Before College: Helping Your Children Enhance Their Online Skills Can Payoff in Their College Years

Some friends with a 12 year-old daughter are happy she’s attending middle-school online this fall. This is because they realize its safer as COVID spikes again and, although her school system’s emergency move to distance education earlier this year left much to be desired, they think her online classes are somewhat better now.

Her elementary schooling increasingly used high-tech teaching methods and tools before COVID, suggesting that, even after the pandemic, online communication and research will become more prominent in navigating America’s educational system — including higher education.

Make helping your children gain and refine their online skills part of your Pre-College Finance Plan, because doing so can reduce the exorbitant costs paid today while getting postsecondary degrees.

We’re not talking about video games here. We’re talking about your children becoming experts at identifying, then using, high quality, reliable online resources to find, absorb, understand, and communicate ideas and information.

Clearly, there’s great skepticism today about the quality and effectiveness of online higher learning — especially at colleges charging the same tuition and fees for web-based and in-person courses. Unfortunately, because most postsecondary schools have suffered significant revenue losses during the pandemic, it may be a few years before they can afford to freeze or reduce tuition and fees for any classes.

But institutions can deliver online instruction to more students than they could possibly stuff into even the largest lecture halls. At some point, this should deflate their cost per student. These savings can result in lower tuition and fees, especially if public pressure to for them keeps up.

And let’s face it, online classes have tremendous potential to cut 56% of the costs public 4-year college students pay. Travel costs to and from a distant campus will become unnecessary, as will costs for establishing a second household — whether it be an on-campus dormitory or off-campus apartment — on or near that campus.

Of course, cost cutting is only one advantage for those adept at using online tools. Such expertise can also help secure funds to help pay a student’s bills.

In Texas, for example, the state’s largest and most prestigious private scholarship foundation recently switched from in-person to virtual interviews. Other scholarship providers are also moving in this direction to reduce COVID transmission, for now, and, in the future, to cut transportation cost for candidates and interviewers. But successful online interviews for any purpose will require your children to employ certain preparatory steps and interview strategies.

Also, the part-time and seasonal jobs that help students rely less on loans and gain resume experience are increasingly online. Foundations, marketers, merchants, researchers, and other employers are looking for employees who know their way around the internet and it’s related technology.

So help your children gain useful online skills now. It’ll payoff during their college years!

Looking for help in selecting strategies for your Pre-College Finance Plan? College Affordability Solutions offers free consultations based on 40 years experience in postsecondary student finance. Contact us at (512) 366-5354 or collegeafford@gmail.com to schedule a consultation.

Before College: Information That’ll Help You Begin Investing for College

We told you last month that it’s never too early to start investing for college. But for many Americans, investing can be scary. They’re not sure how to begin and, not having much money to lose, they’re not sure how to minimize investing risks.

But a great article entitled Stuck with Investing? just came out. The author of this succinct, easy to read, and informative article is our colleague, Linda Matthew, the Accredited Financial Counselor who helps people manage their personal finances through her consulting firm, MoneyMindful.

Take a look at Stuck with Investing? It’ll help answer some of your key questions as you prepare to start investing for college — or anything else!

This fall, College Affordability Solutions is publishing a series of articles about strategies to include in Pre-College Finance Plans. Become a follower of our website to receive these articles, which will come out every Wednesday.

Before College: Make Your Vote Part of Your Pre-College Finance Plan!

Do need help so you can get an affordable degree or certificate leading to a satisfying, well-paying career? Are you wondering how you’ll manage your student loan debt? This fall’s election is incredibly important to the collegiate access and affordability that once prepared a workforce so skilled and well-educated it made the U.S. a world leader.

The Biden-Harris presidential ticket offers several proposals to address this issue. The Trump-Pence ticket has no similar proposals, but its administration made some revealing student grant and student loan proposals in its Fiscal Year 2021 federal budget recommendation.

AFFORDABLE TUITION AND FEES

As we’ve noted, the total cost of attending 4-year in-state public colleges averaged 41% of Median Household Income last academic year. Over the last decade, those costs rose 37%, led by a 49% tuition and fee increase.

Biden-Harris:

  • Make all public colleges tuition free for students with family incomes below $125,000.
  • Provide two years of tuition-free career and technical training for those seeking to improve job skills.
  • Spend $50 billion on workforce training, including community college-based apprenticeship and business partnership programs.

Trump-Pence:

  • Increase funding for career and technical training by almost $900 million.

ENHANCED STUDENT GRANTS

Last academic year’s maximum Federal Pell Grant was $6,195 — 23% of the average total cost at 4-year in-state public colleges and universities, but down from 28% those costs in 2009-10.

Biden-Harris:

  • For undergraduates from America’s poorest households, double Pell Grant amounts.
  • Extend Pell Eligibility to middle-class students.

