Latest 2018

A Look at the Cost of a College Degree & Ways to Reduce It

By on Dec 5, 2018 in Blog, Latest 2018 |

Living Happily Ever After – Is it Possible? A Look at the Cost of a College Degree and Ways to Reduce It By Katherine O’Brien, MA CCPS For many, their dream is to go to college, graduate, get a good job, make decent money, and live happily ever after.  Unfortunately, for many, that does not come to pass.  In this article, we’ll explore several of the reasons why and some options to consider in order to make that dream into a reality. What does college degree actually cost and What Can We Do to Lessen that Cost? For those who start with about $16,000 in savings, get scholarships, grants, and work to help pay for school, they will accumulate about $42,000 in student loan debt during the six years it takes most students to earn a bachelor’s degree. In contrast, if s/he had decided to be a restaurant server rather than go to college, the student would make about $39,000 per year (assuming s/he is in the top 25% in a metro area like Houston).  In six years, after taxes and the cost of living adjustments, s/he would make just over $81,000, rather than racking up student loans.  In other words, s/he wouldn’t have a degree, but would be $123,000 ahead of the average college graduate ($81,000 + $42,000). How long will it take the college graduate to recover that lost opportunity cost and catch up with the restaurant server?  Assuming the graduate gets a job in a field like marketing that has a starting pay of $51,000 per year, it will take 18 years to catch up with the restaurant server, assuming s/he pays off the loans six years faster than average.  This also assumes that the server’s salary steadily increases every year.  While catching up, the college graduate will pay over $18,000 in interest, a total of over $60,000 in loan payments. What are the alternatives? Attend a Public university to lower costs? Many people think that the only option to make college affordable is to send their children to public universities, given their lower tuition rates.  Let’s explore this assertion. The average in-state tuition is almost $10,000.  The average out of state public tuition is $25,600 and the average private college tuition is almost $35,000.  However,...

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Is The Pen Mightier Than the Keyboard?

By on Nov 2, 2018 in Blog, Latest 2018 |

Longhand v. Laptop Note Taking In order for students to be academically successful, they need to be able to learn the material presented in their courses and perform well on exams.  With the nearly ubiquitous adoption of the use of digital devices for delivery of educational material and, in many situations, notetaking as well as the completion of assignments, the question of which is a more effective methodology for learning is of great import. Dr. Pam Mueller & Dr. Daniel Oppenheimer published a paper in 2014 sharing the results of their research into this topic.  Their study was the first to focus on a direct comparison of the two styles of notetaking.  Other research has focused on the impact of the many distractions available on laptops and how well students could multitask.  Many researchers have shown that students tend to not be on task and to be less satisfied with their education than their pen wielding peers. Let’s take a look at the head to head comparison of college student’s comprehension retention abilities when offline laptops and pen and paper  were the only options for notetaking during presentations. In the past, some research showed that the processing of the information that takes place during manual notetaking improves learning and retention.  When a student takes notes during a lecture, s/he cannot keep up with the presenter so must sort and organize the material, as well as abbreviate it in order to record it.  Note taking can include summarizing, paraphrasing, and mapping concepts.  It can also take the form of creating a verbatim transcript of what is heard.  Other studies have shown that verbatim note taking predicts poorer performance than non-verbatim note taking, especially on integrative and conceptual items.  Integrating the new information with prior knowledge and with understanding new concepts are both improved when the note taker processes and records the information without taking a verbatim approach. In this current study, it was repeatedly noted that students using laptops strongly tended to take more notes, and to take notes in the verbatim copyist style, rather than processing the information and creating their own re-presentation of it like the students taking notes longhand.  It was found that the students who took notes longhand and were afforded an opportunity to study them performed...

