Category Archives: education

Kranse SAT prep course

How an Online SAT Prep Course Saved Us $24,000

Some Background Information

Although I don’t share too many personal stories about the kids (unless they’re hilarious and wouldn’t embarrass them), I have been posting about Luke’s college search process.

As with most things at the Phillips household, Luke’s college search was unconventional since he only visited one school, liked it, and accepted an offer to play tennis there. Done…right? Wrong!

Not So Fast, Kid

The offer included an academic scholarship with the condition of raising his SAT score by 40 points. Without the academic award, we weren’t sure we could afford one year, let alone four.

Since Luke didn’t prepare much before the first SAT exam, we thought he could meet this hurdle with some focused preparation.

Luke is a good student. He gets mostly A’s, some B’s and has a solid GPA. He’s fairly disciplined but needs a set structure from an outside source to keep him moving forward and motivated.

I couldn’t provide this type of accountability or specific coaching for the SAT content. The free Khan Academy site doesn’t provide the progressive structure he needed. I appreciate the free resource but you feel like you’re jumping around a lot. Luke only used Khan a few times before his first SAT exam for that reason.

Enter Kranse Institute*

I had read about an online prep course created by a guy who achieved a perfect score on the SAT after studying the test design and refining his approach to the questions. He appeared on Shark Tank and partnered with Mark Cuban. I have to admit, Cuban’s endorsement influenced my confidence in the course.

Here’s a clip from Patel’s Shark Tank Pitch (before the course was rebranded for new SAT format):

 

 

I didn’t need or expect Luke to get a perfect score-just 40 points for $6,000 a year. I wouldn’t normally spend $349 (with a 30% off coupon) on something like this (like NEVER) but I justified the expense of The Kranse Institute¬†course for a few reasons:

  1. Luke saved us hundreds of dollars by visiting and applying to only one school.
  2. This investment could translate into $24,000 (over 4 years), a huge return.
  3. Having access to the course gave Luke confidence, peace of mind and a goal (watch videos).
  4. Kranse offers a 7-day money back guarantee if it’s not a good fit.
  5. Kranse also offers a 100% money back guarantee if the student’s score doesn’t improve.

We had nothing to lose.

You Already Know He Got the Award!

Luke had received a financial aid award early in January that included the tennis scholarship and a loan approval (don’t even get me started on loans!). At that point, the college didn’t have his best scores. We weren’t sure his January scores (sent to colleges March 2) would get to the right people in time for a decision for additional money.

We were both nervous when he got this second email from the financial aid office.

Financial Aid Award Kranse SAT prep scholarship

We clicked through to his campus account and found this notice waiting for him!

Academic Award Status Kranse SAT Prep

I can’t even express what a huge relief this is and the margin the award gives our family.

Though, Luke and I were impressed with the Kranse Institute course before this result, we can unequivocally endorse it and recommend it to family and friends (and readers we don’t know) ūüėČ

Here’s what Luke liked about the course.

I asked Luke to describe what he thought was helpful. Here’s what he told me:

  • ¬†The videos were short and to the point. I felt like I could learn exactly what I needed for that section or problem without guessing.
  • ¬†I liked seeing my progress as I finished lessons. It gave me a feeling of accomplishment and helped me plan.¬†
  • It was great having access to the lessons anytime from anywhere.
  • The writing videos helped my writing score and skills more than two years of high school English.
  • It helped me stay focused and motivated.

Here’s What I Liked About the Course

  1. Self-motivating. I didn’t have to hound Luke about studying. Luke knew as soon as we purchased the course that he would watch them. This factor alone, was worth the price of the course to me.
  2. Organized. The entire course is well-organized by SAT subject tests (Essay, Critical Reading, Writing, Math; plus a series of videos with general information about test design, changes, format and scoring). Luke didn’t need the essay portion so he could skip that whole group of videos. If he had trouble with a particular concept after completing a practice section, he could easily navigate to and review a specific video.
  3. Solid content. The strategies and samples are direct, relevant and useful. I didn’t review all the videos but I took some time to look at a lot of them and was impressed by how practical and executable the strategies are.
  4. Price. Private tutoring (online and in-person) can range from $150-$200 or more per hour which is unaffordable for us. Other courses can cost $1200 or more. For $349 (with coupon) and with Kranse’s money-back guarantee, it was the most affordable and practical option for Luke’s situation.