Trump-Pence:

  • Cut Pell appropriations by $1.7 billion and hold Pell award amounts steady.
  • Extend Pell eligibility to incarcerated students and students in short-term (mostly for-profit) programs leading to certificates or licenses in high-demand occupations.

REDUCED STUDENT DEBT

More than 60% of 2019 bachelor’s degree recipients borrowed while attending 4-year colleges (public and private nonprofit). Their borrowing averaged $28,950, almost 57% of their average starting salaries, and 45 million Americans now owe $1.56 trillion in postsecondary debt.

Biden-Harris:

  • Their tuition and Pell Grant proposals would help reduce future student borrowing.
  • Offer borrowers a new Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plan limiting annual federal loan payments to 5% of their discretionary income — income minus taxes and essential spending — and forgiveness for whatever’s owed after 20 years.
  • Reform Public Service Loan Forgiveness to cancel $10,000/year in federal debt for up to 5 years of public service work.

Trump-Pence:

  • Eliminate the Federal Direct Loan Program’s (FDLP’s) subsidized loans, thereby limiting undergraduates to FDLP unsubsidized loans on which interest builds up while in school. Set a $26,500 lifetime limit on FDLP parent loans.
  • Replace all current IDR plans with a “Single IDR” plan requiring payments equaling 12.5% of discretionary income and prohibiting loan forgiveness until 30 years of payments have been made.
  • Abolish Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

Remember, enrollment in postsecondary learning in the United States has dropped from 20.1 million in fall 2010 to 17.2 million in spring 2020 (even before the COVID pandemic) — a 14% decline. If you want to reverse this trend, if you want post-high school education to become more affordable for yourself and others, if you want to shrink you and your fellow Americans’ student loan indebtedness, than your Pre-College Finance Plan should include voting for Biden-Harris, not Trump-Pence!

Before and after college, College Affordability Solutions provides students and parents with free coaching on how to search for non-federal grants, scholarships, and part-time jobs to help make postsecondary learning more affordable and diminish reliance on student loans. If you need such assistance, contact us at (512) 366-5354 or collegeafford@gmail.com to set up a consultation.

Before College: Middle School’s the Time to Help Your Children Start Focusing on Career Directions

Andy’s the newest market research staff member for a firm helping technology companies develop branding and positioning strategies for their products. He received a bachelor’s degree in public relations from his state’s leading public university last December, but spent five and one-half years, or 11 semesters, getting that degree.

Andy’s college-related expenses for 11 semesters added up to over $135,000. That’s almost $37,000 more than the costs incurred by classmates who graduated in 8 semesters, or 4 years. Not surprisingly, Andy borrowed about $38,000 in student loans — $11,000 more than the average for his university’s 4-year (8 semester) degree earners.

What took Andy so long? Once he selected public relations, he needed just 7 semesters to graduate. But he spent 4 semesters previous semesters trying out 3 other majors — economics, psychology, and journalism.

College is a very expensive place to “find oneself.” So the faster students zero in what they want to do in terms of the careers for which different majors prepare them, the more affordable college will be.

Nevertheless, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports the median number of months for first-time undergraduates to earn their bachelor’s degrees is 52, and that graduating 60% of these “four-year” degree-earners takes 5 years. Another NCES study found that about 30% of all undergraduates change majors within three years of starting college, with 9% switching majors multiple times.

So, as a parent, you want your Pre-College Finance Plan to help ensure your children zero in on career “clusters” that’ll interest them and that their talents match.

The middle school years are a good time to start doing this. By then, you’ve been observing your children at play and in school for many years, giving you important insights into what they are and aren’t good at as well as what they do and don’t enjoy. Sharing this information with middle school guidance counselors and teachers can help them steer your children toward various career awareness tools including, but not limited to aptitude surveys and interest and preference questionnaires.

Armed with the results of these tools, you and their middle school counselors and teachers can advise your children about:

  • Books and periodicals that, while read for fun, will also inform them about assorted occupations;
  • Classes that’ll prepare them for high school courses related to particular pursuits;
  • Extracurricular activities that’ll help them refine skill sets not taught in classes — e.g. leadership, responsibility, teamwork;
  • Job shadowing and mentorship opportunities; and
  • School speakers to help better understand careers that’ll be good matches for them.

The reference made above to career clusters is intentional. It’s not necessary to decide in middle school that your children must be brain surgeons — there’s still time to get that specific. On the other hand, middle school isn’t too soon to recognize their abilities for and interests in, say, business or science. And remember, doing this can generate big college cost savings!

College Affordability Solutions helps parents or students select strategies for their Pre-College Finance Plan. We never charge them for doing this. So contact us at (512) 366-5354 or collegeafford@gmail.com to schedule consultations with us.