Supply & Demand...
As more and more students enter college, and the financial aid system balances between supply and demand, financial aid offices are being forced to use their limited funds to attract the strongest applicants. These strongest applicants will be the students who demonstrate the most convincing record of academic and extracurricular achievement, school and community involvement, and the desire to succeed in life.
Years ago colleges looked at financial aid as a charitable operation run within the institution. Financial aid has now become a strategic tool that is commonly used to recruit students that colleges and universities would like to enroll.
Scholarships, grants, and tuition discounts are how colleges commonly label their funding – when, in fact, all of these monies are actually rate reductions off of the institution’s total cost of attendance. The vast majority of colleges are using these reductions to get the best blend of good students and paying customers. Their business approach is to get the family to pay as much as possible and still get the student to attend.
Although the admissions battle that colleges are facing is becoming more widely publicized, behind the scenes, most colleges are actually in a huge financial battle to fill their seats with the most attractive candidates.
The very wealthy schools (basically the Ivy Leaguers) are still in a seller’s market. In other words, they can most often command that a student (and family) still pay the sticker price. Bear in mind that this is not in all cases – but certainly in most.
However, there are hundreds of very fine institutions that are very comparable to the Ivy Leaguers. These are mainly private institutions that offer a wide range of course / major specialties. These colleges have found themselves in the midst of a bidding war to attract desirable students. These institutions are where the majority of the real educational bargains can be found. These institutions offer the finest in education, most often at a discounted rate (as compared to their publicized cost of attendance). More for your money!
However, you must be careful. Although these schools will most often discount, they will also reduce their discounts (not offer as much financial aid) to students who may be less attractive or more likely to attend no matter what the offer of funding may be.
Due to the intense competition, these colleges are constantly looking for those students whose decision may be swayed by financial aid. This is a true buyer’s market. This buyer’s market puts the student (and family) in a very strong position, and in most cases allows the student to call the shots.
When it comes to choosing the perfect college for you, it is not all about the money. The courses offered, the size and location of the institution, and the quality of education are obviously huge additional considerations. Although money is not your sole consideration, it certainly comes into the picture. Everybody wants the best value for their money!
Exploring your educational options and keeping those options open can have a huge impact on your future. What you may be offered from one institution may be far different from what the next is willing to discount just to get you to attend.
This again emphasizes the importance of effectively preparing yourself while in high school. This preparation not only helps make you a well-rounded person, it will also help make you an even more attractive candidate, which puts you in a stronger position when it comes to attending and paying for college.