The financial risks of choosing the wrong college

Choosing the right college goes far beyond college rankings, identifying the right major, or even choosing the right college town. Many parents and students are unaware of the types of colleges identified as non-profit or for-profit. Unfortunately, not knowing the difference has left many students thousands of dollars in debt and no degree to show for it. The Education Trust report, “Subprime Opportunity: The Unfulfilled Promise of For-Profit Colleges and Universities” is highly critical of for-profit colleges with such findings as:

  • For-profit colleges provide high-cost degree programs that have little chance to leading to high-paying careers
  • Students graduate with heavy debt
  • For-profit colleges aggressively recruit low-income students and students of color, with such students making up 50 and 37 percent of the student population at for-profit colleges
  • 25 percent of Black, Hispanic, and low-income students begin college at for-profit colleges while only 10 percent of White students do so
  • Only 22 percent of students graduate from such schools within 6 years

The report also reports the following six-year graduation rates at the following for-profit schools:

  • 9 percent, University of Phoenix
  • 15 percent, Sullivan University
  • 16 percent, International Academy of Design and Technology
  • 27 percent, Westwood College
  • 31 percent, DeVry University
  • 35 percent, Berkeley College
  • 41 percent, The Art Institute
  • 44 percent, The Illinois Institute of Art
  • 66 percent, ITT Technical Institute
  • 67 percent, School of Visual Arts

The report also noted a significant difference in the amount of debt that students are left with based on the type of school attended:

  • $7,960 at public colleges and universities
  • $17,040 at private, non-profit colleges and universities
  • $31,190 at for-profit colleges and universities

Read the report…

For those students choosing to enroll into a non-profit college or university, the debt can still be daunting. The report by the Institute of College Access and Success,Student Debt and the Class of 2009 estimates that college seniors who graduated in 2009 carried an average of $24,000 in student loan debt. The unemployment rate for 2009 college graduates rose to 8.7 percent, the highest annual rate on record.

The amount of student debt  varies widely by state. The highest debt state is the District of Columbia at $30,033 and the lowest state is Utah at $12,860. Research the amount of debt by state for specific colleges.  Interestingly, some of the highest debt colleges have the most liberal admission policies (Alabama State, Fort Valley State, and Wheelock College), while some of the lowest debt colleges have the most highly competitive admission policies (Cal Tech, Princeton, and Williams College). Thus, students should not only develop a plan for getting accepted into the right college, but ensuring that earning their college degree does not require that they mortgage their future.

Elementary school gives students a head start on college!

Many schools are beginning to respond to national research pertaining to the huge college-knowledge gap experienced by students who are not introduced to college planning until high school. For years, this has placed such students at a huge disadvantage when compared to suburban and affluent students who are introduced to college before entering elementary school. The Educational Leadership article, “Going to College? It’s Elementary!” notes:

“Typically, students on the college-bound learning track are white and middle-class (NGA Center for Best Practices, 2007). Their parents and schools have prepared them for college by directing them toward advanced placement (AP) classes, SAT prep courses, and other resources that will give them a step up when it’s time to apply to college (NGA Center for Best Practices, 2007). On the other hand, students from lower socioeconomic brackets or minority groups may not even be told to take the SAT, let alone sign up for AP courses (Marklein, 2006). Programs such as AVID or Upward Bound attempt to reach these students in high school, but unfortunately, funding can limit the reach of these programs. Plus, high school intervention may come too late to influence students’ choices.”

Sixth-grade students in the Marina del Mar Elementary School’s “College Club” asked questions from a panel of four college students as part of their college outreach program. What are the elementary and middle schools in your community doing to help students develop their college-bound dreams?

Bugg Elementary School in Wake County Schools(NC) has been undergoing a total cultural remake with its college bound focus. Click here to watch YouTube video…Another video (click here) showcases the relationships being developed between Bugg Elementary school students and local college students. Building relationships and collaborating with local colleges and universities would appear to be a natural strategy for elementary schools in school districts with a college readiness focus.

The importance of engaging students in a postsecondary focus during the primary grades is reinforced by the University of Chicagoresearch study, “Reading on Grade Level in Third Grade: How Is It Related to High School Performance and College Enrollment” outlining the transition students make during elementary school from learning to read to reading to learn. Creating the necessary postsecondary cultural constructs in elementary school provides an important context for teaching and learning.

