College part of article on how to cut college costs
8/17/2005 9:46:53 AM
Monday, August 15, 2005 By Anne Marie Chaker, The Wall Street Journal
Fall ushers in not only a new batch of college students, but also parents who fret about the ballooning cost of a college education.
That's understandable. Tuitions are expected to continue rising far faster than the rate of inflation -- increasing next fall by an average of about 8 percent at public colleges and universities and 5.7 percent for private colleges. Tuition and fees at private colleges now top $20,000 a year on average -- and that doesn't include room and board, which can sometimes be a requirement at private schools.
But while many families scour desperately for big-ticket scholarships or despair at the huge debts they expect to incur, there are a few tricks that can save a chunk of change over the course of a college career, from the application process to senior year.
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First, never be shy about negotiating your financial-aid package. Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., says it sees an average of about 150 appeals from parents for more aid and is able to give extra grant money to about three-fourths of those. At Hope College in Holland, Mich., director of financial aid Phyllis Hooyman says she is also able to help about three-fourths of families who request extra aid, either by approving more grant aid or helping arrange more loans. She says, however, the bar is pretty high to qualify for additional help -- examples have included a job loss or divorce -- and she requires documentation.
Kalman Chany, president of Campus Consultants Inc., a New York firm that provides college-financial-aid planning services, says that as many as 80 percent of his clients who appealed their financial aid have received extra funds. Mr. Chany says the key is to present additional information or new circumstances that might sway a financial-aid officer -- for instance, a reduction in income, high medical expenses not covered by insurance, or a loss of employer benefits.
"You have to be able to convince them why their formulas don't fit your circumstances," says Mr. Chany.
It also can pay to not head off to your dream school right away. Cheaper alternatives, such as community colleges, are increasingly emerging as a way to gain entry to top-notch four-year colleges -- while saving thousands of dollars in tuition at the same time. Average tuition and fees at community colleges are around $2,000 a year, compared with more than double that for in-state students at public four-year colleges and 10 times that at private colleges. Not only might it make financial sense to attend a community college for a couple of years before transferring to a pricier four-year college, but it could also be an easier way of getting into a dream school.
For instance, state policy in California favors students who transfer from a community college to either the California State University or the University of California system. Each University of California campus has agreements with community colleges to facilitate transfer if certain academic requirements are met. In some cases, it might be easier to get into a top-flight university as a community-college transfer than as a high-school senior. Some 33 percent of applicants to UC Berkeley from California community colleges were accepted for this fall, compared with 28 percent of in-state high-school applicants.
Other community colleges maintain informal but still close ties to a flagship state university. Every year, about 150 graduates of Piedmont Virginia Community College, in Charlottesville, Va., apply to the University of Virginia, and about two-thirds of them are accepted, says Frank Friedman, Piedmont's president. By compa
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