Interested in some juicy gossip?
August 27, 2015

Ian Welham discusses numbers getting into college

Friends,

Next to the cost of college, perhaps the topic that most obsesses parents is, “Will my child get into the college s/he most wants?”

I’m sure it’s true in your New Jersey high school – it’s certainly true in mine – there’s a coterie of parents who devote considerable time and thought to handicapping students’ chances for acceptance. Their sources may be suspect, but their convictions are steadfast. (“Laura’s sister-in-law’s cousin didn’t get into Brown, so there’s no way Courtney can get in.”)

I call them “College Kremlinologists” for the amount of intrigue, spying and delicious gossip slewed between and amongst them.

The only problem is, they’re often wrong.

For all those inquiring minds who want to know – but don’t want to play College Kremlinologist – I invite you to attend our popular workshop, “Getting Into and Paying For College.” It’s this Wednesday at the JCC in Scotch Plains.

This is our kickoff event for the 2015 seniors and 2016 juniors. Thousands of NJ families have benefited by attending this workshop. Topics discussed include:
How to receive thousands of dollars in free money for college, even if you have been told you make too much money.
The costly mistake 9 out of 10 parents make when applying for college aid (and how to avoid it).
Why advice from your accountant, broker, or financial advisor may have already cost you thousands of dollars in lost aid…and what you can do to get it back!
Ways to simplify the complex formula that every college in the country uses to calculate how much financial aid you will receive and how making a few legal and ethical changes can dramatically increase your award!
The secret to sending your child to a private university for less than the cost of a state college.
There is no charge to attend and starts at 7:30. So you have plenty of time to get home and get the kids situated before joining us. Seating is limited. Guarantee your seat online at www.ccpsnj.com or by calling (973) 467-0101.

I saw in a recent Discover Student Loans survey that 44% of parents are limiting their child’s college choices based on price. Even if you make a healthy six-figure income, you may not want to pay $60,000 per year per child for college.

I don’t blame you. Neither would I. That’s why I’ll also reveal how to solve the cash flow crunch during the college years. I’m sure you want to help pay the college bill, but you also want to be able to retire some day, right?

Schedule your free 30 minute College Coaching call and I’ll tell you how to get into and pay for college.
No gossip — just actual results.

Warmest Wishes,

Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101

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The math of a nincompoop?
August 25, 2015

Ian Welham discusses numbers getting into college

Friends,

Seems like I ruffled a few feathers with my article a few weeks ago on college selectivity.

Specifically, my statement that high school students have a better than 50/50 chance of being accepted at most American colleges has elicited a number of dissenting views.

I’ve been taken to task by earnest parents happy to regale me with story after story of genius kids turned down by the likes of Princeton, Stanford, Notre Dame, Amherst or __________ (fill in the blank elite university).

So… I figured I’d better clarify my position. When I made the 50/50 comment, I was NOT referring to America’s most competitive colleges and universities. These schools remain selective — extremely selective.

In fact, one of the toughest jobs we have is getting parents to understand the magnitude of the competition for spots in the very top colleges. Here’s one way to put it in perspective.

Imagine you rank 35th in your high school class of 350 (top 10%), and your high school is rated 25th in New Jersey. Where does that place you in the national picture — the giant pool from which upper echelon schools pick and choose? Well, for starters, there are almost 40,000 students ranked ahead of you (purely academically) in your competing group.

How did I come up with that number? Here’s my math: 24 high schools (ahead of yours in NJ) x 34 kids (ahead of you) x 49 other states = 39,984. You might say my assumptions are off because not all 49 other states are as populous as NJ, or have schools as good as New Jersey’s. Good point. But keep in mind that the above calculations don’t factor in private schools, or the international students you’re also competing against. There are 671,616 foreign students in the U.S. — 90,000 from China alone.

If we assume that the top 20 colleges and universities will accept an average of 2,000 freshmen (40,000 total acceptances), you can begin to see how it’s going to be a challenge to break into this elite group. You will need clear-cut ways to stand out in the applicant pool to land a seat at one of these elite institutions.

Still don’t like my reasoning? Think me a nincompoop? Fair enough; others no doubt agree. But consider this: 421,215 students attend NJ public high schools. That’s over 105,000 students per grade level. So if you’re in the top 10%, your peer group is over 10,000. In New Jersey alone.

I’m not doing this exercise to scare or discourage anyone. This is a strictly a numbers exercise and getting into college is about much more than numbers.

