Fundraising and Career Counseling

Career CounselingFrequent readers of this blog know I am a big supporter of elevating career counseling centers within the ranks of the higher education pecking order.

So when Melissa Korn, a writer at The Wall Street Journal, reported about the marriage of fundraising offices with career counseling offices in several colleges and universities, I knew I would share this information with you.

Many schools folded their career centers into their development offices. Amherst College in Massachusetts, for example, changed the reporting structure a few months ago. Colgate University in Hamilton, New York; Williams College in Massachusetts and Scripps College in Claremont, California, will all make the change July 1st. Two years ago, the University of Chicago merged career services, admissions and enrollment management with the advancement office.

Students are assigned career counselors in the first year and admission counselors meet with potential employers as they travel around the country and the world for next year’s class. Alumni and fundraising staff have a wealth of information on graduates who may be able to provide internships or even jobs to graduates.

Combined budgets make for more robust career counseling outreach activities. Giving career centers a seat at the table is long overdue.

Whether you agree or not, parents and prospective college students are asking questions about a school’s career services before they apply. Keeping that function separate from the enrollment management and alumni and fundraising functions, seems obsolete given the economic realities not just in the United States but around the world.

Change comes slow in higher education and disruptive change even slower. Turf wars are inevitable and administrative silos exist on every college campus.

I hope one person reading this week’s blog has both the vision and determination to consider making career services an essential part of marketing, enrollment management and alumni and fundraising. Consider the synergy!

Grim Student Debt Statistics – Historic Levels

Student debt is now at a historic high in the United States.

Last month the Wall Street Journal reported the following grim student debt statistics:

  • Student loan debt was $364 billion in 2004 and over $1 trillion in 2013.
  • The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported that as of the fourth quarter of 2012 only about 40% of student borrowers were paying down their loans.
  • 17% of all loans were delinquent, defined as 90 days past due.
  • 14% of borrowers who were not officially delinquent had the same balance as the previous quarter.
  • 30% had increases in their balances.
  • More students are attending college and taking out bigger loans and a weak job market has impacted student re-payment.

There are ways to graduate with manageable debt but you must take the necessary steps before you turn in a single college application.

College GuideI devote many pages in my book, The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job to avoid graduating with a student loan bill that will impact your life after graduation.

Read the book and don’t become a negative statistic.

Primer on College Reference Guides

There is no shortage of very good college reference guides to help students and families work through college selection.

I am happy to recommend several – and most have online components to make your research even easier.

I encourage you to visit and study:

  • College Navigator. This site is sponsored by the Department of Education and contains a database of thousands of colleges and universities. The schools are listed by location, program and degree offerings.
  • The University of Texas at Austin  Web U.S. Higher Education. This site provides links to the home pages of four year colleges and universities throughout the U.S.
  • Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities ((AJCU).  This site is sponsored by Jesuit colleges and will give you information on all Jesuit schools.
  • Hillel International. This is the official site of Hillel, the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.
  • Women’s Colleges. This site will give you information on women’s colleges in the U.S.
  • Black Excel. This site provides information for African American students
  • NCAA.  This website provides useful information for anyone interested in varsity athletics at schools who are members of the NCAA.
  • FAFSA.  This is the federal site for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  If you are applying for need-based aid, you will need to visit this site.
  • FAFSA.  This site allows families to get estimates of their expected family contribution.
  • Fastweb.  This site provides information on scholarships as well as expected family contribution calculator.
  • Finaid.  This is a general purpose site with lots of information about financial aid.
  • Federal Student Aid.  This is a comprehensive government site with information in both English and Spanish.

Please take the time to review any and all of the information on these sites.  It can only help you narrow your choices and find the best school for you.

Don't discount the quality of community colleges

Once considered a “stepchild” of higher education, many community colleges are now innovators and well deserving of the title.

Half of all current college students attend a community college.

Federal and state funding for community colleges has increased over the past several years and a great deal is being done at the community college level to match majors with workforce needs.

I recommend, especially if finances are a major issue for you, taking a serious look at enrolling in a two year school first and then transferring to a four-year college or university.

This will save you the cost of a four-year bachelor’s degree at a more expensive school while still allowing you to graduate with a degree from that four year school.  Most community college students live at home so that saves you the cost of residence hall expenses.  And most community college students work and do not borrow to meet living expenses.

If you decide to go the community college route, do the same investigation that you would do if you planned on attending a four year school.

  •  Find out the successful transfer rate of the community college, the schools students transfer into, the percentage of students who stay for two years, the most popular majors, and the average debt.
  •  Find out how many of the students with an associate’s degree get a job at graduation.
  • Be certain that your future career interests can be met by the curriculum.

I have a colleague who recently told me that he put all three of his children through college and graduate school with a cumulative debt of $90,000.  And all three first attended a community college!

College housing can make or break your first year

Once you’ve been accepted to college, the next big decision is college housing.

Where you decide to live can either help you succeed in the first semester of your college career, or it can contribute to you wanting to transfer to another school.

There are many options for you to consider if you decide to live on campus, including:

  • Single-sex residence halls – no members of the opposite sex
  • Substance-free residence halls – no alcohol or drugs are permitted
  • Honors housing – Some colleges and universities house their honors students together
  • Special-interest residence halls – certain majors may be grouped together.  Some schools assign international students to the same residence halls, but I don’t recommend this.  I think it would be better for an international student to have the experience of living with an American student.

Most colleges and universities have single rooms, double rooms and suite-like configuration of rooms where several students live in a group setting.

Don’t count on getting a single room.  Few schools can offer that option.  Doubles and suites are more common. Find out if your school will let you “negotiate” who you want to live with and be certain to find out what you can do if your housing situation becomes intolerable.  What options do you have?

If for some reason, your financial situation changes, and you need to commute from home to campus, know how to petition to be released from your housing contract.

I can’t stress enough the importance of a good housing situation. There are so many changes and new experiences in the first semester. You need to be able to come back to a comfortable space that you can call “home.”