Trends Are Watched

January 17th, 2017


We Saw Them Coming

At a seminar for college admissions advisers I attended in 1995, Don Bishop who is currently Associate VP of Undergraduate Enrollment at Notre Dame, made some very interesting and accurate observations. One of the important tasks of an Enrollment Manager on a college campus is to look at short term and long term trends in population growth.

Mr.  Bishop observed that the year 1999 would be the last year a bright high school graduate could assemble a list of six competitive colleges and be reasonably assured of acceptance somewhere. If not at his first choice, at least at the flagship university in his or her state of residence.

mob of kidsThe rapidly increasing birth rate beginning in 1982 (ubiquitous baby boomers being the culprits, once again) have put increasing pressure on the college admission offices. Since the year 2000, the number of college-bound high school seniors has steadily increased each year. In fact, the graduation year 2014 was the largest high school graduating class in American history!

To compound the challenge is the fact the government, particularly the SEC, Congress and the private Federal Reserve have demonstrated a collective lack of oversight and/or fiscal malfeasance. This has further corrupted the fiat credit system that our nation’s economy is based on. The negative impact on family savings and investments has forced more students to look at not just their state universities and colleges but their community colleges. But even these lower cost institutions may not accommodate all of the students applying in the coming years.

The New York Times article points out “Across the country, many community colleges have felt similar pressures. The battered economy drove many workers back to school to retool their skills, while others have eschewed a four-year degree in favor of a more affordable two-year program.”

Therefore, much more deliberate and practical planning will need to be done as a family. Post secondary school planning with us begins with a “get acquainted” FREE consultation. For more information contact us here. 

Millionaire Next Door

December 15th, 2016

A college education has long been viewed as a ticket to a better quality of life. Though it is truly a milestone decision in a young person’s life it does not necessarily mean that a particular college decision will have the highest rate of return in achieving life goals. Unfortunately, some students do not think clearly about this decision, buying the brand name college and taking on large amounts of debt.

For students who don’t want to have daunting repayment obligations, without a solid income opportunity consider this:

  1. Know the average amount of debt that students carry at each of your potential colleges. Check out for such information.
  2. Complete a money-saving “Dry Run” before you even have a final list of colleges in mind.
  3. Discuss with counselors and advisors what majors to consider and understand how your natural strengths and innate characteristics fit related careers.
  4. Earn and save money during college. Many bright students are earning over $1000/month part-time while in college without sacrificing their academic responsibilities. Call Eric and he will show you how they are doing it. 

“Excessive student debt, often made without an explicit decision on its impact on future life choices, not only restricts traditional career choices but the basic ability of young people to take risks – requiring them to defer their dreams,” says Robert Shireman, executive director for the nonprofit Project on Student Debt.

According to the Project on Student Debt, the average 2016 graduate carried $25,250 in loans. (Not to mention what the parents have borrowed.) The big galoot above says to the young graduate, “Yo! I am your new roommate…for the next thirty years.”

Astrid Neilson, a 23-year-old who graduated from the University of Virginia, assumed a huge financial burden to attend a public university as an out-of-state student. Her life is definitely impacted by the $90,000 college debt from the college. (Some of that were signature loans from a relative.) “I really want to go to law school, but can’t unless I get a scholarship.” Possible, but not likely.

Neilson did not consider future income before assuming her loans, although she anticipated always working in the nonprofit or public sector. Her choices confirm a recent survey by student-loan provider Sallie Mae that post-graduate income was not a factor for an incredible 70 %  of students and parents in determining how much to borrow to finance a college degree. (Can you say “Dry Run”?)

The Millionaire Next DoorSo after the glossy college brochures arrive in the mail and the visits to leafy college campuses are over, students need to ask themselves: Can I afford this school without excessive borrowing? If money saved falls short, consider living at home for two years, get the necessary pre-requisites out of the way at a community college and transfer to your state or private university. Be smart now and financially independent later.

Don’t like that option? Then you should read The Millionaire Next Door.

Now What?

November 13th, 2016

     What now graduateNow What? That is the title of a book by Ari King, an unemployed 2009 graduate of  Wesleyan University with a $180,000 degree in Italian Studies. He spent the summer after graduation at his home in California thinking about what to do with his life. At summer’s end, with no job prospects, he headed to New York City thinking his opportunities would be better in a town with 8.4 million people.

A friend who was a senior at NYU offered him a place to stay with his five roommates. It was déjà vu all over again, but now with six roommates, not one. Sleeping bags come in handy in the city when there isn’t a couch available.

Each day he would scour Craigslist and elsewhere, looking for “jobs under every category from ‘Government’ and ‘Education’ to ‘Russian speaking Nanny’ to ‘Security Guard’.” He grew increasingly frustrated, with a gnawing feeling of defeat and anxiety. Even hospitality jobs, where a decent income from tips could be quite good, were scarce. Once a person landed such a job, they didn’t leave. With the unprosecuted malfeasance on Wall Street, everyone was playing it safe.

His “real world” wake-up call reaffirmed what I have been seeing for the last 25 years. Too many colleges, for one reason or another, do not prepare their Bridging the Gapstudents to bridge the gap from college to the real world very effectively. Of course, we cannot put the blame entirely on colleges. That is why I tell high school students that it is their responsibility to thoroughly research the advising and career services of the colleges they are considering. It is the all-important third ‘A’ in the AAA process. Plus, they must become a familiar face and known to the personnel in the career services offices no later than the second semester of freshman year. After all, what is college for?

Many people are unemployed or underemployed, not just recent college graduates. What does one do when one can’t get a job? Some may say, keep looking; don’t quit! Easy for them to say. But there is one thing that many bright people with initiative (college degree or not) are realizing; that if you can’t find a job or don’t like the one you have…create one!

But first, you have to look within yourself and identify honestly what you are good at. Ask yourself if you can use that natural strength to not only meet a need that people have but will pay you to fill it. For instance, Ari King enjoyed writing and his teachers recognized he had a flair for writing. He looked around his world. Why not write a guide book that will help college students prepare for life after college? He did not see many that addressed the issue. He thought “Would people be interested?” The answer, judging by these Amazon reviews, is yes!

While reading his book I was amazed at the majority of college graduates he interviewed who went to college withhire me little thought put into how they were going to live and pay bills after college.  Each graduate was asked what regrets he or she had and what could have been done differently. The majority said they did not use the career services office early enough (or at all) to find internships.  No wonder so many were jobless upon graduation or working in jobs that a high school graduate would be qualified to do.

I recommend the book Now What? and encourage all students thinking about college or in college now to read it this summer…before they realize that the years in college are a waste of time and money. Contact us if you REALLY want to make sure college is a good investment.

Staying on Schedule

June 23rd, 2016

Four short years ago the college bound Class of 2012 completed their high school experience. That was a record year for student applications and competition was keen at the more competitive colleges. The American Enterprise Institute that tracks six-year graduation rates tells us that only 38% of those that went on to college are taking part in commencement ceremonies after four years as an undergraduate.

And you thought that college was going to be a four-year experience? Yes, it can be that (or less) if you do your due diligence ahead of time.

But here are some reasons why that percentage is so shockingly low.

  1. ALL four-year colleges are considered. Both public and private from the non-competitive to the most competitive. Often large state universities and less competitive private institutions have weaker or overwhelmed advising staffs.
  2. Students may fall behind on credits earned in their major.
  3. They change majors more than twice; credits are not transferable.
  4. Students drop out for academic or affordability reasons.
  5. Some classes are over enrolled, limited or cutback and students are not able to take the prerequisite courses in their majors in a timely fashion.

When researching each college using the AAA method a student will be better prepared to avoid most of the above scenarios. This includes understanding the data the colleges are required to report on the Common Data Set. If you do not find the CDS on the college website, ask admissions for it.

In any case, as the title of this entry states, if the Class of 2012 thought it was competitive getting into college, they are in for a bigger challenge now. Job prospects for new college graduates are at historic lows, partly caused by financial misfeasance and malfeasance on a global scale. If a recent graduate has some internship or cooperative work experience to show on his or her resume, that will help. But with the economy what it is, the challenges still remain.

The average student loan debt for graduating college seniors in 2012 was $24,000. This year, I dare say the average will be at least $27,000 because the government made additional Stafford loans available to students since 2008. But that does not take into account co-signer or Plus loans that parents may have been taken out during college.

If loans are a burden, parents and students should not hesitate to call us now. We have a sure-fire plan to show you how to become debt free sooner than you think. It makes no sense in starting off with a job that does not afford you the ability to pay basic necessities, provide the comforts and lifestyle you want to have and still meet monthly debt obligations.

In the meantime, graduates, get ready for the toughest job you will have.

Start by reading this timely New York Times article ~ How to market yourself.

It’s Not Just About Getting In

May 2nd, 2016

Family using laptopBy now, millions of high school seniors across the country have received the news from their colleges.  We wish them all the best of success. Spring always brings some surprises, both good and not so good. This year was another tough year.  Hopefully, the final decisions that each of them makes by May 1 has been carefully thought through.

