Fit, Not Reach 2: Saving You Time, Money and Sanity

Leave a comment

IT’S A WORKSHOP WEEK, SO WE’RE:

A) RUNNING A “BEST OF” SERIES THIS WEEK AND

B) OPENING THE FLOOR FOR ALL OF YOU TO TEXT OR DM YOUR QUESTIONS DURING THE WORKSHOP.  THE “BEST OF” SCHEDULE IS BELOW, AS ARE THE DETAILS ON THE WORKSHOP.  THANK YOU, ALL, FOR 6 AMAZING MONTHS SO FAR!!

A) THE “BEST OF” SCHEDULE, AS IT WILL BE TWEETED, POSTED, AND LINKED:

THURSDAY, 4/28 – FIT, NOT REACH 2

FRIDAY, 4/29 – COMMUNITY COLLEGES DESERVE AN “A”

SATURDAY, 4/30 – THE BRANDING OF YOUR CHILD

SUNDAY, 5/1 – WHY PUBLISH A COLLEGE A DAY

MONDAY, 5/2 – PAIRINGS

TUESDAY, 5/3 – THE REST OF US (THE VERY FIRST POST!)

B) If you see this message before Thursday, 4/28 at 7 PM, I would love to have you text me or Twitter DM me with any questions during the Workshop.  I’d be glad to acknowledge them and answer them during the Workshop or immediately after.  And – even better – if you’re able to join the event, please do so.  Here are the details:

THURSDAY, APRIL 28, 2011

EMERALDS @ HOTEL 304 WEST, SPRINGFIELD, NJ (THE OLD HOLIDAY INN)

7 PM – 8:30 PM

FREE

Click here for the link on the Facebook Events Page.

Advertisements

Pretty Pictures on Perfect Days

Leave a comment

Warning: Did Brad or Caitlin check a little box on the PSAT?  Did Ashley or Justin fill out some innocent looking survey in his or her Sophomore Social Studies class?  They may experience the following symptom:

17,000 pieces of mail and email from various institutions of higher learning across the U.S. of A.

The more advanced stages of these mailings can be identified by the following signs:

Pretty Pictures on Perfect Days With the Leaves Just the Right Color Red and Gold. (Unless the School is in Maine or Colorado – hey, look at that gorgeous, white snow!  Or Florida or Hawaii – look at that gorgeous, tanned student body)

Scientific equipment that looks really, really cool and complicated

Athletic teams clearly destroying the opposition

-And an incredible amount of professors teaching outdoors.

A slogan that clearly indicates one, two or all of the following:

We are a School that is: The Best of some World, in a Tradition of Some Type of Excellence that Will Do Something Positive For U.

Note: It was “positive for you” until a marketer in 1997 – whose name is lost to history – discovered that “U” was a hip, cool spin on the words you and University.

This plague can be transmitted via the following forms:

Viewbooks: Glossy paper products handed out at College Fairs and Open Houses.

Websites: Lurking 24/7 for your perusal.

And – the newest permutation – Facebook and Flickr pages, with their array of photographs and memories.

So, what do I do?  I want Justin to know more about Colleges.  I want Ashley to make an intelligent choice.  I don’t have time to stop by the Post Office and stop my mail.

-Keep a shoebox (or seven) or some sort of filing system to store the printed materials.

-Do look at the online material.  But…

-Understand (and make sure that Caitlin understands) that these are the prettiest pictures on the most perfect days in October, when the leaves were the right color gold and/or red.  These are real pictures, but they are probably not “the norm”.  (At least, I hope they are real – I’m hoping none of our brethren has stooped to stock student pictures or photo-shop.)

-VISIT, VISIT, VISIT.  See it with your own eyes.

-In lieu and in support of visiting, ask people you know who attended or have visited these institutions before for their input.

-Feel free to search online for other photos and information regarding these institutions.  (But respect that this information may be far less reliable than the college’s own materials.)

When I started in College Admissions, my first College had a very attractive Viewbook –  wonderful campus pictures and classroom shots with state of the art equipment and interested students, complimented by relevant descriptions of our academic offerings, athletic program successes and state of the art campus buildings.  We even had a slogan that, I thought, accurately reflected our location as a campus in a suburban location overlooking Manhattan – we were “the Best of Both Worlds”.

