Financial Aid Award Scandal

The obtuseness of financial aid award letters is a real scandal.  I’ve got all these kids who do not have a penny to their name getting packages with ten’s of thousands in loans and unmet need.
I did a presentation to about 75 of our kids who had not applied to college yet and were going to attend our on-site admissions event; filled with low endowment colleges with empty dorm rooms…just about the worst offenders.

I gave a speech telling that that they would be paying over $100 a month, sometimes a lot more, for every $10,000 they borrow.  I ask them what their life would be like if they wanted to be a social worker…$80,000 of undergraduate debt, $60,000 of graduate debt…Maybe $1600 a month loan payments.  How much do you think a social worker earns a month after taxes?  maybe $2500.  Can you pay for rent, food, phone, utilities, car payment with this?  No way.  You’ll be living at your parents’ house for the next 16 years, saving nothing, driving a beater car and never going out to dinner or clubbing.  A Pell grant will cover all the costs of community college.

This gets their attention.  And I know no one ever said this to them before.  They all look at me with this WOW look.  We give out all the wrong messages to our economically disadvantaged kids.  We should be telling then how to graduate college with the least amount of debt, about the value of community college and how the transfer college one graduates from does not write “community college transfer” on the diploma.  No.  Even parents that do not have a dime saved for college say “we will make it happen.”  You are “selling short” any kid you recommend community college to.  That is my most blunt talk about college now with parents and students.  It used to be about hw they set their ambitions on something that has about 1/20 chance of succeeding with the very best students.  Now it is frank talk about HOW ARE YOU GOING TO PAY FOR THIS!

The parents put their  head in their hands and mumble that they know I am right, but still cannot  get the gumption up to tell their kids….until the kid gets accepted and is told you cannot afford it, or the kid attends for a year and the college will not let you register for courses because you had an unpaid bill.  So you cannot even get a transcript, you’ve got $20,000 in debt that cannot be discharged even in bankruptcy and nothing to show for it.  I keep hearing about this over and over again.

Maybe my next article should be “The Great Ripoff” about how students are drained and they and their parents indebted in what is a huge con job.  The hard sell marketing, college admissions tools (private counselors, SAT prep, etc.) but then the whole student loan debacle (don’t get me started on the Student Signature Loans!), and the great mass of students who “go to college”, as if this was an end unto itself.

Anyway, just some thoughts I had for the day.

Author: Scott White

I am a nationally recognized expert on college admissions, having worked in schools and colleges for 35 years. I have been regularly quoted in major publications including the NY Times, the LA Times, The Boston Globe, the Washington Post, Atlantic Monthly, Time Magazine and others. I am widely published on various aspects of the college admissions process and present at state and national conferences on a variety of college admissions related topics. I have worked in college admissions as well as independent day and boarding schools. The last 25 years I have worked in public schools, 14 as a school counselor and then as a Director of Guidance at elite, suburban public schools including Montclair High School, Westfield High School and Morristown High School. I am now an independent college counselor for SW College Consulting in Montclair. I can be contacted as or 973-919-6798.

One thought on “Financial Aid Award Scandal”

  1. Great rant, the closing remarks made a brilliant point that all college grads know, but I've never heard it stated so plainly and well: the mass of kids who go to college as if that were an end in itself. It's herd mentality, really.


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