Now, seniors will be looking forward to proms, accepted college days at their respective campuses and finals, well, maybe not finals. One of the many questions they will be asked at points along the way and while in college will also be a question that has become harder for students to answer.

It is  what do you plan to major in? College-MajorFor the thousands of students who have not seriously researched the options while in high school (as we advise students) will likely be overwhelmed by the choices, particularly at a university where the choices are ever increasing. Colleges and universities reported nearly 1,650 academic programs to the Department of Education in 2015; 355 were added to the list over the previous 15 years as colleges, to stay competitive and current, adopted new disciplines like forensic psychology, global studies, cyber-forensics and agroecology and all kinds of health sciences disciplines, including Adventure Education and Leadership.

Graduating with a double (or triple) major, minor or concentration as a way to hedge bets in an uncertain job market has become increasingly popular; the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded with double majors rose 70 percent between 2001 and 2014, according to the DOE.

….Continue reading here



…continuing the Milestone Step

April 20th, 2016

Some students go to college knowing exactly what they want to do. But most don’t. At large state universities it is not uncommon that over 75% percent of freshmen, even those who have declared a major, say they are uncertainCollege Students in stands about their major, and half will change their minds after they declare, sometimes more than once. That is one big reason that only 37% of students graduate in four years.

Colleges and universities have vested interests in students declaring early. Retention rates for declared students are better, and they are more likely to graduate in four years. But college officials also recognize that deciding on a major can be overwhelming, especially when coupled with the fear that a wrong choice will result in added semesters and tuition. Students no longer have the luxury of stumbling into a major or making mistakes, not that they ever did.

This requires thinking ahead. Teenagers are not expected to know what to do with the rest of their lives at age 18, but with coaching they can cover the bases with prudent planning. Some majors have a curriculum that follows a tight sequence of courses. It’s easier to switch out of engineering than it is to take it up  later in the college career.

The biggest mistake students make is failing to research what’s required of the major, and the profession. Nursing may sound attractive because a student “wants to help people,” but nursing students take the same demanding math and science curriculum as premed students, and the work is often technical and not for every kindhearted soul. It is also a similar track with Physical Therapy.

More niche filling additions to the list obviously reflect marketplace trends and student demand, like culinary science/culinology, digital arts and sports communication. At Montclair State University in New Jersey, which offers 300 majors, minors and concentrations, a new fashion studies major has been hugely popular, thanks to the university’s proximity to Manhattan; with Madison Square Garden and Giants Stadium in sight. It also guides the ambitious undergrad toward internship opportunities in a sports industry and event-planning major within its business school.

Still, it’s difficult to predict the employment market. That is why I will encourage students to think “outside the hqdefaultbox”. In other words if the job doesn’t exist…create one.  Many students choose majors they think will lead to jobs, but four years from now freshmen will be applying for jobs that don’t even exist today.

Most employers are looking for transferable skills…the ability to problem solve, work collaboratively, write and speak clearly and think critically. These can be developed in any liberal arts discipline. It makes no sense to “suffer through a major because you think it will lead to employment.

In the final analysis, wherever a teenager goes and does after high school, which I call “Crossing the Gap…Preparing for the Transition”, where they go does not matter as much as what they do when they got there.

The late great business philosopher, Jim Rohn, said this ~“A formal education will make you a living, but self-education will make you a fortune!”  These two college graduates understood that. You can too! 1 (978) 820-1295

Fifteen Extraordinary Colleges

March 20th, 2016

  Five Extraordinary Colleges You’ve Never Heard of…until Now

     In our offices we have large North American maps with the locations of most all the colleges in the U.S. and Canada. It is always fun to place a pin into the map where a student of ours matriculated but never knew existed before meeting with us.

In my first essay of the “Extraordinary Colleges You Never Heard of …until Now” series, Deep Springs College in California was one of those colleges. In mysecond essay it was Shimer College in Chicago, one of the most unique colleges in the U.S., to receive a pin. I hope you read the first two installments above if you haven’t already.

As seniors wait to hear from all their colleges to which they applied it is now time for juniors and sophomores to continue the exploratory process. We are going to begin our next college road trip in the beautiful state of Maine in one of the most sought after vacation spots in the Northeast…Bar Harbor, Maine, the epitome of New England charm.

There, smack dab on the Atlantic Ocean you will find The College of The Atlantic.Eat your hearts out Southern California! The beauty and historic significance of the Maine coast puts the boring sun drenched Pacific beaches and ubiquitous shopping centers to shame. Mount Desert Island was a summer escape for wealthy families looking to get away from the heat of the cities. Today, a little Gilded Age charm still exists. A stone castle built in 1895, now acts as College of the Atlantic’s main administrative building, while other homes have been purchased and renovated into residence halls.