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Recent Changes to College Savings Plans

By on Nov 1, 2018 in Blog, Latest 2018 |

BACKGROUND INFORMATION 529 plans allow taxpayers to save larger amounts of money than other tax-advantaged education savings plans do.  They are limited only by the contributor’s gift tax concerns and the contribution limits of the intended plan.  There are no limits on the number of contributors and there are not income or age limitations.  The maximum amount that ca be contributed per beneficiary (the student) is based on the projected cost of college education and will vary by the plan of each state.  Most have limits in excess of $200,000 while others are over $370,000.  Generally additional contributions cannot be made once the account’s balance reaches your state’s maximum level, but that doesn’t prevent the account from continuing to grow. Although the plans are authorized by the various states, it’s not required that the plan be set up in the future collegian’s home state.  Additionally, the student is not restricted to using the funds in either his or her home state or the state where the plan was set up.  Some states, however, do provide state income tax deductions as an incentive to get their residents to set up plans in the state.  These incentives typically come as a state income tax deduction or a tax credit for the contributions to the state’s 529 plan. When the times comes for college, the distributions will partially be earnings in value and partially from contributions.  The contributions are never taxable.  The earnings part is tax free if they are used to pay for qualified education expenses like tuition, fees, and books.  In addition to the tax-free distribution from the 529 plan, the taxpayer may claim and education credit such as the American Opportunity tax credit, which can be as much as $2,500 ($1,000 of which is refundable!).  The big advantage of s section 529 plan is the tax-free accumulation of funds so it is best to establish and fund one as early as possible in the child’s life.  There is a special provision that allows those concerned with the annual gift tax limit (currently $15,000) to contribute five years’ worth ($75,000) up front.  This limit is per contributor.  If there are multiple contributors (parents, grandparents, godparents, aunts, uncles, etc., huge amounts can be contributed up front and provide considerable long-term growth. Keep in mind, however,...

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How to Save on College: Regional Tuition Reduction Programs

By on Sep 7, 2018 in Blog, Latest 2018 |

Groups of states in various regions of the country have banded together to create tuition reduction programs.  Explore the majors, programs, and schools in your area: FOR UNDERGRADUATES: Midwest Student Exchange – Students in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wisconsin may be eligible for tuition reductions at certain Midwest public and private schools Western Undergraduate Exchange – for students in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The Academic Common Market provides tuition discounts for more than 1900 academic programs in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. The New England Regional Student Program enables New England residents to enroll at out-of-state New England public colleges and universities at a discount. Students are eligible when they enroll in an approved major that is not offered by the public colleges and universities in their home-state. More than 700 undergraduate and graduate degree programs are offered. Participating states are Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. FOR GRADUATE STUDENTS: The Western Regional Graduate Program enables graduate students to enroll in available graduate programs outside of their home state at in-state resident tuition rates. The Western Professional Student Exchange Program enables graduate students in Western states majoring in the health care professions to enroll in selected out-of-state professional programs. The Southern Regional Contract Program enables students to pursue a professional health degree at out-of-state institutions, but pay in-state tuition at public institutions or reduced tuition at private...

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It’s not Really Writer’s Block; An easier way to Write Application Essays

By on Aug 25, 2018 in Blog, Latest 2018 |

There’s No Such Thing as Writer’s Block! Have you ever seen your child staring at a blank doc on their computer or looking forlornly over a still blank piece of paper?  S/he feels stuck and calls it writer’s block. Many of the teens I’ve worked with over the years have shared such experiences with me before we start working on their application essays. IT’S NOT REALLY WRITER’S BLOCK When they feel stuck, they often doubt their basic writing skills, sometimes fixating on those to avoid considering the bigger problem of trying to figure out what to say.  This fixation makes getting started even harder.  Sometimes parents will note the anxiety or lack of progress and try to nudge the student.  However, your best words of encouragement regarding their writing abilities doesn’t move the needle of paralysis regarding what to write. What do you do?  We all know that getting anxious ourselves and speaking harshly won’t help.  So, take a step back.  The real culprit is that they aren’t starting at the beginning; they are trying to jump the gun. START AT THE TRUE BEGINNING Writing itself is a great tool for exploring and clarifying thoughts.  This is true in a particular way for the college essays. Admissions wants to read stories that are personal and reveal meaningful characteristics about the student applicant.  They want to get to know what makes you you. Writing such an essay requires a process.  When I usually assign two to four “pre-writing” exercises before we even discuss the first draft.  This gives students the opportunities to get started writing and to begin to gather details, recall incidents, and clarify their message before we truly begin.    This process jump starts the thought process that must happen in order to create truly excellent application essays. SAMPLE EXERCISE Set a timer for 20 minutes. Think of things and people that you could pull together into a video collage you could share with your future college roommate.  Everything included illustrates one of your traits or a significant event in your life. Make a list of these items, incidents, and people and write a sentence or two about how they are significant to you or what they reveal to...

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