Students encounter influx of college options

Students encounter influx of college options

Brittany Cornelison

Art by Paige Martin

The decision to go to college in-state or travel away always poses a dilemma  to seniors. The University of Missouri-Columbia is the No. 1 choice in college for Missouri high school graduates, and one-third of these college-bound seniors choose to attend the University, according to missouri.edu. However, many seniors argue that going to MU could require students to sacrifice the benefits that other colleges may have to offer them.

Senior Maggie Washer faces such complications. She said it is important to think about where the money will come from in advance. Washer’s father works for the University of Missouri and she will receive a 50 percent discount on tuition in addition to various scholarships she has already applied for. If Washer chooses to go out-of-state, her parents will fund her up to the amount that her tuition would be at MU.

“I have four younger siblings so [my parents] are going to have to fork out some money for all of us. It’s expensive, and it would just be easier if we all just went to Mizzou,” Washer said. “They’ve been pretty encouraging for me to apply [to] other places and sort of get a sense of what I want, but they’ve also stressed the financial aspect and making good decisions.”

The choices made about money for college are some of the most crucial ones, Rock Bridge High School senior counselor Jane Piester said. She aids students in their college selection process on a daily basis. Because this is one of the biggest decisions to be made by teenagers, Piester said RBHS is doing everything they can to prepare them for their futures.

“I think there are some students that are thinking about the cost and I think there are other students who really don’t think about it that much,” Piester said. “I do think that the personal finance class has really helped students be more aware of debt and how that’s going to affect them once they get out of school, too.”

Guidance counselors aren’t the only people looking to help students in choosing a college. Extended Educational Experience teacher Marilyn Toalson said the EEE department is doing all they can to give students an idea of what college they would be most compatible with. About 180 seniors from RBHS will go to Mizzou, Toalson said, which makes scheduling college visits and meetings with counselors even more important.

“Kids are having to make real economic decisions so … we need to give them information, so if it’s right for them, they’ll know it and they’re not just going to Mizzou because they think they have to,” Toalson said. “I don’t think we have any more emphasis on ‘You should go to Mizzou.’ We just want you to be prepared with more information.”

The rate of in-state applications may be attributed to the difference in the price of tuition for in-state applicants versus the price for non-residents.

At MU, the price of tuition for a resident is $269.40 per credit, but for out-of-state applicants $470.30 is added to the in-state tuition price. Even though MU may be a more financially secure place for Missouri students, many seniors choose to go away just to get the feel for a new town.

“I just feel like I’ve already done the Mizzou thing, like I’ve gone to the sporting events, and I’ve been to all the restaurants so I already know the scene and I sort of want to do something else for my college experience,” Washer said. “I feel like I’ve put in the work to get the grades and get the scores that I could go somewhere else.”

Being able to talk about their college experience doesn’t mean students have to move away, Lauren Breen, Boone County’s admissions representative, said. She explains that having a well-rounded college experience is dependent on the attitude of the students.

“As far as making it an “out-of-state” experience, I think students find campus becomes its own community and doesn’t feel like the same town they grew up in,” Breen said in an email interview. “When you have over 30,000 students on campus, you see different faces every day and find there opportunities to participate in new activities and experiences.”

But not all students are looking at college as a way to escape their hometown. Senior Dalton Maggard said even though he’s lived in Columbia for a while, he wouldn’t mind staying a little longer.

“I’m not opposed to MU at all, I think it would offer a lot. A lot of people just want to get out of the state and that’s their reason for leaving, but I don’t think that’s the reason at all [for me],” Maggard said. “I’ve grown up in Columbia and lived here almost all my life so it would be a big jump going from living here and going through school here to leaving … and I think both my parents don’t want me to leave quickly and get out. They want me to stay in Columbia.”

Since this decision is so daunting to many seniors, guidance counselors try to make it easier for them by providing them options. Piester said she wants to help guide students in the right direction, but doesn’t want to limit their opportunities.

“I’m really careful just to kind of listen and provide just general information. I wouldn’t really encourage a student one way or another,” Piester said. “I encourage them to do their research, I encourage them to do college visits, whether they’re in-state or out-of-state and just try and find the school that’s the best fit for them.”

There are many pressures when it comes to choosing the right college. Whether it’s money, location or parents that pushes students toward one school over another, it’s important that the students have a say.

“I think just the names of the universities, being how popular they are and how talked about they are among students and teachers, kind of pressures kids to go to them,” Maggard said. “Because my dad works at the University I’ve really taken into consideration what he’s said and I really appreciate it a lot. I feel like I can trust his advice.”
Though Mizzou has its credentials, it’s important for students to make educated decisions. Grades and GPA are often stressed in the high school environment, but the financial aspect is an overarching deciding factor.
“MU is a good school; it has a lot to offer and since I don’t really know what I want to do, going to a big school that has a lot of options would be nice,” Washer said. “I mean it also boils down to the money; at the end of the day that’s the biggest deal.”
By Brittany Cornelison
Where are you headed to college? What is your deciding factor?