When I came to my second Admissions position, it was at a College in a northern borough of New York City.  Our Viewbook’s slogan?  “The Best of All Worlds“.  Sound familiar?  (FYI, the two colleges used the same Marketing firm.)

Bottom line: enjoy the pretty menu, but don’t forget to read the ingredients and sample the product.  And be careful when it says “market price”.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.  Please feel free to email me at info@cc4therestofus.com, call or text me at 908-403-3819, join me on Facebook on “College Counseling for the Rest of Usand join me on Twitter at @MichaelCCR.

A Loan Again, Naturally

Leave a comment

(NOTE: This topic is far too “BIG” for a 700 word blog post.  I’ve tried to hit the most relevant points, but certainly contact me for further questions)

In the world of the College Search, few things cause parents more fear, anxiety, confusion, anger and worry than Student Loans.

What if Brad doesn’t get a job right away? What if Caitlin transfers, or drops out?

What does a “direct” loan mean? Direct to whom?   Do I pay back or does Ashley?

Does Justin pay while he’s in school? Does Ashley have to take all of the loan amount offered?

Isn’t there loan forgiveness if she agrees to work at a tough school district or joins the Peace Corps, or teaches tough kids in the Peace Corps?

Okay, it’ll be alright, everyone.  Just let go of my jacket,  and I’ll try to provide some answers.

Sorry.

The William D. Ford Direct Loan program is an outgrowth of the Robert Stafford Loan program, which was originally the Federal Guaranteed Student Loan.  Stafford was a U.S. Senator from Vermont.  Ford was a U.S. Representative from Michigan.  (In case you were wondering…)

Direct loans are loans to the student. The student pays them back upon leaving school. Hopefully, that means graduation, but if Caitlin leaves Harvard, Kean or Lincoln Tech “prematurely”, she’s got to start paying.

The “direct” is a reference to direct FROM whom – these loans are from the U.S. government direct to Ashley, Caitlin, Justin or Brad.

There are limits – both annually and in aggregate – to what someone can borrow. For dependent students whose parents are eligible for a PLUS loan, the aggregate limit is $31,000, with no more than $23,000 being subsidized.  The 1st year limit is $5500, with no more than $3500 being subsidized.

Slow down – PLUS loan? Subsidized?  Huh?

Direct loans are either subsidized (the government is paying the interest while the student is in school) or unsubsidized (the interest is growing while the student is in school).  The PLUS loan is a federal loan a parent can take to supplement the financial aid package.  PLUS loans, and the additional Direct Loan eligibility for students whose parents are denied a PLUS loan, are worthy of a separate blog or two, in and of themselves.

$5500 is a lot of money.  Then, I – I mean Brad – just won’t take out a loan.  Or can he borrow a portion of that – maybe $1500 or $2000?

I’m glad you asked.  One of the major mistakes families make is looking at that amount as “all or nothing”.  Brad can borrow $500 or $1500 or $2500.  And generally, the best decision in utilizing your financial aid package is to take a “reasonable” portion of the loan amount available. It provides money to afford college and builds a positive credit history.  It’s considered, when managed properly, “good debt”.  Of course, determining what’s “reasonable” is the tricky part, and varies greatly from student to student.

The current interest rate for subsidized loans is 4.5%, unsubsidized loans 6.8% and PLUS loans is 7.9%.  FYI, the student can pay the interest on an unsubsidized loan, while in school, while still deferring the principle.  And it’s a really, really good idea to do so.

Direct Loans can be deferred, if you are unemployed and/or in economic hardship.  Forbearance is sometimes an option, when you can’t make payments.  But, the key is to keep in communication with the government.  If they request payment or additional information, don’t ignore them.  If you have a question – ASK!

And, yes, Direct Loans can be canceled for certain types of service as a teacher, long term public service, some cases of bankruptcy, permanent disability (but certain conditions apply) and death.

It has been reported that Student Loan Default rates have skyrocketed recentlyTake a look at this graph. Default rates are increasing, but after a big decline.  And there are wide differences in default rates for different sub-groups.  If you are in a baccalaureate program and you persist to graduation, your likelihood of default is far less than if you attend a 1 or 2 year professional program and/or do not complete your degree or certificate program.  But there IS still a real, tangible issue of concern – many of these students will graduate with the equivalent of a large home equity loan at the age of 22.

