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These college perks make attending a school debt free better than Harvard

'Ivory Tower' producer and director Andrew Rossi speaks at the 2014 Sarasota Film Festival
'Ivory Tower' producer and director Andrew Rossi speaks at the 2014 Sarasota Film Festival
Photo by Gustavo Caballero

High college costs are threatening society according to an article in the Daily Ticker yesterday about a new documentary from filmmaker Andrew Rossi. In Ivory Tower, Rossi points out that colleges are spending an increasing amount of money on amenities as they focus on the business of education rather than their nonprofit mission to educate.

Recent research shows college degrees translate into over $800,000 more in earnings. However, Rossi points out in the documentary student debt and underemployment have climbed so high that social mobility may be affected, anyway.

If colleges aren’t emphasizing rigor and accomplishment over campus perks when marketing to attract applicants, students are prone to focus on the fun ride. The disturbing fact is more and more students do not earn a college degree in four to six years but their student loan debt must still be paid back.

Prestige often captures the attention of college ranking lists over completion rates and providing skills employers want. The race to build and foster a party environment distracts students from their end goal of academic learning and graduating.

College-bound plan
As parents and students form college lists and visit colleges, they may look beyond the amenities of luxury dorm rooms, brand names and fancy stadiums to find the place that will lead to best chance for success during and after college.

A new tool is being developed to help the college-bound refocus. President Obama is planning a federal college rating system to help families better weigh college choices and put more federal dollars in student loans and grants for schools that meet the criteria.

Meanwhile, when touring campuses, families may look beyond the bells and whistles and focus on the three factors that increase “the likelihood of good outcomes by college graduates. In order of importance they are cost of attendance, great teaching and deep learning,” according to Ken West, professor of Counseling and Human Development at Lynchburg College. He thinks about his own family’s upcoming higher education choices in relation to recent studies of college graduates and reports in Tuesday’s He writes, “But when it comes to our grandchildren, I am inclined to agree with the conclusion of the NPR article: ‘If you can go to Podunk U debt free vs. Harvard for $100,000, go to Podunk. And concentrate on what you do when you get there.’”

Most important college perks
College searches include crucial fact gathering based on student qualifications, college requirements, and quantity and quality of academic programs in desired fields of study. To create the best chance for a successful career with an affordable and desired lifestyle, students also need to find out about managing finances including future salaries and college costs that will have to be paid. Higher education is an investment that requires a savvy consumer to make a good purchase.

The most important college perks are practical not flashy. They include college advising and mentoring services, engaging classes and caring professors, professor/class availability in courses likely to select, ease of getting into prerequisites and required courses, tutoring assistance, completion rates, retention rates, transfer of credits if switch majors, special opportunities, internships, job placement office for grads, active and helpful alumni association, and likelihood of employment within six months of graduation in field studied.

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