5 Suggestions for Getting a College Degree Without Going Broke

collegeThough it may have gotten buried with the New Year’s holiday, I had an article published in Fox News Opinion on how to get a college degree without going broke. I outlined five things every student can do. Here’s the opening:

The disappearance of low-skilled jobs and a rising earnings premium sparked a dramatic uptick in college enrollment over the past few decades.

At first, students could afford it, graduating with minimal (if any) debt, and entering an expanding job market with rising wages.

But now? Real median household income is down 6.5% from 2007-2014. Salaries for 25-34 year olds have remained stagnant for a decade. Meanwhile, the price of college continues its precipitous rise. And countless students and families feel caught between a rock and a hard place: They can’t afford to send their kids to college, but their kids can’t afford not to have degrees.

Read the whole thing.

I outline five things students can do to get a degree without going broke.

1.Prioritize value over prestige when choosing a college.

2. Leverage skills to earn higher wage income during college.

3. Have a game plan to finish.

4. Be expeditious about graduating.

5. Have a greater understanding of how the system works.

These are unpacked further in my book, Beating the College Debt Trap.

Low-Income Americans’ Kids Can Go to College for Free

New tuition announcements may help some families keep more money in their wallets next fall.One of the reasons I wrote Beating the College Debt Trap is that it seemed to me that millions of Americans don’t know how the whole paying for college thing works. The system is intimidating, confusing, and complicated, so they stay clear of it altogether.

A July 2015 study from the Urban Institute confirms my suspicions. As the U.S. News & World Report summarized: “A new study details how college is surprisingly affordable for the lowest income Americans. Yet fewer than half of them enroll in college, and 12 percent of those who do enroll fail to apply for financial aid.” Here’s more from the U.S. News & World Report write-up: Continue Reading…

Fascinating Website for Evaluating Non-Profits

GuidestarThis is a time in the year that many of us give to nonprofit organizations. Have you ever thought, “I’d love to give to this organization, but I wish I knew how they use their money?”

Well now you can know. Guidestar lets you pull financial data on all sorts of non-profits (charities, schools, ministries, you name it). For free (mostly–some reports require a modest fee to access). You can quickly see each organization’s revenue vs. expenses for a recent year. The 990 Forms are particularly instructive–you’re basically looking at their tax forms (where they get their revenue, how they spend it, and more). Buried in the 990 forms is data that can be useful if you work for a nonprofit, or are seeking to do so, and want to have a sense of what the salary expectations might be at a particular level (director, vice president, etc.).  Top salaries vary widely depending on the organization’s size and scope, but these data can be found in Part VII of the 990 Forms.

I hope Guidestar helps you give generously and with discernment to causes that you care about.

Why more teenagers and college students need to work while in school

Jeff Selingo is right: Too few college students hold a significant part-time job before graduation. As a result, they struggle with professionalism in the work place. Selingo reports that “the number of teenagers who have some sort of job while in school has dropped from nearly 40 percent in 1990 to just 20 percent today, an all-time low since the United States started keeping track in 1948.”

Why aren’t more students working? Reasons include a poor labor market for teens and the fact that minimum wage earnings don’t go far relative to escalating college prices (tuition, fees, textbooks, etc.). Many students decide it’s better (or easier) to take out loans and focus on getting good grades.

Continue Reading…

Why Write Another Book for College Students?

BeatingCollegeDebtTrap_finalCover.inddAfter writing Thriving at College, why write another book for students? How does Beating the College Debt Trap differ from Thriving at College?

Thriving at College is about making the most of the college years, about using that season in life as a launching pad into all that’s associated with responsible Christian adulthood. But while I briefly addressed money management skills, the whole idea of paying for college is more or less assumed.

In the four years since I wrote Thriving at College, the economics of college have continued to evolve. In 2013, a majority of families (57 percent) reported a student living at home or with a relative, up from 43 percent in 2010. Online education is increasingly popular. “Non-traditional” college students (i.e., not 18-23 year olds enrolled full-time) have become increasingly numerous. And, of course, a greater Continue Reading…

Why So Few Syrian Christian Refugees?

