Wednesday, August 29, 2012

No Funds From Students, No Funds From State

The reduction in state funding for education has caused economic turmoil for many students who depend on fixed tuition and enough money from loans and grants to provide adequate resources to pay for school, according to Lisa O’Donnell’s article in the Winston-Salem Journal titled N.C. colleges see jump in cancellations. The reduced state funding allowed universities to increase their tuition and many students are having a hard time making up for the loss in funds.

High tuition and changes in financial aid are causing a jump in registration cancellations. In fact, UNCG recently cancelled classes for 1300 students for unpaid bills. NC A&T cancelled classes for 541 students, and Winston-Salem State University saw an increase in cancellations this year.

According to financial aid experts at these local universities, students are not applying for financial aid on time, if at all, or their financial aid had not yet been packaged at the time of cancellation.

With schools such as ASU and UNC School of the Arts cancelling fewer registrations than previous years, it is evident that not all schools are suffering from the rise in tuition and lack of financial aid. However, it is difficult to ignore schools such as NC A&T in which 80% of the students qualify for need-based aid while the necessary funds becomes less available. So what will students do to remedy the lack of money for education?

As someone who didn’t have thousands of dollars set aside for school when it came time to go to college, I understand what it is like to need money from outside sources in order to fulfill the dream of a college education. I’ve had my fair share of waiting in the financial aid office or on the phone, just to be told more disappointing news of lack of funds or increased expenses.

I saw the affects of the lack of state funding for education firsthand last year. Friends who had previously gotten their education paid for with money to spare were now having to take out loans. They no longer qualified for grants because of the lowered maximum income level. Fortunately, they were able to get these loans to make up for the lack of money, but what about those who aren’t able to or don’t know how to go about it? Or what about those who don’t think the loan is worth it?

Not only has tuition increased since I first began college in 2008, but with the lack of funds comes a lack of classes available. It was difficult to find the necessary classes needed to complete my degree during my senior year. I knew I would be student teaching during the spring semester which meant no other classes for the rest of the year. However, I needed 19 hours for the fall semester and it felt like my school didn’t want me to graduate. That year, they decided to cap the maximum credit hours at 17. What about all those people that were in my same boat that needed that extra class? Plus, with a maximum amount of hours and limited classes, that meant that it would be virtually impossible for incoming freshman or even sophomores to graduate within the standard four year time period without going to summer school (if classes were available even then). After much protest, they changed their mind back to the normal 19 hours and all was well. But this is just one of the many examples that come from lack of money for education. It trickles down, causing us to spend more time getting our degree, which causes us to spend more money that we don’t really have, putting us in more debt in the end. What I want to know is if we do our part by getting in our financial aid packages on time, what will the state and the universities do for us? Will we continue to suffer with a lack of classes? Will capped credit hours per semester become a reality for universities across the nation?

Unfortunately, I don’t have the answers to these questions. I do, however, have some advice for those who are suffering from lack of financial aid:

  1. Contact the financial aid office at your school! No matter how long you have to wait in line or how long you have to stay on hold, it is worth every second! There are options available to you!
  2. Don’t be afraid to take out a loan. You may be eligible for a subsidized loan which won’t develop any interest until it is time for you to start paying on it. Debt for education is not bad debt like it would be if it was credit card debt. Having loans also helps you establish your credit if you pay your bills on time. This, in turn, will make it easier to purchase a home in the future. Your financial aid office will have the necessary info to make this happen.
  3. Apply for scholarships. Departments have scholarships available as well. Apply for all of them!
  4. Apply for FASFA as soon as possible. Each school has a different deadline, but the sooner you get it in, the better it will be. Check your financial aid status frequently on your school website.

For more information on financial aid, visit and
For more information on the Lisa O’Donnell’s original article, visit, search N.C. colleges see jump in cancellations.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Experience is the Key to Job Opportunity

With all the school and certification required to practice law, law school students as well as the general public would think passing the bar exam would be the only barrier standing between an indebted law student and a successful life in the law firm defending their clients. According to Catherine Carlock’s article found in the Winston-Salem Journal on job status for law graduates, the American Bar Association released employment data on recent law school graduates in North Carolina and across the country that suggests that only 55% of 2011 law school graduates were employed with full-time positions that required a juris doctor degree nine months after graduation. For the first time, individual law schools are asked to report their data, and the findings are not in these graduate’s favor. Local universities such as Wake Forest and Elon do not have much better job turnout rate. Law school graduates are having to reevaluate their desire for full time employment and consider part time positions instead.

With the economy in its current state, grads are facing a tough job market. This becomes increasingly difficult with the average law school student having $100,000 worth of student loans upon graduation. These grads rely on their prospective income to justify not only their law degree, but also to decide if law school really is a good investment. Chris Smith, assistant dean for career services at Elon University School of Law, gives sound advice on the subject: do not dismiss jobs in which your law degree is not required. With the mean salary for law degree graduates having fallen 16% since 2009, and the law profession continuing to shed 5-10,000 jobs per month, law school grads cannot afford to be picky. But is the degree worth the cost?