A Special Price for My Readers

The blog where I originally read about the course included a limited coupon code which I used to get a 30% discount. I reached out to Kranse and the support team offered the same discount for my readers.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Kranse Institute course including results, an overview, faqs, and the guarantee, here’s the link: Kranse.com¬†.

Use the coupon code “SAVE30NOW” at checkout for 30% off the regular price!

If you decide to try the course, I’d love to know if it helps!

 

*This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase or use the coupon code, I receive a commission at no additional cost to you and you still get the discount. I appreciate it. If you would rather not use the affiliate link, close your browser and navigate right to the site.

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Room & Board When You Choose Not to Go To College

Gary Vee quote about winning

Hannah still lives at home. I’m fine with that at least until she would have otherwise graduated from college (2020). She’s anxious to get out on her own as soon as she can. I’m guessing by the end of summer (2017) she’ll have her own place.

She’s looking at really nice (and expensive) apartments. The range is anywhere from $800-$1200 per month. She wants 2 bedrooms. She pictures herself having an extra room for a studio. She doesn’t want a roommate.

I can feel you rolling your eyes already. You’re probably thinking how spoiled and unrealistic it is for a 19 year-old to spend so much on her first apartment. Shouldn’t she find the cheapest apartment or a roommate? Shouldn’t she learn what it feels like to struggle and live in a crap hole? Who does she think she is?

If that’s your reaction, it’s interesting that you don’t say the same about Hannah’s friends who spend almost as much for student housing even when they could commute. (Or choose a college close to home in order to save money by commuting).

Your brain comes up with all kinds of rationalizations that make the on-campus living expense acceptable and desirable over Hannah’s situation.

Let’s Compare for Fun

For this scenario, let’s assume that Hannah finds a 2 bedroom apartment for $1,000 plus some utilities (water and sewage is included in the rent but she’ll have to pay for gas/electric, internet and cable if she wants it and food).

Room and Board at local colleges range from $10K-12K or more. For the sake of this thought exercise, we’ll say $11,000. So, a little less than $1,000 per month. That includes meals. Except most parents complain that they have no choice about the meal plan or extra food allowance. Use it or lose it. So, I think that balances out. I know plenty of kids who never eat in the cafeteria so someone’s paying for their Chipolte-it usually ain’t the student.

“Rent” vs. “Room and Board”

  1. I won’t be paying Hannah’s rent or other expenses. Plus my household expenses will likely decrease when she’s out of the house (those 40 minute showers aren’t free).

Many parents pay for tuition plus room and board, drain their retirement funds or take out loans…for 4 years or more.¬†Plus they still pay for their kids living expenses during summers and breaks for the entire 4 years.

2. Hannah won’t be borrowing money for her rent or other living expenses. By the time she rents a place, she’ll have an emergency fund saved up in case her expected income doesn’t cover her rent, utilities, food and car expenses. Hopefully, she won’t need it and still have $5,000-$10,000 saved.

Most students borrow to cover the cost of college including room and board. (Avg. debt in PA $37,000)

3. Hannah can choose where she lives, how much she wants to spend and who her roommates will be (if she wants/needs them).

Most students have limited choices about dorms and roommates. Good luck getting a single.

4. Hannah will learn how to budget and pay her own bills.

Most college students are oblivious to the costs associated with student housing. There’s no reason to budget except maybe for parties and pizza.

5. Hannah will learn over the course of the year whether the cost of the apartment is worth it to her. If she finds herself scrambling to pay rent or is stressed by her workload to maintain the lifestyle, she can always find a cheaper place, a roommate, more clients or try to raise her prices. That’s a lot of valuable experience. I could lecture her about all that but nothing beats learning by experience. She also might try Air B n B to supplement her rent expenses.

