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Tag Archive | "Tuition & Fees"

Trading The Family Goat For College Tuition

As strange as it may seem, I remember reading a story about this many years ago. I can’t place the name of the college; all I know is that it was in rural America and the school had taken on a bartering system with local residents to help make their college accessible and affordable.

The only restriction that they put on the bartering is that the product they were receiving had to somehow benefit the college. When it came to livestock and produce, they would make use of it in the dining hall and the student would get a reduced tuition bill. If they had deferred maintenance on a building and a tradesman was able to offer services to remedy this, they would gladly accept the deal and credit the “going rate” of the work performed to the tuition bill.

Since this is how commerce first initially used to take place before the advent of money, it doesn’t surprise me that it could be making a resurgence in troubled economic times. In order to effectively help families and colleges traverse any bartering system that they may encounter with college expenses, I have devised the following chart to serve as a guide when dealing with produce and livestock. Enjoy! 😉

All prices represent the average retail price and the weights are the typical size (dressed). Your livestock and produce may be able to fetch more or less depending on size and market conditions.I attempt to round up or down whenever possible in my calculations.

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St. Michael’s – When Tuition Revenue Runs Dry (video)

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Tuition Refund Insurance – Might Be Worth The Premium

With the current level of education costs, many families tend to be more apt to think about leveraging some sort of guarantee to insure that their investment for the semester is not a complete loss if by chance their student suffers a serious illness or accident and has to leave the university. A number of insurance companies have recognized this growing demand and are providing the option of tuition refund plans for families/students. Basically, the insurance plan will make the family “whole” on any out-of-pocket education expense that is not refunded by the school.

Sample Scenarios
If a student has to medically withdraw from a college during the second week and the school provides an 80% refund of charges, the tuition refund plan (T.R.P.) would kick in the remaining 20%.
Let’s say the student withdraws (for medical reasons) in the 10th week and the University provides no refund of charges, the tuition refund plan (insurance policy) would reimburse the family for their full expense.

The following is a chart that helps to depict other scenarios:

Coverage Schedule
If the Withdrawal Occurs During: College Refunds: The T.R.P. Refunds: Student Receives:
First Week 90% 10% 100%
Second Week 80% 20% 100%
Third Week 60% 40% 100%
Fourth Week 40% 60% 100%
Fifth Week 20% 80% 100%
Balance of Semester 0% 100% 100%

What’s The Cost?
Based upon my research, the premium for this type of insurance policy can gravitate around the 1% mark.  So, if your college tuition, room, and board fees are $40,000 for the year, you can expect to pay about $400 to insure your investment.

What’s The Catch?

There is really no catch that I can see. All of the tuition insurance policies that I researched do not have a pre-existing illness clause. So, if your student suffers from some ailment prior to going off to college, you would probably be a good candidate for the tuition insurance plan.

In a conversation with Dana Tufts, president of A.W.G. Dewar (one of the nation’s leading tuition insurance providers), I inquired about the “make-up” of their participants. He stated that their families represent a pretty broad cross-segment of all situations and scenarios but that they do experience a high propensity of students reflecting some sort of chronic medical or mental illness in their past and that is the market in which their tuition insurance policy is the most beneficial in regard to payout.

Where Can I Get It?
You will first want to drop a call to your college’s Bursar’s Office (also known as Office of Student Accounts in some circles) and see if they have a pre-existing relationship with a tuition insurance provider.  If they don’t have a program established, you can go out on your own and secure your own policy. However, at this time, I only know of one organization that provides this benefit independently (not through the college). They are known as GradGuard and you can check out their website here.

Is It Worth It?

I am not usually one to buy the extended protection services offered with my appliance and electronic purchases, so I would tend to lean toward not investing in this plan. However, my tv or dishwasher doesn’t cost $20K-$40k a year. So, if my child had some sort of pre-existing condition that may interrupt their education mid-stream, I would probably think a little harder about enrolling in the tuition refund insurance plan.

Hope you found this information helpful. If you know of someone else that many benefit from this article, please don’t hesitate to pass it along using the “share tab” below.

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Reducing Fees – An Outside of the Box Approach to Tuition Pricing

You have to give credit where credit is due and I must say that the University of the South, found on a majestic wooded hilltop in Sewanee Tennessee, definitely should be given some recognition when it comes to adopting tuition pricing models.

