Use School Breaks to Get a Clue

Use School Breaks to Get a Clue

Giving a praise


Today let’s talk about two seemingly disparate realities I regularly observe about student activity in and out of school: 1) the stress (and importance) of declaring a major and 2) “unspent” school breaks. And then I’ll dish you this handy tip, which should in a sense kill these two birds with one stone. Continue reading Use School Breaks to Get a Clue

Chart: The Disappearing Male

disappearing male


Chart: The Disappearing Male

This selection comes to us from a Forbes article by the venerable Richard Vedder titled “The Disappearing Male on College Campuses.” Today’s chart shows that there has been a consistent, downward trend of male participation in college for several decades now. As professor Vedder points out, this is both a function of declining male enrollments on the front end and a lopsided tendency to drop out early on the back end.

While the policy wonks and sociologists worry about the causes (though I certainly have my own theories), affordologists must contend with the effects. Today let’s not get caught up in the big picture of “why is this happening?” or “what should we do about this?” (political) but “why should I care?” and “what should I do about this?” (practical).

Continue reading Chart: The Disappearing Male

Who’s Looking For You?

Who’s Looking For You?

wen wanted

The typical question students ask themselves, and the one we ask them as they approach high school graduation, goes something along the lines of “where do you want to go to school?” But when one peels back the curtain on the world of college admissions we realize very quickly that this coin has two sides; schools themselves regularly ask “who do we want at this school?

University admissions directors work very hard to craft a student population according to some ideal or another. Along with trying to attract academically proficient kids, most institutions also have certain demographic diversity targets. Herein lies our opportunity: find out who’s looking for you.  Continue reading Who’s Looking For You?

Shop Local

Shop Local
Shop Local Support Community Shopping Bag Words

Big national scholarships tend to get all the attention in the media, mass-market publications, and online databases like fastweb. On the whole, however, most of the funds won in your area probably came from local sources. Most towns have service clubs, charities, and hobby enthusiasts that establish numerous scholarships and only accept applications from local kids. This brings up two key points for those looking to earn some bucks for college: Continue reading Shop Local

Chart: The Influence of Need-Based Aid

Chart: The Influence of Need-Based Aid

Federal Aid

This chart comes to us from an article in the Wall Street Journal by AnnaMaria Andriotis titled “Boost Your Chances for College Aid.

As the chart clearly states, “over the past decade, the amount of need-based aid to undergraduates has more than doubled.” Meanwhile, family incomes and other types of college help have remained relatively flat. As a result need-based financial aid funds and systems exert tremendous influence over schools and students alike.

This has a wide range of implications for college students and their families, but it helps to recognize two important effects of this type of aid: Continue reading Chart: The Influence of Need-Based Aid



Early Bird


Elsewhere we explored the large amount of financial aid money available to students, with nearly $67 billion in non-loan (free) funds awarded to students through various sources for the 2013-2014 school year. This aid, whether federal or private, gets dispensed largely on the basis of the information students and their families plug into the ubiquitous Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

While students can employ several strategies to maximize FAFSA-oriented aid one stands alone in terms of its impact and broad relevance. Tip: File the FAFSA ASAPContinue reading FAFSA, ASAP!

Chart: Clueless About Debt Loads

Chart: Clueless About Debt Loads

student debt estimates


This chart comes to us from an article in the Washington Post by Christopher Ingraham, in which he provides breakdown on a fuller report by the Brookings Institute titled “Are College Students Borrowing Blindly?

In summary, yes. Most students seem to have little clue about how much debt they have accumulated, even as they continue to borrow in pursuit of an education. I suppose any of us who have been to college or deal with current college students are probably not surprised by this. We tend to be clueless about the sum or consequences of our loans right up to the point we start paying them… after we graduate.

The most shocking tidbit comes deep into the report when the authors discover that aside from misestimating debt loads, a goodly percentage of those with loans have no clue of this fact. The money quote: “Borrowers who are not aware they have any federal debt are surprisingly common. The NPSAS data indicate that 28 percent of first-year college students with federal debt reported that they did not have any federal debt. This may be partly the result of confusion about federal vs. other kinds of debt. Among students with federal debt, 14 percent reported having no debt at all. In other words, more than one-quarter of students do not understand that they have a loan from the federal government, and about half of these students appear to be genuinely unaware of the fact that they have borrowed for their education at all.” (Emphasis Mine).

Continue reading Chart: Clueless About Debt Loads

Chart: Why Widening Wage Gap by Education Level?

Chart(s): Why is the Educational Level Wage Gap Widening?

FRBSF Article Charts Combined

Here we get a three-for-one thanks to an enlightening article by Rob Valletta titled “Higher Education, Wages, and Polarization” published in the January 12, 2015 edition of the FRBSF Economic Letter. This particular article and its chart series seeks not only to capture the “what” of the increasing wage gaps between high school, college, and graduate diploma/degree holders but the “why.” If the conclusions of the article are correct, then we get a substantial clue as to the potential earnings power of any given student as well as some applicability for those considering their options. Continue reading Chart: Why Widening Wage Gap by Education Level?