Top Universities Strive to Restore Pre-Recession Policies While Maintaining Affordability

As private universities try “to find the magic balance between tuition and financial aid,” parents of prospective and current students continue to struggle with college affordability, reports a recent Chronicle article, “As Tough Times Persist, Colleges Must Live With Last year’s Decisions.”

To encourage parents to remain positive (and paying), private universities last year worked to keep tuition increases low and to increase financial aid opportunities. This year, however, those changes appear harder to maintain; universities depend on their tuition increases year-to-year and can’t forego the increases two years in a row. Many universities plan on returning to pre-recession tuition and financial aid increases this coming year, states The Chronicle article.

In the world of the Ivies: Top universities like Yale, Brown, and Dartmouth are further attempting to cut costs and promote affordability by continuing to make budget cutbacks, says a Daily Pennsylvanian article from last week. The article, “No new plans for University budget cuts,” does state, however, that the University of Pennsylvania has not yet announced cutback plans. Penn is less endowment-dependent than the other Ivies—only 9% of its operating budget is endowment-financed—and so lost less proportionately in the last fiscal year.

Of course all schools are looking for new sources of revenue and are making financial changes to reflect the current economic climate, including:

  • Only 2% of Yale’s staff will receive salary increases.
  • The number of admitted grad students at Yale will be reduced 10-15%.
  • Brown will reduce its staff members, as part of a $30 million budget cut plan.
  • Harvard’s deficit has dropped to $80 million due in part to budget cuts and donations.
  • Dartmouth will restore its loan program and eliminate its “No-Loan” policy.

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Another Week, Another College and B-School Round Up!

  • Round 3 MBA Special: Save $100 on all orders over $1,000 placed by February 22, 2010. Can be used for MBA essay editing, waitlist letters, and mock interviews. Use coupon code R3100.
  • In the State of the Union address, President Obama urged colleges to “get serious about cutting their own costs.” To assist in the goal of making higher education more affordable to the greatest number of students, Obama plans to increase federal support for education by 6% in 2011. Obama also supports the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act which, if passed by Congress, would eliminate bank-based federal student loans. This bill, according to the president, “will finally end the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that go to banks for student loans.”A more lenient payback plan is also being discussed. (The Chronicle)
  • According to The Chronicle last week college endowments have declined by about 23% in the last two years. In fact, the investment return for 2009 was the worst return recorded in the history of the endowment study, at -18.7%. According to John D. Walda, president of the National Association of College and University Business Officers, however, “the picture for endowments is a lot cheerier than it was a year ago.” Optimism for the future, though, doesn’t help the fact that certain schools that had been dependent on endowments are now in pretty bad shape, especially considering the sizable loans they’re now forced to take out. The only reason why these schools didn’t go under was because of fortunate investment returns from previous years.
  • The Moscow Times reports that “Russia’s business education market was among the world’s worst hit in 2009.” In some cases, admissions fell about 50% from last year. Some schools are even dipping into their own funds to create lending programs for students in order to maintain adequate student enrollment. Besides the fact that students (or their sponsoring companies) can no longer afford to pay for business schools, students in general seem to have lost interest in pursuing an MBA, at least for the time being. However, despite the decrease in MBA program enrollment, interest in EMBA programs in Russia is on the rise.
  • Women are equally represented in medical and law schools, but still lag well behind in numbers in the b-school sphere. “Business Schools Sweeten Lures for Women,” a recent article from WeNews, suggests that in order to increase female enrollment in America’s business schools, MBA programs are forced to lure women in by their sweet teeth, both figuratively and literally. Recruitment events for female MBA prospects are popping up all over the country, including a private party at New York City’s Dylan’s Candy Bar.
  • Do students benefit from being in a diverse educational climate? Is affirmative action, or “race-conscious admissions,” justified? Will diversity improve education? These are questions raised by Peter Schmidt, author of a recent Chronicle article on campus diversity. The answer: It depends (of course). If situations are handled optimally then educational benefits will increase and the inherent problems of affirmative action will decrease. Most agree that affirmative action is not a policy that can be accepted on its own, but most be implemented along with other educational and diversity initiatives and even at that, with caution. Still, many universities are skeptical of the educational benefits derived from race-conscious admissions and believe that accepting more qualified students will benefit the students and the school, both long- and short-term, more than were they to focus on boosting classroom diversity.

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New “No-Co-Signer” Loans Aid Foreign MBA Students

According to BusinessWeek, Chicago Booth, Northwestern University, Rochester’s Simon School, and UCLA Anderson are among the six universities and 15 graduate programs that have joined the Affiliated Loan Program for Students (ALPS), a solution to the international student loan crisis. In 2008, just as admissions season was approaching, a few major international student loan lenders (like Sallie Mae and CitiAssist loan programs) disappeared, leaving future international b-school students financially stranded.

US universities can join ALPS, a program funded by the Deutsche Bank (DB) in order to help their international students acquire adequate funding without the domestic co-signer that most other lending programs require. Other student benefits: International students do not need to establish credit, interest rates are below 10%, and according to one international student, there’s very little paperwork.

