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Both Case Western Reserve University and Oberlin College are mentioned favorably in this MarketWatch opinion piece that’s focused on financial aid and ensuring that college students wind up in a place that’s a good financial fit for them.

The piece by Jeffrey Selingo is adapted from his book, “Who Gets In and Why: A Year Inside College Admissions.” (Selingo is the former editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education and a special adviser and professor at Arizona State University.)

He urges families to keep money in mind when students are identifying potential schools.

From the piece:

During the year I spent inside the admissions process, what I came to see, and prospective students and their families should too, is that colleges are either “buyers” or “sellers” of spots in the freshman class.

Sellers are the “haves” of admissions. They have something to sell that consumers want, typically a brand name that signals prestige in the job market and social circles. They are overwhelmed with applications, many from top students. Their admissions officers see their role as gatekeepers. You’ve heard of these places: Stanford University, Amherst College, Yale University, among others.

The buyers are the “have-nots” in terms of admissions — although they might provide an excellent undergraduate education. They may lack national reputations or have much smaller endowments. Rather than select a class, their admissions officers must work hard to recruit students to fill classroom seats and beds in dorm rooms, so they offer coupons on tuition called “merit scholarships” no matter your family’s income.

At one point in the piece, he produces a chart of schools with similar academic profiles — but vastly different approaches to financial aid.

For instance, he compares CWRU with Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon and notes that at the Cleveland school, the percentage of aid awarded without respect to financial need is 39%. At Carnegie Mellon, it’s 7%.

Similarly, Oberlin is compared with Macalester College in Minnesota, and the spread again is wide: 23% at Oberlin and 7% at Macalester.

He concludes with this: “Sellers make up less than 10% of four-year colleges and universities. To ensure students end up with the right financial fit, they should have a mix of buyers and sellers on their list. Some high-school seniors overload their list with sellers because they think the name will look good on the sticker affixed to the rear window of the family car. My advice: Add a wider range of places to your list — including some buyers — and next spring you’ll be a lot happier with whatever college logo you put on the car.”

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