In a time when most colleges are struggling to decide how small of a tuition increase they can impose on their students, Sewanee decides to take a different approach. They contemplate how much of a tuition DECREASE they can provide families and still maintain the same excellent level of services on their campus. That magic number for Sewanee this year was 10% (or $4600).

The current rate of tuition, room and board at Sewanee is $46,000 annually. So next year, the new rate will be $41,400 when factoring in the reduction. The silver lining to this story is that Sewanee is still standing by all of their financial aid commitments to current students as well. I bring this up because I have witnessed dramatic tuition rate reductions at other schools in the past but at the same time they adjusted financial aid accordingly. So the net out-of-pocket expense for many families never really changed from one year to the next even though the sticker price went down.

The Future of Sewanee

Not many colleges take as bold of a step or “leap of faith” as Sewanee has decidedly done… and there is good reason. It is very difficult for any college to plan on a tuition decrease because this almost always insures a loss in net revenue for the school. However, the way to offset that experience is to bolster numbers (enrollment). Based upon the coverage that Sewanee has received on their landmark tuition decrease announcement, I would say that they should probably be in store for a record year in regard to the size of their incoming class. If they are lucky, they may get enough steam off of this to secure their enrollment numbers for the next two years.

I would certainly encourage other colleges and universities to keep Sewanee in their sights for the next 3-5 years. If Sewanee’s “leap of faith” in tuition pricing pays off, it may serve as a good indicator for other schools that they can do the same. Inversely, it may prove that their decision may have been a little too “outside of the box”. Time will tell.

Here is a good promo video provided by University of the South (Sewanee):

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College Sticker Price (video)

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Tuition Freeze is Thawing Out at MCAD

You may remember that last year I wrote an article about how the Minneapolis College of Art and Design was implementing a tuition freeze for the first time in a number of years. President Jay Coogan stated that the tuition freeze would only be for a year and that a minimal increase was probable for the subsequent year.  Keeping true to his word, President Coogan just announced a tuition increase for the 2011-2012 academic year. One of our readers recently sent me a copy of the letter emailed to MCAD families this last week. You can read it in entirety below.

In response to the letter, I think that a 3% increase in tuition is pretty good given the double digit increases that we see popping up across the nation. I also like how they directly associated their increase to that of inflation for the past couple of years (1.5% each year).  Not many schools are quick to compare their tuition increases to the rate of inflation (probably because they exceed it every year). So, I give credit to Coogan and MCAD for their comparative analogy.

Request For Information
If you (or your student) go to a college or University that experienced a tuition increase (or decrease) that was historically significant, please don’t hesitate to pass the announcement letter or video onto me to share with our readers at It could be great exposure for your college and it also helps to keep our readers in the loop of what is happening with tuition expenses in higher education.

MCAD Tuition Increase Letter

To all students:

I am writing to let you know that the Board of Trustees of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design has set tuition for 2011-12 academic year at $30,385; this is a 3% increase over the current year’s tuition of $29,500.

Over the past several years MCAD’s tuition increases have been among the lowest of art and design schools and private colleges in the country. Last year the Board took the unprecedented step of holding the tuition level from the previous year. When averaged out over two academic years, the 3% increase amounts to an annual increase of 1.5%; this is comparable with the nation’s overall rate of inflation.

In setting the amount for next year’s tuition we have kept two key objectives in mind:

1.     Keeping the increase as modest as possible so as to minimize the impact on MCAD students and families.

2.     Continuing to invest in the resources that help us maintain a high quality education. We believe this investment ensures the best possible programs and facilities to support our educational programs.

Members of the MCAD Board and I all understand the cost of attending a private art college creates a financial challenge for you and your families. Many of us faced similar challenges in attending college and all of us respect the sacrifices required. In order to help, MCAD is adding an additional $167,000 of institutional financial aid for the coming academic year.

Like all colleges, MCAD depends on fundraising to meet the financial needs of it students. The college has initiated the Students First Scholarship Challenge to provide currently enrolled students with additional financial aid. We are close to meeting this year’s goal of raising $100,000 from alumni, parents, and other donors in new and increased gifts—which will be matched by the Board for a total of $200,000 in increased scholarship funds. We hope to raise a similar amount of new funds this coming year.