My point is this: for most kids, if you’re realistic and do a good job matching the school to your talents, selectivity works in your favor, and you have a good chance of being accepted to one of your top choice schools. But if you want to pursue a “name” college, you need to have truly outstanding (national) credentials, superior standardized test scores, and/or be able to offer something unique.

Warmest Wishes,
Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101

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Where college rankings go wrong
August 20, 2015

Ian Welham where college rankings go wrong.

Friends,

I’d like to share some thoughts about college rankings.

Every year a surfeit of books, magazines and websites “rank” colleges and universities. U.S. News & World Report is probably the most famous. But Forbes, Fiske, Kiplingers, The Princeton Review, and Consumers Digest all publish their own formulas and opinions.

This past week, Money magazine came out with a novel approach — ranking colleges according to two criteria on parents’ minds: First, what’s my likely out-of-pocket cost to attend the college? And second, how much money will my diploma be worth when I graduate and enter the job market? (There’s also a section on “The 25 Colleges That Add the Most Value.” Worth checking out.)

Many students and parents start their college research by perusing the rankings. That’s all well and good. You’ve got to start somewhere. But here’s a caveat emptor or three:

  • Most rankings are based on information provided by the schools themselves. No CPA’s are verifying the data.
  • Much of the criteria — acceptance rate, retention rate, average SAT scores, etc. — reveals little about the strengths of particular academic programs, what the social atmosphere of the school is like or what
    facilities are available. A university is much more than its statistical profile.
  • Some heavily weighted items are subjective. For example, how do you measure “reputation?”

Colleges and universities have been known to game the system. To wit, consider a university that stops requiring SAT scores as part of its admission requirements. Why might they do that? Because if SAT scores aren’t required, the only students who do submit scores tend to have higher scores. Voila, the average SAT score reported by the university goes up. And their ranking goes up.

Another example: One common factor in ranking methodology is a school’s “yield” — the number of students who ultimately enroll versus the number of students accepted. How do you increase your yield number? Simple. Accept more early decision students because you know ipso facto that they will enroll.

What’s the biggest trend in admissions the last few years? Accepting a higher percentage of early decision applicants. Hmmm… coincidence? You decide.

The bottom line on all this is that no ranking system, no matter how perfect, is going to be able to tell you what college or university is best for your child. It’s not the rank of the school that counts; it’s what you do when you get there that matters.

If you’d like to go deeper into this topic, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has published an extensive study of college rankings (including business and law schools), where they review various ranking methodologies. Start here: http://www.library.illinois.edu/edx/rankings/index.html

Warmest Wishes,
Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101

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College selectivity: what you need to know
August 19, 2015

Ian Welham discusses college selectivity

Friends,

This week I want to talk about college selectivity. Parents get very nervous when they hear guidance counselors or admission directors talk about how selective colleges are these days.

But I’m here to tell you: it’s not as dire as they make it out to be.

Do you ever get confused when you run across a college that’s labeled “very competitive,” then when you do the research you find out the school acceps 6 out of 10 students who apply?

Here’s the short story on college selectivity.

Think of it in terms of a six-layer pyramid. At the bottom of the pyramid sits the “noncompetitive” or open admission colleges, representing about 10% of all four-year colleges and universities. These schools require only a high school diploma for entrance.

At the top of the pyramid sits the most competitive institutions — the top 5% of all colleges and universities. These top tier schools will accept less than 20% of applicants. Between these two extremes are four other levels, including highly competitive, very competitive, competitive and less competitive.

Don’t let the nomenclature confuse you. Rather than fret over whether a school is “highly competitive” or “very competitive,” here’s an easy way to think about all this:

In general, there are fewer than 100 (out of over 2,000) colleges and universities in the top third of the pyramid. This means that students have a better than 50/50 chance of being accepted at most American colleges. See… that doesn’t sound so stressful, does it?

Here’s a random sampling:
Penn State – accepts 55% of applicants
Indiana – accepts 72% of applicants
Syracuse – accepts 49% of applicants
Delaware – accepts 58% of applicants
Amherst – accepts 20% of applicants
Northeastern – accepts 35% of applicants
Univ. of Vermont – accepts 75% of applicants

When you listen to the gatekeepers, you might get discouraged and think you don’t have a snowball’s chance in hades of getting in. That’s what they want you to think. But when you do a little digging, you may find that your chances are in fact better than they’d have you believe.

As always, it’s not about chasing the “best” college or what someone else says is the best college. It’s about finding the best school for you.

