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Education


We expect much from people we see on television. And it’s worse when we perceive someone to be smart and talented, even if they’re speaking beyond their area of expertise.

We think someone who is a great community leader or someone who is a great business leader will make a great President of the United States. We see the similarities in roles and responsibilities and believe that intelligence and talent in one area leads to success in another. The same bias happens in ourselves. Why else would Donald Trump, a successful business person who doesn’t appear to have interpersonal communication skills based on his public statements and television appearances (I don’t know him personally) believe that he could be a successful politician?

And success that takes the form of money often empowers one’s belief that their ideas on any topic are worthy of attention. It’s easy to fall into this trap, because there are many people who idolize financial success and seek out these people for leadership. It’s a self-feeding cycle. The more we seek out “advice” from people who have lots of money, the more individuals feel they have something important to say, the more they put themselves out there, and the media are happy to oblige.

So when Mark Cuban, a billionaire who built and sold a major online property, diversified his wealth, owners a basketball team, participates in a popular prime-time television program, and can easily afford a four-year education at any of this country’s top universities, feels like speaking about a topic, the news media is right there to give him an even more prominent place from which to address the country than his own blog. One topic on which Cuban spoke recently is the practice of allowing taxpayers in the United States to subsidize the higher education of its citizens — student loans.

Student loans represent an important piece of a system that allows expanded access to education. Having a highly educated citizen base allows the United States to stay competitive. There are a number of initiatives in place to improve education in this country, and the media loves the soundbites that compare citizens of the United States with the progress of other countries in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The general impression is that the United States is failing to keep up with the progress of other countries, and that has inspired governmental action in all levels. It may not be successful, but at least it brings the issue of education to the fore, inspiring spirited discussions about how we can ensure we are providing the best education to as many of our citizens as possible.

But at the same time, an anti-education movement looks critically at the state of the university system, and identifies some problems. While access to education is a key factor in eliminating poverty and allowing breakthroughs into the middle class, those who start off in the middle class may not be getting all that they once were able to receive from a four-year college education. It certainly feels that way when so many college graduates are still out of work in this recovering economy. (Keep in mind today’s college graduates are still much better off economically than those who did not graduate college.) Another criticism points to the outliers who are able to build significant companies and effect the economy in powerful ways without completing a college education, but those are clearly not the norm.

Combine a tough job economy with growing student loans and you have a hot button issue that is perfect for attention from someone like Mark Cuban, who because of his success in business believes he might have some insight on public education and economic policy. His approach to higher education is to boil all the complicated variables into one concept: easy money.

As the government made it easier for all citizens to attend a college by backing student loans — loans that can’t be eliminated through bankruptcy like most other loans — it gave colleges guaranteed income. Because the money was coming in so freely, colleges could raise tuition without the increase affecting enrollment numbers. They could increase salaries for administrators (while adjunct faculty salaries remain an affront to education) without any damage to the budget.

Students take student loans so easily, but then have such a difficult time dealing with them once they need to start repayment. I went to school with student loans, and despite the initial orientation and exit interviews, my low salary in the nonprofit sector didn’t give me much of an opportunity to both pay off student loans and save for the future. I did neither, at least not well, for many years. And I had the benefit of at least being employed.

Cuban argues, perhaps correctly, that if students did not have such a financial burden upon graduation, they might be using their income to contribute to the economy (which probably means buying tickets to Maverick games or buying houses). If we could cap student loans to $10,000, the burden would be less, and with less free-flowing money, colleges would have to lower tuition to maintain enrollment.

None of this will work. It’s a very short-sighted approach. College graduates earn so much more than those without a degree, even in a difficult job economy. The best thing for the economy in the long term is to make sure as many people as possible, those who have the capacity to develop lucrative skills, get those college degrees. Reducing access to college will send this country’s competitive stance and overall level of production down, inside and outside of the United States.

Furthermore, in today’s economy, having students graduate with less debt is no guarantee they’ll still be generating income to spend boosting the economy. Low-income or no-income graduates can take advantage of deferment or income-based repayment plans. These program lower the immediate financial burden, so if there was to be any boost by limiting student loans to $10,000, we would already be seeing that today. The bigger problem is that graduates are still unemployed or underemployed (though less so than non-graduates).

Colleges are not going to lower tuition just because the government might not be backing as much in loans. If government loans were limited to $10,000, the most likely scenario is that private lenders take up the slack. And even if they didn’t, the best that could happen is that the rate of tuition increases slows down. That’s a good thing, but not nearly a strong enough reaction that would allow the same access to education, all other things being equal.

Germany took the opposite approach recently, announcing that all public colleges universities would eliminate tuition entirely for all domestic and international students. Almost 95 percent of colleges in Germany are public colleges and universities. In the 2000s, German states wrestled with the German federal government to win back control of education, and in doing so, the federal government needed something to do with the money it had been setting aside for education priorities while the German states began funding loans and grants to students.

Because of higher education’s positive effect on the economy, and because a higher-educated populace is culturally and socially important, universal access is a worthwhile goal, and that is why there is a tax system in the United States. There are certain things that are good for the country — and the world — as a whole. There’s no denying there needs to be improvement. Institutes of higher education are businesses, though, despite their charters. They need to operate on a budget. They need to generate profits to pay employees.

There should be institutional reform to make sure these businesses are running efficiently, and those reforms could open the opportunity for using available funds in ways that directly help students and increase the value of a college degree. Limiting government-backed student loans to $10,000 is the wrong approach.

Am I wrong? Is Mark Cuban right? Do you believe colleges (which are still businesses) will lower tuition if student loans were to be capped at $10,000?

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Since 2008, Sallie Mae has been producing a report about paying for college on an annual basis. Each year, the report surveys Americans across the country to determine their attitudes and actions surrounding funding for college tuition and expenses. This year’s report is extensive. It contains everything from a categorization of personas based on attitudes towards higher education to a breakdown of expenses paid. Like other good surveys, Sallie Mae’s report identifies stark differences between consumers’ attitudes about money and behavior with money.

Buried within the 58-page PDF summary of the report is something very actionable for today’s American consumer. Researchers asked the participants of the survey what actions their families had taken to make college more affordable. Other interesting data in the report include how families assign responsibility for paying for college in theory, and how those families actually divide the payment responsibility in actuality.

Graduation

This is all very interesting, and the report is a great read for someone who has the time. But by focusing on the specific ways families have made college more affordable in the last year, I can share tips for people wrestling with the cost of college today, and these tie into the recent Naked With Cash topic of the month.

Many families adopted more than one of these strategies, so don’t limit yourself to just one. Also, not every strategy is right for every family or every student.

1. Choose an in-state school for lower tuition fees.

Percentage of Americans using this strategy for the 2013-14 school year: 69%. Colleges typically offer reduced tuition rates for in-state residents. One reason public colleges and univertsities (state schools) offer reduced tuition for in-state residents is that household property taxes already paid often go to support these institutions. Colleges with state government funding have a charter that requires the school to offer many public services in return for that taxpayer support, and reduced tuition rates for in-state residents is generally one of those benefits.

It’s a long time ago now, but I’m surprised my parents didn’t require me to find a college to attend in my home state. I suppose they didn’t want me to feel any limitations; but they and I would have saved a lot of money had I attended a public university in New Jersey.

2. Cut back on the student’s entertainment spending.

Percentage of Americans using this strategy for the 2013-14 school year: 66%, up from 60%. The classic frugal approach to saving money requires reducing expenses in one area to pay for something else, either savings or a different expense. In this case, saving money by reducing entertainment expenses can help handle the expenses of attending college. Fewer nights out at the movies, fewer bad restaurant meals, fewer rock concerts — all of these reductions can add up and help make more funds available for tuition.

Dollar for dollar, earning more money can be more effective than saving money from one expense category to better handle another. The student can get a job. But reducing expenses is still a popular strategy and can be employed to afford college.

3. Choose a school closer to home.

Percentage of Americans using this strategy for the 2013-14 school year: 61%, up from 59%. The difficulty with attending a distant school is the cost of traveling between home and college. Attending a school with significant distance from home helps a young adult handle more life responsibility without falling back on parental assistance, but that comes at a price. One benefit of attending a school close to home is the reduced cost of transportation, though that benefit could be negated by more frequent trips to and from school.

With parents close-by, they are able to assist in other life matters, with a potential result of reducing living expenses for the student while at college.

4. Live at home.

Percentage of Americans using this strategy for the 2013-14 school year: 54%, down from 57%. Perhaps as a sign of an economic recovery, fewer families reported students living at home rather than on campus. Living at home can be one of the biggest money-saving tactics for some students. While dorm living has the potential of forcing a frugal existence, it doesn’t always work out that way. Most of the time, staying at home not only reduces expenses through shared household costs, but living with parents reduces the student temptation to spend money at campus and off-campus social events.

Now, I think living on campus adds to the academic experience, and being part of a social group on campus has an importance for personal growth and, in some cases, a potential for lifelong interpersonal networking, but when the goal is to save money, sometimes it’s a smart decision to make those sacrifices.

5. Parents reduce spending.

Percentage of Americans using this strategy for the 2013-14 school year: 45%, down from 48%. It’s not just the student who can reduce spending to better pay for college. Parents can reduce spending as well.

6. Students work more.

Percentage of Americans using this strategy for the 2013-14 school year: 48%, up from 47%. As mentioned above, given the choice to earn more or spend less, earning more can be much more fruitful. You can only reduce expenses down to the basic necessities, but the potential for earning income is unlimited. I realize this is a very optimistic view, ignoring some of the realities of life. And one of those realities is that many families rightly feel that when a young adult is in college, their primary job should be their education. Work distracts from a student’s ability to gain as much as possible out of the experience of attending a university.

But again, it’s a matter of priorities. If finances are a concern, and they should be more often than they are, students taking on more work for more income can offset the cost of attending the school. The best jobs find a balance between maintaining one’s focus on education and producing income. My job at the university’s music library as an undergraduate wasn’t very lucrative, though it did help pay for tuition, but being a web consultant for professors was a little more rewarding.

7. Tax credits/deductables.

Percentage of Americans using this strategy for the 2013-14 school year: 42%, up from 41%. If you qualify for tax deductions or credits for paying college tuition (or later, student loan interest), you must take advantage of these! The American Opportunity Tax Credit was a reorganization of tax credits for education that have existed previously, like the Hope Credit. The Lifetime Learning Credit is included in the same tax form as the American Opportunity Tax Credit, and that credit assists adult scholars looking to further their education.

8. Add a roommate.

Percentage of Americans using this strategy for the 2013-14 school year: 41%, up from 35%. When living out of his family’s home, whether on campus or off campus, having a roommate greatly reduces the cost of living. In terms of rental costs, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a situation where the cost of a two-bedroom apartment was more than twice the price of the associated one-bedroom apartment. So having a roommate saves money on rent. And then you have shared utilities, shared groceries (if you get along well enough), and other shared living expenses.

9. Accelerate.

Percentage of Americans using this strategy for the 2013-14 school year: 28%, up from 27%. My girlfriend in college was proud of her ability to graduate a semester early. I know that finances were a concern for her family, and to this day I feel bad for trying hard to convince her to stay at the university rather than opting to move back home and attend college in her own home state of Pennsylvania. She also paid for a semester of tuition by selling Beanie Babies, which were in a consumer frenzy at the time. Getting through an undergraduate degree in as little time as possible, taking as few credits as possible, will always be a money saver compared to the alternative.

10. Early loan payments.

Percentage of Americans using this strategy for the 2013-14 school year: 23%, up from 22%. If you can pay off the loans before interest is capitalized, you can save lots of money. Once you are being charged interest on your interest, you start dealing with compounding interest. Thankfully, federal student loans have a grace period during which time interest is not capitalized. But you’re not required to send minimum payments to those student loans while they’re deferred. If you do anyway, you can reduce your liability later on.

Private loans are easier to understand — the faster you pay them off, the less you’ll pay, always.

11. Parents work more.

Percentage of Americans using this strategy for the 2013-14 school year: 19%, down from 20%. Often called the ultimate sacrifice, parents taking extra jobs or working overtime for the benefit of their children’s education could be considered by many as going above and beyond the call of parental duty. Maybe that’s why only 19% of American families admit to this tactic. But for some families, particularly those whose kids are in that family’s first generation of potential college students, making that sacrifice so that the students have a better chance of living of financially secure life makes a lot of sense. It requires a long-term view, focusing on survival of the family in the long-term.

12. Change majors.

Percentage of Americans using this strategy for the 2013-14 school year: 19%, steady. How does changing a major result in saving money? Some courses of study can be more expensive. If you’re studying international relations, you may be expected to travel overseas. If you are in a specialized scientific major, you may have exorbitant lab fees that someone studying another science may not need. And there is the perennial view that students should enroll in majors that provide a long-term monetary return, like engineering or finance. That may not save money in the short-term, but a higher starting salary certainly makes repaying college loans easier.

13. Attend school part time.

Percentage of Americans using this strategy for the 2013-14 school year: 17%, up from 15%. It can take longer to earn a degree, but the cost per year can be significantly reduced by taking fewer classes each semester. This opens up the student’s schedule to work a full-time job without sacrificing attention spent on education. It’s much more realistic to get through school completely debt free by taking a part-time approach, but it does come at a cost. Many students who take this approach never finish their undergraduate degree. As they continue at their job, they find themselves receiving more and more responsibility and are more likely to think that college degrees are unnecessary.

14. Transfer to a less expensive school.

Percentage of Americans using this strategy for the 2013-14 school year: 12%, up from 9%. There was a significant increase in American students opting to transfer to a less expensive school. Maybe this is due to a recognition of the importance of financial security and a stronger avoidance of unmanageable debt. It may be more reasonable to manage college expenses my starting a student’s college career in a less expensive school, as one might if they start at a community college for two years and later transfer to a four-year college to complete a degree.

15. Use the military.

Percentage of Americans using this strategy for the 2013-14 school year: 3%, down from 4%. In the early days of the GI Bill, joining the military was a good way to ensure you’d be able to afford college. The latest “Post-9/11″ GI Bill covers the full cost of in-state tuition at public colleges and up to almost $20,000 a year at private schools. The financial benefits don’t end with the tuition assistance. Since the beginning the GI Bill, this has been one of the most effective policies in the history of the United States for bridging low-income families into the middle class. And it’s still there for students willing to put their lives on the line to defend the United States and to be a part of the military establishment.

Every family has a plethora of options for saving money for college, and the best results come from taking the strategies that apply to your particular family in combination. How do you plan to save for college?

Read the full report from Sallie Mae here.

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On Father’s Day, I visited my dad, who is in the process of moving out of the house he has shared with his long-time girlfriend for the past thirteen or so years; she had been living in the house for about forty years, if I remember correctly. We met at the house, which was clear of almost all of its furniture, and walked into town.

Maplewood is a township in New Jersey with a cute downtown area, with several good restaurants and shops. There’s a convenient train to New York City. It’s not a cheap place to live, though. In 2011, the mean price for detached houses in the township was $570,158, and property taxes are typical for New Jersey. In other words, high.

We walked to one of the restaurants, St. James Gate Publick House, for a Father’s Day dinner and proceeded to talk about life. To provide some context for the reader, I think my father and I have a good relationship. We’re not particularly close, but we check in with each occasionally and I take some time to visit him several times throughout the year. My parents were divorced around the turn of the millennium, but each has been in a committed relationship with their current partners for a long time.

The photograph you see here is from when I was about six months old.

I don’t normally write about my family on Consumerism Commentary. I started this website in 2003 to talk very candidly about my finances, and because of this type of exposure, I wanted to remain anonymous. And I’m still anonymous to a degree. Because I put a high value on my privacy, except for my finances until a certain point, I respect the privacy of people in my life. But I think it’s safe to share some aspects of the discussions within my family that could have an effect on me or other people who may be in similar situations.

The first thing I learned pertains to retirement. I actually already know the things that I “learned” during our discussion, but hearing from or observing one’s father can have a more direct impact than harboring any particular piece of knowledge intellectually.

Don’t wait until retirement to live your life.

Now, my father has not waited until retirement to do many activities that he would enjoy. Even when he was young, he was exploring his world, with bike-riding trips, camping with friends, and cross-country road trips. Later in life, he embarked on cruises to Europe.

He’s several years beyond the traditional age of retirement now, but he’s only now starting to pull back his hours. He’s considering continuing to consult in retirement as well — not because he needs the money, but primarily because he’s not sure how he’ll be spending his time in retirement. To complicate the matter, I found out last year that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The symptoms are being controlled well by medication now, but physically — and this can apply to anyone as the years advance, anyway — he can’t handle the same activities he had handled well in the past.

There are many things I’d still like to do, mostly regarding traveling and experiencing the world. There’s little holding me back right now other than myself. Personally, although I put pressure on myself to work, the reality is that I don’t need to. If I wanted to take a few months and travel, financially, it is possible. It takes some planning, and perhaps that is what is stopping me. Another barrier is that most people I know do have to work, and that makes it difficult to have a traveling companion.

I could be living an exciting life right now — so I need to start figuring out how to make that happen before I get old.

Your education, regardless of your career path, is worthwhile.

But my dad might disagree. With my parents’ encouragement, I pursued a music education degree as an undergraduate. Entering the degree probably, although I was apprehensive about the big changes moving to campus would bring, I was passionate and dedicated to the idea of my calling to be a music teacher in a high school. I expected I would follow the typical career path of a teacher who was looking to be effective with students as well as experience career development; I expected to eventually move from teaching to administration.

It turns out I didn’t like the public school environment and moved away from the teaching field. The passion hasn’t fully left me — I recently began teaching rhythm to a group of special needs children, and find it very rewarding. Nevertheless, my life took a different path. I am, however, thankful for the education, and I think that the courses I took in college helped prepare for being a leader in the field in which I work.

My father considers my education to have been a waste of time, and doesn’t understand why I am currently giving back to my university community. Perhaps he read Matt Yglesias’s article in Slate dissuading alumni from financially supporting greedy universities. After all, these are organizations that are generally cash-rich and favor students who can afford the high cost to attend the schools. But my alma mater is not an Ivy League school and is not “well-endowed;” it is a private university while also a land-grant college; most of the funding for its programs comes from private money, yet it has the misfortune of having a public charter.

Not that any of this really matters — the bottom line is that I experienced an unfairness while I was pursuing a minor. I was required to take, and pay for, a credit course representing a non-profit internship. I was paying the university tuition so that I could work for an organization for free. I did receive a benefit — I ended up working full-time for the organization where I had the internship (though that may have been a bad idea anyway). This situation helped predicate my spiral into financial despair, all of which resulted in my life-changing run as the founder of this site, which I successfully sold several years ago. So it’s not all bad.

I’ve been giving back to my university in several ways.

  • I’ve established a stipend to help one student each year pay his or her bills while pursuing a required internship, opening up more opportunities for someone who might not be able to afford to take the best opportunity available, even if it is in an area with a higher cost of living.
  • I’ve been back to campus to address aspiring entrepreneurs in a speaker series. I can guarantee the students did not hear a story like mine before or after my visit.
  • I signed up to meet with high school students who are interested in the University of Delaware, particularly those interested in pursuing arts-related degrees, to share my experiences with the university and with life.
  • I am now a member-at-large on the alumni association’s Board of Directors.
  • I’ve been invited to be on a panel of Department of Music alumni to better prepare students for life after college.

I don’t see any problem with giving back to my university, even though they certainly received a lot of funds in the form of tuition from me (and my parents). Would my father had been happier if I had pursued an engineering degree, like him, and had a career path that took advantage of the specific education that degree would provide? Perhaps, but I think things worked out fine.

One of the reasons I’ve avoided being involved with the university since my graduation is the fact that my life has taken such a strange turn and I’m not doing what I intended when I was in school — teaching music. And I do feel quite a bit separated from the friends, students and professors, I had made while in college. But I’m really excited about getting involved again, and I think it will become a worthwhile piece of my life, and something I can be proud of.

Not everyone will have children or a family of his own.

One day while in college, someone who knew me well looked at me and said, “You’re going to make a great father.” Today is almost twenty years since that moment, and I still haven’t proven her right or wrong. I’m thirty-eight years old, and I don’t have a family I thought I might have had by now. It’s really my own fault; although my relationships tend to be long-term, I’ve never “settled down.” Today, I’m in a relationship that’s still relatively new, and things are going well despite the distance between us.

During our dinner, my father suggested that maybe I just won’t have a family of my own. There’s nothing wrong with that path, and single people live their lives just as well as married folks, and in many cases, they live better, more complete lives. You can’t really generalize; every individual is different. Having a child now means I’ll be no younger than 56 when he or she graduates high school.

I can’t really look back and say that I wish I had children ten years ago; my life was in a vastly different situation at that time.

There are two choices — decide to change and actively make choices to put that change into effect, or come to terms and learn to enjoy the current situation.

Even if I disagree with my father in some respects, our discussion gave me a few things to think about. It’s good to have these discussions once in a while. At the end of dinner, to which I treated him, we walked back to the house he’d soon be moving away from. I was then on my way back to my own home, an apartment where I just renewed the lease for another year (with a break-away option) with more to think about.

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This story has all the makings of something viral. It fits right in with our fascination with people doing things that normal Americans wouldn’t even consider doing. We gawk at reality television shows and follow the stories about their stars, like the recent news about the couple from the “Real Housewives of New Jersey” show who recently pleaded guilty to fraud. This story has the added element of millennial-shaming. We like stories when a young individual upholds the generally-held stereotype of entitlement.

If the judge doesn’t throw out the suit from the beginning, some of the facts will eventually come out. But from media reports, it appears that the eighteen-year-old Rachel Canning, identifying herself as a cheerleader and an honor student, willfully left home after not wanting to live by her parents’ rules. These rules included contributing to household order through chores, obeying an eleven o’clock curfew, and breaking up with a boyfriend who didn’t meet the parents’ approval. The girl moved out to live with her friend’s family — and the father in this friend’s household is funding the suit.

The parents, who had been saving some money for their child’s college education, are now refusing to cover the tuition for the expensive college the girl would like to attend and to pay the remaining balance for her enrollment in a private high school.

The story, traveling quickly across the internet, is giving millions of readers the opportunity to ridicule her as a product of the Millennial generation.

I’d like to say that the situation has an obvious eventual conclusion. The child, when she voluntary moved out of her parents’ house after turning eighteen years of age to avoid their rules, signaled that she intended to live without their support. And in fact, she could do just that by switching to public school, getting a job, and if she likes, paying for her own education at a less expensive college. The student, however, is determined to have her parents continue supporting her and her life choices.

The young adult made her own choice and should have to live with the consequences, and those consequences, like forfeiture of support, seemed to be pretty clear from the beginning.

But because this is in New Jersey, the case might have some merit. The courts in this state have ruled in the past that parents are still responsible for supporting their children after the age of eighteen if a child cannot support his or herself. There may not be a reason to think a bright and talented student wouldn’t be able to support herself if she wanted, but working for a living and paying one’s own way through college isn’t as convenient as having living expenses covered by one’s parents. A court will probably have to decide whether the young woman can support herself in the manner to which she’s accustomed. Given that a court in Texas recently that “affluenza” is a reasonable defense, there’s no telling what might happen in court in New Jersey.

Parents have no legal obligation to pay for their children’s higher education expenses. The ability for a child or young adult to receive a college education for free is not a right or entitlement. It’s great when parents can contribute to their children’s education, and I’ve benefited from parental financial assistance for (and after) college. I would never in a million years consider financial support from my parents to be an expectation after the age of eighteen, but I hope to be able to help my children afford the education they want when and if I have children.

But this isn’t charity. When I offer to help pay for college, there will be conditions. The parents involved in this lawsuit are free to require their child to exhibit appropriate behavior in order to receive support, even beyond the age of eighteen. Unless the parents invested the money set aside for college education in the daughter’s name, it would take a court’s decision to force the parents to pay that money. The funds for the private high school education might be different; if the parents signed a contract to pay the tuition, they might have to pay, regardless of the living situation.

A just judge should recognize that the student could easily finish her high school career in a public high school, and private school tuition should be seen as an extra, not a baseline requirement.

What do you think about this story? Does the eighteen-year-old have a case against her parents? Should the parents continue to support her after she refused to live by their rules and voluntarily moved out of the house? What would it have taken for you to sue your parents when you were eighteen?

Update: In the initial hearing the judge did not throw out the case but expressed concern about setting a precedent in which parents would be afraid to set rules of the house. The judge refused an emergency order for the parents to begin paying the teen $600 a week. A hearing on April 22 will determine more.

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Should This Reader Enroll in the University of Phoenix Online?

by Luke Landes
University of Phoenix Online

When I was an undergraduate, the World Wide Web was coming into prominence within the world of academics. For years prior to my freshman orientation at the University of Delaware, I had gained a lot of experience and familiarity with the internet as it was at the time — newsgroups, email, bulletin boards, and even ... Continue reading this article…

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Should College Graduates Pay Back Parents’ Loans?

by Luke Landes
University of Delaware

This month, the Naked With Cash participants and financial professionals are discussing education, primarily paying for and planning for college, whether it involves paying back their own loans, funding their own education, or saving for their kids’ future college expenses. In August, colleges across the country begin their fall semesters, so it’s a great time ... Continue reading this article…

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A New Jersey College Invests in Poor Communities and Provides Free Tuition

by Luke Landes
Rutgers cheerleader

Low-income families have to deal with priorities other than education. With the increasing expense of college, children in these families rarely view college enrollment and attendance as an option. Degrees are out of reach. Often, the children fall into the category of those who are not encouraged to pursue bachelor’s degrees — after all, for ... Continue reading this article…

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Can Free College Education Work in Oregon or Anywhere Else?

by Luke Landes
Tuition-Free Education in Oregon

While in Portland, Oregon the past few days, I was struck by the news that the state’s legislature passed a bill to “Pay It Forward, Pay It Back,” allowing students to attend college for free initially, then paying tuition as a percentage of their income for a set number of years. Many of the national ... Continue reading this article…

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Banks Borrow Money at Low Rates, Why Can’t Students?

by Luke Landes
Studying

Senator Elizabeth Warren, the architect of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, introduced a bill in Congress to give student borrowers a break. The premise is that students, whose education is important to the economic growth of the United States, should receive some of the same advantages as banks, who receive preferential treatment in the form ... Continue reading this article…

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6 Questions Before Dropping Out of College to Be an Entrepreneur

by Luke Landes
Bill Gates

Many successful entrepreneurs, business owners, and world leaders have something in common. When asked how they achieved their success, they point to a role model they knew personally or were familiar with during their formative and most inspired years. The role model lived a life that seemed appealing to them. That’s how many young entrepreneurs ... Continue reading this article…

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Learning About Investing With the Stock Market Game

by Luke Landes
Stock Market Game

In my mind, no child is too young to learn about the basic concepts of personal finance. From using money to saving money and budgeting, youngest children learn as they watch their parents behave. These are the most important lessons because parents are the ultimate role models. Financial literacy programs that wait until high school ... Continue reading this article…

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Saving Priorities: Retirement vs. Kids’ Education

by Luke Landes
College education

Having the ability to even ask this question might be indicative of having “first world problems.” Throughout the world, the concept of retirement is foreign. Financial independence doesn’t fit into the concept of life. That isn’t to say that all residents of underdeveloped nations are struggling with life, but the benefits that we live with ... Continue reading this article…

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Mass Affluent: College is Worth the Investment

by Luke Landes
Questioning the value of a college education

You can be financially successful without a college degree. One summer when I was younger, fresh out of college, I worked for a touring drum and bugle corps. It’s a group of 128 adolescents and young adults and 40 staff who drive around the company in buses, performing almost every night for seven weeks, marching ... Continue reading this article…

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Go to College for Free

by Luke Landes
West Point Academy cadet

Welcome new readers. Be sure to subscribe to Consumerism Commentary via RSS. New readers should start here. I enjoyed my experience as an undergraduate at a “state-assisted, privately governed” university. As I did not live in that university’s state prior to attending, my tuition fees were higher than many of my classmates’ fees. To attend ... Continue reading this article…

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Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke Speaks With Teachers

by Luke Landes
Ben Bernanke

Yesterday, Ben Bernanke spoke to teachers across the United States in a video-conferenced town hall-style meeting. Several teachers were invited to participate in Washington, while others attended the meeting from distant locations aided my modern technology. I wasn’t able to watch the live broadcast of the meeting, but I watched the hour-long recording this morning. ... Continue reading this article…

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Is Pursuing a PhD or Professional Doctorate Worthwhile?

by Luke Landes
Professor

I’m at a point in my life right now where I have some flexibility with my personal choices. Thanks to growing a business, I’m able to look at a wide array of options in front of me — things to to do that will keep me busy, intellectually stimulated, and financially self-supporting, in addition to ... Continue reading this article…

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Tuition Reimbursement: A Benefit for Some Employees and Employers

by Luke Landes
Columbia University

Happy anniversary to Consumerism Commentary! Nine years ago today, I published the first article on this website, introducing myself and sharing the original purpose of Consumerism Commentary. The character of the site has changed drastically over this extended period of time, but I’m glad to say I’m still involved with its operation. Thanks for everyone’s ... Continue reading this article…

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Student Loan Grace Periods Coming to an End

by Luke Landes
Graduation

While all the focus has been on student loan interest rates. Congress has failed to renew one of the most important student loan benefits for undergraduates: the six-month grace period following graduation. With the rate of unemployment being historically high, this couldn’t have come at a worse time. Federal student loans have a fixed interest ... Continue reading this article…

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Seven Great Gifts for College Graduates

by Luke Landes
Graduation

If there is a college graduate in your life, he or she will likely receive a number of gifts. The first gift will be the realization that it can be difficult to find a job in this economy right now — if the goal is to get a job in the same field of study ... Continue reading this article…

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Public School Funding: Taxes or Parent Donations?

by Luke Landes
Classroom

When communities vote on public school budget proposals throughout the country, voting citizens evaluate the quality of the curricula, the perceived effectiveness of the administration, the students’ performance, the prioritization of students’ needs, and their own wallets. Rising costs and an unstable economy tend to push parents to be wary of budget increases that result ... Continue reading this article…

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