Over half of Texas students are suspended or expelled from school

A Justice Center report, “Breaking Schools’ Rules: A Statewide Study of How School Discipline Relates to Students’ Success and Juvenile Justice Involvement,” reveals tragically high suspension rates of Texas’ students between the 7th and 12th grades:

  • Nearly six in ten public school students were suspended or expelled from school at least once
  • Nearly 150,000 students spent time in an alternative school
  • Nearly 80,000 students spent time in a juvenile justice education program
  • 83 percent of Black male students had at least one suspension (74 percent for Hispanic males and 59 percent for White males)
  • 75 percent of Special Education students were suspended or expelled at least once
  • 31 percent of students who were suspended or expelled had to repeat their grade at least once (only 5 percent for students who were never suspended)
  • 10 percent of students who were suspended or expelled dropped out of school

Clearly, being suspended or expelled from school, and the resulting time out of school can have a hugely negative impact on a student’s future.

AP classrooms reveal a racial divide

The article in the Tennessean reveals the inequity in AP course enrollment being experienced in school districts through the country. In Wilson County, TN, not one black high school student took an advanced-level math, science or foreign-level class during the 2009-10 school year. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights’ data shows that this is a national crisis with some high schools not offering enough classes, others not encouraging students to enroll into such classes, others discouraging students from enrolling into such classes, and others simply not offering the necessary support for students to succeed in such classes.

An analysis of the data shows that high schools in high poverty areas offer few AP and advance classes for students to choose from. Important findings in the report:

  • 7,300 U.S. High Schools do not offer Calculus
  • Girls are underrepresented in physics
  • Boys are underrepresented in Algebra 2

Go to The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights to disaggregated student data for your state’s high school enrollment, graduation rates, and advanced course enrollment. Research by the U.S. Department of Education, the CollegeBoard, and the ACT  indicate that enrollment and success in such high school classes is a clear predictor of future success in a student’s college-level classes.

NBMBBA Atlanta Scholarship Program

The National Black MBA Atlanta Chapter Scholarship Program has been in existence since 1982.  The Scholarship Program promotes the NBMBAA mission of increasing the number of successful

African-Americans in the community by providing scholarships to outstanding deserving minority students within the Atlanta metropolitan area.

Scholarships are available at the following levels:

  • High School (Leaders of Tomorrow)
  • Undergraduate
  • PhD

Scholarship application deadline is August 19, 2011.

Program information and applications are available on NBMBAA Atlanta website at  Look under the “Student Affairs” main tab.

Please contact with questions.

Note that applicants are responsible for submitting all required information. Only completed applications will be considered.

Does an Athletic Scholarship Cover Everything?

The answer is no. The article in Higher Ed provides insight into the scholarship gap, or the gap in what an athletic scholarship covers and the actual costs of attending college. The NCAA specifies, under 15.02.5, that a full grant-in-aid is financial aid that consists of tuition and fees, room and board, and required course-related books. However, colleges themselves provide a COA (Cost of Attendance) for prospective students that is a higher number, sometimes much higher depending on where a student is from, estimating the real costs of attending college (transportation, living expenses, etc.). Subsequently, a college-bound student athlete who accepts a full athletic scholarship to a school within his or her home state may have a substantially lower COA than a student who accepts an athletic scholarship to a college or university across the country.

Tuition costs outpacing financial aid

Now, as much as ever, students must have a college plan that will assist them in paying the huge cost of college tuition. Earning a scholarship, getting admitted into a highly selective college that offers needs-based financial aid can make all of the difference. However, the students who will find it most difficult to afford college are also the students who are among the least likely students to have the appropriate plan.

According to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education June 2011 Policy Alert:

  • College tuition at both 2-year and 4-year colleges is outpacing family income
  • Students’ financial-aid packages are not keeping pace with tuition costs
  • 44 percent of low-income students attend community college while only 15 percent of high-income students do
  • Community Colleges account for approximately 40 percent of all postsecondary enrollment
  • Graduation rates at community colleges are among the lowest

The most likely students to attend community college are:

  • Students from low-income families
  • First in their family to attend college
  • From underrepresented racial or ethnic group
  • 38 percent of students whose parents did not graduate from college attend community college while only 20 percent of students whose parents graduated from college attend community college
  • 50 percent of Hispanic students; 31 percent of Black students; and 28 percent of White students attend community college
  • In Arizona, California, Illinois, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Texas, over 50 percent of Black and Hispanic students attend community college
  • None of these states graduate as many as half of its community college students


Welcome, from Mychal Wynn

Thank you for visiting my blog. The intent of the blog is to share important information regarding college preparation, college readiness, student achievement research, and information pertaining to the consulting work that I provide for schools, school districts, and organizations. As you navigate our website you will find links to research studies, information about the services we provide, and some of the books that I have written. It is my intent to provide you with as much information as I can to assist you with increasing student achievement and widening the postsecondary pathway to college. Whether you are a student, teacher, parent, counselor, administrator, or policy maker, you will find important information, student achievement research, and strategies that will prove helpful.

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