Last week I had a phone interview with a writer at Goodcall.com, a scholarship and university guidance website regarding discounted/Free tuition universities and colleges.

Good Call: What do you call yourself?

Dr. G: Well right now I'm a trainer of college counselors. Although I'm a guidance counselor along with the other jobs I've done before. My current job is working in China in one of the provinces training Chinese counselors to do university counseling, high school counseling and that type of work.

GoodCall: Wow.

Dr. G: Yeah it's a fun job.

GoodCall: Okay. How much experience do you have counseling that kind of thing?

Dr. G: I've been in international college counseling since 2008.

GoodCall: What is your doctorate in?

Dr. G: It's an educational doctorate in counseling psychology. My dissertation was not related to university counseling but comparing Japan and America, mate selection techniques, how we chose our partners and so on. With the counseling psychology doctorate, training counselors is one of the roles most people go into, if not university teaching or counseling supervision.

GoodCall: So your degree is in counseling psychology. For goodcall.com, I saw a brief list of free tuition colleges on Fox News and then I saw this study by the National Association of College and University Business Officers and they are saying that tuition discounts are reaching an all time high. So I wanted to get the perspective of people who are familiar with this issue. Obviously free tuition is great, but what are the caveats around that? It seems to me that the tuition discount is only for the freshman year and then it goes back up. So what would you say to students who are considering both of these options?

Dr. G: In general the schools that have been offering free tuition or very reduced tuition usually do it with the caveat that there is going to be some kind of pay back service to the school or in the philanthropy that's done. So maybe a list of Christian universities have a service component to come in for free or very reduced tuition, although the tuition part is severely reduced or free, you're usually giving back in a way that the campus itself is saving money on labor. For instance, at Deep Springs College in rural California there is a ranch and there are only 25 to 30 kids, all men. They are all working on the ranch and they are doing all the house chores and doing all the janitorial work and that's an extreme example. Others are using them for janitorial work up to service learning or working over the summer committing to working 80 hours a week and you that at US News and World Report, a deeper list of schools that are offering discounted or free tuition.

Although that part is free you still have to pay for your room and board or other academic and administrative fees. That has been established and going on for many years at those specific universities. Then there's what's coming up more often in the news how the president has the policy to make community colleges specifically free, or at least two years of college. So the attention is being put on to community colleges in America. The way that that works to my understanding is that you'll be able to go to your first two years of college and hopefully get an associate’s degree and the government within that state will support the learning. Or through federal aid you'll be granted money so that you won’t have to pay back for those first two years with the intent that you'll hopefully go on to a bachelors degree at a four year college or if your two year college is also a four year college you can have that taken care of.

That runs into issues or could run into issues depending on where you're living if you're a high school senior and you're looking to where you might apply. If your state is not doing so well financially, there is a very good chance they are going to have a have a hard time sustaining two years of not paying for your college if you go to a community college and your family can’t help put either, because of the way the budget situation is now. Some states are very close to being bankrupt or barely breaking even year by year and the way that college admissions in general has being going they are trying to admit more and more freshmen at every school. Most schools are having larger freshmen classes because they need more payers to come to their school even if they are offering a certain amount of financial aid to those that need it.

GoodCall: Right, so in other words it's subject to the whims of the state budget possibly.

Dr. G: Potentially yes. Unless the federal government is going to somehow kick in the difference for each of the states or do an ear mark policy that will give you this much money if you're going to support these schools as long as we know that this money is going to go to the first two years of community colleges.

GoodCall: Okay. So it's like seniors listening to the government shut down and possibly endangering their social security payments and that sort of thing.

Dr. G: Yeah, that's one way to look at it, if the federal government needs to shut down for a bit what happens to those federal funds? If it happens in December what happens to that money that's supposed to start for the next semester of community college in January?

GoodCall: That's the uncertainties of government budgeting and that's a good point. What about the tuition discounts, is it worth it? I mean it looks like you get your freshman year discounted but then you go back up to the prevailing rate for the 3 other years, what about that?

Dr. G: Well, depending on if we're talking about a family that could afford 4 years of university at about $25,000 to $35,000 a year in state or if it's a private college or out of states somewhere where the tuition is going to be between $40,000 and $60,000 a year. They are deciding, maybe we could pay this but rather not pay that much money if we can get some type of aid even for just one year and we're going to look at those schools that are offering those programs. Those families that are looking at the universities with the potential to pay but are hoping to not have to are usually the same families that are concerned about ranking and what their degrees will be worth after university time is over. That's going to be hopefully in four years or less or maybe five or six years as the trend is going nowadays. 

