Before College: Make Money Management Education Part of Your High School Senior’s Pre-College Finance Plan!

By Linda Matthew, AFC

Parents, you have 9 months until your children leave for college! (let’s assume for now that by next September they will indeed be leaving . . . ) During the next several months, do take some time to help them get ready to manage their money in the real world.

This may not be the most comfortable topic — therapists say that talking about money can be more difficult than talking about sex — but do it anyway. Most students today graduate with large loans: the average loan balance was $29,200 (Note 1). This means an average payment of $393 per month in every month after they graduate. In addition, over a third of students in college say that they already have credit card debt of over $1,000 (Note 2).

So take time to prepare them, and see if you can minimize their debt.

  • Help them put together a draft budget. Tuition, room, board and book costs are often well understood. But what will they need for living expenses? Together, write a list of your best guess at the items and their costs each month, and total it up. Decide how much you can give them and help them figure out how to earn the rest. Or help them figure out what they can live without.
  • Consider the car. With the cost of insurance, gas, maintenance, and parking (and tickets!), this can add up. If they can manage without one, skip the cost.
  • Teach them how to cook and how to do their laundry so they don’t have to nervous about these tasks. Send them grocery shopping (on their own, with your card) to help gets the kinks out of that process. Even in a dorm room, you can fix a surprising amount with a mini-fridge and microwave.
  • Teach them to review their bank statement at the end the each month to see where their money went. They can even download their transactions and total them up by category — it can be surprising to see the numbers. (Those little rental scooters. They add up.)
  • Teach them how to save. This is a journey all its own. Have them work at least next summer, and have them save at least half of what they earn.

Children get most their information on managing money from their parents. But most parents, when asked if they talk to their students about managing money, say no. Take this time to give this gift to your children. Whether we know it or not, our children are learning from us.

Feel free to contact me if you have questions or need help. Start with the “College” chapter of my book, Teach Your Children About Money. I wrote it just for this purpose.

1. https://www.forbes.com/sites/zackfriedman/2020/02/03/student-loan-debt-statistics/?sh=5447586e281f

2. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/05/31/over-a-third-of-college-students-have-credit-card-debt.html

About Linda Matthew . . .

Linda Matthew is today’s guest author. She is an Accredited Financial Counselor® and owner of MoneyMindful Personal Financial Coaching through which she has clients throughout North America. Linda is also the parent of both a college graduate and current college student.

Linda’s new book, Teach Your Children About Money, offers a variety of age-appropriate ways help your children learn about themselves how to manage their money. Go to the MoneyMindful website to learn more about Linda and arrange a free consultation.

Special Bulletin: Contact Your Federal Representative and Senators Right Away on This Important Matter!

If you’ve been following our blogs, you know we recommend your College Finance Plan include exercising your right to be politically active. And if you owe money on postsecondary loans you borrowed from the Federal Direct Loan Program (FDLP), it’s particularly important to be politically active right now by contacting your U.S. Representative and U.S. Senators!

A recent COVID-19 related presidential executive order extended the following postponements on FDLP debts through December 31, 2020:

  • Interest Postponement: The government is charging no interest on FDLP loans through December 31;
  • Payment Obligation Postponement: Payments on FDLP loans aren’t required through December 31; and
  • Default Collection Postponement: All activities normally conducted to collect defaulted FDLP loans (bad credit reports, hiring collection agencies, garnishment (i.e. confiscation) of tax returns and wages) are suspended through December 31.

Mr. Trump said he’d extend these postponements beyond December 31 if necessary. And extensions are certainly necessary since our country’s new explosion of COVID-19 infections and deaths is causing many of the 44 million Americans owing the FDLP to become ill, loose jobs, etc.

But after losing the election Mr. Trump seems less and less interested in running federal programs such as the FDLP. So there are serious questions about whether he’ll make good on his promise to suspend these postponements. While President-Elect Biden seems more likely to extend them, if he does it will be a full three weeks between December 31 and when he takes office and can do so.

This means Congress needs to extend these postponements as part of some “must pass” bill such such as the one that’ll fund the government after December 11 or a COVID-19 relief bill that may be negotiated. But congressional Republicans must drop their opposition to extending the postponements past December 31 for this to happen.

Result? You need to call or email the House member and Senators who represent you in Washington. Find their contact information on the House website and Senate website.

Contact them in support of extending the FDLP postponements because it’s in your best financial interest! Contact them in support of extending the FDLP postponements because it’s in the best financial interests of 44 million fellow Americans! But contact them, and do so as soon as possible!

College Affordability Solutions has 40 years experience in help borrowers with federal parent and student loans. Contact us to book a no-charge advising session if you need help managing the debt you owe from such loans!

