212.755.6666
220 East 50th Street
New York, NY 10022

 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn YouTube Google Plus  Blog

Cheaper and Easier Isn't the Best Plan When Preparing for College

Authored By: 
George Higgins, Headmaster

Just as in almost every other field, there is competition among schools.  While we like to take the lofty attitude that we are above that, the reality is that with a limited population and many seats to fill, all schools need to be sensitive to attracting potential new members to their student body.  To do that, a multitude of devices are employed such as attractive tuition fees and weakened curricula--often at the expense of quality of education when the goal is a solid college preparatory program.

Certainly, most of us have learned that the most expensive isn’t always the best either; so looking at cost shouldn’t be the sole factor when looking for a school.  But since raising kids in New York City is so pricey, understandably, most parents do need to consider costs when making educational decisions.  Financial aid may help, although resources can be limited and many parents aren’t getting as much as they would have liked.  If you have a student with specific needs, your options may even be more limited.  Regardless, parents should be mindful that often the money saved in tuition costs comes at a price.

Making Informed and Forward-Looking Choices

How do parents know if the education that they selected for their child is the best?  I’ve met with thousands of families during my decades at our school and in my experience, helping to guide parents toward an informed, well thought-out decision that takes into account a number of factors is always the best way to go.

Even though I’m the head of a school, I sometimes advise families to forget about earning a high school diploma, prepare for the TASC (the new name for the GED) and focus on a fresh start at one of the local, non-competitive colleges for the first year so the student can acclimate to the rigors of higher education.  That may not be the best business decision, but that’s how I run the school.  Hopefully, other professionals in my field feel the same way and always put the best interests of the student above financial decisions.

The Importance of a Challenging Curriculum: A program that is less academically challenging may appeal more to a less-motivated student, but as a parent you need to look at the bigger picture to see if it will ultimately be the most beneficial if your child wants to succeed in college.  In a recent blog post, our college guidance counselor said: “In my 34 years as a school counselor, I’ve come to the conclusion that successful college students are those who’ve challenged themselves academically throughout high school.”

Speak to parents and students who have taken courses at that school.  Was it easier than the coursework at a previous school?  If so, you’re setting your child up for a big shock when you get to the college classroom.  What’s the point of just getting through high school if you’re not prepared to continue your education?

The Hidden Disadvantages of a Lower Tuition:  A lower tuition might seem appealing, but it may be possible because the school is paying its staff a lot less.  If so, employees will work only until something better comes along.  If a teacher doesn’t feel valued, then he/she isn’t going to be as committed to the school, the classroom, or the student.  Ask the school’s administration how long their teachers have been working at that school.  High teacher turnover doesn’t reflect well on a program.

I know the frustration families feel when there’s a snag getting through high school, but setting up a way to make it easy to finish isn’t going to make it easy to get on with the rest of life.  Learning course content along with the disciplines necessary to the educational process is fundamental for the student to be prepared to build on his/her high school platform.  The college prep programs that you select should be flexible and individualized enough to support the specific needs of your child, while making sure that he/she graduates with the tools necessary to succeed in college.

Parents need to consider the long-term goals of their child and make a calculated decision as to which school is most likely going to be the most beneficial to that student in the future, and not be shortsighted and focus solely on the objective of finishing high school.  Remember, the cheaper, easier plan isn’t going to be your best option if you really want your child to be prepared for college.