Participating schools also benefit from adopting the loan program: The program boosts a school’s credit rating, there are no up-front expenses, and the school doesn’t need to worry about setting limits on loan volume.

For schools like Rochester’s Simon School, BusinessWeek describes the ALPS program as a “lifeline.” About half of Simon’s students are international; one-third of the international students have already signed up for the ALPS no-co-signer loans.

Medical schools, law schools, and more b-schools are expected to follow the example of these few ALPS-active b-schools and join ALPS in the coming year.

There are some b-schools (including HBS, Stanford, Wharton, and MIT Sloan) that are not joining the ALPS program, but that are joining other no-co-signer loan programs with credit unions.

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Weighing Cost and Quality in Public Universities

A recent Kiplinger article discusses how the current economic crisis relates to their recently released rankings of the 100 best values in public colleges and universities.

The Situation

Public colleges and universities are experiencing a spike in enrollment due to their significantly lower price tags. Demand for financial aid has simultaneously increased. These schools are responding to a situation of more students and less money by slashing operating costs and by raising tuition beyond the normal five percent per year increase. The future is likely to see larger classes, more part-time instructors, and a limit on enrollment—all to limit costs.

What will happen to the quality of these public universities as costs and enrollment increase?

For the answer look at the level of support. Schools that benefit from strong state and foundation support for financial aid (like UNC Chapel Hill) are able to maintain their qualitative strength even with an increasing student body. Top colleges are even continuing to hand out merit aid to encourage the best and brightest of students to enroll.

Cost: Some Numbers for Comparison

Institution

In-State Public

Out-of-State Public

Private

Cost (average)

$15,231

$26,075

$35,636

 

Tools

You can sort the Kiplinger rankings according to in-state tuition, out-of-state tuition, room and board costs, average debt at graduation, average financial aid, and other financial considerations.

Quality: The Criteria

The Kiplinger report measures academic quality according to these criteria:

  • SAT/ACT scores
  • Student-faculty ratios
  • Admissions and retention rates
  • Four and six year graduation rates

For more information on how to approach and understand MBA rankings, download Accepted.com’s new MBA  Rankings Report. Although it is written for MBA students and the details are specific to graduate business programs, many of the broader points are relevant to other rankings as well.

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MBA Admissions: Acceptances with and without $$$

I received an interesting direct message from a fellow Twitterer this morning. This MBA applicant writes:

do MBA programs negotiate at all about $ packages? I’d prefer to go to School A but School B gave me a pretty big merit scholarship.*

*I substituted School A and School B for the real names.

Yes and no. It’s not so much a matter of negotiation as information. If you go to School A and perhaps with a hint of hubris attempt to “negotiate” an aid package, you may just irritate. Irritation doesn’t usually lead to generosity.

However, if you inform School A of your dilemma and with humility ask them to help you solve this problem, namely that you really prefer School A but have been offered a generous scholarship from School B, you are simply a human being asking for help.

You are also demonstrating the people skills and grace that make you an even more attractive candidate. Furthermore you are giving them a chance to match School B, confirm an acceptance, and maintain their yield numbers.

It doesn’t work 100% of the time, but this can be an effective approach to a delightful dilemma.

  By Linda Abraham, President and Founder of Accepted.com.

 

An Accepted Admissions Round Up

It’s been yet another busy week in the world of college and graduate admissions. Let’s take a look.

  • The debate continues over the value of an MBA versus a one-year Master’s in a business-related field. The Wall Street Journal reports that many students are switching their plans to include the shorter, less expensive, M.A. alternative, rather than pursing an MBA. Specialized business degrees require only one or two years of prior work experience, run only 12 months long, and often cover a lot of the same material covered in a two-year MBA program, although usually more focused on the technical and less on general management. In the post-graduate job search, an MBA (for now) is still preferred among most businesses, although the edge an M.A. holder provides for being highly skilled in a particular subject is quickly gaining recognition and respect in the job search.
  • How much is a college diploma worth these days? The Wall Street Journal tackled this hotly debated question as well this week. As tuitions become more and more pricey every year, students and parents are growing increasingly wary about the value of the college experience and the college degree. There are, however, still benefits to holding a B.A., despite the high price tag that comes along with it, says WSJ reporter Sue Shellenbarger. These benefits include a higher paying job (up to 60% higher) upon graduation, the benefits that a rich, well-rounded education contribute to a rich, well-rounded life, and building a strong network.
  • College, graduate, and MBA students: You may be paying more than you need to for your education! Learn a little about new tax codes and you could be the proud owner of a lower tax bill, advises BusinessWeek. There are education deductions and credits available to students that few know anything about; even the “quant jock[s] by trade…still might want a little help with [their] taxes.”  Students should look into a wide range of deduction, credits, and funds options, including the Student Loan Interest Deduction, Hope and Lifetime Learning Credits, and Section 529 Funds.
  • Another BusinessWeek article of interest this week covers the top business school stories of 2009, a sort of year-in-review piece about how the global financial crisis affected MBA programs and MBA students. The ten most popular topics in MBA news this year according to BW were: Job Market, Loan Crisis, MBA: Public Enemy No. 1?, GRE vs. GMAT, The Best Part-Time B-Schools, The Harvard MBA Oath, GMAT Cheating in China, College Affordability, Deans Wanted, and B-School Cutbacks.