Before College: Here’s a Great College Affordability Strategy for Your High School Students

Would you and your children be interested in a Pre-College Finance Plan strategy that generates funds for college and has almost a dozen other advantages? If so, here it is — have your children to work part-time while in high school.

Understand that we’re not advocating sending your children out to work in the midst of the current COVID pandemic. Some of the jobs most available to high schoolers, such as cashiers and fast food workers, appear to have the highest COVID infection rates.

But if the vaccine breakthrough recently announced becomes widely available over the next five or six months, it could become much safer to hold such jobs sometime during the second half of 2021.

Before the pandemic, 25% of high schoolers and 40% of college students worked. Those who did achieved higher levels of independence, became better time managers, built resumes and professional networks, enjoyed increased confidence, earned money that, if saved, helped reduce their reliance on college loans, and gained skills transferable to future jobs.

It’s unfortunate that fast food workers are currently at such risk of contracting COVID, because part-time positions in fast food restaurants are particularly well-suited for high school students. For one thing, there are many such jobs and fast food establishments are constantly hiring.

These jobs also require little or no experience and often offer flexible work schedules. Plus, fast food’s average hourly wage of $11 can generate a little more than $8,000 per year for employees working less than 15 hours per week. This can significantly enlarge your high schoolers’ college savings and pocket money.

Best of all, many — not all, but many — fast food companies try to recruit and retain good employees by offering to help them pay for college. A great example of this is the Chipotle restaurant chain. It’s “Cultivate Me” benefits for crew members offers $5,250 per year for college, supports debt-free education for crew members who seek certain business and technology degrees, and pays quarterly bonuses to crews whose restaurants meet certain performance measures.

Chipotle’s not alone. Several other employers both inside and outside the fast food industry offer benefit programs that help pay for college. And even in the midst of the COVID recession, they’re generally maintaining these programs.

True, delivering packages, flipping burgers, and serving tacos isn’t glamorous work. But the money your high school students can earn, and especially the postsecondary benefit programs some employers offer, can really help make their postsecondary education more affordable. So when it’s safe for them to seek employment, recommend they consider fast food jobs and always ask potential employers about their employee education benefits programs.

Need help designing your Pre-College Finance Plan? Let College Affordability Solutions help. We bring over 40 years experience to this topic. And we serve as consultants for parents and students at no charge. Set up a consultation with us by calling (512) 366-5354 or by emailing collegeafford@gmail.com.

Before College: Extracurricular and Community Activities in High School Create Stronger Scholarship Candidates . . . And More!

Here’s a dirty little secret about scholarships for prospective college students — many of them are awarded for reasons other than athletics, class rank, GPA, and college entrance exam scores! Instead, a record of involvement in community and high school extracurricular activities is one of, if not the deciding factor.

This is especially true for the almost $17.5 billion in scholarships awarded by employers, foundations, and other community organizations. It often sets their scholarship selection processes apart from those of college and university scholarship committees. The latter are often under pressure to help recruit freshman classes that will help their institutions get high rankings in publications such as the U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges Guidebook. These publications do use factors such as class rank and ACT or SAT scores.

But many scholarship providers reject the selection of scholarship winners based on easy-to-calculate but overly simplistic numerical data. Their biggest such concern is that doing so ignores factors that are so important to success in and after college, things like:

Young people who engage in school-based extracurricular activities and charitable and other community activities tend to refine such characteristics and bring them to college with them. They also strengthen the resumes many scholarship selection committees evaluate when selecting recipients. And they often have more interesting experiences to cite when responding to the essay questions such committees evaluate.

However, it’s not necessarily the number of activities in which your high schoolers engage, but the persistence and quality of their engagement. Some high school students pad their resumes by joining numerous extracurricular and community organizations and teams, but they often fail to be really active members of those organizations and teams. This makes scholarship evaluators are cynical about resumes listing many short-term, low-level memberships.

So work with your high school students early on to identify activities about which they are enthusiastic and interested. Guide them toward joining in those activities early on, really investing their energy and time in those activities and, as their peers and teammates get to know them, volunteering or even running for leadership positions within those activities.

Taking part in extracurricular and community makes your children stronger scholarship candidates. It also makes high school more interesting and helps your children mature. So urge them to participate!

College Affordability Solutions is posting a new article right here every Wednesday about strategies for parents and students to include in their Pre-College Finance Plans, so follow this website to make sure you get these articles!

Before College: Earning College Credits in High School is An Excellent Way to Make College More Affordable!

A big part of your Pre-College Finance Plan should include your children going to college while in high school, because this can generate big savings by quickening postsecondary completion after they transfer the credits they earn into the postsecondary institutions they choose to attend.

Here’s are three ways to go to college while in high school . . .