Some college students get an apartment near campus to save money on student housing but still borrow for it or their parents pay for it. Most students I know don’t write the checks for rent and utilities. I’m not criticizing, just saying they aren’t learning this skill.

6. Even if Hannah struggles to pay for her own place more than she expects, I think the thought of returning home will spur creative solutions to maintain her independence.

Most college students move back home after graduation. Many are forced to live with their parents even after they find work because student loan payments are so high. 

I certainly don’t want Hannah to struggle with rent because she bites off more than she can chew but I’d rather she get a feel for it now. It’s best to make mistakes with money when you don’t have dependents or a 30-year mortgage.

I’ll worry less about Hannah’s safety if she lives in a nicer place (maybe that’s not rational). I’ll certainly miss her but am excited for her to take this step. I’m all for her trying different things while she’s young and isn’t burdened by a lot of financial responsibilities.

If she can manage to afford a beautiful apartment in a city that she loves and is close by, I’ll be happy for both of us!

 

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The Search for College Scholarships

college scholarships

[This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of the links, I receive a commission at no additional cost to you. My review of the books in this post are my own opinions].

I’m in “find-money-for-college” mode.

Since Luke committed to Cleveland State University, he’s been preparing to take the SAT again¬†and I’ve been doing research on scholarships to minimize the amount he’ll have to borrow.

In this post, I’ll discuss three resources that I’m using to organize the search.

First, I bought two inexpensive ebooks that offer a systematic approach to searching and applying for scholarships. Both are quick reads and have similar strategies, so either would be helpful.

“The Scholarship System” by Jocelyn Paonita


The author provides a step-by-step approach to find money, organize your search, plan and write effective essays and other tips and strategies. The book includes worksheets to help you plan along the way and to minimize repetition and back-tracking.

 

“Confessions of a Scholarship Winner” by Kristina Ellis

 

Ellis has an interesting story. Although she was eligible for scholarships that don’t apply to many students (immigrant parent, father passed away, low-income household) her approach is very similar to Paonita’s.

Both authors insist that students can qualify for scholarships regardless of grades, class rank or SAT scores. Both Ellis and Paonita give practical advice about how to make an application stand-out and highlight a student’s interests and attributes even if they don’t seem significant.

For example, Paonita suggests using certain power words in the essay and Ellis suggests opening an essay with a story instead of repeating the question as a thesis statement.

“The Ultimate Scholarship Book 2017” by Gen and Kelly Tanabe

 

I bought this book after reviewing an outdated version at our local library. Some amazon reviewers complained about how it’s organized (for example, all state-specific scholarships are in one section rather than separated by state). I was able to skim the descriptions fairly quickly to eliminate scholarships that don’t apply and note ones for which Luke might qualify.

Now that I have a list, I’ll organize them on a spreadsheet (as suggested by The Scholarship System) and include application deadlines, scholarship amounts and other basic information.

I discovered a few things while reviewing the scholarships in this book. First, many scholarships are available to undergraduate students, graduate students, even PhD.s. Other scholarships target younger students so it’s a useful resource for many years and it’s clear that a student should continue to pursue scholarships throughout his college and grad school years.

The other thing I noticed is that there are dozens of scholarships for female engineers, amateur and HAM radio operators, students interested in food service/hospitality/travel industry, to name a few.

I found at least 20 scholarships for which Luke is eligible. In a future post, I’ll write about the application process and how we prioritized our efforts.

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SAT Prep for the 21st Century

 

SAT prep expertNow that Luke has committed to attend Cleveland State University, he’s obligated to raise his SAT scores to qualify for the academic part of the scholarship on the table.*

Since he didn’t prepare at all the first time around (procrastination), Luke’s pretty confident that any prep will bring up his score.

I didn’t want to take a chance, though. I had read one guy’s story about how his son used an online course for only 3 weeks and scored perfect on the SAT.

Krause Institute perfect SAT

Enter Kranse Institute SAT Prep Expert

I know, sounds like B.S. and I don’t expect Luke to obtain a perfect score but as I did more research into the course designed by Shaan Patel, who perfected his approach to the test and studied the test design for a perfect score himself, I was convinced that Luke could get some value from the videos.

