Choosing a college has become more difficult for families. College may be the most expensive purchase many families will make, especially if they raise more than one child. That’s why choosing a college is like buying a house, even now, when so many schools will be educating their students online. Here are few reasons why this is true.
Much like home builders, college admissions offices are very aggressive marketers. They will try first to get you to come through the door, then actively contact you after you make your first visit, hoping that you will complete an application and return to consider them again.
Whenever you buy a house you look at the community where you will live. You might consider costs. More important, you consider first impressions. Your family thinks about how neat and tidy a neighborhood might be, how safe it is, and how friendly people are when you approach them. Serious buyers will usually find that there is one place that is nicer than all of the others. They will try to see if that place is affordable before considering another place.
Families borrow over long periods of time to pay for college or a home, and sometimes the terms to postpone or refinance that debt can be quite complicated. Failure to pay can destroy your family’s credit worthiness for a long time. Homes and college educations can also be financed through Federally sponsored programs
Homes that are located in a community that has a top-performing school district typically carry a higher value than those that have no few or no public schools or those that have average-to-poor performing ones. Colleges that are reputed to graduate the greatest share of their students on time tend to be among the most selective and most expensive schools in the country. The value of their degree carries far into the future as graduates seek opportunities for economic advancement.
Some colleges, like some residential neighborhoods, are noted for their diversity, while others have proven to be places where people want to live with others who share the same religious beliefs and social values. There are college students who want to be exposed to new people, ideas and cultures, and there are some who want to live within their comfort zone. Choices are abundant.
If you buy a house and things turn out badly you can sell it, but you have costs. If the house has lost value, you may owe more than it is worth. If the house needs repairs or upgrades to be sold, you may need to reduce your asking price or cover the costs of the work at your expense. In addition, you have to pay commission to the real estate agent(s) who represent you as well as the seller, and you have closing costs and moving expenses to cover on the next house. If you choose the wrong college you have to go through the costs of the search again and you might not get credit for the courses you took before you transferred out. This means that it will take longer to graduate, which means more tuition as well as lost income.
When you buy a house you have the “fun stuff,” looking at the house and imagining how you’ll furnish it. Then you have the part that’s not so fun, reading through the mortgage documents and writing checks for the privilege of taking on the mortgage. Student loans have carried “origination fees” since 1982; these are fees that the lender takes for the privilege of allowing them to process your loan. They also have rules which you must agree to follow. Not to mention that the Federal Government does an excellent job at collecting your late payments when it has to.
We know there are more answers to this question about how choosing a college is like buying a house. Feel free to chime in.
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