May 1 Decision Day — Not!

May 1 date for blog

May1 has traditionally been the deadline for students to tell colleges where they plan to attend college in the fall. This year, however, that deadline should be considered flexible. More than that, students and their families should be advising the colleges they wish to attend that they will be postponing their decision until they know more about whether the college will open for the fall semester, whether courses will be taught in person or online and whether there will be dormitory facilities available. (There are lots of other questions, but these will do to start.)

Survey after survey has revealed that many students are very reluctant to commit without knowing what the college will be able to provide in the fall. You should be too.

A poll conducted in March by the marketing and research firm SimpsonScarborough revealed dramatic findings for high school seniors who were planning to attend college before the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Twenty percent of those surveyed believed that because of Covid-19 it is likely or highly likely they will not attend a four-year college in the fall, but will, instead, attend a community college, take courses online or not attend college.

Even students who have already paid deposits are rethinking their decision. A survey of 1,171 American high school seniors released today reveal that 12% of students who paid a deposit changed their minds and no longer plan to attend a four-year college full time. Art & Science Group, which did this survey, also reported in a press release that “for all but 400 institutions that have extended their deadline to June 1, over four-fifths of non-depositors have expressed doubts about their ability to attend their first-choice school.”

While it is difficult to contact colleges by phone because they are closed, families should be contacting the colleges the student wishes to attend in order to get clarification about these and other matters. That said, the fact is that nearly all colleges are still trying to decide what they will be able to provide when college reopens. In these circumstances, the traditional May 1 deadline cannot be what it used to be, nor should it.


Bigger news than the college admissions scandal

As those indicted in the college admissions scandal continue to come into court in Boston to enter their pleas, the story continues to be front page news. But for all of the headlines and talk on television and in social media, the BIG college news had actually been made one week before the United States Attorney spoke in Boston and continues to go largely unreported.

Though unreported, that story will have very real consequences for the college landscape going forward and, therefore, for parents and students preparing for college.  The story was the statement by the president of the American Council on Education, Ted Mitchell, when he said higher education must recognize that it no longer is the sole arbiter of what the content of higher education will be.

To understand the deep meaning of this statement is to understand that colleges and what they teach will no longer be decided alone by college presidents and college faculties gathered behind the ivied walls of academe. Instead, going forward, others, outside the walls, will change what is taught and how it is taught.  Think of online courses, certifications instead of degrees, students who study at various times while they pursue careers and a host of new possibilities.  And think of the cost of earning a degree or certification, or both, going down even as the cost of books, rented or obtained in digital formats, also become more affordable.

The future of college like the future of work is full of excitement, accessibility and opportunity.  But while its coming is inexorable it will not be without objection, false starts and the need for persistence on the part of all the players.  For more of this and of coming changes in how we will pay for college, return for more blog posts here.

The College Admissions Scandal the Media Covered . . . and the Ongoing One They Missed

By this time, everyone knows the facts of the college admissions and testing scam engineered by William “Rick” Singer’s Edge College & Career Network and his “side door” to elite colleges which he promised the Key to for parents who paid from $75,000 to more than $1 million for his services.

The college admissions and test taking scam revealed nearly a month ago in Boston was shocking, no doubt about it. Columnists could talk of nothing else for days. But the story’s allure to the media and the rest of us, I guess, was the unfairness of it all, the brazen immorality, and, let’s face it, the voyeuristic glimpse into the lifestyles of the rich and famous.

It doesn’t excuse anything, but relatively few people were involved. After all, how many of your friends are conniving to the tune of half a million dollars to get their kids into college? None of them.

Yet self-appointed experts deemed the scandal “a staggering indictment of higher education and American education policy generally.”  No, it was a staggering indictment of some 50 parents, coaches and at least one college official.  (More indictments are anticipated.)

Do you want to know what the ­real indictment of higher education is? The scandal that may very well in some way affect you and your child and everyone who’s working so hard to give their kids the best chance at life?

Consider this:

— one-third of entering college freshman transfer after one year (typically, just 43% of their credits go with them)

— only 60 percent of first time, full time freshmen graduate and too many of them take six years to graduate

— far too many college freshmen, ill-prepared by their high schools yet admitted to their colleges, are then left with too little support and drop out.

— thousands of students each year carry more than $30,000 of student loan debt due, at least in part, to the financial aid policies of the federal government and colleges and to the failure of school districts to educate their taxpaying parents about the complexities and financial dangers inherent in the college financial aid system.

— According to a report just released by the Urban Institute, a Washington, DC, think tank, 62% of parents of college students today borrow more than what the federal financial aid formula determined they could afford. Nearly 800,000 parents borrowed an average of $16,452 during the 2017-18 academic year through the federal government’s Parent PLUS loan program.

These are some of the scandalous facts we should really be concerned about.

But there is reason for hope.  A glimpse at that is the subject of the next post.