I want to thank everybody who offered advice to the single mom, who is anxious about her daughter’s college options.
You can read all the comments and the original post here:
Today I thought I’d offer my own suggestions about the options for this teenager, who thinks that she might want to be a teacher.
1. Be a super student.
Students who are going to require considerable financial aid to attend college, should focus hard on their studies. Schools have a finite amount of money to give students and they reserve their best packages for the students that they covet. That often means teenagers with desirable academic profiles.
This California girls appears to fit into this category because she has a 4.0 GPA and has a couple of solid extracurriculars.
The mom didn’t share what the teenager’s SAT or ACT is, but the test scores are a secondary consideration at state universities in California and there are also plenty of test-optional private institutions.
2. Look for state money.
As some of the parents commented earlier, this teenager can qualify for the state of California’s major financial aid program — the Cal Grant. You must have at least a 3.0 GPA to qualify for Cal Grant A, which is earmarked for students heading to four-year institutions. As you can see from the chart, there is an eligibility income ceiling.
For a family of two, the adjusted gross income can’t exceed $74,700. (Cal Grant B represent smaller awards for community college students.)
The Cal Grant covers the tuition (not room/board) at state universities in California and also provides close to $10,000 for recipients who attend a private college or university in California.
There is an additional requirement to qualify for Cal Grant money. Your taxable assets, as well as 529 college accounts, can’t exceed a certain level. The asset test doesn’t include retirement accounts.
If you are a California parent, it’s extremely important to understand this:
It used to be that if you didn’t qualify for a Cal Grant, it was highly unlikely that your child would receive any help to attend a public university in the state. The University of California and California State University systems reserves only a miniscule amount of money for students whose families don’t qualify for Cal Grants.
California state universities, unlike many public universities elsewhere in the country, believe that their institutional money should be earmarked for the students with the most need.
This summer, however, the California Legislature passed the Middle-Class Scholarship which will help tens of thousands of families. It will offer sliding-scale tuition discounts of up to 40% for families making up to $100,000. For those who earn $125,000 it’s 25%. The discount disappears for those making more than $150,000. (If the state experiences a budget deficit, funding for the scholarship can shrink by a third.)
Even with this new program, many California families will find that attending private and state schools elsewhere will cost no more than a public university in California.
Let’s go back to the mom, who was the focus of the last blog post: While the tuition for her child would be covered by the Cal Grant, the room/board would not. She should keep in mind that California state schools have some of the stiffest room/board charges in the country. The Middle-Class Scholarship will also not cover room/board or campus specific fees.
3. You don’t need an education degree to become a teacher.
You don’t need to major in education to be a teacher. In fact, education schools have been harshly criticized for decades about the poor quality of their programs. To become a teacher, what you need is any bachelor’s degree and then you can obtain a teacher credential. I wrote a post about the sad state of teacher education here:
As alternatives to traditional education-degree programs, there are some exciting things happening in this field with teacher residency programs that are springing up in cities across the country including Boston, San Francisco, Denver, New York City, Newark, Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Washington DC.
I’ve been doing research for my own son on these graduate residency programs and he will start applying to them in the fall. The graduates most in demand for these teacher programs are those with science or math degrees. (Ben is majoring in math.)
4. Pay attention to graduation rates.
The schools on the daughter’s tentative list have four-year graduation rates ranging from awful to unimpressive. Schools on her list included California State U. Long Beach (12.3%), Cal State Northridge (14.2%), San Diego State (30.4%), Sonoma State (31.2%) , University of California Riverside (45.5%) and University of La Verne (49.3%).
Most families only plan for their children to attend college for four years, but that usually doesn’t happen. This can add significant additional dollars to a budget that’s already constrained.
5. Look outside California.
I’d URGE this girl to throw a wider net and look for generous schools throughout the country. Unfortunately, there aren’t many schools with excellent financial aid in this state. There are a cluster of them among the extremely competitive Claremont schools, Stanford, Occidental and University of Southern California, but that’s it.
It frustrates me when I see bright students who could have a chance at excellent financial aid outside the state, who insists on staying in California. That can be an incredibly costly mistake.