American College Experience
American Colleges and Universities have experienced a decline in enrollment for the past four years. There are several reasons for this: a decline in the actual college age population after a decade of a boom, the volume of American students who are not prepared to go to college, but have graduated high school has risen dramatically, the volume of foreign nationals from certain segments has declined, and the costs have seemed prohibitive to many.
Let’s explore some of these realities and talk about the American College system. First, the American college tradition is very different from college education worldwide. The United States’ has an enviable college tradition of allowing young adults to explore, obtain some freedom from responsibility, gain some critical decision making, and also from life long bonds. These bonds formed during college are what are enviable worldwide. These bonds transcend so much in life for Americans. The bonds made through college often what out last pretty much all over life experiences during maturation.
College chums and alumnae share something, which creates a respect, camaraderie, and support for life. I am not saying that all those who go to an American college end up feeling such strong commitment to their colleges, but a large percentage do. This is a network that graduates come to rely heavily on when searching for jobs. Also for post graduate education and support. Colleges and Universities do their utmost to treasure their Alumnae. Most schools are supported fairly healthily through alumni donations over the years. Many alumni, especially because of the American Tax system, happily give to their alma maters. Corporations often match alumni donations to American Colleges and Universities. This tradition of the tight bond between alumnae to Alma Mater is very different in the US than in other countries.
Higher education in other countries is less about the life while at school and more about the focus of life after school. Not to say that alumnae do not bond elsewhere, but the preferences Americans show towards fellow alumni is rather enviable. The business networking by alumna in the United States is something that many foreign nationals who attend US schools want to benefit from when they return to their own countries or even if they stay in the US to work after graduation. The experiences gained through the school life, the Greek systems, the athletics, and so forth are genuinely enjoyable. People remember those moments and regale others during interview about their own days at University U!
That said, now is a great time for qualified foreign Nationals and the children of ex-Pats to be applying to schools. There is dorm space. The colleges are in need of qualified students who are eager to learn.
Second, the Millennials are through high school now. The population of high schools students has been dropping steadily for the past 8 years. Now it is bottoming off. So, there are many schools that have actual housing space for more students that are accepting them. Now is a great time for looking into those schools. Now the most popular and the most highly selective are still getting far more applications than spaces, but many really good schools have more leeway to look for those students who do not fit the optimum profile. Now is an especially good time to look at the smaller schools with quality education for these schools apply a more personal approach to admissions. Students, whose standardized test scores might seem low but whose GPA is quite good, stand a far better chance at acceptance today than in recent years when the competition was so stiff.
Third, speaking of test scores, the qualifications of many American high school students has slipped to record low levels. Sadly, the volume of people being given “diplomas” to leave high school, are not actually qualified to go to college, let alone work at a job. It is true that in a rush to get people “educated” rather than address glaring issues in education, the standards to graduate were lowered. Some were lowered to points where the actual graduation is not of someone qualified to hold employment, but simply to get them out of the school system. The degradation of some of the school systems is truly a sad state. This is an issue which colleges are unprepared to remediate.
For almost a decade, many colleges created “remedial” core classes because the students were not qualified to start at freshman level. In many locations, this gap was adequately served well by the community college system that offers a great variety of education options, not just tradition Associates’ degrees with an eye towards an Undergraduate degree. Community colleges have evolved to offer many certificate programs and professional education that qualifies the students to gain employment that pays a higher living wage, such as landscaping, culinary arts, computer technology, etc. For decades past, those who were not ready for college could enroll in a community college and increase skills to the level to qualify for a traditional undergraduate education.
Today, there have been almost a full decade of people not qualified but capable of paying for undergraduate allowed entrance into a college; this resulted in those schools finding that the volume of those not able to maintain a minimum GPA was rising, rapidly. So to stem the tide of failures, remedial programs, live in support programs, parent programs, and other efforts to remediate what the secondary school programs failed to do were instituted. Originally, these were free and part of the regular semester program. Now, however, these programs are now extra fees. Colleges realized that the consequences of trying to re-educate those who were accepted under “false” assumptions were too great as well as damaging. Rather than simply stop the practice, the colleges offer the assistance, but charge heavily for it. Some colleges offer that that remediation must be done the summer before starting as a freshman and that the students must also be heavily monitored and support throughout the first year. Failure to comply with the requirement usually results in dismissal. Colleges cannot afford to dedicate so many resources to providing the foundation that was supposed to be earned in high school. What does this mean for all others? There are more opportunities to gain entrance for those who are genuinely prepared.
Fourth, the volume of certain segments of foreign nationals has dwindled. For a fair amount of time, there were certain proportions of different foreign nationals who all desired to come to the US to go to college, but during the past decade, a large proportion of certain groups have chosen to attend colleges in either Europe or Canada. So that said, the door is opening a bit wider for others. Depending on the country, there are concerns. Some foreign countries have government approved programs to send students to the US. These countries also have a large underground market and “consultants,” who are really out to simply take money, offer help to get the students into US schools, but the US Justice Department is now taking a much more rigid stance about these “illegal immigrations.” Actually students coming to study are welcomed, but these charlatans are simply trying to make money. Do not seek help or choose what seems “easy” without checking first.
Lastly, the costs “seem” prohibitive, but that is simply not true. 75-90% of all American students in college are subsidized in some way. Most are subsidized on average at least 50% of the entire cost. How does this work? Many receive “scholarships” upon acceptance offering a reduction in the actual cost of tuition per year for the entire four years of attendance. Some colleges, however, are notorious for never offering any money this way. Many of the Jesuit schools and many small liberal art colleges do not offer such reductions in tuition. However, there are also other types of scholarships out there, all of which are not loans but actual reduction of the costs paid. Grants are not as prevalent in college, but there are grants, especially for minority students, gifted students and many with disabilities. You can check out our posts about scholarships for ideas. As the population shifts, the class of “minority” changes and this is also adapted to the presence of a culture, creed, or race in a particular school. Hispanics make up 50% of the American population today, so for many colleges Hispanic is not a minority status, but for some school the volume of Hispanics—especially females—is low, and for such schools, the minority status would hold.
Consider that on average, the debt for those who choose loans primarily for college payment, the load carried after graduation is about 30K. Since the average cost of the traditional four year degree is between $120-$150k, this means that the majority of the costs are either reduced through scholarship, diminished through work study, offset by grants, and somewhat subsidized by loans. The issue of money should never be the reason why a qualified candidate does not apply to a college. Colleges have entire departments for the financing of the degree. You will not know how much you have to pay versus how much you will be relieved of financial costs until after you are accepted into a school. So apply regardless of the price tag. The larger more prestigious schools have more money to offer!
So this is the time to apply to American colleges and Universities…this is the time to have the experience that gives you a leg up in life. If you study diligently, and you choose wisely, your college years could be the single most importance investment of your time you make during your life!