Tuesday, July 31
The admissions team at Grace is its frontline. They carry, communicate and promote the value of a Grace education day in and day out. They talk to hundreds of prospective students and parents over the course of a semester and hear firsthand what their needs are.
The first concern most families express? Affordability.
Two, Eight & Nine sat down with some members of Grace College’s admissions team to consider the dilemma most higher education institutions are facing: how to offer a valuable education for less.
Meet Dr. Mark Pohl (BS 04, MMin 07), dean of admissions; Alessa (Smith BS 15) Tracy, assistant director of admissions, Sara Sharik, senior admissions counselor; and Rachel (Elsner BS 16) Miller, senior admissions counselor.
2|8|9: What do prospective students and their parents care about most?
Alessa: Almost every family I meet with is concerned with affordability. It’s impossible not to talk about it. What’s great about Grace is that its affordability measures actually characterize Grace. It’s at the top of our talking points not just because families care but because it’s at the heart of Grace’s desire for our students and why sustainable affordability is part of our strategic plan.
Mark: We host Lancer Days at Grace regularly. Large groups of prospective students visit campus, and we get them acquainted with who we are. I always begin by saying: “Grace is doing big things to address your biggest frustration in higher education … which is? And they always spontaneously respond, “‘Cost!’”
2|8|9: What is Grace doing to address families’ biggest frustration?
Mark: When we launched what we call the Measure of Grace initiative in 2011, it was game changing. Students can earn any undergraduate degree in three years; their tuition is never higher than their first year; they get free textbook rentals; and we even offer a way for students to earn their bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in four years.
2|8|9: Aren’t other colleges offering an accelerated degree option?
Mark: Surprisingly, not very many. Some offer a variation of it. It might be available for a handful of majors. Often those that do offer an accelerated option force students to cram in a lot of credits and sacrifice student life. Or, the degree doesn’t actually cost the student less — they can just earn it faster.
Sara: Right. Our three-year degree program costs the students about 25 percent less than it would if they earned that same degree in four years. The credits they earn in the summer through online classes are tuition free. Add to that the extra year of earnings that comes from getting into the job market a year earlier — it’s hard to beat. Over and above that, students can earn their bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in four years for the cost of a bachelor’s degree alone.
Alessa: Grace is definitely the best at most effectively delivering the accelerated degree options. We’ve found the balance between an effective and expedited education. We don’t sacrifice the quality, and we don’t sacrifice the student experience.
Rachel: Case in point: Students who graduate in three years still earn all of the applied learning credits — practical, on-the-job experiences — as they would in the four-year program. Grace partners with over 250 businesses all over the region to provide our students with hands-on, practical experience. Nothing gets shortchanged on the accelerated track.
2|8|9: What surprises our families most about Grace’s efforts in affordability?
Rachel: One of my favorite parts of sharing about Grace’s affordability efforts is when I tell students and their parents they don’t have to buy books. We provide free textbook rentals to all undergraduate students. The look on their faces. It’s disbelief.
And when we tell parents that their students don’t need a certain number of dual credits to be eligible for the three-year degree program, they are so grateful.
And then when we tell them that their students can use their undergraduate financial aid if they want to earn their bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in four years — they say, “How can that be? That’s too good to be true!”
This is why I love my job. I get to say, “It is true.” And suddenly a Christ-centered, excellent education becomes a reality for that family.
2|8|9: Why do students end up choosing Grace?
Alessa: I think it’s this brilliant combo of quality and affordability.
Sara: When students come and visit Grace, they get to meet with professors who exude such a care for them right from the start. Students can imagine themselves learning under this person who is excited about their field of study and will remember their names.
Rachel: Prospective students love visiting chapel too. They rave about it. They see the whole campus there and engaged. They feel the power of a community of believers coming together to worship God.
Alessa: Our faith is the lens through which we see, understand and respond to the world. It’s our purposeful lens at Grace. Everything we do is subject to it. That is holy. Students know that if they choose Grace, their spiritual roots will deepen, their heart for the world will enlarge and they will be equipped to go and follow God.
Rachel: Not only do students get this Christ-centered, excellent education, but we work with each student individually as he/she works through the process of financial aid and scholarships. We help them navigate the entire process.
Mark: One of our favorite tools to utilize with families as they are figuring out their most affordable college option is the Affordability Calculator on our website. It provides students a cost comparison among their choices. Guess what? Grace is almost always the most affordable.
2|8|9: Many of you are Grace graduates. Did Grace make good on its promise of quality plus affordability?
Sara: I’m the only person on the admissions team that isn’t a Grace graduate, but I grew up in Warsaw, and my dad worked at Grace for nine years. After I graduated from another college, my brother was starting at Grace as a freshman. One of the reasons I wanted to be an admissions counselor at Grace was because of its affordability proposition. What I can say is true about Grace’s affordability, I couldn’t say about my own alma mater. And I am proud that my younger sister started as a freshman at Grace this fall too!
Alessa: My older sister went to a state university and my parents were expecting me to follow in her footsteps. When I wanted to go to a faith-based, out-of-state school, they were supportive but hesitant to let me get too excited because they didn’t think we could afford it. I fell in love with Grace when I visited the campus, and after my parents heard about the three-year program and how I would save an entire year of tuition and room and board, they were sold.
And I did graduate in three years. My dad still goes on and on about the beauty of our accelerated program. I get to tell my own story to students: “This three-year degree program is not a ploy to get you to sign on the dotted line. I did it. It works.” And if I could do it all again, I’d make the same decision to attend Grace. I’m a different person than I was five years ago. Grace changed my life. It helped me put a stake in the ground about who I wanted to live my life for.