College Becoming Money Matter Financial Aid Packages Steer Students' Choices

Article excerpt

For high school seniors applying to college, money isn't just talking this year, it's shouting, playing into college choices more than ever, some high school counselors say.

"I think financial aid is a bigger issue than I've seen in a long time, and I've been in counseling for 30 years," said Tom Kalaos, director of guidance at Lindbergh High School.

Three seniors at Parkway West High School typify some of the ways money is driving college decisions:

- Atia Qadafi has applied to five schools hoping to be able to work out finances with Washington University, her top choice. "It's a lot of money, but they offer some really good scholarships, especially to minorities," said Atia, who is black. Money is "going to make the big decision" for her.

- Martez Moody has narrowed his options to two - Johnson & Wales College in Providence, R.I., and the University of Kansas. "I really, really want to go to KU," he said. But he believes that Johnson & Wales may cut him a better deal. "Financial aid will be the big decider," he said.

- Jill Harlan has four applications out and plans to make one more. A soccer player, she's fishing for athletic scholarships and hoping for the best from the University of Missouri at Columbia. But which school gets her "all depends on the coaches and how much money they can offer me after they see me play," she said.

Kallaos, the Lindbergh counselor, says "the higher costs of colleges and universities now" and the iffy job jarket for many parents are forcing families to consider more college options and, in some cases, students to make more applications.

Kelly McGuire, a senior at Pattonville High School, has applied to eight schools - two public and six private. "The reason I applied to the state colleges is that my family's not rich," she said.

"I really want {the University of} Chicago, because at my high school I've been at the top of the class, and there I'll be in the middle, so I'll have to work harder," she said.

Sehoy Brown, college and career counselor at Parkway West, said seniors there are applying to as many as 20 colleges - a strategy she tries to discourage. At the same time, she said, some students are applying to just one school and, because their families are too well off, are not seeking financial aid.

James Sinner, Brown's counterpart at Ladue High School, also sees his share of affluent students. …