Before College: Education After High School? Oh, Yeah, It’s Worth It!

Oddly enough, some people are still selling the idea education after high school isn’t worthwhile.

Former U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett is one. Colleges and universities promise personal growth and significant financial returns, but most let their students down, he argues in Is College Worth It?. Old Bill must not have been too disappointed with his bachelor’s degree and PhD, both in philosophy, because he then got a law degree.

In The Case Against Education, George Mason University economics professor Bryan Caplan argues that little of the return on college degrees come from knowledge and skills learned in classrooms. But would Professor Caplan be Professor Caplan without what he learned while getting his bachelor’s degree and PhD in economics?

The Motley Fool says “42% of Americans feel their college degrees weren’t worth the amount of debt they created.” Coincidentally, 42% of Americans also believe in ghosts, aren’t saving for retirement, and cite lack of time as their excuse for not exercising.

Let’s get serious!

Postsecondary learning’s value is overwhelmingly evident, even if it’s only measured in dollars and cents.

Researchers with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York note that, “In recent years, the average college graduate with a bachelor’s degree earned about $78,000 compared to $45,000 for the average worker with only a high school diploma.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2019 Education Pays chart shows “the more you learn, the more you earn” and the less likely you are to suffer unemployment.

What’s going on? According to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW), two-thirds of entry-level jobs once required high school diplomas or less. Today, two-thirds of such jobs require some postsecondary education.

CEW also reports that 20% of today’s “good” jobs — positions paying 25-44 year olds at least $35,000 and 45-64 year olds $45,000 or more — are held by workers with high school diplomas or less; but 24% are taken by workers completing more than high school but not bachelor’s degrees and 56% engage those with bachelor’s degrees or higher.

And postsecondary education’s payoff isn’t all about jobs and earnings. The College Board found that, as education increases, so does parental involvement with children, civic involvement, and voter turnout; while obesity, smoking, and use of public assistance all decline.

Of course, Americans needn’t be doctors, lawyers, or executives to have adequate pay and fulfilling lives. But learning after high school clearly helps make these outcomes more likely.

The big challenge is how to acquire quality postsecondary education while minimizing educational indebtedness. There are ways to do this. For links to over 150 articles on such strategies, see College Affordability Solutions’ Topical Index.

Contact College Affordability Solutions for advice on postsecondary affordability strategies to use before, during, and after college. College Affordability Solutions’ consults with students and parents at no charge.

After College: Easily Avoided Student Loan Repayment Mistakes

Did you borrow student loans to help pay your college expenses? Did you just graduate from college? If your answer to these is yes, this article’s for you.

Here are 5 easily avoided mistakes borrowers make when repaying student loans . . .

(1) Not Knowing Who and How Much You Owe

The Federal Direct Loan Program (FDLP) and Federal Perkins Loan Program make 90% of all student loans, so you probably owe these programs. The Federal Student Aid Information Center can tell you who and how much you owe on these loans.

If you borrowed from your state or private lender, contact the state agency or lender that made your loan(s) for this information. Not sure who to contact? Get help from your alma mater’s financial aid office.

(2) Not Using Your Grace Period Wisely

You get a 6-month post-enrollment grace period during which FDLP loan payments aren’t required, and your first FDLP payment occurs 30-60 days after that. So no need to do anything about these loans now, right? Wrong!

Your federal student loan servicer will send you a repayment schedule this fall. It’ll show when your payments begin and what your monthly payment amount would be under the standard, 10-year federal repayment plan. But payments can be lower if you choose a different repayment plan or consolidate your federal college debts. Research this using Washington’s Repayment Plan and Loan Consolidation web pages, plus its Federal Student Loan Repayment Estimator.

State and private loans may not have as many options as federal loans, but call your lender(s) about what they can do.

(3) Letting Your Contact Information With Your Loan Servicer Lapse

Student loan borrowers who fall behind on payments often complain they never heard from their loan servicers. This is usually because their phone numbers or mailing and email addresses changed, but they never told their servicers. Nevertheless, their repayment obligations took effect. Avoid the legal but heavy-handed collection tactics accompanying student loan delinquency and default by emailing or phoning your servicer whenever your contact information changes.

(4) Hiding From Your Servicer

When you owe someone money you can’t pay, its natural to avoid them. But it’s dumb, too. Student loan lenders and servicers have many options to help you lower, postpone, or even cancel your payments. If you get into a bind, call them first.

(5) Only Paying Required Amounts Although You Could Pay More

Required monthly payments are the minimum amounts needed to eliminate debts by the end of repayment plans. But interest always builds on loan principal, so paying more than required monthly amounts, or making extra payments each year, reduces what you repay and eliminates your college debt faster.

Need help mapping out how to manage your student loan debts? Contact College Affordability Solutions for assistance. All of our consultations with students and their parents are free.

Before College: Get Your New College Student Ready to Handle Their Finance’s

If you have a child heading to college in the Fall, congratulations! You have survived the application process, the agonizing wait for acceptances, and the storms of the final year (almost). With any luck, your child is ready and waiting to get out of the house and take on their own life. But have you prepared them financially?

Young people are so sure that they know everything, but in the world of finances they may have little understanding of critical things like budgets and debt. Especially in their first semester before they get their feet on the ground, new students can be easy targets for lenders and vendors. One business owner near a campus referred to each Fall’s arrival of new freshmen as “the restocking of the herring” in the school.

It is important, ideally at the beginning of the summer, to sit down with your child and write out the plan for their college finances, discuss what you will pay for and what they are responsible for, and work out how they will manage the pieces that they are in charge of. Doing it now gives them a chance to work through the whole summer (and save that money), and it also gives them and you a chance to start thinking about how to set things up.

Firstly, at the big picture level, write out the numbers for the whole school year:

• Tuition and fees (subtract any scholarships):

• Room:

• Board (food):

• Books:

• Travel home:

• Personal expenses:

• TOTAL:

In addition to the numbers, write down who will be responsible for each item. Even if your child is paying entirely for their own college, go through this exercise with them to help them understand the full picture.

The first five items can be fairly easy to get accurate numbers for, but the last tends to be the most difficult. Personal expenses can vary from almost nothing to really any large number, depending mostly on what you and/or your student decide. The biggest question is typically whether or not they will have a car. Owning and maintaining a car can cost easily $6,000 per year, including insurance, gas, parking, maintenance, fees, and any tickets or accidents, so if money is an issue, this is a good one to skip. Beyond that, make your best guess together for what their personal expenses might be. Lastly, help them plan for where the money will come from, and how to manage it.

Putting together a plan for college costs at the beginning of the summer can take a lot of pressure off both you and your child, and give you a chance to prepare in advance. Best of luck to both of you for this big transition!

Today’s guest author is Linda Matthew, an Accredited Financial Counselor® and the owner of MoneyMindful Personal Financial Coaching, with which College Affordability Solutions has partnered since 2016. Linda has clients all through the U.S. and Canada. She is also the parent of one college graduate and one current college student.

Linda’s new book, Teach Your Children About Money, describes age-appropriate methods for helping youngsters learn about themselves and different ways to manage their money. It also has a special section just for college.

Go to the MoneyMindful website for more about Linda, to arrange a free consultation and to order your copy of Teach Your Children About Money.