My take-away would be this:

  • If you borrow, always start with Direct Loans.
  • Borrow “some”. Don’t feel obligated to borrow all or nothing.
  • Stay in School! The chance of default increases greatly for those who do not persist to graduation.
  • ASK QUESTIONS – of me, of your Financial Aid officer and of the government.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.  Please feel free to email me at info@cc4therestofus.com, call or text me at 908-403-3819, join me on Facebook on “College Counseling for the Rest of Usand join me on Twitter at @MichaelCCR.

Oh The Humanities of It All

Leave a comment

I remember reading an article very early on in my career (late 1980’s or 1990) that argued that tuition increases couldn’t continue at the rate they were going.

If these increases kept going at this rate, we’d be paying $20,000 or $30,000 a year for tuition. And then (gasp) $40,000 or $50,000.  How ridiculous!  Of course, this could never happen.  Who could afford such rates?  Colleges would fold; access to college would only be available to the wealthy.

And yet, here we are in 2011, with the $50,000 barrier falling like an Educational Berlin Wall.

And there are more students in American Colleges than at any point in our nation’s history.  It’s not a perfect system, and costs are certainly too high, and I would argue the same point – this can’t continue.  Nobody’s going to pay $60,000 or $70,000 a year for tuition.  (Feel free to quote me/mock me when they do).  However…

Families have adjusted.

They’ve borrowed. And they’ve borrowed some more.  They’ve chosen public colleges over private institutions in ever-increasing numbers.  Students have gone to 5 and 6 year plans and dropped to part-time study so that they could earn sufficient money to pay tuition.  Or they’ve returned to school at 25 or 35 or 45 or 55.

Colleges have adjusted, as well.

They’ve offered financial aid in ever-increasing numbers to make the “actual” price a little more palatable than the sticker price.  They’ve offered greater technology, varied modes of delivery and greatly advanced student services programming.

I applaud those who look for ways to end the tuition madness.  However, I think this is all – the tuition increases and the reactions to them – a reality that is going to be with us for the foreseeable future.

Uh, so, Mike, why the hell are you writing this article?

Because one adjustment has been made by both colleges and students that I think is short-sighted, ill-advised and insufficiently commented upon.  Not to mention, it’s easily fixed.

At some point, the conventional wisdom became that – to make this investment worthwhile – it was necessary to major in a pre-professional program.  You need to learn a skill, a trade, a way to make a living.  Why else would someone invest $150,000 or so in a college education?

Colleges responded in two ways – to a) softly tout the intellectual benefits of the humanities and the liberal arts and b) put a hell of a lot of emphasis and marketing dollars in pre-professional programs.

In related news, we now have half the Humanities majors in 2011 that we had in the mid 1970’s.

In a market where careers change every few years, new industries are created with ever-increasing rapidity and business communication becomes ever more nuanced and varied, we decided that it would be a good idea to all study the same freaking major and narrow our knowledge base, not broaden it.

Make sense to you?

Let me throw this slogan out there –

Want to succeed in a job, impress your boss, get promotions and raises?  Major in the Humanities!

Employers want employees who can read, write, discuss, articulate.  They want staff who understand past events and context and know how to implement that information into successful strategy for the present and future.

Want to succeed in a job, impress your boss, get promotions and raises?  Major in the Humanities!

They can train you in their processes.  But they don’t have the time, energy or desire to teach you how to think, speak, write, influence, plan and implement.  They want to assume that you bring those traits to the table.  And a degree in the Humanities (or, dare I go crazy here, the Liberal Arts!) gives you plenty of experience working with those tools in the tool belt.

Some of the best Doctors in the U.S. majored in English and some great Businessmen majored in Sociology.

Colleges have become apologetic in their promotion of the Humanities and it needs to stop before there’s nothing left to apologize for.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.  Please feel free to email me at info@cc4therestofus.com, call or text me at 908-403-3819, join me on Facebook on “College Counseling for the Rest of Usand join me on Twitter at @MichaelCCR.