I. INTRODUCTION I frequently meet people who refuse to believe that the American college generosity system even exists, or that its results can be as wonderful for middle and lower income families as they really are. So, I've come up with a way to use the lives of four living Americans, men whose backgrounds are well known, to make my point. In this page I will analyze the college costs and available financial aid for our last four presidents: Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. American presidents historically attend superb colleges, which was definitely true of these four presidents, and none of them attended the same schools. You might guess, as I did, that their years of graduation were spread around over a number of decades. But we would have all been wrong, since three of these four presidents graduated exactly fifty-one years ago, in the spring of 1968. However, we're not going to let their actual graduation dates bother us, because my point will concern the costs of their educations today. For example, I don't know - and you don't care - what Bill Clinton's college costs and aid were at Georgetown for the 1964/1965 academic year. But, by using Georgetown's Net Price Calculator, I can make a very accurate estimate of what his costs and aid would be at Georgetown this year. So, I'm going to make my point by having a little bit of fun with the clock. Specifically, I'm going to move the clock forward a lot of years and assume that each of these four former presidents just graduated from high school in June of 2019. Then, by using the Net Price Calculator programs at each of the schools where they ultimately graduated, and by making some fair assumptions concerning the incomes and assets of each of their families, I can make a very accurate prediction of their net costs and aid for their freshman years at the four colleges. My point here is to give middle and lower income American families hope. Because, by studying the example of these four former presidents, especially the two presidents who needed significant financial aid to complete their educations, they will learn the most significant lesson this website teaches: Hope is true, and despair is false. But, before I accomplish that worthy goal, I'm going to take time out for a good, solid, five-minute whine.
II. FOUR GRIPES This website is all about good news. It's all about helping the best dreams of your kids - and the best dreams you have for their educations - come true. But my efforts have run into problems with four American institutions, and I want to spend five minutes of your time whining about it. Then it's back to the good news. I promise. This site is now starting its seventh year. When I started, my goal was to help the best dreams of one kid and one family come true, and then to do it again. Well, this site is now used by thousands of American families every year, and that's really gratifying for me, but I had no idea in 2013 that its message would still be relevant today. My technique, you see, is based on making smart use of one freely-available online resource that everyone should already know about. That resource began to be available in 2008, it was fully available in 2011 when I started getting serious about my son's college search, and it still is. But that resource was unknown back then, it was unknown when I first published this site in 2013, and it's still unknown six years later. Even now in 2020, I have met only one parent or student who has heard the phrase "Net Price Calculator" before meeting me. Why? The reason is that four key American institutions have failed American parents and students. Effective use of net price calculator programs can easily reduce student and parent loans by about two-thirds, but... A. Our schools, and specifically our high school guidance counselors, have completely dropped the ball on this. NPCs required counselors to learn a new skill, to fit their thinking into a new paradigm, to learn that what they used to take for granted may be the opposite of what is true today. But wherever I travel in America, when I offer free NPC training sessions for local counselors, I never get either a call back or a response to my e-mails. Never. B. NPC's are good news, and reducing college loans by about two-thirds for our parents and students is really good news, but our media - whether mainstream or alternative - are not in the good news business. After trying hard for six full years, I haven't found one media outlet willing to carry this story. Not one. C. Colleges and universities - the less generous ones and even the most generous ones - are also to blame. The less generous ones try to hustle students and families into destructive, high loan, financial aid programs. And the most generous schools don't communicate the extent of their generosity to you, the people with the need to know. By the way, I think that's one reason why top schools were slammed in the recent revisions to our tax code. D. After passing the law requiring NPCs, which was a brilliant move, our politicians have also failed us. Of course, the last thing a politician wants to tell us is, "At absolutely no cost to you taxpayers, we really solved the problem of excessive college costs and loans eleven years ago - in the last year of the Bush presidency - but we kept it secret." Instead, politicians tell us the usual two-faced nonsense. As an example, Barack Obama was a smart kid from a low-income family, so he went to great schools for very little money. He did his first two years at Occidental for not much, and his last two years at Columbia almost for free, but he didn't tell us that. Instead, he wanted community colleges to be free for our kids. Occidental and Columbia for him, but community colleges for our kids. Thanks, Mr. President. Okay, enough of this whining from me. It's time for me to get back to work and give your kid a chance to be the President of the United States someday too.
III. BACKGROUND All of our last four presidents attended and graduated from top-quality American colleges and universities. Each of the schools where they graduated offers exclusively need-based aid, and no merit-based aid. This means that all four of these schools assume all their accepted applicants are equally "meritorious", and the amount of any financial aid they award is based solely on the financial need of the individual applicant's family. The families of two of these presidents, George W. Bush and Donald Trump, were wealthy. Neither had any financial need, so those two families "paid sticker" - meaning they paid the published cost - at those colleges for their sons' educations. But, the families of the other two former presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, were not wealthy at all. The Clinton and Obama families would both fall into my low income range - meaning they weren't destitute, but they definitely needed significant assistance for their sons to attend top-quality American colleges. And their colleges came through for them back then as you will see that they do for their students today.
IV. THE NUMBERS So, let's do the numbers. Remember that we moved the clock forward, and we are assuming that our four future presidents all graduated from high school in June of 2019. The table below shows what their families would pay today for the first year of their educations at the colleges where they ultimately graduated. As always, using our Apples-to-Apples system, the results look like a baseball scoreboard - with the name of the schools on the left, the bottomline amounts for Moms and Dads on the right, and the middle columns showing how we got there. Also, following our general rule, LOANS AREN'T AID!, no loans are shown as financial aid in the Total Grants column.
Interestingly, the "sticker prices" at the four schools - shown in the Total Costs column - are pretty similar, but the bottomline amounts for Moms and Dads in the Remaining Balance column are very different indeed. There's about $60,000 in net separation between the two wealthy families and the two lower income families, which is the result of more than $60,000 in Total Grants - net cash assistance with no loans - awarded each year to the two future presidents from lower income families. Georgetown and Columbia provide grants like these to all of their lower income students with the goal of making their educations affordable, and those schools are not unusual at all. In fact, among the 124 schools I analyzed this year, Columbia ranked 19th and Georgetown was 51st, proving that you don't have to be absolutely perfect to be really, really good. And here's that whole list:
IV. THE TAKEAWAY So, what's the takeaway? What can we learn from this that's worth telling others? What can we say to help the best dreams of kids from lower and middle income American families come true - today's kids who are just like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were back then? We can understand that the system of American college generosity is as alive today as it was when it began in 1638, and we can tell them - right out loud - that its fruits are within their reach right now.
Copyright 2020, Mark Warns, All Rights Reserved
Here again are a Word version of my Apple-to-Apples template for your own college cost comparisons along with a Word version of my blank data input pages that you can download for use by your own family: