Education 
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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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 Education 
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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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 Education 
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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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 Education 
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5 Community Colleges That Cost More Than Four-Year Schools

Expensive Community CollegesIn general, two-year and community colleges are a smart way to land some hefty college savings. According to the College Board, a student at a public two-year college pays, on average, approximately one-third in tuition and fees of what an in-state student at a public four-year school pays. While the vast majority of two-year students do pay substantially less than their four-year counterparts, there are exceptions. Using data from the Department of Education’s College Affordability and Transparency Center and updating it with more recent net price figures, we’ve determined that these two-year schools have the highest net prices.

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 Your Take 
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Your Take: Can You Ask For Tuition Back?

Earlier this week, an anonymous student at Boston College wrote a letter to interim Dean George Brown of Boston COllege Law School to request his two and a half years of tuition back. He was facing financial difficulty (pregnant wife, weak job prospects, and an even weaker desire to be saddled with massive student loans) and so offered up a deal – return his two and a half years of tuition and he’ll leave without his degree. In fairness, the school does get to bolster its image because it wouldn’t have to report his unemployment upon graduation to magazine rankings. :)

I’d like to propose a solution to this problem: I am willing to leave law school, without a degree, at the end of this semester. In return, I would like a full refund of the tuition I’ve paid over the last two and a half years.

It’s hard to say how serious the letter is (it’s probably not) but it’s a clever idea, even if it’s just to get some publicity. Sadly, it’ll never happen since you can’t “unlearn” two and a half years of study (nor can you recover the lost tuition, since the student did take up a spot in the classroom that would’ve gone to someone who could have finished) but it does stimulate the mind a little.

One of the big things I realized, with the help of articles I read online, is that part of the reason why higher education is so expensive has to do with the subsidies in the form of interest free loans and other grants. Regardless of how much tuition actually costs, subsidies increase the cost by spreading it out across multiple payers. If I go to school and the non-subsidized tuition should be $10,000 (which is an amount I’d be willing to pay, since I may not get grants or loans) and I can get $5,000 in grants, then I’m getting $10,000 of value for $5,000. Taxpayers subsidize the $5,000. Eventually schools wise up, increase tuition to $15,000 so that they can get $10,000 from the student (who is still paying the “right” amount) and $5,000 from taxpayers. It’s clearly not as simple as this but subsidies don’t help the problem, they make it worse.

Thoughts?


 Frugal Living 
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Tips for Buying Used College Textbooks

College TextbooksMy wife started her first semester of classes this fall on her way towards a Ph.D. One of the best things about a Ph.D., besides the degree, is that candidates are paid to go to school. The salary isn’t something you can retire on but with the cost of education, anytime you can get college education for free (or less than free, in this case!), you jump on it.

With the start of classes comes the need for college textbooks. As I remembered years ago, college textbooks are not cheap. In fact, the prices seems exorbitant to me but that’s what happens when there’s a small market forced into buying a product. Fortunately, there are some techniques you can use to defray the costs.

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 Career 
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Is College Worth the Cost of Tuition? Yes.

Graduation CakeEarlier this year I finished writing an article in which I tried to find the salary breakeven point for private vs. public college graduates, a task that was impossible because I couldn’t find enough publicly available information at the time. I was trying to figure out whether college was “worth it” and if so, whether public or private college was a better value. Since I didn’t have enough data, I just took some “average student loan debt” figures and calculated the breakeven point.

In a recent Business Week article, they took a 2007 College Board analysis that showed college graduates earned 61% more than high school graduates over a 40 year career. Master’s degrees earn 93% more. It’s not the private college vs. public college debate but it’s certainly a good look at whether student loan debt, in general, is worth it.

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 Family 
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How to Save on Primary Education

There’s a lot of discussion and talk about public versus private universities and how to get the most bang for your buck in the arena of college, but often overlooked is options for primary (ie. K-12) education. Some people believe in using the public schools while others believe in sending their kids to a private school, but there is lots of middle ground.

We spent a lot of time this year looking for that middle ground. My oldest child will be starting kindergarten this fall, and although I find a lot of positives in our school district as a whole, my particular local option falls short in our eyes. While our particular neighborhood local public option leaves a lot to be desired, yet we couldn’t fathom how we would be able to afford the private options in our area. We felt there had to be some compromise we could find, and we were right, we just had to know where to look.

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