Category Archives: saving for college

Dual enrollment saves money!

Dual enrollment programs help high school kids get free college credits!

Please watch my video, then read on:

Now here’s where I get to share some other insights, and/or just plain rant.

I’ll admit I was concerned when my 10th grade daughter announced that she wanted to take some dual enrollment classes at the local state college. That meant my little girl would be sitting in classes with real college students, half of whom were working adults taking night courses.

Sounded scary, but I let her do it because I would be driving her there and back until she could drive herself. I didn’t doubt that she could do the work, and that proved true. Thank goodness!

Her big thrill was that she could complete courses in one semester that would have taken two semesters in her high school.

Her second big thrill was that, unlike high school, she wouldn’t be asked by her college professors to make “ridiculous, time-wasting projects” like poster-board maps, plastered with pictures cut out of magazines!

MY big thrill was the realization that she was getting free college credits! WooHoo! Free money toward one of our many state universities, should she decide to stay in our state for college. YAY!

Eventually my daughter gathered almost enough dual enrollment courses that when combined with her AP classes would have produced an Associate’s degree. She would have received this degree from our local state college in the week prior to her own high school graduation. While she did not (for other reasons) complete her Associate’s degree, many high school students before her time have done it. Many more high schoolers will collect their AA’s through dual enrollment in the future.

What a boon to the families of these hard-working, ambitious young students! With two years of college completed, students in our state (and many other states) can transfer right into a 4 year public university and start their remaining two years! The families of these students are NOT on the hook for the cost of those first two years of college education. Ding, ding, ding…we have some winners here!

Now, in my research for this video, I read a lot of good material from many sources on the subject of dual enrollment. But it wasn’t coming together until I stumbled on a wonderful resource. This is the website of The Education Commission of the States, a national organization created in 1965 and funded by the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and several territories.

This organization was founded to “track state policy trends, translate academic research, provide unbiased advice, and create opportunities for state leaders to learn from one another”.

Here is the link to the section of ECS that contains a database on dual enrollment:

This information was gathered from all the states and collated by an enthusiastic young woman named Jennifer Dounay Zinth. She has done a fabulous job, and the product is absolutely enlightening. I enjoyed comparing my state’s dual enrollment policies to that of other states. I also liked the State Profiles on this topic that you can access by clicking on a particular state in a map of the U.S.

Using this database allowed me to realize how much work is left to be done on dual enrollment to make it universally available in the U.S.

Thus far, ALMOST NOTHING is standardized, not even WITHIN certain states! A few states, like Florida, have their dual enrollment acts together. But, overall, the picture is pretty sad.

So here is my rant:

Attention all you so-called “Education Leaders” attending the next ECS convention from all your various states: Before you settle down in a comfy lecture hall in the duly appointed city, and before you tuck into that sumptuous luncheon, try to concentrate on this one little request from me:

Fix Dual Enrollment!

Why? We need all educational efforts to point our kids in the right direction with all the right tools for a reasonably good future life. Right?

AND, we also want these efforts not to destroy family finances when it comes time for college.

Dual enrollment, done right, can help…SO JUST FIX IT… please!

President Obamas speech sparks new interest in saving for college with 529 Plans.

The 529 College Saving Plan lives to fight another day!

The 529 College Saving Plan just got about 7 days of the finest publicity you can’t even buy…the free kind! All this, courtesy of the President of these United States, no less.

Way to go, Mr. President, apparently you scared the socks off of middle America as a way of galvanizing public attention. Well done…that is, IF proposing to tax 529 College Saving Plans was just a clever ploy!
Before you read on, take a short refresher course in 529 plans by watching my video on the subject:

It was during the State of the Union address that the President introduced his budget proposals which included ways to fund his ideas to improve college access for millions more students. One of those ideas was to make tuition for community colleges free. But, nothing is really free, so where would the money to pay for this come from? Well, how about taxing the college savings of millions of American Moms and Dads? It’s all right there in those lovely 529 plans. Those Moms and Dads would gladly give up their tax-free earnings to help others, right?

At this point I thought you might like to see what the President looked like when he was putting forth his proposal. Pretty calm, right?

Why worry?
The president exhibits preternatural calm.

Let’s assume for a moment that he actually knew what he was doing…raising awareness about the 529 College Plan. Let’s also assume that he really wanted folks to wake up and notice that it’s time to save for college. Moreover, maybe he wanted to make sure this plan would be around for a long time to come. Free publicity, people!