Dual Credit Courses

High school students successfully completing dual credit courses earn both high school and college credits. The vast majority of dual credit courses are taught in high schools. Another 17% are offered on college campuses and 8% are accessible online. Over 88% of all high schools offer such courses, and more than one-third of high school students (mostly juniors and seniors) take them — with 92% leading to credits accepted by community colleges and 64% resulting in credits that apply in 4-year colleges.

Dual credit courses generally cost less than equivalent courses taken while in college — in fact, some dual credit courses are free.

It’s usually best to use dual credit to fulfill core or “general education” requirements that’ll transfer into most college degree programs.

Advanced Placement Classes

The Advanced Placement (AP) program is a product of College Board — creator of the SAT test. AP courses help approximately 2.8 million students complete 38 entry-level college classes including, but not limited to, biology, English, and U.S. history. These can generate college-level credits and help students qualify for higher-level classes as college begins.

AP courses are designed to prepare students to take AP exams. Scores of at least 3 on a 1 – 5 scale qualify students for college credits. The exams cost $95 per course, and students may get $33 of this waived if circumstances merit. That’s much less than tuition and fees than college students 3-credit courses, which average $1,056 at public 4-year colleges and $3,765 at private 4-year institutions.

International Baccalaureate Diploma Program

Fewer high schools offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program than dual credit and AP classes. IB’s a 2-year program for 16 – 19 year olds offering a core curriculum and 6 different sets of courses in the arts, individuals and society, language acquisition, language and literature, mathematics, and science.

As with AP, passing scores on IB assessment tests lead to college credits. While IB courses are generally free, IB tests cost $10 to $170.

Dual credit, AP, and IB offer your children ways to pay less for college-level credits, start taking courses within their majors more quickly, and hasten their progress to college degrees — thereby cutting costs such as room and board by shortening their time in college. Don’t ignore these options if they’re available!

College Affordability Solutions uses 40 years experience in postsecondary finance to provide both students and parents no-cost counseling on ways to manage, reduce, and pay college costs. Contact us at (512) 366-5354 or collegeafford@gmail.com to arrange a consultation.

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.

Before College: When It Comes to Personal Money Management, Teach Your Children Well!

If you’re a parent with one or more children in the pre through middle school, here’s a crucial question — what are you doing to prepare your children to manage their money when you’re not around?

Why Teach It?

By instilling sound personal finance practices at early ages, you’ll help your children handle money wisely as they go off to college and become independent adults. The responsibility for doing this falls mainly to you, the parent, as it is perhaps the most poorly addressed need in today’s K-12 education system.

In a recent national survey, 50% of Americans said they’d experience financial hardship if they had to come up with $1,000 or less for an emergency expense in the next 30 days. The survey’s respondents ranked personal finance as being more important to students than drug and alcohol dangers, healthy eating and exercise habits, and safe driving. Nevertheless, only 21 states currently require the completion of a personal finance course before high school graduation.

What to Teach?

Last April, Linda Matthew of MoneyMindful focused on debt and savings — two incredibly important topics about which even small children can and should learn. And as Linda reveals in her excellent book, Teach Your Children About Money, there are other, similar lessons students can and should acquire before high school begins.

Below are four dollars-and-cents issue sets to begin teaching your children about during their preschool, elementary school, and middle school years. But because you know the most about your family financial circumstances — and those of your children — you should develop your own list of teaching topics.

  • Personal Values: What do they need versus do they want? And within those wants, which are they willing to defer versus making an immediate purchase? How much are they willing to devote to what charities that are important to them?
  • Planning: How do they set monetary goals, then what should they do and avoid doing to achieve those goals?
  • Income: The allowances you give your children will likely be their sole sources of income. Use these allowances to help them understand that incomes are limited, and they aren’t enlarged for frivolous reasons. As your children grow older — probably beyond age 6 — tying all or some of their allowances to chores performed can help prepare them for the world of work.
  • Costs and Spending: Different products and services cost different amounts. Competing providers also offer consumers the same products and services for different amounts. Show your children the advantages of comparative shopping and disadvantages of impulse buying; and that, if they make mistakes with their money, the consequences will be theirs to manage.

How to Teach It?

You’re not a classroom teacher, and most children don’t respond well when mom or dad give lectures followed by tests. So how do you go about instructing your children on these topics?

You’ve got something better than any classroom teacher — reality! It generates large numbers of “teachable moments.” But such moments require lots of candor and openness to be effective.

Remember, your children are constantly watching so, like or not, they’re always learning from you. But make sure they get the full story. Don’t hide family finances from them. Help them understand how your values, plans, costs, and incomes drive your financial decisions. As they mature, maybe even involve them in discussions about some of those decisions.

This fall, College Affordability Solutions is publishing on a different aspect of pre-college finance every Wednesday, so become a follower of this website to ensure that you receive the latest of strategies and tactics you can use to generate funds for or cut the costs of college.