Friday, January 30, 2009

Just Too Darn Complicated and Too Darn Expensive! Time for Change!

January 30, 2009- I’ve always prided myself on using technology to keep me a more organized and efficient individual. The alarm automatically resets itself each day, the coffee machine goes off at the same time every morning ensuring a warm cup of coffee, and the TV turns off on its own when I leave each morning. And, at work I am equally focused on using technology to make my life more efficient and easier. Perhaps it’s a generation thing.

But imagine with me that you are a guidance counselor. You are responsible for helping 474 students with their curriculum plans, life plans, bad days, good days, testing schedules, and on and on. Now add in the college application process and start counting the hundreds of forms, documents and pieces of paper that clutter your desk and eventually build a wall between you and your students – 755,000,000 documents (pieces of paper) are produced in the college admissions process in this country.

It’s time for the college admission process to change- to utilize technology to make it easier, more efficient… to allow counselors to spend more time counseling and less time processing, to free up budgets from paying for processing to providing scholarships and paying for more counselors and advisors. Unfortunately, in this process some things are changing for counselors–but not for the better. We’ve spotted a new trend in college admissions where students are adding more schools to their college lists, now at an average of 7.43 per student, according to our data, up from 5.24 last year. Take a look why.

Students are better informed about financial aid and are getting aggressive about learning how they can afford schools they may not have considered before. We learned that first-hand when attendance at our financial aid webinars exploded by 800% and web hits to our financial aid info pages increased by 500%. Just look how Harvard set a record number of applicants by announcing a new financial aid policy. Families are getting smart about financial aid as the industry gets more transparent.

And, our students are also applying to more public universities and “financial safeties” to ensure that if financial aid doesn’t work out, they have a plan. This has resulted in more college applications and more materials for counselors and colleges to process. Now, glance at the census to find more students of college age this year and then consider the predictions that more kids will apply to college, and you have more piles of paper than you’d know what to do with.

Have you asked your high school how much it costs to process (just move the paper) an application? We did and it’s anywhere from $2 to $12 per application. That means a typical expense of $14 - $24 per student - approximately $3,500 to $21,000 per high school. Where is the money coming from if every student adds just one more college to their application list? Who will find the time to organize and process them in the counseling office with budget cuts looming? Perhaps this bad economy is pointing out one good thing… that we need a better, more efficient, more cost-effective way for students to apply to college!

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