kitchen table math, the sequel: Google Master on the middle class & his niece

Monday, December 31, 2012

Google Master on the middle class & his niece

Catherine wrote: Then, when your child turns 17, you discover that virtually everyone you know with a child who is 18 is paying sticker price.

Google Master writes:
There might be a reason for that. You live in Irvington, where the median household income of about $105,000 puts you firmly in the upper quintile of all households. "Everyone you know" probably also lives in Irvington, or at least Westchester County, whose median income is somewhere between $80K and $100K, depending on the source you use. At a stretch, "everyone" is somewhere on the upper East Coast, which a map of household incomes shows has the highest incomes in the country.

... All of which is a long-winded way to say that you probably don't know the people who are receiving aid, but they're out there.

This reminds me of a discussion I was having with a fellow software engineer who probably grosses about $120K, and his wife, an SAP consultant, easily $200K. He was shocked when I told him his family was not middle class, but rather in the upper 2-5%.

When you live and work among five-percenters, sometimes you lose sight of the average family out there struggling to put a couple kids in college, feed the family, and pay the mortgage on $48K.

My brother does not have a four-year degree and has worked blue-collar jobs since he was 14. He lost his wife when their daughter, my niece, was in high school. That niece got a full ride her freshman year and tons of aid the remaining three years. She graduated a couple of years ago with honors in two departments.
Very good to hear! (And I love the story about the software engineer....I remember, years ago, reading that all Americans universally consider themselves to be "middle class." I hope it's true, because it's one of the things I cherish about this country.)

re: more people in Irvington paying full fare ---- I wonder --- ?

On the one hand, GM is right: many people here (by no means all) are better able to afford the sticker price.

On the other hand, many people here are also better able to afford high-end tutors, including SAT & ACT tutors.

Another factor: grade deflation in "star schools," which by my arithmetic a few years ago is occurring in my public high school (or was then).

C's impression, which I think is probably accurate, is that his peers who attended our public high school are far more likely to be paying sticker price than his peers at the Jesuit high school.

Why is that?

The Jesuit high school is not cheap, and parents there are not poor. I was shocked one back to school night when I realized just how expensive many of the family cars were. Parents at the school don't "act rich" and don't "dress rich" (at least as I define these things, which may be naive or just wrong, I realize) -- so I was brought up short when I realized that we had not actually moved our child to a "middle class" school.

Nevertheless, a large number of those students, it appears, are now attending college and receiving a discount to do so.

I'm going to ask C. how many of those students are receiving merit aid from Catholic colleges.

One more thing: I'm thinking that SUNY may have kept prices down better than a lot of other states, which might explain why SUNY isn't offering a lot of merit aid (although as I think of it, I believe I spoke to a parent whose daughter was given significant merit aid to attend Binghamton a few years ago... )

No one in my circles has been given merit aid to attend a SUNY school, and C was not offered merit aid to attend Binghamton, either.

I had the impression that one of the SUNYs was recruiting him pretty actively -- was it Geneseo? -- but no mention was made of merit aid.

Not a large sample size, I realize!


Crimson Wife said...

Public colleges here in CA don't offer a lot of merit aid because of political pressure to slant the financial aid that is given towards students from lower-income families (especially those who are 1st generation to attend college). There are some merit scholarships sponsored by the alumni association, but those are funded exclusively through private donations rather than the taxpayers.

SUNY may have similar political pressures to favor need-based financial aid over merit aid.

Grace said...

SUNY Geneseo is ranked first for out-of-state students and ninth for in-state students in Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine's 2013 list of best values among the nation's public four-year colleges. The rankings recognize four-year schools that combine outstanding education with economic value.

Debbie Stier said...

It is my impression that kids from the public school in Irvington are paying sticker price.

I couldn't help but think that when the high school principal sent out that newsletter (I think Jan. 2011) saying that we shouldn't worry about standardized tests and that more and more schools were going test optional, which is of course true.

What he didn't mention is that the vast majority of those "test optional" schools still require standardized test scores for "merit aid."

Catherine Johnson said...

Grace- thank you!

Yes, I was going to get to that -- and I'm glad Grace has the data.

When we went on the SUNY tours, we were told at all three SUNYs I think (Stony Brook, Binghamton, & Geneseo) that the SUNYs are basically a fantastic deal (and I think they also said that the SUNYs are an especially fantastic deal for out-of-staters).

My ***guess*** -- only a guess -- about the SUNYs and merit aid is that they've managed to keep tuition low enough, comparatively speaking, that they can resist whatever pressures exist for giving merit aid.

Catherine Johnson said...


The memories come pouring back......

oh my gosh

that used to make me crazy

'don't worry about SATs'

'all the schools are going to be SAT-optional'

we heard that constantly

I can't remember whether I posted the op ed they used to send out from some kid who got into Stanford and every other elite school under the sun, saying parents shouldn't think about SATs & students should catch butterflies or something

I heard a LOT of very rumbly grumbling from my pals on that one.


That was a big one.

cranberry said...

If a student wants merit aid, it's my impression that he should stand out in the field in some way, or add to the school's mission or diversity. A Catholic college would have a vested interest in maintaining a Catholic student body. Catholic kids from the Northeast could add to geographic diversity.

How many of your full-pay friends considered colleges outside of the Northeast? Further south than Pennsylvania? I have friends who ruled out the South from the start. Southern colleges give out much more aid than colleges in the Northeast.

Full tuition to Princeton may be a better long-term deal than discounted tuition to UMass.