Getting college education has its challenges

Private schools becoming more affordable option, counselor says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Although many local high school seniors have already settled on colleges, the journey to be accepted and paying for a higher education is not always an easy one. “It’s harder to get in,” said Placer High senior Riley Stoltenburg, 17. “It’s way harder.” There are 311 students in Placer High’s graduating senior class this year, and counselor Neil Polaske has worked with about one-third to prepare them for college. Polaske said high school seniors are facing several challenges in terms of getting into school. “Because of the cutbacks, and primarily I’m talking about the public institutions … they have just cut down the number of seats available for students, which has made it more competitive. Even at Sierra College they are cutting back about 30 percent of their offerings in summer school.” Polaske said Sierra College has cut 9 percent of its available seats for next school year. Even though there are fewer seats at the community college, it still tends to be a popular choice for seniors because it’s the more affordable option and because of acceptance rates elsewhere, Polaske said. “The community colleges are all pretty much impacted because it’s so much cheaper and it’s harder to get into a four-year college,” he said. California state universities are also more attracted to accepting out-of-state applicants, Polaske said. “The situation is that out-of-state tuition is said to be the true cost of education,” he said. “Whereas an in-state student … pays less than the true cost of education because they are subsidized by the state.” To the state, out-of-state applicants mean no subsidies, which is more appealing financially, Polaske said. The high school’s counseling office encourages all students to apply for financial aid to at least see what loans they can get if they are not eligible for grants, Polaske said. Kaitlyn Kelly, 17, plans to attend U.C. Davis as a biochemistry major. Kelly said she definitely wanted to go to the school, but it came down to seeing whether or not she would get financial aid. “Really for my parents to allow me to go, I had to either have some kind of scholarship or financial aid,” she said. Kelly received a partial scholarship, and her parents are helping her by paying about $18,000 a year. Julie Kelly, Kaitlyn’s mother, said she is glad to be able to help her daughter get a college education. “When you have a child since the age of 5 who has told people she’s going to grow up to be a scientist and has had this dream, it’s kind of hard to say, ‘Well sorry,’” Julie Kelly said. “Not that I’m saying there is anything wrong with community college or making her own way through, but it’s just nice for us to be able to help her realize her dream.” Julie Kelly said paying for the education would have an impact on her family’s life. “Greatly,” she said. “I mean I’m sure we will have to take out loans. Ultimately what we are hoping for is to get some decent student loans for her and to help her pay them back once she graduates rather than her having to carry the burden.” Placer senior Emily Jones, 17, is planning to attend Chico State University as a psychology major. Jones said she didn’t get into Cal Poly because the school only accepted 60 psychology majors. “My major is very impacted so that definitely limited the acceptance,” Jones said. Laurel Davies, 17, is planning to attend San Diego State University as an environmental studies major. “I have always kind of wanted to go there and it was also the most affordable of my options,” Davies said.” Davies said her mom is paying for the school because she didn’t receive any financial aid or scholarships. Davies’ mother, Julie Davies, said the family will probably have to cut back on vacations and going out to dinner to help pay for the approximately $20,000 a year expense. “I planned ahead somewhat because I did put money aside for college for her, and I know a lot of other people weren’t able to do that,” Julie Davies said. “It will still be kind of hard. It’s difficult, but I think it’s extremely important for her to be able to go to college, and if there is any way I can help her do that I am going to do it. I think I am lucky because I have a very good job. I’m a nurse with Auburn Faith so even though Laurel’s father passed away I’m still able to provide this for her.” Placer senior Omar Rayess, 17, plans to attend San Francisco State University as a history major and said the money he received through financial aid as well as the money his father left him and his sister when he passed away is making his education possible. Rayess said he plans to get a job because he wants to go to graduate school as well. “So, I’m going to have to be working the whole time I am there,” he said. Kaitlyn Kelly said although community colleges might be a more affordable option, she thinks it’s also important to attend a school that has a strong program for a student’s major. Polaske said the school counselors are also going to start encouraging students to look into applying to private colleges because they are not as impacted by budget woes, and although tuition is more expensive, it doesn’t tend to spike like at public schools. Private schools are also giving a lot of financial aid. “Private schools are becoming more and more affordable,” Polaske said. Reach Bridget Jones at