Luke has been using the course for one week, here’s what I like so far:

1. I don’t have to nag him

This, in itself, is worth the price of the course. I catch Luke reviewing the videos without any prompting from me all the time.

2. The videos are short and concise

The course is organized to address one area at a time (obvious) and each video within the subject covers one concept or strategy. This streamlined approach minimizes confusion and easily allows the student to measure progress and identify trouble spots during practice.

3. The interface is aesthetically pleasing

Let’s face it, our kids are visually engaged 24/7. The video course has the benefit of graphics which in-person, paper-based study aids don’t.

The slide graphics are pleasing to the eye and don’t distract from the concept or strategy. This makes the whole process appealing and less stressful. ¬†In short, it’s easy on the eyes.

Shaan Patel (the course creator) teaches all the lessons. His voice is soothing and natural.

4. It’s convenient

It’s great that Luke can login and watch a video at any time of the day or night from anywhere. He enrolled in a prep course at our local high school last year but had to miss a few classes (Saturday mornings from 9-12 for 6 weeks) for tennis tournaments and prior commitments.

While showing up consistently and going over practice questions in a group setting is better than nothing, the class setting wasn’t efficient or personalized.

The Kranse format allows Luke to review concepts that he consistently has trouble with and skim videos that cover concepts with which he has less trouble.

5. Time

The course is designed to take 6 weeks. Students have access for up to 18 months which is plenty of time if your student plans to review the course to retake the test.

Patel advises using official college board questions (his reasoning is sound on this) but he gives you the best strategy to approach each type of question.

6. Price

At $499, the course is a fraction of the cost of other popular SAT prep courses and boasts an average score improvement of 368 points (210 on the new SAT format), including 7 perfect scores among its students.

Kranse offers a 7 day 100% money-back-guarantee (useful if you purchase the course and the student doesn’t even crack it open or doesn’t feel it would be a good fit). They’ll also refund your money if your student’s score doesn’t improve, no questions asked.

Quick sidebar here: In our case, the cost of the course is easy to justify. Luke saved us hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars in travel and application expenses by making a choice after one visit. Improving his score could translate to at least $6,000 a year. The college won’t be affordable at all if he doesn’t meet that 40 point improvement threshold. Stakes are pretty high and worth a couple of hundred dollars for us.

A Special Offer for My Readers

The blog where I originally learned about the course offered a limited time/availability 30% discount code. I contacted the company and obtained 50 coupon codes for a 30% discount for my readers.

If you purchase the course and enter the coupon code “SAVE30NOW” on the checkout page, you’ll get $149 off the regular price.

 

* Update: Luke raised his score but not enough to qualify for the academic scholarship. Boo that.¬†He got it! As long as he maintains a GPA of 3.0, they’ll award him $6k per year! We both still feel¬†KNOW that the course helped him get organized and focused and gave him a framework for studying. It also helped him know he did everything he could. He thought the Kranse strategies were solid and he even thinks he learned more from the videos than in his 11th and 12th grade English classes. He knew he didn’t do as well on the math section and thought the questions were harder.¬†

**This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through a link, I receive a commission at no additional cost to you. 

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That Was Easy (Update on the College Visit)

 

CSU-vikingI mentioned last week that Luke went on his first college visit.

He liked everything about the weekend, including the tennis coach, the other players, the team’s prospects for winning the conference in the next few years, the campus and the brand new, indoor tennis facility a few blocks from the dorm.

Bonus for us is that it’s only a couple of hours away which will give us an opportunity to see some matches. YAY!

If the athletic + academic scholarship offer stays the same, I feel comfortable with the finances. He’ll probably have to borrow some but he can offset or eliminate that by brainstorming and saving a bunch of money. I’m not expecting grants but you never know. He might bring his SAT score up enough to qualify for another $1500 per year. Every little bit helps.

It’s great to have the search process behind him and there are definitely perks to being recruited (admission, priority for classes, job at the tennis center, etc.). Luke’s ready to focus and now he has something to work toward.