Warmest Wishes,
Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101

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Don’t forget to bring this to college
August 13, 2015

Ian Welham says don’t forget to bring this to college.

Friends,

Do you have a student in college, about to leave for college or moving “off campus” for the first time? Here are some helpful hints about insurance.

If your student is a freshman, you may find s/he forgets to pack essentials such as bed sheets or a winter coat. But I guarantee they won’t forget their iPhone, iPad, iPod, iMac, iSpeakers (hopefully they’ll bring their iQ).

A Google Consumer Survey polled 500 college students and recent graduates and found that nearly a third had broken or lost a smartphone or had their device stolen (more than 10% of the damaged or stolen smartphones went missing or were broken at parties and clubs. Many were lost or broken at sporting events).

It’s wonderful to have all these gadgets, but they’re quite expensive to replace. If your child is a full-time student and under the age of 24, most homeowners insurance policies will cover students’ possessions if they live in an on-campus dormitory. Some provide coverage if they live off-campus, as long as their primary residence remains your home.

Check with your insurance agent about caps. Some policies cap coverage at 10% of the possessions limit on your homeowners policy. In most cases, the liability limits for your student(s) is the same as for you.

If you discover that your policy doesn’t cover your child’s off-campus apartment, or if you’d like higher coverage limits, a renters insurance policy might be a good option. They generally run under $200 a year. If your student has roommates, each person needs a separate renters policy.

Here’s a way to save cash if your child attends a college more than 100 miles from your home: Does your child have a car on campus? If no, alert your insurance agent. Your premiums should drop (up to 20%). Coverage should not change. Your child should still be covered at school and retain coverage when s/he’s home for breaks/holidays or the summer. You’ll just pay less.

If your child does have a car on campus, your insurance costs will rise or fall depending on the school’s location. For example, probably higher at NYU and lower at TCU.

Warmest Wishes,

Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101

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Some surprising numbers
August 11, 2015

Ian Welham with some surprising numbers.

Friends,

I just read an interesting survey from Fidelity Investments about paying for college.

Several data points caught my eye. 74% of families believe the cost of college is becoming cost prohibitive, while 55% are concerned their children will have to make compromises in the quality of their education due to cost.

One question asked what percentage of the total college bill parents plan to pay. According to the survey:
– 26% of parents plan to pay all college costs
– 69 % plan to pay a portion
– 4% plan to pay no college costs

Another statistic that surprised me said that families are on track to pay 34% of what they intend to spend on their children’s education. That’s quite a shortfall, and leads me to believe that the student debt trend will not soon abate.

Parents seem to be concerned about saddling their kids with student loans, but may feel their hands are tied. According to the survey:
Seventy-eight percent of parents don’t want to burden their children with hefty student loans, yet 43 percent of those planning to take out loans do not believe they will be able to secure one to cover the full amount needed to pay their children’s college bill. In such an environment, your ability to get merit and financial aid is more important than ever. If you’re interested, we can help you with both.

Last month I wrote about Mitch Daniels, the no nonsense president of Purdue, and his great quote about college food choices: “Do you guys understand that higher ed has been around for a millennium and, until the last few years, every college student everywhere hated the food?… [It’s] supposed to be standard and bad.”

Since then I’ve gotten a number of comments about what college dining was like “in the good old days.” One of my readers pointed out a letter-to-the-editor that appeared in Notre Dame Magazine that I found amusing. Here it is:

“‘Everything and the kitchen sink’ celebrated the improved quality and quantity of food service at today’s Notre Dame. In 1957 in the campus cafeteria, I found quite a few pieces of glass in my chili at dinner one night. I took them to a cafeteria supervisor standing at the end of the food line. He took them and, with great disinterest, tossed them over his right shoulder against the back wall. He said, ‘Thanks,’ and stared straight ahead. Obviously students then were much tougher than the coddled students of today.”

Warmest Wishes,
Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101

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New movie examines runaway tuition costs
August 7, 2015

Ian Welham thinks differently to get College Aid.

Friends,

What do these highly paid executives have in common?
Robert Zimmer: $3.3 million compensation
Joseph E. Aoun: $3.1 million compensation
Dennis J. Murray: $2.7 million compensation
E. Gordon Gee: $6.1 million compensation

Are they CEO’s of global conglomerates? Did they invent a new technology that will change the world? Have they produced higher returns than Warren Buffet?

No. They are all college presidents.

Robert Zimmer is the president of the University of Chicago.
Joseph E. Aoun is the president of Northeastern Univ.
Dennis J. Murray is the president of Marist College.
E. Gordon Gee was the president of Ohio State University.

