Considering the economic crisis, many colleges anticipated
that there would be a decline in early applications this Fall.
Yet, as the applications rolled in, the numbers were up, for
both public and private institutions, sometimes dramatically.
Deans of Admission do not have an explanation. I would like to
believe, as one college counselor suggested that, "Education
is the last thing people are willing to give up."
Hopefully, students have applied wisely. In addition to
considerations of matching students' interests, abilities and
potential for personal growth, there is the daunting
consideration: paying for college. Faced with rising costs of
a college education, families must consider what they can
afford to pay and what assistance they would need in
scholarships and loans. Is a public university the best
choice? Are there private colleges and universities that could
meet their needs as well, or better?
The news from public universities forecasts hefty tuition
increases. In Florida, Governor Christ has proposed raising
tuition and fees up to 15%. The Bright Futures
scholarship program would not cover any increase. Students
enrolled in the Florida Prepaid Plan prior to July 2007
would be exempt from the extra tuition. Many other public
systems are facing similar or even greater increases, a result
of cutbacks in state and federal funding. Cutbacks necessitate
reductions in faculty and course offerings. Students may have
increasing difficulty finding the courses they need to
complete their college education in four years. Yet, for many
students, an in-state college education may be the feasible
Private institutions are also under pressure to contend
with declining revenues. Tuition increases are anticipated
there, as well. However, even in these difficult times, many
colleges are moving forward with their commitment to meet the
financial need of their current and prospective students.
While colleges are making cuts in some expenditures, they are
working to meet the full demonstrated need of each
undergraduate for all four years. Some student loans are being
replaced by grants. Other private colleges will continue to
offer scholarships based on merit, as well as need. Students
may find that the cost of numerous private institutions will
be competitive with the cost of public universities.
There are many avenues to a fine education. More than ever
students and their families should look widely from the outset
at a broad variety of colleges and universities. While taking
their personal finances into consideration, they also need to
consider the financial health of schools. As they seek the
best educational opportunities, they need to ask what programs
will be offered? What courses might be curtailed? Will there
be faculty cuts? Will student enrollments be reduced in the
near future? What tuition increases are anticipated? Are there
scholarships available? Will loans be available? What are the
criteria for merit based scholarship awards?
It is, indeed, a time of ambiguity; applications are
rising, especially early applications, in an economy that is
falling. Students continue to clamor to gain admission to
colleges. I do believe that education is the last thing that
should be given up, especially in this period of adversity.