Amazingly, the College’s 350 or so independent, bright, committed and VERY environmentally conscious students consider Acadia National Park as their backyard and personal research laboratory. Ask any one of them what their degree is in and they will tell you “Human Ecology”! I love that! When you understand what it is, maybe you will too.

….Continue reading here

continuing our road trip…

February 18th, 2016

Remember, this is a tour of “extraordinary” colleges; therefore different pedagogical methods may not be for you. That is okay, enjoy the trip, the ride will be educational. But for those students who fit the profile, the education one receives is rock solid (no pun intended).

Now, let’s hop into our rented Nissan e-NV200 Electric van and head across New Hampshire to my favorite state of the Union, Vermont. Nestled up in the Northwest corner overlooking gorgeous Lake Champlain is Champlain College. The city of Burlington is the home of two other colleges. One is the most expensive public university in the country, U of Vermont and the other is St Michaels College.

We are here to visit Champlain. Founded in 1878 it now has 2,396 “happy to be here” students. It has come into the 21st century with a strong endowment and financially prepared to offer innovative and pragmatic courses of study based on its’ “Upside-Down Curriculum” that are very much designed for the graduate to be highly employable in many fields upon graduation. In fact, 98% of them are employed in careers related to their majors within two years.

Watch the many videos that the communications majors have produced. Here are some students.  As more than a few students will say, “You will work hard in your courses, but you will take away so much more than you ever expected. The professors will not let you slip through the cracks, and you will learn more about yourself and the world around you in even the most academic of classes.”

Now we have to take to the air and fly from Burlington to Charlotte, North Carolina. We then drive to High Point, North Carolina to a university, founded in 1924, that would never have been included on this list of “extraordinary” colleges before 2005.
It was in 2005 that the High Point University trustees asked, encouraged, cajoled, begged and finally convinced Dr. Nido Quebin to become its’ President. What he has done in the last 10 years is incredible. Read and view the many interviews he has had since he took over. “Took over” are the wrong words. He has inspired faculty and students alike to be the best they can be. His style of positive leadership sparkles when he speaks. The focus is on the student and I marvel at his ability to bring all the academic departments together with a common mission.

At this time, the school is not that well known outside of the Southeast, but that is about to change. It is definitely worth a strong look regardless of your prospective major…there is something for everyone.

Of the many videos, be sure to set aside one hour to watch this one:  ENTREPRENEURSHIP ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION

Our next stop is Pennsylvania. We are going to visit Grove City College 60 miles north of Pittsburgh. This is a very competitive liberal arts college with particularly strong pre-medicine, engineering and business programs. So, what is so extraordinary about that? You ask.

When parents ask me, “Why is college so expensive and why have costs, risen, on average, 2 to 3 times faster than inflation since the 1970’s?”, I point to Grove City College for the answer.

In 1972 the newly created Department of Education during the Carter administration, advocated for strong legislation that would make colleges, who wished to use any kind of Federal Aid in their financial aid packages, to meet complex gender equity requirements on their campuses. It was called Title IX. Over the years, the cost of complying with those rules has brought about ever increasing administrative costs.

Grove City keeping with its’ independent conservative principles cried “foul”! They did not want the education they provided to the undergrads be compromised by having to be encumbered with additional expenses that had nothing to do with education. Of over 4000 colleges, Grove City was the lone cry for sanity and critical thinking in the world of higher education.

However, they had to go all the way to the Supreme Court in 1984 to maintain their independence from Federal control. The landmark case is truly one for the history books! Watch the video in its’ entirety above. They have since been able to keep costs under control. The COA in 2015/16 is less than $27,000/year. The college is debt free and self-funds programs to provide both need based and merit scholarships to those who qualify. They do all this without paying their professors any less than comparable colleges, having students sleep in bunk houses, eat canned tuna or limit its’ athletic programs to co-ed croquet and ultimate Frisbee competitions.

Founded in 1876 it is a very traditional Presbyterian college and church attendance is required. But that may not be a bad thing. Do you agree?

beck-PamelaWhoops! What time is it? We better get to the airport, our flight leaves for San Francisco in two hours. The last college on our tour has made the list in large part because of its’ President, Dr. Pamela Eibeck, Ph.D. The University of the Pacific had been a very good medium size undergrad school for decades but when she took the helm at the same time her son become a college freshman at Santa Clara, refreshing changes rejuvenated the campus that, like many others, had become a bit stagnant. (“Fun Fact” Read about why her son was disappointed his mom got the job.)

