Home > Uncategorized > How I Missed Out on a Free Year of College

Comments 0 Comments

A couple of points on the math portion of the SAT tests cost Eva Baker a year of free college tuition. Baker was planning on getting a year of college classes under her belt during her senior year of high school through Florida’s dual enrollment program. Dual enrollment allows high school students to take courses through a local community college tuition-free.

With this program, students may earn an associate’s degree by the time they graduate from high school without having to pay tuition. In fact, some of Baker’s friends have been able to start college in Florida as juniors.

Baker took the ACT in June of 2013 to initially qualify for dual enrollment. She did well on the English language portion of the test but not on the math portion. Nevertheless, she was able to take two classes through dual enrollment the first semester and one the second semester and earned all As.

The following summer it was time to take the SAT. She had been working hard on her math skills and expected to do OK. But when she received her scores, she was devastated. Her math score was not high enough to allow her to continue in dual enrollment. “I just barely missed it,” she says. “I was so close — maybe two or three points off of where I needed to be.”

Baker’s plan had been to get a head start on her college education by taking a full load of college classes her senior year of high school. Now those plans were out the window, as she wasn’t allowed to continue, despite her 4.0 GPA.

Baker understands well the financial implications of losing out on a free year of college tuition. In 2013, she started a financial blog called TeensGotCents. The impetus, she says, came when her mother forced her to listen to Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover audio program in the car. “I was really not happy about that,” she says. But she found Ramsey so “funny and so engaging,” that she was hooked. When she couldn’t find the kinds of resources she wanted to read she decided to create her own blog. “My main goal is that I want to help kids so that they can be purposeful in planning for their future,” she says. She knows that losing out on this opportunity will cost both time and money.

Tuition at the school Baker was attending runs $114.92 per credit hour for in-state students, so her year of dual enrollment would have been worth about $2,500 if she took 12 credits per semester. But the college she eventually attends may be more expensive, and since she will have to earn those credits later it is hard to say exactly how much this setback cost. Opportunities to go to college for free are limited, and student debt is a big burden for millennials. Many wind up taking out thousands of dollars in student loans, and as many as half of all borrowers have trouble making their student loan payments, which in turn can hurt their credit scores. You can see how your student loans are impacting your credit scores for free on Credit.com.

A Lot Riding on Scores

“The stakes for the SAT are much higher than people realize,” says Debbie Stier, author of The Perfect Score Project: One Mom’s Quest to Ace the SAT. As a mom trying to help her son prepare for the SAT, she took the test herself seven times in one year. She also bought and tried numerous SAT test prep books and test preparation programs.

“There is a $4.5 billion test prep industry,” she says. But she also emphasizes that scoring well on the SAT is not simply learning tricks and tips to take the test. “The truth is the large part of what the test is testing is mastery of reading, writing and math,” she says and “a large part of it is filling these gaps that occurred in education.”

In math, for example, skills build on other skills and it is very hard to score high on SAT math — which requires both speed and accuracy — if a student has missed out on important concepts. “If you are wise enough to realize this early on you can keep the gaps from happening, so that by the time you get to high school you don’t have the gaps,” Stier says. In fact, she encouraged her daughter Daisy to take refresher classes in algebra and geometry so that she had a solid foundation before she started test prep.

As for Baker, she is now taking a remedial math course designed specifically to prepare students for college math. She says she’s also leaning on her faith.  “It was hard. But I think that God really used it and showed me that this wasn’t what I had to do right now.” It was hard for her to accept her failure, and even harder to share her story on her blog, she says. But it’s struck a chord with other students and parents. When she wrote, half-joking, that she’s learned that “standardized tests are from the devil” she found there were plenty of other people who agreed.

More Money-Saving Reads:

Image courtesy of Eva Baker

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team