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Why live in a dorm when you can live a castle?

Our twin sons recently took the PSAT exam. Translation: Commence the bombardment of solicitations from expensive private universities.

We live in a nice area and our sons go to a school with a very solid academic reputation. Our zip-code makes us a prime target for the college industrial complex.

According to Ron Lieber:  “Those well-off students are attractive — and schools target them intensely, using consulting firms to blanket higher-income ZIP codes with marketing material.”

We continuously receive e-mails from some of the less selective but very expensive schools.

“At less selective schools, where the list price may start out much lower than the $75,000 the most expensive schools charge per year, nearly everyone may get merit aid. The hope is that the more affluent families will feel great about a $20,000 discount while the school nets a student who is still paying more than most other attendees.”

Need-aware admissions play a major role in this strategy. Schools consider your ability to pay when calculating their formulas for accepting students. This is the opposite of need-blind admissions. Schools admit you whether or not you are applying for aid. Schools with the largest endowments tend to follow this policy.

Need-aware admissions create an interesting dilemma.

“Need-aware schools don’t have unlimited aid budgets and generally don’t want to overload families with debt. So they sometimes consider financial need when deciding whether to admit a student — even though they will often meet the full need of every admitted student. It’s like a twisted, real-world SAT logic problem: You can get help if you’re admitted, but you might not be admitted if you need help.”

The most profitable business model for many schools is to offer $10,000 in aid to five well-off families rather than $50,000 to one needy one. It feeds the ego of parents; “My kid received a $10,000 scholarship to fill in the blank” is a great line to one-up the neighbors.

The schools receive $40,000 a year from five wealthy families. Everybody wins, except for the qualified kid who truly needs aid to attend. Don’t let anyone tell you college isn’t a big business.

How do lesser tier, but still very expensive, schools attract clients?

Targeted marketing is extremely effective.

Take a look at what my son recently received.  My takeaway is in parentheses.

Did you know first-year students can live in our castle?

You’ll also have access to state-of-the-art (and Instagram-worthy) facilities, student centers, and residence halls. A few scenic spots you’ll hit while visiting Arcadia:

Grey Towers Castle: Our National Historic Landmark and Hogwarts doppelganger.

(Who knew castle living was the key to future success? If nothing else the GOT parties will be pretty epic.)

University Commons: For gamers, socializers, and french-fry enthusiasts.

(Why spend money on improving academics and providing career starting internships? Fortnite and french-fry selection in a state-of-the-art building provide more long-term value.)

Easton Cafe: Where coffee connoisseurs and nature lovers unite. 

(Mixing Club-Med with Animal House is brilliant marketing!)

Kuch Center: Home to Arcadia’s gym, pool, and indoor track. 

(I don’t know about you, but I never would have graduated without daily laps around the indoor track.)

Finally, my personal favorite:

Landman Library: The ultimate study/procrastination spot. 

(Visit our library to do no work! If this doesn’t attract the average eighteen-year-old, nothing will.)

Giving out scholarships for parental bragging rights and soliciting students by flaunting their desire to post their life on social media undermines the real purpose of higher education.

Learning to love learning is nowhere to be found in Hogwarts doppelgangers and gourmet french-fries.

If you’re shocked at the recent pay-for-play celebrity college scandal, you haven’t been paying attention.

Need-aware admission policies combined with castle-living and Instagram-worthy facilities are pretty disturbing in their own right.

Harry Potter simulations don’t come without steep financial costs.



Source: Another Admissions Advantage for the Affluent: Just Pay Full Price, by Ron Lieber, The New York Times