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Must all Graduates Wander Aimlessly in Their Twenties?

selingo-bookUntil recently, a bachelor’s degree was a sure ticket to social mobility and a promising career. But today’s graduates face unprecedented headwinds in the form of declining wages, ballooning student debt, and greater competition for fewer jobs.

That’s the case journalist Jeff Selingo makes in an insightful new book, There is Life After College (HarperCollins). “The plight of today’s young adults,” writes Selingo, “is a result of a longer-term shift in the global workforce that is having an outsized impact on people in their twenties who have little work experience.”

Selingo presents his case persuasively. Young adult unemployment is at its highest point in four decades, peaking at 9 percent a few years ago. Of arguably greater consequence, nearly half of college graduates in their twenties are underemployed, beating out their less educated peers for barista and clerical jobs. With a glut of supply, employers can be choosy, leading to the increasingly common “unpaid internship” expectation, and other forms of “try before you buy” hiring. To make matters worse, student debt loads among recent graduates are at an all-time high and starting salaries are barely budging. While Mom and Dad once beamed when their child received his or her diploma, the uncertainty and instability of the early professional years now give parents reason to worry afresh.

Read the rest of it.

Is Voting for Donald Trump a Morally Good Choice?

Is Voting for Donald Trump a Morally Good Choice?

Last week Dr. Wayne Grudem published an article arguing that voting for Donald Trump is a morally good choice. I wrote a response. An excerpt:

I agree with Dr. Grudem that character is not the only factor to consider. But there is a character threshold that we should expect any candidate to meet. A man who owns his vices as if they were virtues, who talks proudly about “going after the families” of suspected terrorists, who has profited from strip clubs, who is by all accounts a pathological liar, who disparaged a disabled journalist, who insulted POWs, who criticized the looks of a rival’s wife, is unworthy of the office of president.

In addition, I suspect Trump’s personal flaws are so pervasive that they would seriously interfere with his ability to enact the helpful policies that Dr. Grudem believes Trump will implement. Notice Trump’s profound inability to stay on message, in recent days needlessly resurrecting past rivalries while opening a feud with Khizr and Ghazala Khan (parents of an Army Captain who gave his life to save others on the battlefield). When we consider Trump’s brash temperament, impulsiveness, and unwillingness to learn, along with his pettiness and tendency to make everything about him, I lack confidence that he can successfully work with Congress to implement the helpful parts of his platform.

Read the whole thing.

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…

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…

Living With Your Parents: How to Make It Work

Boundless just published an article I wrote for them on living with parents as a young adult–the good, the bad, how to make it work. Here’s the opening:

So it happened. You thought you’d be on your own by now, but you’re not. Whether you’re trying to land a steady job, get out of debt, or finish college on the eight-year plan, if you’re living with your parents as a 20-something, you’re not alone. More than a third of 18 to 31 year olds are living with their parents, according to the Current Population Survey.

Maybe you can’t move out — and shouldn’t. Your parents’ health or finances are failing. They need you, and a wife or husband is non-existent. You know you’re doing a good thing, but it’s still awkward at times.

Regardless of the particulars, how do you make living with parents as an adult work? The good news is that it can be done. In fact, it can be a wonderful season.

Read the rest of it here.

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