IUP's Cook Honors College Benefits from Record Surge in Late Applications During the Perfect Economic Storm

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The impact of the financial crisis on families and college endowments has led many college-bound students to look at options at state colleges like the Robert E. Cook Honors College at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

said Berezansky, who said the economic downturn will continue to force students to consider more affordable options.

Shrinking endowments at private schools and top universities have left the class of 2013 scrambling for admission to schools such as Indiana University of Pennsylvania's Robert E. Cook Honors College where administrators are seeing a record surge in late applications.

Families are facing the perfect financial storm: shrinking value of their savings, loss of equity in their homes, increases in tuition, threat of layoffs or job loss, and fewer opportunities to borrow for college. In the past merit scholarships were able to bridge the gap between family contribution and the cost of tuition, but that is not the case this year.

Schools previously known to offer large merit awards to students who are at the top of their class with superior standardized test scores have been offering slimmer packages. "They aren't anywhere close to an offer large enough to make attendance an affordable option," said IUP Cook Honors College Assistant Director Kevin Berezansky,

We expected more late applicants, trusting that families would be calling in April and May," said Berezansky, who said the economic downturn will continue to force students to consider more affordable options. "What we didn't expect was this flood of late application interest from families of students who are only now looking into state schools with honors colleges."

The IUP Cook Honors College is truly a public "Ivy", with students earning a large number of national fellowships, as one measure of the quality of the education provided to academically superior students. The CHC accepts 100 incoming freshmen annually. There are only 15 seats open now, and the late applications are twice that received by this time last year. Berezansky attributes that to the class of 2013 who counted on merit-award based scholarships to offset the astronomical costs of prestigious private schools.

This trend is impacting schools across the nation, according to Don Asher, one of the nation's foremost experts on colleges and careers. Asher is a national career consultant, business writer and the author of Cool Colleges for the Hyper-Intelligent, Self-Directed, Late Blooming, and Just Plain Different.

"Elite schools have been quietly dropping their need-blind admission policies," said Asher, "They are dropping qualified students who can't afford to pay in favor of helping less qualified students who can afford to pay."

David and Renee Alshouse decided to research other schools when they learned none of the presidential scholarships awarded to their daughter, Lauren, a high school senior from Lancaster, PA were in the price range as awards in previous years.

"She applied to five schools in the Philadelphia area and in Washington, D.C.," David Alshouse said. "Every private school is in the $30,000 to $34,000 plus range. Every scholarship was significantly less than we expected. One was $15,000 less than it had been for another presidential scholar we knew who got it three years before. Over four years, that is a significant difference. So we have to ask if it is a good financial decision to take on that debt."

The Cook Honors College is an attractive choice for students since many of the nation's best schools have significantly higher tuition rates. IUP, like all of Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities, charges in-state residents $5,358 tuition for undergraduate classes. Out of state students who graduate with at least B average from high school pay a reduced tuition of $8,038 annually to attend IUP.

"You have to look at the quality of education at state universities with special programs, such as, IUP's Cook Honors College." Asher said. "A lot of late applicants are going to be families that have had conversations about not being able to afford the $200,000 tuition. The students are looking for affordable options, and they are still looking for that private school education. IUP's Honors College is a tremendous opportunity for them. Even in a good economic year, it is a great option."

Lauren Alshouse, who wants to major in languages and international studies, discovered IUP while researching Pennsylvania state universities. IUP has the degree programs she wants and the Cook Honors College is an affordable option for her family.

"You have to consider the state university," said David Alshouse, who visited IUP with his wife and daughter. "We had no idea of what to expect coming out to IUP. What we found was that she could get a great education at IUP. Our daughter can go to IUP for four years for what it will cost to go one year at those other schools."

Together, they decided IUP was a good choice. She submitted her application two weeks ago knowing the odds of being one of the final students selected.

Like the Alshouse family, many others are facing these same issues. "Otherwise affluent families who had reserved some money for college were caught in a bad situation if they planned on merit awards to make up the difference," Berezansky said. "I have had several conversations with parents and students who were very disappointed by the offers from other prestigious schools forcing them to seek a more affordable but quality late option such as the Robert E. Cook Honors College."

Late applicants can still pursue enrollment at IUP and the Cook Honors College. "Because the economic forces at play here are putting these families in a late scramble to find a suitable college option, I find great pleasure in telling them about our late application process," Berezansky said. "We will continue to accept and review applications throughout the months of
April and May."

The Robert E. Cook Honors College at Indiana University of Pennsylvania provides primarily blue-collar scholars with the best features of a private liberal arts college and a mid-size state university. Graduates compete well vs. grads of top-ranked schools in admission to graduate schools and competing for prestigious fellowships such as the Rhodes, Marshall, Fulbright, Truman, Gates-Cambridge, Udall, Goldwater and NSF.

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