Wow! Genius! Look at the firestorm of tweets on the subject. And this went on for days!

Loads of Tweets
Angry/concerned Tweeters

Newspaper articles were written, TV and radio guests discussed, and blogs got posted, endlessly explaining the facets of the 529 College Saving plan. If you were alive at all you could not miss the clamor. And you could not avoid thinking about getting a 529 plan for YOUR kids’ college years.

The publicity also had an unforeseen destabilizing effect. People thought that the 529 College Saving plan was permanent and could not be changed. Faith in the system was shaken. Commentators wondered aloud if their Roth IRA’s would be raided next.

Then came the anger and the political wrangling, followed by the online petition drives. The No529Tax.org petition built up enough steam to gain White House attention. And finally a bi-partisan effort was launched to convince the President to remove the 529 Plan tax proposal from his budget. Thus, on day 7, the President decided his little ruse had run it’s course, and BOOM the proposal was gone!

Now, nobody likes to be called stupid, even an outgoing President. But that’s what the pundit people and even the real people were saying about him. Maybe crazy-like-a-fox might better describe whatever happened. Or not. I’m just glad that about the results. People are awake and ready to fight. Realizing that the 529 Plan could go away was huge (contributions would have dried up if the proposal had become law, effectively killing the plan).

In the near term, I will wager that 529 plans get a blast of new contributions. Plus, people are now on the alert to make sure retirement plans and health savings accounts don’t become threatened. Hey, that’s another great result of the President’s public awareness ploy! Well played sir, well played. 😉

President Obamas speech sparks new interest in saving for college with 529 Plans.
More people know about these great college savings plans than ever before thanks to our President.

The CSS Profile – It’s important, but Yikes!!

The CSS Profile. Hard to live with, and harder still to live without.

Having just dropped off our daughter at her wonderful out-of-state college reminds me that soon it will be time again to fill out the dreaded CSS Profile form brought to us by the College Board folks. Without this form, about 250 mostly private colleges and universities would have a much harder time deciding how to use their endowments to attract the best students. And without this form, many of those students wouldn’t have a chance in the world of affording a school outside their own state’s public universities. For this we are grateful. But it doesn’t make the process any less difficult. The College Board does sincerely try to make understanding their CSS Profile possible, as my video will show. But some things still elude the comprehension of reasonably well-educated people. Even our accountant was confused by the meaning of some of the questions. So I can’t help but think that this should spawn an industry specializing in filling out the CSS Profile form. As far as I can tell, this hasn’t happened. At least not to any great extent. And, those who do offer the service are pretty expensive for those of us who actually need the financial aid. So, I (and others in the same boat) will slug it out with the CSS Profile for yet another year.

Understanding 529 Plans

529 Plan…will undoubtably be my new grand-baby’s first words.

My new two week old granddaughter has a Dad with 529 Plans on his mind. Never mind the frilly dresses, let her Mom take care of those. It’s time to talk college, or more specifically, paying for college. No time like the present to start a savings plan. Good thing we have the awesomely tax advantaged college savings vehicle that is the 529 College Savings Plan available to us right here in the good ol’ USA. And it’s not just one plan but a host of plans across all the states of the Union, and now in multiples to serve every need. Some of these 529 plans are better than others, so parents will have the fun task of finding websites that have already done the heavy lifting. Allow me to recommend one that is ultra-dedicated to the task at hand: http://www.savingforcollege.com . I must meet the guy who started this effort about 10 years ago. I sense a story. Something about the nexus of shitake mushrooms and 529 Plans grabs my attention.

 

FAFSA – Not That Scary!

Don’t run! It’s just the FAFSA!

Just sit down and watch this video. You might just feel a whole lot more confident and ready to tackle this infamous government financial aid form. After all it’s the most effective way to get money for college! It’s hard to believe, but the FAFSA is the gateway form to just about all the college financial aid there is.  The Federal Government takes the information you enter in the FAFSA form and computes your Expected Family Contribution or EFC. Almost all colleges take their cue from the EFC when it comes to handing out  grants, scholarships, work-study funds and federal student loans. Compared to the much more invasive CSS Profile form used by about 250 elite private schools, the FAFSA is a comparative snap. But stay vigilant and do your homework. This is your chance to get your fair share of the Federal student aid pie.