In the next post, I’ll tell you what he’s doing to bring his SAT score up.

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College Visits

college-visits

Photo cred: Aleksandr Kozlovskii | unsplash.com

My oldest wasn’t interested in college so we were spared.

Her younger brother (by 11 months) will visit his first college this weekend. He has to go alone because I’m caring for Mark who suffered a serious injury at work that left him temporarily disabled. Mark can’t even get into a car.

Luke plans to play tennis in college and the coach is hosting his visit (though he’ll be staying with someone on the team). Don’t even go there. I figure he’ll be in a position to drink and hope he’ll be smart.

I visited 2 colleges when I was a senior in high school and attended the second. I wanted to play basketball so my choices were limited to small, D3. I didn’t have the resources to go far away. I also didn’t have the resources to apply to or visit a lot of campuses. It was fine. I was content with my choice and loved my college experience. I qualified for a lot of grants and aid and only borrowed $12,000 for my degree.

I know it’s standard for kids to visit 10, 20 sometimes 50 different schools. I don’t know how that happens logistically. How is that even helpful? I think it confuses the matter and gives kids the impression that every aspect of a college experience should be perfect.

Luke knows it’s not realistic to go more than a couple of hours away. We can’t afford to fly him back and forth from school. He also knows that we don’t plan to give him a tour of the U.S. in search of the perfect set-up. He has a few priorities in addition to our limitations.

Money will be the biggest factor. His eligibility for assistance is a big mystery. Likely we’ll have to disappoint him if the numbers don’t add up. I refuse to let him borrow more than $15,000-$20,000 total for an undergraduate degree (I prefer no debt) and no matter what FAFSA says, we’ll decide how much we can afford to contribute-if any. I try to prepare him for the reality of that but I don’t think he gets it.

I’m also trying to convince Luke to be strategic about college. I learned that NCAA Junior colleges award twice as many full scholarships as D1 and D2. Luke will likely grow, mature emotionally and improve his skills in the next few years. Plus he would have the option of going farther away if we have to pay for less school. This might put him in a position to be able to use his college fund to pay for the remaining two years at a 4 year college where, because of the limited ¬†number of scholarships, he’s not likely to get as much help.

Just about everyone I talk to (my age and younger) regrets borrowing as much as they did for their four year degree and wishes they would have gone to community college for the first two years. If Luke can play tennis in a truly competitive situation, I don’t think he’ll regret it.

I’m guessing there’s less competition for JUCO tennis scholarships. Since tennis is an elitist sport, Luke’s peers are looking at top academic and tennis programs. I read that many junior college coaches don’t allocate their recruiting budget simply because they don’t have the resources to recruit and scout and aren’t approached by suitable athletes.

So, the question will be whether Luke will consider my advice about how to navigate this college thing. My main goal is coming out on the other end of it with little or no debt. We’ll see.

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Dear High School Guidance Counselor….

school yard

original image credit: Francisco Galarza via unsplash.com

I know it’s your job to “guide” students. I get the impression that you believe it’s your job to direct them toward college-no matter the expense or their interest in going.

I understand you met with a group of Juniors the other day during their English class. You had them enter their email addresses on a site that asked them a litany of questions to help them decide what to study in college.

Is it true that you told the kids who don’t plan to go to college to reconsider? Did you also tell them not to answer something stupid (your word) like “be a nanny” on questions about their plans after high school?

I won’t take that remark personally even though my daughter has told you on several occassions that she plans to nanny when she graduates in order earn money to pursue other goals. You probably weren’t interested enough to learn that she’s a gifted, conscientious and engaged child-care provider who loves to be with kids of all ages. She tells them stories, plans projects and crafts, invents games, fixes meals and reads with them. In short, she’s happy when she’s with her younger cousins or small clients. I think hers is an excellent plan that will provide a lot of flexibility. Before you go there, no, she doesn’t want to be a teacher. She doesn’t want to watch 25-30 kids at a time, just a few.

