Handwriting on the Wall

For the past couple of weeks I have directed my subject matter to high school and college students who need to address their plan for the up-coming summer.  However, parents need to take note as well.  The value of creating a plan now provides increased opportunity for desired experiences, but it also provides increased opportunity for valuable profile or resume’ material.  Additionally, with applications to universities increasing, building value in you is a great way to separate yourself from the rest of the pack.

Whether you are a high school student applying to universities or a college student applying for a job, there is a common factor for both.  Universities, like employers, are looking for the “right fit” individual.  While you don’t come with a guarantee, they want to have some sense that you are a good investment for them.  So they are looking for people who stand out from the others in some way.  And as resources for universities are cut through state budgets or private foundations due to the current economy, the cost of college will increase.  The handwriting has been on the wall for years and the trend will continue.

In January of 2009, the Wall Street Journal ran an article, “States Weigh Cuts to Merit Scholarships.”  The article addresses the state programs that provide scholarships to students based on GPA, test scores and class rank.  But the trend over 5 years was indicating a tightening of criteria due to budget shortfalls.  Some states were even considering eliminating state funded scholarships.

Then in July 2010, the National Conference of State Legislatures reported the gaps, caps and enacted budget efforts to move toward balanced budgets.  In doing so, K-12, undergraduate and graduate programs experienced serious financial cuts and program impact.  The outcome was increased tuition and decreased scholarship opportunities.

Most recently, the Sun-Sentinel posted an article, “Bright Futures Scholarship Program Faces $100M Funding Cut.” While most of the article addresses the criteria of eligibility being debated as well as the number of students being affected, there is an alarming statistic regarding the increase of tuition.  In 2009, Legislature authorized Florida state universities to increase tuition 15% per year until they reached the national norm.   State by state you can Google search for your state name followed by the words, “cuts to higher education budget” and the story will be repeated.  In an effort to balance budgets, states are continuing to cut funding to education and universities are included in the casualties.

The costs to be educated will continue to escalate.  The trend is clear.  So while part of the plan has to be about your financial plan to pay for college, part of the plan has to be how you create the best possible you as that individual that is separate and unique from the rest of the pack.  That individual is created through class performance, athletic performance, and community service and leadership opportunities.  It takes time to accumulate those experiences and it takes commitment.  Planning helps to make it happen.  The debate over scholarship criteria will continue and will change.  As will the entrance criteria at universities.  Your efforts to create a “Complete Student Package” must remain constant.  The handwriting is on the wall.