posted Jul 1, 2011, 12:54 PM by Glenda Durano   [ updated Jul 1, 2011, 9:23 PM ]

    Eighty-eight percent of families say that receiving financial aid is a very important factor in choosing a college.  While I’m not one to prolong the rumor that “there are hundreds of thousands of unclaimed dollars worth of scholarships out there,” I can say that, fortunately, only one in five students actually pay full price for a college.  In fact, while the average private school tuition is estimated at $26,273, in truth, the average student pays less than $12,000 per year at a private university. 

    It is true that public universities have lower price tags than private universities (approximately $7,000 per year), however, when you consider the difference in the average four-year graduation rate between public and private institutions, the picture takes on a whole different meaning.  The average graduation rate at public universities is 32%, and the average graduation rate at private universities at private universities is 54%.  

    For those of you who are looking at the New Mexico lottery scholarship as your “free ticket,” and therefore think that you don’t need to concern yourself with looking at cost alternatives, you should know that fewer than 15% of students graduate with the lottery scholarship in tact, and 25% to 35% of students lose their lottery scholarship in the first semester.  Additionally, the four-year graduation rate at UNM is 11.6% and the four-year graduation rate at NMSU is about 13%.  The average student in New Mexico incurs $21,478 of debt for his undergraduate education (and some of them don't even graduate)! 

    Alternatively, students who apply to smaller, regional colleges are much more likely to graduate in four years and get more merit-based aid.  Generally speaking, since private universities are competing with public universities for the same students, they know that they have to really make it worthwhile financially for the student to choose the private school over a public school.  Private schools are usually better endowed for both need-based and merit-based aid than public schools, therefore, they offer more money per student to attend. 

    The trend in financial aid right now is to offer smaller financial aid packages to more students.  In that way, a university fills more of its available spots and receives some income from the students.   In order for a student to qualify for a full scholarship, a student must be near the top of the applicant pool with regard to test scores and grades, and have some life experiences that set him apart from the other three million students who will apply to college in 2011-2012. 

    Education consultants specialize in helping students target schools that are more likely to offer that specific student financial aid.  Not only do consultants help students find a good match for the pocketbook, they also help students find a good match for their passions and their personality.  That’s our job.  The student, however, must take responsibility for demonstrating his potential in high school in order to have the best possible chances of a successful college search.  I hope your student is doing that this summer! 

    P.S. If you want to stay updated on college admissions trends, I have started a professional FACEBOOK page (College Advising and Planning) where I post interesting articles and videos about college planning; you may want to “like” it so that you can follow the latest news.