My daughter has a keen understanding of her interests, skills, gifts, strengths and weaknesses. She’s lucky that she doesn’t need a computer program for that. My guess is that lots of kids know these things about themselves but when they try to communicate them to you, you don’t really listen to them. Instead, you dismiss their ideas and try to pigeon-hole them into a pre-defined, acceptable major or career.

Being a nanny isn’t “stupid”.¬†High-quality child care is a valuable service. Responsible and experienced providers are in demand and can earn a lucrative income and unique experiences all without the burden of debt. Many full-time nannies can earn more than their college-educated peers and enjoy benefits like free housing, meals, transportation (including discretionary access to a car), all-expense-paid vacations and paid vacation time.

My daughter and I have spent a lot of time discussing how she can develop her interests and skills to create a career, multiple streams of income and a lifestyle that she chooses.  Regardless of whether someone else regards it as successful, acceptable or adequate.

The job you decided to mock is irrelevant. My point is, it’s unprofessional and narrow-minded to dismiss certain occupations or paths to a fulfilling life. Your job is to support students and help them find every resource available to pursue an idea, a vocation, a career or a dream even if it doesn’t align with your idea of a respectable profession. Steering a diverse group of students down one, narrow path doesn’t serve them, even if it does serve your ego.

Did you know that 40% of students drop out of college without a degree? Do you think maybe they were steered toward college as the only option by people like you? ¬†Yes, I’m suggesting you’re partially to blame. Do you ever advise students who are unsure about their future to work for a few years or go to community college?

Did you know that some of your students borrow as much as $80,000 for an undergraduate degree? ¬†The average student debt for a college education is $37,000. Do you think that’s advisable? I don’t.

One more thing. Quit sharing my kids’ email addresses with colleges and military recruiters. Even kids who are interested in college don’t want to be spammed by them. My kids know where to enlist if they decide to go that route.

I was tempted to email you about this recent presentation but decided against it because my children are insulated from your narrow views and I realize I will not change your mind or your tactics. They know they have my support and encouragement to pursue any path or no path and work until they figure something out. Some will likely go to college but probably not with much assistance from you.

Yours truly.

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Why I Regret Starting a 529 Plan for My Kids

why-not-to-save-in-a-529-plan

Let’s be clear: I don’t regret saving for the kids’ future. I regret limiting that fund for college.

Like many young parents, Mark and I were anxious to start saving for college. A 529 plan was the no-brainer option at the time. The fund grows tax-free and as long as the money is used for a “qualified education expense”, the interest is never taxed. There can also be state tax deductions for contributions.

So, here’s why I regret saving in a 529: There are so many valuable and practical ways to learn outside of college that can’t be funded by a 529 without paying taxes and penalties on the interest.

Nineteen years ago (the year Hannah was born), college appeared to be the only and best way to have a career and wasn’t nearly as expensive. In 1996, 52% of Bachelor’s degree recipients carried student loans averaging $12,000 (which is the same amount I graduated from college with in 1990). Today, at least 71% of college graduates have student loans averaging $37,000.

In contrast to the 1990s, high school students can begin to teach themselves skills that add value to a fast-paced, global economy. College is required for some professions (academia, law, medicine) but isn’t for many others.

Apprenticeship programs, gap years, online certification programs, fellowships, world travel and small business opportunities are all valuable and practical alternatives to college that can’t be paid for with 529 funds without penalty.

¬†They’re one form of university welfare. The other forms are private loans, grants and government-subsidized loans. Students aren’t really the beneficiaries of these forms of assistance when a degree doesn’t guarantee a job or skills that employers say are lacking in most college graduates. (Don’t believe me, read this book about the skills gap).

Hannah graduated from high school and has no plans to attend college. Instead, she’s participating in a program that matches highly motivated young people with a small business or startup willing to train them.

Praxis charges tuition but boasts a net-zero cost because the total payment is less than the guaranteed pay the participant receives from the business partner during the apprenticeship. In addition to skills training, Praxis offers one-on-one mentorship, weekly group discussions and guidance on personal and professional development projects. Every participant has a tangible body of work to show potential employers at the conclusion of the program. The Praxis model has been so effective that business partners now commit to a full-time offer with a minimum salary of $40,000 for participants. No college will guarantee that.