When I tell promising students in the Northeast about this college called the University of the Pacific their eyes light up! “Wow, I have heard so much about the great surfing out there.” I don’t tell them right away that the Stockton campus is two hours drive to some of the best surfing anywhere in California…Santa Cruz. I want them first to think about why they are going to college…for the academics…right?

U of Pacific images (5)    Speaking of academics, you will not be disappointed at UOP. Because Dr. Eibeck was Dean of Engineering at a Texas University before coming to UOP, that department is tops but her academic; analytic and leadership skills have strengthened all academic departments. Like Dr. Quebin of High Point University, she has inspired the entire faculty and student body to work as a team and do the best they can for themselves and for each other.

Thank you for traveling this far with me. By the way, please send me an email if you have an extraordinary college that deserves to be highlighted. I know there are more than the 15 I have discussed on this Blog. I will be including some Canadian and Universities around the globe in future installments. (By the way, what did you think of the European College in my second essay?) 🙂

If you have a high school student with college aspirations or simply needs some guidance even if college is NOT the next step, give me a call @ (978) 820-1295. Smart College Planning begins with a complimentary “get acquainted” 75′ conversation.


Understanding College Websites

January 18th, 2016

 It was inevitable. Computer technology is here to stay. I remember in 1994, when one of my students said “Mr. Goodhart, you should get on the Internet, there is a lot of great information about colleges on it.” This revelation may come as a surprise to our current crop of students who were born after 1999. They never had the ‘pleasure’ of working a slide rule in their advanced math classes.

But after a few years I saw a need to help students understand college websites. They were spending an inordinate amount of time on the site, but coming away with little substantive knowledge about the college. Therefore, I designed an efficient AAA method to do one’s due diligence. When done properly the student should know the important aspects of each college’s particular offerings and ethos. I like to hear students say that it was almost a déjà vu experience once they arrived at the college…for the first time.

The winter is a good time to plan ahead for college visits. Spring is the best time for juniors to visit a few colleges while classes are still in session. That is, after applying the AAA method. I will never forget one college admissions officer describe her experience.
She drove her daughter 357 miles to tour Lehigh University. The young scholar would not even get out of the car! “Why not?” asked the seasoned admissions officer (aka mom).  “I am not going to a college where I have to hike up a mountain every day!”

No exaggeration. Now you know. Even college admissions officers have kids. Plus, they too can be tripped up occasionally by poor planning. The AAA method will provide the answers (even to questions not asked) ahead of time and smooth your journey. Go ahead and download it to your desktop now.

Sticker Prices Hide the REAL Cost of College

December 10th, 2015

Sticker Prices Hide the REAL Cost of College

 NetPriceVsStickerPrice     One of the many acronyms that college bound students encounter is COA or cost of attendance. It constantly amazes me when media only talks about “tuition costs” when they run stories about colleges. What they should do is include the fees, room and board and personal expenses to that figure. That will often bring the COA up another $18,000 or more.

Private colleges that use federal money in their financial aid packages are generally running about $55,000 to $65,000 per year “soup to nuts”. With the exception of about 50 so-called elite colleges, most offer merit money to highly qualified students or meet the criteria for those scholarships. Admittedly, a good 30% of private colleges and out of state publics simply offer “tuition discounts” in the guise of scholarships simply to get students to commit.

Having said that, I have had many students graduate in four years form fine private colleges at less cost than they would have paid at an Ivy League college or state university where the latter would be offering only student loans. For many middle income families state schools often create the largest financial burden to a family despite the lowest published cost.

In addition, due to the ever increasing strategy of financial aid leveraging and preferential packaging, an applicant’s academic profile will greatly effect how much grant or scholarship aid he or she will get. While not used by all colleges, these practices will negatively impact the aid a student who is in the lower quartile of the applicant pool. That is why I place a great deal of emphasis on researching the current class profile or ‘common data set’ to measure where the student may fit in that demographic.


In other words, if two colleges have similar costs of attendance, a student may be offered entirely different financial aid packages should one of the colleges be using leveraged analysis or preferential packaging. Unless, you do a money saving “Dry Run” with us or someone else who is familiar with the financial aid practices at many colleges, you will seldom know which college is offering the best value from a financial standpoint. Even now with the required “College Cost Calculator” on college websites, you still won’t know the true bottom line cost of that college until one week following the student’s acceptance.

The differences outlined above can be as large as $15,000 a year or more.  These differences are often masked by sticker price. That is why we encourage all families to include a realistic money-saving “Dry Run” step in their college planning. If you have not done that yet, then what are you waiting for? Do not repeat the experience that this parent had.