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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Could a 529 Plan Mess Up Your Child’s Financial Aid?

529 AccountAs you work to save up enough money to send your child to college, one of the tools at your disposal is the 529 plan.

This plan allows you to put money to work on behalf of your child. With a 529, money grows tax-free — as long as it is used for qualified education expenses.

But could the 529 be a little too effective? What happens if the account grows just enough that assets affect eligibility for financial aid? Depending on the situation, the 529 might be good enough to help out, but not quite enough to completely cover the costs. But if there is too much in the account, you could lose some of your  ability for the financial aid you need.

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Are there Downsides to Free Online Courses?

free online coursesOne of the great things about the Internet is that it offers you the chance to access a great deal of knowledge. In fact, it’s possible to learn a great deal from free online courses.

However, there are downsides to online courses. First of all, with free courses, you won’t earn college credit. So if you are interested in getting a degree with online courses, you will need to pay for the credits, and do the schoolwork.

But if you are just looking for your own edification, free online courses can help you boost your knowledge base. Even so, there are still downsides.

Natalie Novoa, the co-founder and CEO of tech startup Teachmeo, has been researching how to address some of the issues associated with online courses. “We have been researching the space for a while,” Novoa says, “and found that the disadvantages of a free online course are many.”

This is especially true if you are serious about your learning. Here are some of the issues Novoa believes are inherent to free online courses:
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Should You Continue Your Education with an Online Degree?

LaptopThere is a battle raging right now about the usefulness of a graduate degree, or even of any college degree at all. Joining the fray right now is the online degree space.

A number of colleges and universities offer online degree programs, and there are online schools completely in the Internet education space. My husband teaches online classes for Utah State University, and one of them is a graduate-level course mostly aimed at teachers working on their master’s degrees.

While my husband’s students find it useful to continue their educations online, since the master’s degree will come with a pay increase, not everyone is in the same boat.

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Could an Associate’s Degree be More Valuable than a Bachelor’s Degree?

College FundIn recent years, there has been discussion over whether a college education is worth it. Indeed, in some cases, it turns out that going for a graduate degree might not be worth the cost.

Recently, though, even the value of the bachelor’s degree is being called into question. In fact, a recent study from the Center for Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University indicates that an associate’s degree might be more valuable than a bachelor’s degree — at least at the outset.

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Fiscal Cliff Deal: Tax Benefits for Higher Education

College GirlsThe recent fiscal cliff deal has gotten a lot of play related to the tax increases. The fiscal cliff deal (which only addresses tax issues and not spending issues) didn’t stop the payroll tax cut from expiring, and it results in higher taxes for couples that are married filing jointly making $450,000 and singles making $400,000.

However, the news isn’t all higher taxes. The fiscal cliff tax deal also includes some tax breaks for higher education. If you are sending someone to college, here are some of the tax benefits that the fiscal cliff deal has in store for you:

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5 Public Colleges with the Best Graduation Rates

UniversityGetting into college is only half the battle. Getting through is another challenge. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that only about half of first-time full-time undergrad students at public schools graduate in six years or less. While students at private nonprofit schools fared slightly better—65 percent turned the tassel in six years—only 28 percent of those at for-profit colleges graduated in the same time frame.

These colleges ensure that students get the courses they need to graduate. Here are the public colleges with the highest four-year graduation rates according to data compiled by The Chronicle for Higher Education, with tips for all students on graduating on time. We provide average net prices to see the cost of graduating on time. The good news is none of these schools even come close to some of the most expensive colleges in America.

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5 States Where Childcare Costs More Than College

ABCsForget saving for higher education. Try paying for daycare first. According to Child Care Aware of America, a nonprofit dedicated to improving access to childcare, the average cost of care for a four year old is higher than the average cost of tuition and fees at a public college in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Here are five states where daycare is more expensive than college and advice on what parents who are saving for both can do.

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The Five Largest State Tuition Hikes

Tuition HikePaying for college is hard enough when tuition price are steady. Throw in a tuition hike and the extra costs can be game changing for families. According to the College Board, tuition and fees at public four-year colleges increased 8.3 percent, on average, between the 2011-2012 school year and the year before, but ten states saw jumps of more than 10 percent. Here are five states with the largest tuition hikes according to the College Board, and what to do if you’re a victim.

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