Education Column

Your education is your #1 asset. Benjamin Franklin once said: “Genius without education is like silver in the mine.” It doesn’t matter whether other people think you’re smart or not, education is what sharpens the mind and magnifies the innate skills you were born with.


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How to compare college finanical aid packages and pick the right school

It’s that time of year, when teens and their families agonize over which college they will pay thousands of dollars to – or borrow thousands of dollars for — over the next four years.

By now, acceptance letters and financial aid packages are in hand, so it’s just a matter of doing some side-by-side comparisons.

Having written about higher education and financial aid for the majority of my career, I’m here to tell you that the college decision should go beyond which one is “the best,” or which one will cost you the least.

Before you send in your commitment letter, here are some key things to think about as you compare your financial aid awards and choose a school.

There are worse things in life than giving up your first choice college

Had I gone to the top college that accepted me, it would have meant taking out $80,000 in student loans.
I chose door number two — the college that gave me a full ride.

If you’re facing a similar type of decision, you need to answer this question first above all others: Are you willing to give up an admissions offer from your top-choice school if it makes financial sense?

It might hurt initially, but the idea that you’ll regret turning down a more prestigious school is an outdated concept.

In my college days, there was this myth that if you attended Super Amazing U. Fortune 500 companies would automatically throw six figure offers at you.
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‘Pay As Your Earn’ gets lots of attention, but it isn’t the best way for many of us to repay our student loans

When I was a new college graduate, I owned $10,000 in federally subsidized student loans.

I paid them off the boring way: I wrote a check every month. Then I took a bit of time off from my repayment schedule when I was unemployed. Eventually I wrote a bigger check and I was done.

Since then, the government has added more repayment options, including programs that can actually forgive a portion of unpaid loans after a couple of decades. (If you know anything at all about student loans, you know that they are virtually never forgiven. Unpaid student loans stick with people through bankruptcy and retirement.)

One of these, the Pay As You Earn option (PAYE), is the result of a YouTube video that then-candidate Barack Obama made in 2011, promising college students wouldn’t have to devote more than 10% of their discretionary income to student loan payments.

Under current rules you’re eligible for PAYE if you are repaying direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans, direct PLUS loans made to students, and/or direct consolidation loans that do not include PLUS loans made to parents.
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Smart ways to save money at school without ruining your college fun — or going hungry


Don’t worry – this isn’t going to be one of those posts that tell you you’re a big boy/girl now, and have to stop being irresponsible with money.

I won’t tell you to stop buying overpriced lattes, $11 nachos at midnight, or comfy college sweatshirts because those things are largely what college is all about.

What I will tell you is that the post-college years can really stink when you’re broke. Actually, worse than broke — so far in debt that you feel like you’re working for nothing but your bills.

So here’s how to give your future finances a fighting chance, and get through college without making those clichéd money mistakes of running up credit card debt and blowing through all the summer job money you earned folding shirts at The Gap…
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Going back to school? Nontraditional students face special hurdles

Nontraditional students don't have to be as crazy as Pierce Hawthorne to have trouble adjust to collegeWhen most of us think of college students, we picture young adults between the ages of 18 and 23.

But according to the latest data from the National Center for Education Statistics, 21 percent of U.S. college students in the 2011 school year were over the age of 30. You’d think with that with so many older students, colleges would be focused on meeting their needs, but older students still face special challenges as they complete their degrees.

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Getting the best bang for your student loan buck

Make sure you don't take on too big of a student loan burdenThere’s no doubt that the rising cost of a college education, and the student loan debt that individuals and families are taking on to cover it, are hot-button issues right now.

But it’s worth remembering that the costs and benefits of different college degrees can vary widely; earning a bachelor’s and master’s in engineering might cost more than an associate degree in paralegal studies, but it will probably pay more, too.


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College degrees expensive but also really valuable

Will drum for collegeWe hear a lot these days about the crushing burden of college debt on today’s college graduates. But one thing that’s tougher than having to deal with the rapidly rising cost of college and skyrocketing student loan debt is the financial burden of not going to college at all.

A recent review of census data by the Pew Research Center found that college graduates make a lot more than less-educated workers, and that the gap is growing rapidly.


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Can you earn a ‘real’ graduate degree online?

7.365_todd_takes_a_classOne of the growing trends in education is to go online. There are plenty of free online classes and educational resources, but the reality is that many of these free courses are simply meant for your own enrichment. You might be able to access OpenCourseWare from MIT for free, but these free resources will not provide you with a degree, and you can’t receive college credit for completing these courses.

But that doesn’t mean online courses are useless. Indeed, many accredited colleges provide ways for you to earn your degree entirely online. You just have to be willing to pay.


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7 Homework and Time Management Apps for Back to School

homeworkNow that school is back in session, it’s time to think about time management. Homework, tests, and projects all need to be managed properly if your student expects to do well.

If you want to help your student manage his or her time and schedule more efficiently, you can use technology to help. There are a number of helpful and advanced apps that can help your student stay on top of the situation and stay productive. Here are 7 apps ideal for managing homework this school year:


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