By the time her classmates graduate, Hannah will likely have saved as much or more than they have borrowed in the same time period. She’ll be earning as much or more and she’ll likely be living on her own. Compared to other 18-34-year-olds, who, for the first time ever, are living with parents more than any other living arrangement.

So, what to do with all that money we saved for college? We could transfer the 529 to one of Hannah’s siblings. ¬†We put that money aside for Hannah, though, and frankly, I’d rather see it go to photo equipment (Hannah’s business), studio space, even a car, than an over-priced college.

Even though she’ll pay taxes (at her rate) and a 10% penalty on the interest, we’ve decided to use the money in Hannah’s 529 plan to pay the tuition for Praxis. The interest and penalty combined don’t compare to the interest that most students will end up paying for the lifetime of the loans they’re taking.

I’m not so put-off by the taxes owed because if we had it in any other type of fund, we would have been paying taxes on the interest all along. The penalty stings a little since she’s using the money for a program that has a guaranteed ROI and is tens of thousands less than college would have been.

Hopefully, 529 rules will expand with growing opportunities in our rapidly-changing world that make more sense than college. Any changes will likely come too slowly to help my children.

I’m not sure what will happen when the college bubble finally pops. Likely, even those who opt out will be stuck holding the bag. University Provosts everywhere will continue to receive their bloated salaries or maybe they’ll run for the hills taking their golden parachutes with them.

Rethink opening that 529. There are other ways to save in a high-growth fund for a minor. You can still use that money for college but you’ll have other options.

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Hannah Graduated!

So, this happened last week…..

Hannah Phillips graduate

Here’s another because I love flying mortar boards………

carlynton-commencement-2016

Hannah has been ready to graduate forever. Senioritis kicked in somewhere in the middle of her junior year. She had a great senior year, though. She met some great kids and teachers and in the background created some super cool opportunities for herself.

By April she had 4 jobs in addition to her own business. Including teaching tennis to little kids, waiting tables at a local restaurant, working the desk at municipal tennis courts and got herself on the media team of the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds, a local semi-pro ultimate disc (frisbee) team. The kid just finds opportunities and goes after them.

Some cool opportunities find her, too. She helped a local podcaster video his interview of the mayor last week (the podcaster guy plays for the Thunderbirds-see how things happen?). She’s doing design work for another guy who started a snapchat geo filter business, she’s painting murals for other local businesses and she’ll be apprenticing the CEO at a marketing/ad agency in the city.

Funny, while she was in school and before she had 5 jobs, she would nap as soon as she walked in the door after school and as much as possible on weekends. When she had all those jobs (she’s not teaching tennis in the summer and she has limited her shifts at the tennis center) she hardly ever napped. Partly because she had less time but also because the work gave her energy. Now that she’s out of school and her work schedule is less hectic, she hardly ever naps. School drained her energy and not in that good, constructive way.

I thought I would feel a tiny bit sad or nostalgic that Hannah isn’t heading off to college in the fall, but truthfully, I’m relieved. I loved my college experience but things are so different now. The “college experience” is too expensive, course work isn’t leading to jobs and the higher risk of being assaulted on a college campus compared to working in the real world is pretty terrifying.

I’m actually looking forward to standing back and watching what Hannah makes happen in the next year. She’s anxious to live on her own and I have no doubt that she could do that sooner than later if she gets organized.

I had a few interesting conversations at a graduation party for my neighbor this weekend. Two young professionals I spoke to admit that they wish they had gone to community college for two years instead of a four year college because of the debt. The graduate’s sister just earned her bachelor’s in Marketing and can’t find a job. Funny, Hannah will be working at a marketing agency in September, apprenticing the CEO without a degree and the debt that comes with it. My point is, I couldn’t be more content with Hannah’s future plans and the opportunities she’s taking advantage of because she’s NOT committed to a college.

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Why I Advocate College For the Few

taking gap time

Photo Credit: Sonja Guina: Unsplash.com

I can only think of a few scenarios in which a traditional 4 year (usually more) college is a good idea for most 18-year-olds.

