Archive for April, 2014

Your students want help managing expenses. Will you provide it?

April 15th, 2014

At Longmire and Company, we know a huge opportunity when we see one.

From our recent co-sponsored study on value, this was obvious: parents and students want help in managing ALL of the expenses associated with college. And any college that offers this assistance will definitely stand out from the pack in terms of its overall perceived value.

In the study, Your Value Proposition: How prospective students and parents perceive value and select colleges in the current economy, we asked students and parents if they would find an annual expense management service helpful.

Tablets-on-dollars_300x200More than 80 percent of the students and parents said they would find it appealing (47 percent said “very appealing”). They see it as a value added service that makes a college more attractive.

Now, for the opportunity – only 20% of students and parents said that colleges specifically addressed how they would maximize their time and investment as a student. Only 34% said they were highly confident they had accurately estimated the true and complete cost of their first year in college (including tuition, books, fees, living expenses, travel and all other associated expenses).

You might think you are already imparting cost information to your students. Surely, your applicants know what the “fixed” expenses are going to be for their education. They know what tuition, stated fees, housing and books will cost.

But we all know that there are many, many other expenses associated with the complete cost of college. Students and parents need help managing all of the unknowns, and here are just a few:

–          How much will food cost, if they live off campus, for example?

–          How much will extra food cost if the student lives on campus, for that matter?

–          What are some resources for buying books at a discount?

–          How will student trips to and from home (and the frequency of those trips) drive up costs?

–          If students regularly drop classes, how is that going to change their total expense picture?

–          How accurately are students estimating their light, gas and water bills if they live off campus?

–          What are some of the ways students can live more frugally?

Some colleges we are working with have decided in just the past couple of years to rise to this expense planning challenge and actually add staff to assist students and families. These staffers are available to expense checkups and are available for all kinds of questions. This has had huge impact on the perception of value for those institutions. It makes sense. Students and parents know that many colleges provide health centers to care for students when they get sick. Why wouldn’t they provide financial health centers to help them conserve the limited resource of their money.

Other colleges we work with know their students want this and believe it would be valuable, but they have hesitated because they don’t have the staff or even the physical space for another service. We believe that even with these obstacles, colleges can offer some expense planning help. A simple planning tool in the form of a spreadsheet sent to students and parents at initial enrollment and then annually is very helpful.

And without reinventing the wheel, there are many resources available to colleges from their communities, including local information on housing and utility costs. Many community food banks offer information on meal planning/budgeting and colleges could make this available as well.

However you might provide it, expense management information would be helpful, welcome and valuable to students, and it is definitely worth a look.