Before College: Games Colleges Play — Deposit Deadlines

By now, your high school senior probably has 2018-19 admission offers. If so, a key deadline is coming. If any colleges impose earlier deadlines, they’re likely being unethical.

IMG_1518Most prospective freshmen must pay non-refundable deposits to secure enrollment, on-campus housing, and even places in summer orientation/registration sessions at their colleges of choice by May 1. Often, that’s also the last day for them to accept financial aid offered by those schools.

The May 1 deadline is specified on pages 5-6 of the National Association of College Admission Counseling’s (NACAC’s) professional code of ethics. All NACAC-member schools — including most 2 and 4-year nonprofit and public colleges and universities — agree to use it.

Why one national deadline? Most 17-18 year olds (and their families) require time to evaluate their college options — to figure out which institutions are good “fits” for them; confirm their tuition and fees and other costs of attendance at these institutions; and to assess how much their financial aid offers, most of which arrive in late March or early April, will discount their costs.

Put another way, if colleges could set their own deadlines, some would lock prospective low and middle-income students in or out with exorbitant, non-refundable deposits that come due well before students and parents are ready to make careful, well-informed enrollment choices.

Most NACAC schools take the May 1 deadline very seriously and seldom, if ever, IMG_1519violate it. But if one does try to force your student into paying a non-refundable deposit payment before May 1, here’s what to do:

  1. Search NACAC’s membership directory to make sure the school’s in NACAC.
  2. If it is, contact it’s admissions director and president. Demand it hold to the May 1 deadline.
  3. File a complaint with NACAC (see pages 13-15 of NACAC’s professional code of ethics) if necessary.

NACAC permits two exceptions to May 1. One is for Early Decision admission programs (see page 6 of NACAC’s code); the other applies to refundable deposits at colleges lacking the capacity to house all their freshmen on-campus (NACAC code, page 7).

Otherwise, any NACAC-member school trying to rush your student into a pre-May 1 deposit payment is being unethical. So think carefully — do you trust such an institution to take care of your student for the next 4 years?

College Affordability Solutions provides guidance at no charge on ways to make higher learning less expensive. Call (512) 417-7660 or email if you have questions.

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