Weighing the Cost and Value of a College Decision

Posted on July 24, 2013 by Courtney Clemmons

It’s no secret that college can be expensive, especially for the middle class and those striving to get into the middle class. In the face of state budget cuts, institutions of higher education are faced with difficult choices about how best to incur these costs.  Unfortunately, many times these costs are passed on to students in the form of tuition increases.  In the 2012-2013 school year alone, tuition increased by an average of 4.8% at in-state public colleges. This leads to uncertainty for students as the cost of attendance will often increase greatly from the time they enter college to the time they graduate; making it difficult for students to make informed financial decisions regarding their education, or discouraging some from attending at all.  Since 1981, tuition costs have greatly outpaced the rate of inflation. The graph below from the Bureau of Labor Statistics displays the continual rise in college costs as compared to inflation.    

graph  

The Administration recognizes that slowing the growth in tuition requires shared responsibility among multiple actors.  For instance, states can’t keep cutting and balancing budgets on the backs of students and institutions need to be more productive and make better use of their budgets.

However, students also have the power to make smart choice and choose institutions based on value, and the Department has made great strides in helping students make those smart choices.  For instance, the College Affordability and Transparency Center allows students to compare institutions costs and percentage changes in state spending on higher education. The College Navigator is also a great tool to compare types of institutions, ranking them by cost of attendance and dozens of other categories. Also, if students receive financial aid or scholarships, the Department offers a net price calculator, which helps students determine the actual amount they will pay for their college education. Using the net price calculator, students are able to assess how much they need to save in order to cover the remaining cost of attendance. 

While college costs can be a major strain on families and individuals, many choose to invest in higher education because they know that there will be a good return on their investment. The tools provided by the Department of Education inform and educate students and families and allow them to make informed decisions in the college selection process. Making a decision on where to attend college should not be based on school notoriety nor “sticker shock”, but instead on the value of the program, affordability, type of institution, and the overall fit for the student. We encourage everyone to utilize these tools to inform their decisions and ensure they are making the best choice for their unique situation. When students are more educated about their college options, we move closer to meeting the President’s 2020 goal.

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A Student’s Experience in the Department of Education

Posted on June 6, 2013 by Annie Do.

The most rewarding experience I have ever had in my undergraduate career was my internship at the Department of Education here in the Office of the Under Secretary. This Spring, I was privileged with the opportunity to work with Senior Officials and Policy Advisors on key issues that directly affect me as a college student. I learned, grew, and was challenged every day to be creative, hard-working, and actively engaged with Under Secretary Kanter and her team. The most exciting part was that everything we were working on concerned me- a college student. The best part of my internship was the freedom I was given to pursue projects or attend different events. This allowed me to dip my feet in different areas of interest and expose myself to everything and anything that concerns higher education.

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MOOCs- A Student’s Perspective

Posted on June 6, 2013 by Annie Do.

Let me first say that when I heard MOOCs were on the rise, I thought it was a very bad idea. The first time I ever took an online course at a local community college one summer, I despised it— it was taking too much of my effort and motivation to sit down and watch a lecture online when I could have been enjoying the beautiful summer sun with my friends on the beaches of California. Said course was a hybrid Intro to Biology course—I watched the lectures online and attended lab at 8:30 am. On the very first day, my professor kindly praised us for our bravery for tackling an online course during the summer—according to him, online courses take twice as much discipline as their traditional counterparts because one actually has to sit down of their own accord and watch the lecture online instead of going to class. I found it particularly difficult because I could not ask questions during lecture—if I had not had any face-to-face time with my professor during labs, I would have been behind on my course work.

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Financial Literacy Month Recap

Posted on May 23, 2013 by Annie Do.

We recently finished National Financial Capability month in April and it was a great success! With the rising costs of college and a new class of students preparing to attend, it is more important than ever for students to think about choosing among postsecondary education options, be familiar with the different types of aid available to them, as well as prepare for the complicated process of repaying their loans after they graduate. Our Senior Advisor on Financial Education Dr. David Soo attended several events for this important month.