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Thank You! Review of “Financing Your Future”

Thank you to MBA blogger Madalogue for her recent review of popular Accepted.com ebook, Financing Your Future. She offers her readers a few pointers or “takeaways” from the ebook, including:

Start planning early. Never ignore the financing part. Parallel the financing research with your school research. Many schools offer merit based, need based and special criterion based awards. Make sure you know what your target school has to offer. [This] ebook offers a really well planning timeline for the financing part and also offers great insights on type of awards available to students and the differences between them.

She also gives some constructive criticism—which we always appreciate! Thanks, Madalogue!

Accepted.com ~ Helping You Write Your Best

P.S. Financing Your Future is also the prize in Law School Podcaster’s Twitter Contest.

 

No-Cosigner Loans for International Students at Darden

Darden Admissions Director Sara Neher recently posted a new video blog on the Darden Admissions News Blog about international student loans. She proudly announced that Darden has formally signed an agreement to secure loans for international students without a US cosigner. The lack of non-US-cosigner loans – which became an issue last year in the wake of the international credit crisis – was a major deterrent to international student applicants interested in attending Darden, so Sara is justifiably excited to have eliminated this problem. While Sara did not include details of the loan options, she did mention that the terms of the loan would be similar to those which the current international first-year Darden students enjoy.

This news is likely to cause a  spike in international applications to Darden in the second round..

By Jennifer Bloom

Based in Israel and author of the popular ebook Techie’s Guide to MBA Admissions, Jennifer Bloom has advised international applicants to acceptances at top international graduate programs since 1998.

If you would like to speak to Jennifer or another member of Accepted’s experienced, international staff, please register today. Darden’s Round 2 deadline is January 7, 2010.

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Personal Statement Fundamentals

Diction, voice, tone, style: the elements of writing. For many of you, we know, sitting down to that blank page can be intimidating, and even talking about terms like “diction” can make you glaze over. But your style—the clarity and readability of your writing—is fundamental to how you communicate.

Some of you may fret that your vocabulary won’t be advanced enough to dazzle the adcom. Some of you might be used to writing in a very technical style (or not writing at all). For others, English is not your first language, and you feel uncertain about expressing yourself in it.

All of this anxiety leads some people to write in a formal, stilted style. You might recognize the markers: passive sentences; long, convoluted clauses; repetitive constructions. This artificially formal style tends to be impersonal, passive, and indirect. It hides your voice, and can be difficult, obscure, or even boring to read.

What’s the solution? Focus on fundamentals. Your goal is to communicate—writing is the medium. So work on communicating clearly.

  • Don’t worry about using the fanciest or biggest words—use words that you know the meanings of and know how to use. (I always told my composition students never to use a thesaurus in isolation: it’s a great tool for finding words, but you’d better make sure you know their connotations and how to use them.)
  • At the same time, do try to vary your word choice, along with your sentence structure. Choose strong, active verbs.
  • In a personal statement or statement of purpose, try to find a tone that’s a compromise between formality and informality. You’re not writing a casual email, but you’re also not writing an impersonal, technical document.
  • You want your essay to sound like you. It’s your voice presented in a polished, refined way—because writing is different from speaking. But your voice should be there, and be clear.
  • Avoid passive sentence constructions. They hide the action in your sentences, and invite repetitive phrasing and wordiness.
  • Keep your reader in mind—writing clearly is a courtesy to the people who will read your essay.
  • Always aim for clarity and conciseness.

One way to recognize and fix passive constructions in your writing is to use Richard Lanham’s “Paramedic Method”:

The Paramedic Method

(from Richard Lanham’s Revising Prose)

Here’s how it works:

1. Circle the prepositions.

2. Circle the “to be” forms.

3. Ask, “Where’s the action?”

4. Put this action in a simple active verb.

5. Start fast! No windups!

Before:

I think that all I can usefully say on this point is that in the normal course of their professional activities social anthropologists are usually concerned with the third of these alternatives, while the other two levels are treated as raw data for analysis.

After:

Social anthropologists usually concentrate on the third alternative, treating the other two as raw data.

(You can find more sentences to practice on at uwc.ucf.edu, the Writing Center of the University of Central Florida.)

By Dr. Rebecca Blustein, author of Financing Your Future: Winning Fellowships, Scholarships and Awards for Grad School, Rebecca is available to help you write clear essays and personal statements that communicate and persuade. 

Financing Your Future: New Ebook

Financing Your Future: Winning Fellowships, Scholarships and Awards for Grad School, by Linda Abraham and Rebecca Blustein, shows you how to get the financial support you need to attend the graduate school of your choice.

In Financing Your Future, an instantly downloadable ebook, you’ll learn about:

  • Different types of scholarships.
  • When to apply for financial aid.
  • How to assemble a strong application.
  • Applying for high-prestige scholarships.
  • Specific program tips and interview advice.

Check out Financing Your Future: Winning Fellowships, Scholarships and Awards for Grad School.