Top Students Being Lured To Local Colleges

Compiled By Yaffa Klugerman
November 30, 2009

Some of the brightest students are being drawn to colleges close to home because of generous scholarship offers.

The Press of Atlantic City reports that according to the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education, the 10 residential public colleges in New Jersey provided $110 million in scholarships and grants in 2007-8. But officials believe that the money is well-spent.

"If they can recruit better students, they can move up a couple of spots in the U.S. News rankings," explained Andrew Gillen, research director at the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, who was quoted by the Press. "They can raise tuition $200, and give more scholarships."

Lisa Angeloni, dean of admissions at the College of New Jersey in Trenton, agreed. "We are trying to keep the best and brightest in New Jersey," she told the Press. "And to attract them we have to support them with money."

The Washington Post reports on a similar trend at community colleges, where more students are being accepted into honors' programs. Although many of these students often have their choice of enrolling at more prestigious private universities, they instead are choosing the significantly less expensive community college option and later transferring to four-year institutions.

"We've sometimes struggled to get sufficient enrollment in the honors seminars," said Beverly Blois, dean of humanities at Northern Virginia Community College in Loudoun, who was quoted by the Post. "Well, recently, we've been packing them. More and more of what I call the best and the brightest are turning to us."

The Post interviewed Kira Cassels, who was accepted at 11 colleges but chose to enroll at Howard Community College in Maryland because she and her family were not comfortable paying $20,000 to $30,000 in tuition, fees, room and board every year. At Howard, she can complete two years of her education for about $8,000.

It's not that private colleges are not offering generous scholarships. Many are, in fact, providing more financial aid than ever before to lure as many students as possible. But many students are realizing that even if they qualify for significant scholarships from private colleges, local and community colleges are still often the least expensive option.

The Press notes, for example, that Tyler Davenport, who was the valedictorian in his 2009 high school, received scholarship offers from many institutions. But in the end he decided on Rutgers University, which offered a $21,000 award--less than some other colleges offered him, but the least expensive institution to attend overall.

Davenport told the Press that the offer of free tuition, fees, room and board, and academic research opportunities was the most generous yet. "No one was even close," he said.

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