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The Evolution of Escuela Popular

Posted by on May 6, 2013 by Martha Kanter.

“Students must have initiative; they should not be mere imitators. They must learn to think and act for themselves – and be free.”

— Cesar Chavez

Escuela Popular “educates to transform lives” as it carries out its mission on North White Road in San Jose, California. Open throughout the year, Escuela Popular (http://www.escuelapopular.org/) offers a dual language curriculum for children and adults to more than 1000 students a day. The Dual Language Academy serves K-8 students, the High School Academy serves youth and adults, and childcare is freely provided so all family members are welcome.

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Coming Home: Pathways to Success for Service Members and Veterans

Posted by Rosye Cloud and Martha Kanter on May 2, 2013

Cross-posted from Joining Forces

With more than a million veterans returning home to our nation’s shores over the next five years, we have an unprecedented opportunity – and a civic obligation – to strengthen their pathways to success. To prepare for their return home and their transition back to civilian life, the Obama Administration sought – early on– to bring diverse government partners to the table, calling for an interagency planning effort to support Service members’ career readiness.

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Attention High School Seniors!

Posted on April 30, 2013 by Annie Do

It’s that time of year- are you ready for college? This season, tens of thousands of high school seniors have been or will be making crucial, life-changing decisions about where to attend college. The Department of Education has several resources to help with this process that I wish I had three years ago when I was in your shoes. The Department is dedicated to empowering students and families to make responsible and informed decisions about where to attend school. This administration is focused on aiding students and families in this complicated process- choosing the right school that will equip you for a career will strengthen your future and our economy.

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University and State Partnerships to Increase Civic Learning and Engagement

Posted on January 24, 2013 by Martha Kanter

On a sparkling Bowling Green morning in early November, we arrived at Western Kentucky University where Gary Ransdell, WKU’s visionary president, opened the Seventh Annual Kentucky Engagement Conference. He called for “A New Era of Engagement” in the civic life of the campus, the community and the state. Dr. Paul Markham, Assistant Professor of Honors Interdisciplinary Studies and Co-Director of the Institute for Citizenship and Social Responsibility, had worked with President Ransdell and a team of faculty and students to convene Kentucky’s thought leaders from education, government, business and philanthropy to invigorate a call to civic leadership and shared action to seek solutions to the challenges they face. For higher education, there was clearly a clarion call for deeper civic learning across the curriculum and deeper engagement in service learning opportunities to make a difference in K-12 schools and community work. Markham and his colleagues were particularly interested in building bridges between the traditional aims of liberal education and practical career preparation. Markham expressed his desire for the students of WKU to graduate not only with superior content knowledge, but with an understanding of what it means to practice citizenship in the working world. Markham has now moved to the University of Washington where he is slated to accelerate their civic learning and engagement agenda. Look for more good work to come from Paul and his colleagues in the West.

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Summer Internship at the U.S. Department of Education

Posted on August 29, 2012 by Roxanne Garza

This summer I interned in the Office of the Under Secretary.  I was one of two interns in the office.  OUS is a very fast-paced and busy office so this allowed for both of us to have plenty of great learning opportunities throughout the summer.  In my capacity, I helped plan and coordinate events, conducted data analysis, and worked on teacher preparation program quality issues.

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Campus Safety Is Essential For A Successful Learning Environment: If You See Something, Say Something!

Posted on August 1, 2012 by Under Secretary Martha Kanter

As a community college president for 16 years before being appointed the Under Secretary of Education, I wanted to do everything in my power to prevent violence on campus. Building trust among the campus constituencies with the campus chief of police was essential as a first step.

According to a new report from the FBI and the U.S. Department of Education, we can do a lot more to keep our campuses safe. To do so, top experts say, requires the combined efforts of students, faculty, administrators and campus security, zero-tolerance for threats and harassment, and immediate reporting of concerns to campus or law enforcement officials who are trained in threat assessment.

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