so they don't care about debt unless it's unexpected medical bills.

    Merit does seem to go to the students with the highest stats, so they have more choices than kids with lower stats. Colleges can't win though. If they offer scholarships that are more than the guaranteed merit families don't like it because they're competitive. When colleges do offer the same ~$20k/year to a lot of good, but not great, students they're accused of playing games. I get it that if colleges limited merit to only the top 5% of kids the high stats kids would get more, but just because families with high stats kids think only the top 5% of students are worthy of merit aid it doesn't mean colleges agree.

    It's disappointing, I know, to have to tell our kids that some schools are just not affordable for our family. For most of us it's not the first time that something they wanted was out of our budget. But it's not the responsibility of private colleges to make costs affordable for my family. I don't gripe to Prius that the car my daughter really, really wants is out of our price range so why don't they do something about it. I redirect her focus to the cars we can afford. Choosing colleges is no different. The cost is what it is and if it's out of our range we move on.
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  • packattack1018packattack1018 36 replies7 threads Junior Member
    I agree with your premise; I think you missed the aim of mine. I like transparency. I don't like being told a COA number that's not reeaaallly the number, it's full sticker price and 99% of people don't pay full sticker price and there's a lot of negotiation and variables that go into the final number. I like the way the University of Alabama and Millsaps and some other colleges handle merit aid: what's your scores and GPA, here's your merit number. You can get further aid beyond that based on merit, need, etc. but here at least is a number that you know you can deduct from the start.
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  • ordinarylivesordinarylives 3212 replies45 threads Senior Member
    And yet the few colleges that tried to lower tuition and eliminate the scholarships to most policies didn't fare so well. The reason for the high tuition high aid model is that is seems to work.
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  • austinmshauriaustinmshauri 9874 replies380 threads Senior Member
    Colleges don't negotiate. They might review aid in special circumstances, but if you tell them you want to negotiate the cost you won't get far.

    What kind of results are you getting out of the Net Price Calculators? They were pretty accurate for us.
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  • KnowsstuffKnowsstuff 7377 replies34 threads Senior Member
    @austinmshauri.. Well yes they do. Mostly small lacs. We sent better offers of merit and aid to competing schools of interest. They matched and then added funds to get my daughter. They actually wanted to see the offers first to make sure they were real. Some schools there was a $8,000 difference. We also asked and got a housing credit since they couldn't give more merit but had money else where to give.
    So to me that's negotiating. 😏. Just like buying a car. Now Michigan where my son is... .... No negotiating.. Lol..
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  • austinmshauriaustinmshauri 9874 replies380 threads Senior Member
    edited August 2019
    @knowsstuff, I work at a small LAC. I think the term you're looking for is "reevaluating the financial aid package." ;) But you're correct; comparisons can be made. I don't call that negotiating, though, because families generally don't have much power in the discussions.

    I don't think the financial aid policies are meant to be difficult. I think some of these schools are trying to make college affordable for middle income families whose kids have solid stats. We get a lot of posts from people complaining they're in a donut hole and there's no aid for them, but I suspect that if they went down a tier or two to some of these very good schools they might get something. The issue seems to be that people want name brands, so what they mean is there's no aid at the schools their kids are willing to attend.

    I forgot to mention, @packattack1018, the FAFSA is really only used to calculate Pell Grant eligibility and to arrange the federal student loan. The colleges that give the best aid use their own financial aid form and those ask a lot more questions than the FAFSA.

    I understand what you're saying about transparency and I admit I found it a little frustrating too. But I've heard enough real life situations to understand why colleges need the flexibility. If they only gave a set amount of aid to the top 5% of students what can they do for the kid who suddenly loses a parent? If they consider debt, what do they do about the people who dump hundreds of thousands of dollars into a million dollar property that they plan to unload as soon as junior gets their last financial aid check? People will do all kinds of crazy things to get financial aid (see the thread about parents' giving up guardianship of their kids), so I understand why colleges want to review each application individually and not give blanket guarantees.

    We ran the Net Price Calculators and let our kids apply only to schools that were in our price range. As long as your daughter is clear about your budget you should end up with some good choices in April.
    edited August 2019
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