To be fair (and perhaps a bit specious), the football coach at Alabama earns $6.9 million. The coach at Texas earned $5.4 million before resigning last year. And the gridiron coach at Ohio State pulls down $4.6 million before endorsements.

When parents ask me why colleges and universities charge so much, my answer is, “Because they can.” People think I’m being flip, but I’m not. The big-picture economics are quite rudimentary. It’s simply supply-and-demand. As long as colleges raise prices and demand remains unchanged, there is no financial incentive to stop raising prices. Why would they? Would you?

But of course you can’t make a movie out of such a commonplace cause and effect. So the new movie, “Ivory Tower,” spends over two hours digging into every possible corner to solve the conundrum of runaway tuition costs.

One of the areas explored in the film is bloated administrative compensation – more administrators at higher salaries.

In taking on “the college-industrial complex,” the director Andrew Rossi even goes so far as to question the value of a college diploma.

I won’t spoil it and reveal his conclusions. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts if you see it.

Warmest Wishes,

Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101

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Think Differently to get College Aid
August 4, 2015

Ian Welham thinks differently to get College Aid.

Friends,

People complain to me all the time that they make too much money and they are going to be stuck paying $55,000 to $60,000 a year for college. “There’s no way I’m going to get any aid,” they insist.

When I ask what kind of research they’ve done and how many schools they’ve looked at, it turns out they’ve only looked at Georgetown, Virginia and Duke — and these are all reach schools for their student.

I’ve got news for you. If you want a great education for your child and you don’t want to pay $200,000 to $250,000 per student, you’re going to have to expand your list beyond three colleges where your student will struggle just to gain admittance.

For example, when families go to Boston on college visits, they tour a number of universities during the same trip. When they venture to Washington, D.C., they’ll often look at several schools in the area. And then they’ll travel all the way to Michigan… and only look at one college: Michigan.

Meanwhile, only an hour distance away sits Michigan State — a university that’s very generous with merit aid for smart, out-of-state students. Before I continue, let me say: I’m not here to push MSU. I don’t advocate for one college over another. Each school has its pluses and minus and what I like you may not like and vice versa.

Rather, I’m talking about a process, a strategy for getting aid. If you have a bright student who’s considering Michigan and you make a good income and you want to save half or more on tuition, then you should at least take a peek at Michigan State. Here are some ways MSU (or schools like it) can possibly save you serious money.

MERIT AID – Depending on your student’s attributes, you can get from $8,000 to $20,000 a year in direct merit aid. This aid is awarded regardless of income or assets. And if you have a really talented student, MSU will accept him/her as an in-state student (cutting your tuition cost in half) PLUS guarantee a paid research position PLUS award a $3,000 to $5,000 scholarship for study abroad.

HONORS COLLEGE – Honors College students get private dorms, small classes, access to honors classes and graduate-level classes, one-on-one faculty advisors, and advanced research opportunities. Every year, 15 Honors students are awarded full scholarships including tuition, room & board, travel and expenses. Again, these benefits are awarded regardless of family income or FAFSA need.

COLLEGE CREDITS – Michigan State awards more college credits than perhaps any school I’ve seen. Some examples:

AP SUBJECT                 SCORE                         CREDIT OR WAIVE
U.S. History                     3, 4 or 5                            8 credits
Biology                            4 or 5                                 8 credits
Chemistry                         4 or 5                                8 credits
Psychology                       4 or 5                               4 credits
Spanish Language             5                                    16 credits
And Culture

Not only does MSU liberally award college credits, but it even gives college credit for a 3 score (out of 5) on some AP exams (normally it takes a score of 4 or 5 to get college credit). As a result of these policies, it’s not uncommon for students from competitive high schools to arrive on campus with 30 or 40 college credits — making it possible to graduate in 3 years or fewer (or add a second major without being overloaded).

Again, this is not a pitch for Michigan State. It’s just an example to show you that it IS possible to pay less than full sticker price — sometimes much less. You either have to have the time, knowledge, inclination, and research skills to sleuth out these opportunities on your own. Or get help from a college expert.

Warmest Wishes,

Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101

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Some surprising numbers
July 30, 2015

Ian Welham with some surprising numbers.

Friends,

I just read an interesting survey from Fidelity Investments about paying for college.

Several data points caught my eye. 74% of families believe the cost of college is becoming cost prohibitive, while 55% are concerned their children will have to make compromises in the quality of their education due to cost.