Jonathan Witt, writing for Stream:

So dangerous are the camps for Syrian Christians that they mostly avoid them. And the UN does its refugee head-counting in the refugee camps. If the Christians aren’t there to be counted, desperate as they are, then they don’t end up on the asylum lists the U.S. State Department uses for vetting potential refugees.

So, why doesn’t the White House take steps to find and include persecuted Syrian Christian in numbers at least proportionate to their slice of the Syrian population? Maybe the Obama administration just doesn’t care, but even if they cared a little, doing something serious about it would risk annoying the Muslim leaders of the Muslim-dominated countries in the Middle East.

As bad off as the Muslim refugees are, they aren’t without politically well-connected advocates in the Middle East. Many Muslim powerbrokers are happy to see Europe and America seeded with Muslim immigrants, and would surely condemn any U.S. action that appeared to prefer Christian over Muslim refugees, even if the effort were completely justified. By and large, they support Muslim immigration to the West and have little interest in seeing Christian refugees filling up any spaces that might have been filled by Muslim refugees.

The deck, in other words, is heavily stacked against the Christian refugees. The White House has been utterly feckless before the Muslim power structure in the Middle East that is doing the stacking, and has tried to sell that fecklessness to the American people as a bold stand for a religion-blind treatment of potential refugees —religion tests are un-American! It’s a smokescreen.

Read the whole thing.

(Photo credit: Breaking Christian News)

The Empty-Headedness of the Million Student March

I have an article in today’s Stream about the recent Million Student March. Here’s the opening:

Amidst the recent potpourri of petulant pouting on college campuses around the country, in “safe spaces” and elsewhere, you’ll be forgiven if you missed the news of a Million Student March. On November 12, these student marchers took to their respective campuses and communities with three specific demands:

1.Tuition-Free Public College

2. Cancellation of All Student Debt

3. $15 Minimum Wage for All Campus Workers

Their arguments were not new. As the group’s website reads: “The United States is the richest country in the world, yet students have to take on crippling debt in order to get a college education.” In other words, if the rich would only pay their fair share, students could attend college for free. After all, public high school is already free. If college is now essential for accessing the jobs of tomorrow, why not put that on the public coffers too?

Read the rest of it. And check out my new book, Beating the College Debt Trap. Those who pre-order it get a free 130 page e-book.

Grade-Changing Dean at Texas Tech Resigns

DeanLanceNailMoral of the story? Don’t mess with the professor’s assigned grade. Scott Jaschik, with Inside Higher Ed, writes:

Jay Conover, a professor of mathematics and statistics at Texas Tech University, got quite a surprise when he learned three of his former students graduated from the business school’s graduate program this year. He was surprised because he had given the students grades so low he thought they wouldn’t be able to graduate.

It turns out the Business School’s Dean, Lance Nail, had gone behind Conover’s back to get another prof to set up an alternate exam for a group of five students who complained Continue Reading…

Colleges Coddle Students, Too

Image result for images students on college campusGreat piece by Jeff Selingo. The opening:

An article in this week’s Washington Post nicely summarized a new book on the failings of helicopter parenting, especially when it comes to preparing kids for college.

But parents shouldn’t shoulder all the blame for why college students seem incapable of taking care of themselves these days. In the past decade, college campuses have turned into one big danger-free zone, where students live in a bubble and are asked to take few, if any, risks in their education.

Read the whole thing. It’s excellent. Students need objective, regular, and (when appropriate) constructively critical assessment–as do the rest of us. It’s how the real world operates, and it’s how we get better.

Repayments Rates are More Telling than Default Rates

Cohort Default Rate (CDR) is the federal government’s standard accountability metric for colleges. It refers to the percentage of a college’s graduates from a specific year who default on their student loans.

The problem is it’s a super-easy test to pass: As long as fewer than 40 percent of your alumni default on their student loans within three years of entering repayment, and as long as your CDR doesn’t go above 30 percent for three straight years, you’re good. That’s why only 11 colleges have been penalized in the last decade–even though almost 500 colleges had CDRs over 25 percent in 2014.

Failing to repay your student loans does not necessarily mean you’re in default on those loans. Repayment is a higher standard than merely not defaulting. Because it takes about a year of not making your regular payments to enter default–and that’s only if you don’t enter deference or forbearance first.

Continue Reading…

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