Cost a factor when seniors pick schools

Grand Junction High School senior Carson Laudadio looks at college pamphlets outside the counselor’s office at the high school.

Grand Junction High School senior Carson Laudadio is waiting for a letter to tell him where he’ll go to college in the fall.

That weighty piece of mail is a financial-aid award package from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Laudadio already knows what scholarships, grants and loans he would get at New Mexico Tech in Socorro, N.M. The school with the better deal will get Laudadio, 18, and his tuition dollars this August.

With state and federal support for higher education declining, colleges and universities across the nation are pondering tuition increases to make up the difference. Meanwhile, students such as Laudadio feel the effects of a down economy and aren’t willing to pay higher prices to attend their dream school. For them, saving money is the dream.

It can take 20 or 30 scholarship applications to earn two or three scholarships, Fruita Monument High School Counselor Bob Corneille said. Some students weren’t willing to put in the time and decided they’d rather work a part-time job during college. But with jobs in short supply, that has changed, he said.

“Kids are definitely looking at the scholarship thing a little more seriously,” Corneille said.

Corneille said he first noticed an influx in students and parents asking about financial aid last school year after local unemployment rates began to climb in 2009. Corneille said many students start their senior year with notions of attending an out-of-state school. But more and more, those plans tend to fizzle when they realize what out-of-state tuition costs.

“A lot of kids that would have gone out of state or even to a Front Range school are going to Mesa State because that’s where they have the funds to go, and they don’t have to pay room and board,” Corneille said.

An index based on incoming freshmen’s ACT scores, class ranks and grade-point averages has increased each year since 2005 at Mesa State, according to college President Tim Foster. He believes that indicates students who could get into more expensive schools are increasingly choosing Mesa State over the University of Colorado and Colorado State University, in part because Mesa State offers lower tuition and doled out $50.2 million in federal, state and institutional financial aid this year.

“We play sports with Fort Lewis and Western, but we compete for students with the University of Colorado, Colorado State University and the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs,” Foster said.

Staying home “was never an option” for Grand Junction High School senior Haleigh Jacobson, 17. She picked CU-Boulder for its political science program. She’s in the running for a Pepsi scholarship, but winning or losing it won’t change her plans. Jacobson’s parents are paying for her undergraduate studies, and she plans to pay for law school.

Laudadio said he doesn’t have that security. With his father seeing less income as a real estate agent, Laudadio said the prospect of tuition increases during the next four years “definitely concerns me,” and he wants to minimize that concern with a hefty financial-aid package.

“I don’t see my parents’ income increasing anytime soon, and I don’t see myself working enough in college to afford extra, so it could hurt my chances of graduating,” Laudadio said.

Finding information about financial help isn’t difficult, Corneille said. All public Colorado schools and some private ones consistently send financial-aid and scholarship information to local high schools, he said.

“They’re all competing for state dollars. They all want to say their enrollment is going up and they need more dollars,” Corneille said.


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