One question asked what percentage of the total college bill parents plan to pay. According to the survey:

– 26% of parents plan to pay all college costs
– 69 % plan to pay a portion
– 4% plan to pay no college costs

Another statistic that surprised me said that families are on track to pay 34% of what they intend to spend on their children’s education. That’s quite a shortfall, and leads me to believe that the student debt trend will not soon abate.

Parents seem to be concerned about saddling their kids with student loans, but may feel their hands are tied. According to the survey:

– Seventy-eight percent of parents don’t want to burden their children with hefty student loans, yet 43 percent of those planning to take out loans do not believe they will be able to secure one to cover the full amount needed to pay their children’s college bill.

In such an environment, your ability to get merit and financial aid is more important than ever. If you’re interested, we can help you with both.

Last month I wrote about Mitch Daniels, the no nonsense president of Purdue, and his great quote about college food choices: “Do you guys understand that higher ed has been around for a millennium and, until the last few years, every college student everywhere hated the food?… [It’s] supposed to be standard and bad.”

Since then I’ve gotten a number of comments about what college dining was like “in the good old days.” One of my readers pointed out a letter-to-the-editor that appeared in Notre Dame Magazine that I found amusing. Here it is:

“‘Everything and the kitchen sink’ celebrated the improved quality and quantity of food service at today’s Notre Dame. In 1957 in the campus cafeteria, I found quite a few pieces of glass in my chili at dinner one night. I took them to a cafeteria supervisor standing at the end of the food line. He took them and, with great disinterest, tossed them over his right shoulder against the back wall. He said, ‘Thanks,’ and stared straight ahead. Obviously students then were much tougher than the coddled students of today.”

Warmest Wishes,
Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101

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Do you know these low-cost colleges?
July 29, 2015

Ian Welham on low-cost colleges.

Friends,

I admit it. I tend to fixate about the high cost of college.

“Give it up, Welham,” you may have found yourself thinking. “We know how expensive college is.”

OK, fair enough. The reason I tend to focus on the most expensive schools is because:
a) I’m incredulous of their high price tag (that keeps rising!); and
b) these are the schools parents in our area seem to have the most interest in

Today I’m going to talk about some of the lowest cost colleges I’m aware of (not counting military academies). Starting with

College of the Ozarks
Location: Point Lookout, Missouri
Tuition: Free (does not include room and board)
Methodology: This is a clever model other colleges could adapt. College of the Ozarks students are required to work 15 hours/week on campus plus two 40-hour work weeks during the school year doing jobs ranging from landscaping to administrative jobs. Putting students to work saves the college the cost of salaries, benefits, etc., for outside workers. Remaining tuition is covered by the school’s $350 million endowment. Students have the option to pay room and board out of pocket or working through the Summer Work Program.

Webb Institute
Location: Glen Cove, New York
Tuition: Free (does not include room and board)
Methodology: In addition to endowments, the school saves money by offering only 2 majors. All students of this engineering college double major in naval architecture and maritime engineering. Every year, all students also do a “winter work” internship in the maritime industry. Given this unique combination of intensive training plus real-world experience, it’s no wonder that 100% of Webb’s graduating class secure jobs.

Curtis Institute of Music
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Tuition: Free
Methodology: According to the website, “The Curtis Institute of Music educates and trains exceptionally gifted young musicians for careers as performing artists on the highest professional level. Since 1928 Curtis has maintained an all-scholarship policy. The Curtis Institute of Music provides merit-based full-tuition scholarships to all undergraduate and graduate, students, regardless of their financial situation. These scholarships are renewed each year of a student’s enrollment. No financial aid application is required for the full-tuition scholarship.”

Cooper Union
Location: New York, New York
Tuition: Half tuition
Methodology: Cooper Union was established under founder Peter Cooper’s belief that an education “equal to the best technology schools established” should be accessible to those who qualify, independent of their race, religion, sex, wealth or social status, and should be “open and free to all”. Cooper Union was 100% free until last year. Today it’s no longer free, but every incoming student receives at the very least a fifty-percent merit scholarship.

Olin College of Engineering
Location: Needham, MA
Tuition: Half tuition
Methodology: Founded in 1997 by the F.W. Olin Foundation, this engineering college reduces costs by teaching only one subject, offering no tenure to professors, subcontracting maintenance and dining services, and not offering an athletics program. All students receive the half-tuition Olin Scholarship.

Warmest Wishes,
Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101

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Ian R. Welham, Certified College Planning Advisor  -  Tel: 973.467.0101