Scenario #1: A student earns a full athletic or academic scholarship to attend for all 4 years.  Though, I think a person a few years out of high school is a better investment, for some reason, these type of scholarships are usually only awarded to kids right out of high school.

What about a partial scholarship?” you ask.

ANSWER: Depends on how much the student has to pay or borrow.

Scenario #2: A student who has known her intended path from an early age and that path requires an undergraduate degree. I’m not going to argue with a kid who’s clearly destined to be a neurosurgeon, engineer, nurse, physical therapist, etc. Even in this case, I would encourage parents to help the student understand the impact of debt on her lifestyle (if she has to borrow) once the education is complete.

Scenario #3: Parent works at the university or college and tuition is free or insanely cheap. Even in this scenario, four years at a school could result in opportunity costs to the student depending on what he or she plans to do. But more likely, the kid has no idea what he wants to do, so this would be dumb to pass up.

Scenario #4: A 529 or other fund set aside for college will pay the tuition the student will owe. Even in this case, I believe the money is better spent when the student is more mature and experienced than most 18-year-olds¬†but that’s just my opinion and I¬†have no desire to tell other people what to do with their money.

Scenario #5: (I know, 5 is technically more than a “few”). Generally,¬†there are some kids I know who are “this close” to figuring out what they want to do after high school, their parents desire and can afford to send them to college and they don’t have unique skills or interests that are marketable-yet. So, I would agree that college in this scenario is probably a better idea than bouncing around the minimum wage world. Though a gap-year plan or a Praxis year might be more productive in this situation.

FOR MY OWN CHILDREN, I can’t think of any other reason to TAKE ON CONSIDERABLE DEBT to go to college-especially right out of high school. Here are my reasons:

  1. An expensive college is not the place to “figure out” what you want to do. It’s like buying a Corvette to learn how to drive. Except the Corvette is cheaper and you’ll probably actually learn to drive, so the car is the better investment. This doesn’t mean my kids will be buying a car to learn how to drive, clearly that’s stupid. So is going to college to figure out what you want to do and borrowing to do it. Life and work experience will be a much better teacher.
  2. My children have had jobs but I still wouldn’t want them to choose a career with the limited experience they have had.In Hannah’s case, she’s had a variety of jobs and a variety of skills and interests. No way do I want to force her to “pick” which one of those to “major” in to fit into a box. Instead, I subscribe to the idea of developing many areas of interest¬†(multipotentialities), cultivating a “Portfolio Lifestyle” (it worked for DaVinci) and agree that creating multiple streams of income is a better option than a job, which has the perception of offering security but really doesn’t.
  3. Most people aren’t happy with their career choice. Figures vary from 13% job satisfaction to around 20% among American workers, neither of which is very high.
    Anecdotally, this is also true for people in my age group. Many people my age tell me they can’t believe they wasted 25 years of their life doing what they do. Teachers, lawyers, accountants, mortgage brokers (well, that’s understandable) it doesn’t matter.
    My sample is small, to be sure, but the most professionally content people I know are my friends who didn’t go to college and either started their own business or worked predictable hours for a good company. Also, the doctors I know are pretty engaged and content with their career choice.
    This begs the question, why are we expecting 18-year-olds to choose then go into debt for a path that might make them miserable? Doesn’t it make more sense to explore options and opportunities outside the confines of an over-priced institution?
    I would advocate work, hate some jobs, love other jobs, learn about people, travel, be lazy, get tired of your lazy self and living with your parents and take action, whatever that action has to be. That makes more sense to me.
  4. There are so many legitimate, sensible alternatives to an expensive, traditional four-year degree that are just as likely, if not more, to lead to satisfying work. Vocational education, community college, online programs, college overseas, entrepreneurial and apprenticeship opportunities are just a few examples. These options simply didn’t exist when I graduated from high school and are attractive based on cost (low or none) and outcomes (experience and marketable skill procurement).

I know people think my views about college are weird and maybe they’ll prove me right if my kids still live with us when they’re 30. Thing is, I know plenty of college graduates approaching their 30s who still live with their parents.

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