In my classes, in department meetings, in talks and writing, I keep saying “just spell out what students need to know about getting to and staying in college”.


And an excellent example of doing just that is here:   10 questions to ask when seeking an affordable college education. 


It’s thorough, it’s accessible, and it goes so far beyond the more common platitudes about just finding scholarships if you want badly enough to go to  college.


What other “10 questions” might first-generation students want and need to know?



Two companies in Colorado have promised to help out-of-state students pay the much lower in-state tuition rates.    Parents who can find out about such services and can provide the paperwork can save thousands of dollars, with the companies apparently then taking their cut on what’s saved.

When I was in grad school, I heard about out- of- state students buying plots in cheaper cemeteries to convince reviewers that they planned to stay in the state forever, and along with registering to vote, this sometimes got them in-state tuition rates.

When I’d tell my classes about this, they’d laugh at how clever this was.

It was most effective to elicit those laughs shortly after someone had expressed moral outrage at “fraud” they’d assumed some poor person had done (the stories of food stamps spent on luxury goods at the grocery store, the tales of free lunch kids in schools wearing designer clothes).

As with my post earlier today, gaming the system is is admired when it’s people who could afford what they’re gaming, but moral failing when people are poor.


I just finished work on a scholarship committee in which we had access to each applicant’s EFC:  Expected Family Contribution, based on calculations from the FAFSA.   I knew that this figure was often contested, but I had no idea how it was calculated.

This article was therefore timely, and the information that single parents are “dinged” in the outmoded calculations was new to me.

But I learned the most from the comments, in which parents who obviously have assets to help pay for their children’s education freely share their strategies for gaming the FAFSA to lower their expected contributions, from advice on exactly when to cash out your Roth IRA to detailed explanation of how to simply move money (that is earning a higher return elsewhere) in and out of college savings plans long enough to get the “nice” state tax deductions.  Others speak of the strategy of paying down mortgages rather than saving for college.

All are talking about maximizing assets that few other parents have.  Many have paid for professional advice on these strategies, as one proudly explains of a strategy that she uses:

To the formula it will look like we have less money to contribute to savings. Essentially this is a loophole to shield assets from the FAFSA formula.

Might we imagine the outrage if food stamp recipients similarly shared in a national newspaper how they cleverly shielded assets and gamed the system?





  • Paul Krugman, on why CEO’s lament the “skills gap” created by education and by workers themselves, rather than their own wage and hiring policies in explaining persistent unemployment.

    “Think about what we would expect to find if there really were a skills shortage. Above all, we should see workers with the right skills doing well, while only those without those skills are doing badly. We don’t.

    Yes, workers with a lot of formal education have lower unemployment than those with less, but that’s always true, in good times and bad. The crucial point is that unemployment remains much higher among workers at all education levels than it was before the financial crisis. The same is true across occupations: workers in every major category are doing worse than they were in 2007.”

    tags: social class

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

  • An interesting media story about how the economy (not just hard work or personal qualities) affected college grads’ ability to land on their feet during the recession. The piece implies, but doesn’t clarify, the class backgrounds of the featured students. I do wonder if it was different for those with deeper professional networks among family and friends.

    tags: social class

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

  • Getting past the challenges of students needing, but not getting basic financial support as they take a run at college: Single Stop as one solution.

    “About 45 percent of college-goers in America attend community colleges. But six years after starting community college, only a third of students have completed (pdf) a degree or certificate, or transferred to a four-year college. By far the most important reason students quit is that they can’t afford it — not just tuition, but the opportunity cost of work hours lost to studying. (Low-income students with top grades and SAT scores have college completion rates similar to high-income students in the bottom third of grades and SAT scores.)

    And community colleges are increasingly becoming the schools of the poor (pdf) — and the black and brown. The average age of a community college student is 29. They are largely second-chance schools for striving low-wage workers — an engine of economic mobility (if America still has such things).

    “Community college administrators have always known students leave, and their No. 1 job has been keeping them,” said Sara Goldrick-Rab, an associate professor of educational policy studies and sociology at the University of Wisconsin, who is carrying out evaluations of Single Stop. “They’ve always wanted to do more — but the issue is: with what resources?””

    tags: social class

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

I just finished reading Laura Hamilton’s article More is More or More is Less: Parental Financial Investments During College (published behind academic firewalls in American Sociological Review, Vol, 78, 2012).

Introducing her study, she writes:

Because parental aid increases access to college, students with parental assistance will likely display a wider range of ability and motivation. In contrast, students who make it to college with little to no parental help may not only be exceptionally talented but also uniquely motivated — for which there is no good empirical proxy.

She found, indeed, that students receiving more money from their parents while in college are more likely finish their degree but also more likely to have lower GPAs than other students.

I think that this is such a smart study because:

  1. It questions the long-standing assumption that generous parenting is inherently good for students.
  2. It concedes that upper-middle class ways of being are not the model for all other students.  Working, for example, may actually contribute to students’ investment in higher ed.
  3. It puts all  the fuss about things like SAT exams into context.  The SAT is a low predictor of eventual success in college for many populations, yet many colleges continue to require entrance exams.  If the amount of financial support that students get will get from parents does predict eventual GPA, might admissions preferences not then be given to those students who will *not* be supported as generously by parents, if the goal of admissions is to admit those most likely to succeed?

Researchers invest a great deal of time studying those on the margins of formal schooling.    It is good to also see studies looking more closely at those considered to be the norm.




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