Families are thinking about a one year tuition discount which on the surface is a brand new car or potential down payment on a house, but you're looking at a an expensive school, that's a lot of money to be saved if you're also looking at schools on the list that you've seen that typically offer discounts. Those aren't necessary the same schools that people are putting as their dream school they wanted to attend or they're not as well known. Some of the ones that are offering a year discount or free tuition often have strange policies about local admissions only or denominational learning. So for families that are looking at a specific discount, those tend to be the families that aren't also looking at the schools where money is a necessity. If you are a family that has an economic need, then that need is more important than potentially paying out of pocket with student loans and having to pay those back afterwards. If that's not a possibility then any discount is a great discount in any school that's offering free tuition and quality education in the majors that students want to go into. That should probably be looked at.

The same way students are taking AP classes or if they are in an international Baccalaureate program or if they are taking international A levels. Those are also discounts on tuition if they go to a school that gives them credit at the level that they scored at. If you have an AP test and you get three where I went, Florida State University they offer at the level of three out of five on a AP test. You get semesters off that English or that history or that biology so you can come in with your credits ahead of time. That's essentially tuition discount, and that's how any family whether they need tuition discounts or not should be looking at where they choose their university. What is that university is going to be giving me to help me graduate as a student earlier or to pursue more experiences while I'm there? And by getting those credits that's a way that the school can advertise to the student that it's worthwhile to come there because you can do more with your money and not just with a tuition discount.

GoodCall: Okay like credits for AP scores of three or higher, that kind of thing.

Dr. G: Exactly if we're talking about sophomores in high school and I had a chance to speak to the parents, I would highly recommend them taking any possible advanced courses within the students' potential to actually do well on these courses. If the AP’s were available any college would prefer to have the college level course instead of the high school standard level course. But if the family is concerned about financial need coming up in the next few years as their students move through high school or even from junior year to senior year and there are some opportunities to take those AP tests that would be a way for them to find that discount. You're going to pay a hundred or so dollars for the test in senior year for each of those tests instead of paying three or five thousand dollars for each course at the college level.

GoodCall: That seems to be a good trade off.

Dr. G: That would be a great trade off and a lot of families they may just think we're going to have the AP courses and we're going to apply to say a school like Harvard or just a really rigorous school that is really difficult to get in, those schools will give you credit but they don't give the credit of giving you a tuition discount because they expect all of their students to be doing the AP classes at a five level. You won’t be able to go there if you don't take those AP’s. If you went to those well regarded state schools you have the opportunity to go to with your APs or other advanced type courses you're taking. You're going to get a year off in tuition anyway because they are welcoming those students because they know you have the quality of education and you'll be able to perform and not drop out. Now universities are looking for students that are going to remain at school for the four years or more while they are looking at their high school senior transcripts.

GoodCall: Okay, so when you talk to kids or training your counselors earlier in your career about college funding, I guess the free tuition/tuition discounts have come up. So you say to them it’s worth investigating. You mentioned US News and World Report are there other places that student can go to investigate other tuition discounts or free tuition and what that involves?

Dr. G: I would actually recommend a student not go to US News & World Report because their whole business model is based on the rankings. As an international counselor and just a college counselor in general I would really dissuade a family from using rankings from their number one priority of why they should go to a university or not. But that doesn't mean you can go read an article, it depends on what else you're going to see while you're there. You can go to 2plus2.org a great site for community colleges.GoodCall: I got the gist; don't use the rankings as the reason to choose a school and the sites 2plus2.org and another one...

Dr. G: Yeah 2plus2.org, unigo, that's a site that is so full of college information there is no doubt that there are places to find discounted tuition schools and information about them. If you haven't checked out Ivory Tower the CNN documentary it was really informative about how colleges have to compete and where their money goes, it might help you in your article writing.

GoodCall: That's great I'll see if I can get it on Netflix

Dr. G: I don't think it’s on Netflix yet but maybe you can find a free copy somewhere.

GoodCall: It's okay, I really appreciate your thoughts. To me, this looks like it's a good deal for some students like the free tuition but you have to be looking at the specialized field and will it suit your career goals and education goals too.

Dr. G: Exactly, if you need the money then you need to spend the time looking at schools that might offer it to you or at least allow you to come without spending your own. I'll give you another link real quick, it is a policy site, its called freecollegenow.org. They are listing press about the different schools that are offering these things, how to find schools, what type of scholarships exist, loan reform, etc. Check out that site as well, it seems to be pretty informative.

GoodCall; Alright this has been great I really appreciate your comments and I will be wrapping some of them into the article when I get it finished.

Dr. G: Great! Thank you for choosing me.

GoodCall: Thank you.

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Author of I’m Sorry, You are Not a Pick-Up Artist

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