COLORADO SPRINGS — Big decisions are just weeks or even days away for high school students who are getting college acceptance letters in the mail right now.
News5 spoke with college admissions and financial aid experts about the important things students and in many cases their families should consider before making the decision on where to enroll in the fall.
It’s one of the biggest financial decisions people will make in their lifetime, whether or not to go after an expensive college degree that will hopefully pay for itself in the long-run. For students that just got those acceptance letters, they’ll have until May 1st to make their decision.
It has always been a big decision, but making the leap from high school to college looks a little different right now. Future students are having to navigate record inflation costs, gas prices, and whether to take on student loans to pay for it all.
”You know, I went through this college search process with my oldest son last year,” said Associate Director of Admissions at University of Colorado Colorado Springs Vanessa Ea.
She says her family learned location matters when it comes to cost.
”If you are going to look outside of Colorado a great example is California or the east coast you may find your dollar doesn’t go as far,” said Ea.
Also, the pandemic led to many campus tour cancellations, but now is the time to go take a look.
”Where you can just get a feel of what it would be like to be in the classroom, meet the faculty, meet current students,” said Ea.
While COVID restrictions are lifting for colleges across the country, she says it’s still important to ask this question…
”What happens if there’s an outbreak? It’s good to find out how the university might have treated those situations,” said Ea. “Were students sent home? If they were sent home were their fees prorated? Things like that.”
According to the education data initiative the average cost for college in the U.S. right now is more than $35,000 per student, per year. That includes books, supplies, and daily living expenses.
Each year 34% of college students borrow money for college. The average amount borrowed is more than $30,000.
Financial aid experts say now is the time to see what a particular school will cost over a traditional 4-year period.
“If you see that that school has an average loan debt of $60,000 dollars, maybe that’s not the school for you,” said Jevita Rogers, who leads the UCCS Office of Financial Aid.
Working to lower the number of credits you’ll need at a particular school and uncovering scholarship dollars could ease the strain.
”You want to look at organizations you belong to, whether it’s a church or a civic organization, your employer, King Soopers, Amazon, all of them offer tuition assistance,” said Rogers.
But she warns it’ll be important to watch out for scams.
”You should never pay to apply for scholarships. Scholarship searching is free,” said Rogers.
Some students are making the decision to pursue other paths besides the traditional 4-year-college, electing to start working or attend trade schools.
But college leaders still believe a college degree sets people apart when starting a career.
”It is nationally known that a student with a bachelors degree is going to earn more money in the long run up to something like a million dollars than someone with just a high school degree,” said Rogers.
During the last couple of years when the pandemic was impacting many of life’s decisions, college campuses saw a decline in enrollment.
Now is a good time for students to negotiate their college plan because admissions offices are following the numbers closely and would like to see more students make the decision to attend their schools.
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