MCAD is a place where creativity meets purpose. We are committed to spending your tuition dollars wisely in order to provide you with the best possible art and design education and help you achieve your goals as you transform your creative passions into meaningful careers and work in the world.


Jay Coogan


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Princeton University Sets The Pace For Tuition Increases

The Board of Directors and Board of Regents for many colleges and universities will convene over the next quarter to establish the tuition rates for their respective institutions for the coming year. While we would all prefer to experience tuition freezes, or even better yet, tuition decreases, the fact of the matter is that the majority of schools will be increasing tuition and fees for the next academic year.

Princeton University is the first school that I have seen come forward and announce what the impact on tuition will be for their incoming and returning students next year. And I must say that I am pleasantly surprised.

Princeton is going to increase tuition and room charges by 1% and meal plans will receive a 2% bump. So, an undergraduate that plans to live on campus next year can expect to pay a total of $49,069. ($37,000 for tuition, $6596 for the dorm room,  and $5473 for the meal plan) This is just the sticker price because we all know that Princeton is one of the top financial aid schools in the country.

Provost Christopher Eisgruber shared the following statement: “In a year when Princeton had done relatively well and many families continued to struggle, we felt it appropriate to hold down the increase to the fee package to levels consistent with the very low inflation rates experienced by the university.”

So the question that comes to mind for new and returning students across the nation, is Princeton’s approach on a minimal tuition increase going to be the litmus test for how other schools move forward with their individual rate adjustments in the coming year? In a world of double digit tuition increases, I guess time will tell but I personally remain optimistic! 😉

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5 Reasons To Not Pay Your College Tuition With A Big Bag Of Cash

In the national news this last week, a young college man (Nic Ramos) attending the University of Colorado decided to pay his $14,000 tuition bill in cash (every parent and Bursar’s dream right?). The twist is that in an effort to bring to light the exorbitant cost associated with college, Mr. Ramos thought that he would pay his balance utilizing one dollar bills. You can check out the video coverage of this story below.

Nic’s story was an overnight rage as it flooded the Twitter and Facebook communities and it was only a matter of time before his event got picked up by national networks. I would say he was very successful in getting the message out about the rising cost of education. However,  that being said, I would like to offer the following reasons why you should NOT follow in his footsteps with paying your college tuition bill in cash (especially one dollar bills).

  • IRS Form 8300 – Did you know that anytime you perform a cash transaction with an organization or business and the sum of the transaction exceeds $10,000, the organization is required to complete and submit Form 8300 to the Internal Revenue Service? My guess is that this could potentially set off some red flags for your next tax filing season.
  • Did You Just Rob A Bank? – In the video coverage below, you will see that Mr. Ramos used a duffel bag to carry the cash to the Bursar’s office. This scenario of transporting cash reminds me of every bank heist movie created in the last three decades.
  • Lets Talk About Safety – Nic was transporting this cash to and from various banks, probably throughout his dorm or college housing, and finally across campus to the Bursar’s office. Certainly not a good idea to do this with that much cash since someone could have easily stripped him of it at any moment.
  • Time Wasted? – I am not as worried about Nic’s time associated with this venture since he actively chose to be part of the process. I am referring more to the bank tellers and the Bursar staff that had to count and proof all these one dollar bills by hand. A university representative said that it took three staff members at least an hour to count the money. If you take the Bursar staff time involved and double it to include the bank tellers’ time, that would put you at 6 hours involved with just counting money. Not sure of the hourly rate of these employees but you can see how quickly their time (and staff budget) would be gobbled up if more people started paying in this manner.
  • Have You Ever Tried To Lug Around 33 Pounds Of Dead Weight? – This is how much 14,000 one dollar bills weigh (or roughly 424 dollars for every pound). It may not compete with a P90X workout but I am sure it ranks pretty close.

I certainly want to give Nic Ramos his props for passively taking a stance on rising tuition costs. His unique approach to paying his tuition bill certainly garnered some attention and got people talking (and that is always good). However, I can’t help but wonder, since we live in a society of one-upmanship, if there is a person out there right now that is collecting every last quarter, nickel, dime and penny in sight to pay their next tuition bill with only coins! 😉

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