Have you ever been lied to about a financial decision? How about mislead? Do colleges do that? Yes, they do. College admissions departments have immense pressure just like a sales department at a big business. These university departments are charged with getting paying students through the door. To accomplish that goal, the truth is flexible, at times. Watch out for these lies colleges tell that can have a profound effect on your family finances and the cost of degree.
"I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments." Colossians 2:4 ESV
Our school’s higher price is because our degrees are better
The quality or benefits of a bachelor’s degree means different things depending on who you ask. Most people interpret this question as a more prestigious (more expensive) degree will translate into a high salary for the graduate. The Wall Street Journal did a study that showed “elite schools” only affect graduate earnings in a limited set of circumstances. They only found that some fields like business and liberal arts were positively affected by the prestige of the school. Even then, the difference is far from a guarantee.
Net Price Calculators Are Always Right
Most colleges these days encourage you to disregard their “sticker price” and look at a calculator on their website called a “net price calculator.” The idea behind these calculators is to give the prospective applicant an idea of what they would pay considering factors like financial aid. The idea here is sound, but each calculator is specific to a school. The net price calculators some colleges offer can understate the cost or overstate the amount of aid you could expect to receive. Intentional or not, the effect is the same. Using these tools is a good step but verify the accuracy of the information with an independent source before making a decision.
Most Students Graduate in Four Years
When you see estimates from colleges about the cost to attend their institution, an assumption of graduation after four years of school is almost always assumed. Only about 1/3 of students graduate after 4 years. Even if your student graduates in 4 1/2 years, this means another semester not just for tuition, but for additional costs like room and board.
Students loans are worth it
A survey found 85% of those with student loans regret borrowing. The drive to borrow comes partly from the idea that the more you put into education the higher your salary will be after school. That believed relationship between how much is spend/borrowed and future earnings doesn’t prove to be correct in most cases. It is true in some cases, but certainly not assured.
You can’t put a price on a good education
In any other context where someone was trying to sell us something, we would laugh at this.
“You can’t put a price on a good car”
“You can’t put a price on a good home”
"You can't put a price on a good blender"
There is value in higher education, but that doesn’t mean that the value is unlimited. Rationally think through the value and cost relationship as you consider the best school for your son or daughter.
Your Financial Aid offer is the best we can do
Admissions departments want you to believe the financial aid offer in your acceptance letter is the best offer they can possibly give you. It’s a first offer and you should treat it that way. Ask for better by filing what most schools call an appeal letter. There may be a form or defined process to follow for an appeal, but if not, don’t be afraid to contact the school and make your case for a better financial aid package.
Classes you take at places like community college are inferior
Community colleges are accredited just like a four-year university. These institutions can be a great to get some credits at a lower price. If you take a course for a lower price and receive the same credit, that sounds like a great deal to me.
Admissions officers are on your side
Admissions officers work for the university, not for you. An individual admissions officer might advocate on your behalf, but remember their paycheck comes from the school. Their job is to get students through the door that bring tuition dollars. There’s even complex software behind the scenes to help admissions departments make an educated guess on what kind of merit aid offer will be most likely to get your student to accept. Admissions personnel are people but remember who works for who.
You’ll regret not going to the “best” school
This one is meant to guilt parents. If you buy the store brand ketchup instead of the Heinz ketchup does that mean you love your son or daughter any less? Certainly not. College is one of the biggest financial decisions your family will ever make. Don’t let emotional blackmail cloud your good judgement.
How do you avoid a lie?
This might seem disheartening, but there is hope. Now that you know some common misrepresentations universities deploy, your family can be better off. The best tactic is to do your research and validate information with independent sources. Do the work, as a family, up front and your future graduate will be on the right path.
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