Having no personal experience in the field of law school, I cannot offer any specific advice for these fellow graduates. I can, however, offer my own experience as I take plunge into figuring out life after college with student loans to consider. My first suggestion would be to take any job that will increase your skills and make you more marketable for the job that you want. Experience might be what separates you from another applicant. Whether or not the job is full time or in your specific area of interest does not matter as much. Holding out for the ideal job will not maximize your time to gain experience in order to be the best employee and person you can be. I am currently uncertain about what I want to do as far as a career for the future. Although going back go school to get my master’s is a viable option at this point, I am afraid to pile on more debt without being sure what I want to do. My goal is to find a career path through experience.

I have a friend who graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill this past May. With a degree in Statistics from a prestigious university, everyone was sure he would be secure for a job upon graduation. He searched for actuary jobs at insurance companies but even with his degree and certification, he had no luck. He is now working part-time at a law firm. Is it his dream job? No, but he is willing to do what it takes to get there, even if that means taking more time to figure things out and gain experience along the way.

Just like people have internships in their area of interest to gain more understanding of their field, time must be spent wisely to gain more knowledge.

Law students may have a difficult time finding employment these days but just like the economy, the housing and stock market, job opportunity will rise and fall. Recent graduates of all trades will be prepared with their degree in the mean time, and be more experienced than they would otherwise.

For more information on Catherine Carlock’s article Only half of recent law graduates are practicing their craft, visit

Monday, August 20, 2012

Saving for College vs. Saving for Retirement

Let’s hear from the experts:

The stress of paying for college has parents questioning which is more important: saving for retirement or paying for their child’s education. Although both are important investments for the future, ING Retirement Coach Jacob Gold suggests that dipping into retirement funds is not a financially healthy way to go in order to pay for college.

College is becoming increasingly more expensive. In fact, the average tuition at private colleges has tripled in the last 30 years. And private schools, which are generally more expensive that in-state schools, aren’t the only schools that are increasing tuition. State school prices are rising as well. With the average starting salary for college grads being $27,000, parents worry about their children’s financial future.

Gold assures parents that saving for college is important, but he tries to steer parents away from using their retirement to pay for their education. In fact, he says, for every dollar put in retirement, parents should only put 10 cents towards college. There aren’t any loans for retirement, but there are various other methods such as loans and grants that will help pay for college.

Gold offers the following tips for balancing saving money for college with saving for retirement:

  1. Parents should start investing money in a college fund when their child is young. Look into a 529 college savings plan which offers, for qualified education expenses, tax-deferred earnings and income-tax-free withdrawals.
  2. Get the extended family involved in saving. A video game or a toy will be forgotten easily but a financial gift will add up to an important financial investment when it comes time to start college.
  3. Grants, scholarships, financial aid, and loans can help make up the difference for college. Many colleges also offer room-and-board discounts for students who work on campus.

Although saving for college and retirement can be difficult to simultaneously, Gold encourages families to have “a disciplined and balanced strategy and plan for both goals.”

For more detailed information on Gold’s financial advice on saving for college and retirement, visit the original article at

And now from a recent college grad:

Just a few months ago, I graduated from college. Four years of late nights, exams, endless reading material and raised tuition rates had landed me a bachelor’s degree in English Education. When I got that sheet of paper in the mail in June that confirmed I had done the necessary requirements, I held in my hand what was supposed to be my passport to job opportunity. With that sheet of paper, I could go anywhere, be anything. But it isn’t that easy, and sometimes I feel like all I have to show for those four years of hard work is a sheet of paper with my name on it and $28,000 of debt.

I am someone who would take experience any day, even if it meant not having as much money, and I have found that state of mind definitely has its advantages. However, experience unfortunately has its downfalls as well. I wanted to live on campus to have the “real” college experience, and although doing so taught me a lot about myself and about life, I am paying for that now, literally and figuratively. I was so focused on being out on my own that I didn’t stop to consider other alternatives that would save me money in the future. What I didn’t realize then is that it is possible to have a great college experience without all the debt to go along with it. In three months, the grace period on my loans will be over and the monthly bill will start coming in. As I think about that and look back on my own college experience, I wonder what would happen if I would have done some things differently. This is what I’ve learned along the way:

  1. If your current living situation with family is good, consider living at home and going to a technical college for two years. Save money in getting your associate’s degree. If you do well, that degree will transfer practically anywhere. You will save money in all kinds of ways.
  2. If you don’t want to go the technical route, still consider living at home during your college experience.
  3. If you aren’t interested in living at home, consider being a Resident Advisor on campus. Many colleges offer the position as early as one semester into your freshman year. Many schools offer either free room and board or a discount on housing with this position. This is a great way to save money, have the experience of living on campus, and get a great leadership opportunity that looks great on any resume.
  4.  If you decide to commute or live on campus, get involved on campus. Take advantage of all of the resources the college or university has to offer. Getting involved as a commuter will help you feel more apart of the campus life and will help you to meet friends on campus. Getting involved as a resident on campus can help you to network which may lead to scholarship and job opportunities, making any sort of debt accumulation seem not as bad in the long run. Make it worth it.
  5. Start looking for scholarship opportunities your junior year of high school. Scholarships are out there and thousands of dollars of scholarship money goes unclaimed every year because people don’t apply.
  6. Consider programs such as the AmeriCorps or the Peace corps. These programs offer an education award upon completion of the program and can open up tons of job opportunities.
  7. Look for programs like the Education IDA. This program can help you to become financially literate as you save money for college. Upon completion of the program, they will match what you have saved. All of that money can go towards your college education!

Although it is often difficult to figure out where money is going to come from when it comes to paying for college, being ready for retirement, or any other financial issue that may come along, there are ways to find it. Don’t stress over paying for college; there are tons of ways to pay for a great education and college experience without dipping into retirement or breaking the bank.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Don't Pay For Cut Produce - Cut Cost Instead

20 helpful tips to save money at the grocery store courtesy of the Huffington Post

Interested in learning ways to cut costs at the grocery store? The Huffington Post offers these 20 helpful tips to prevent overspending and still get the foods you need:

    1.   Grocery stores put essentials such as milk and other dairy products at the opposite ends of the
          store. Try to avoid the middle aisles and only purchase what is necessary.
    2.   Toiletries are typically cheaper at pharmacies rather than grocery stores.
  1. Buying generics instead of name brand items can save you a lot of moneyThe product is usually the same, only with a different name. Check ingredients to be sure.
  2. Buying foods that are pre-made from the deli may be convenient, but buying the ingredients and making the product yourself can save you money while also providing you with fresher food.
  3. Grocery stores will often put the most expensive items at eye level. Be sure to scan the aisle up and down before making a selection.
  4. Although it can be difficult to avoid, shopping with children can cost you more money. Children can often persuade you to buy unnecessary and expensive junk food.
  5. Shredded cheese is more expensive because it is already grated. Investing in a grater and buying block cheese instead will save you extra money.
  6. Don’t shop on an empty stomach. Eating beforehand can help you buy only what is necessary.
  7. Products that go on sale may run out before you get a chance to buy them. Ask if the store offers rain checks for the item.
  8. Make a list of what you need at the grocery store and stick to it.
  9. Look at the units and see which brand offers the best deal for your money. Avoid products that over package.
  10. Stay away from lettuce that is packaged in a plastic container. The fancier the packaging, the more money you are spending.
  11. Buy dried beans instead of canned beans. Don’t pay extra for convenience.
  12. Don’t pay more for food that is already cut up. If it is cut, that is a service you are paying extra for.
  13. Eat what is in season. If the food is out of season, you are paying more for it.
  14. Use tap water instead of buying bottled water.
  15. Make your own spices instead of paying for them.
  16. Avoid buying individual bags of popcorn. Making your own popcorn is cheaper and fresher.
  17. Start an herb garden. The price of one plant is equal to the price of less that a few sprigs of herbs in the store.
  18. Buy exotic spices in an international market instead of at the grocery store where they are more expensive.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The "Money Talk"

If you have a child getting ready to head off to college, there may be a talk you still need to have… the “money talk.” Financial planning is probably not the first thing on a college freshman’s mind, but that doesn’t lessen its importance. It is essential that incoming college freshman understand money management, credit, and budgets because financial mistakes made during college can take years to overcome.

Research shows that students that complete financial education courses in high school are more likely to save, less likely to max our their credit cards, and less likely to be a compulsive buyer. Unfortunately, only 14 states require a high school course in personal finance. This means that having conversations about money with your children at home are even more important.

Understanding how to budget is one of the most important lessons a person can learn before entering college. Susan Beacham, the CEO of Money Savvy Generation says that, “Kids leave home thinking they can live at college as they did at home, and that’s not possible, is it? The standard of living they had at home will be different from the one they have at college.”

College freshman must adapt to a different standard of living, and the first step is to create a monthly budget. To make it easier to stick to the budget, put the budget on paper or a computer spreadsheet and specify times that the family can review the budget together. Beacham also warns that credit cards are very tempting for college students, so it is important for parents to establish what the card should and shouldn’t be used for.

If you have a child heading off to college this fall, don’t miss the opportunity to have the “money talk.” Susan Beacham says, “Financial planning is a huge life lesson that needs to be worked on to ease your child’s transition to having an independent financial life.”

Monday, August 6, 2012

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to Supervise Credit Bureaus

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently adopted a rule to begin supervising larger consumer reporting agencies, which include what are commonly known as credit bureaus and credit reporting companies. The rule will become effective September 30, 2012.

CFPB Director Richard Cordray said: 
     “Credit Reporting is at the heart of our lending systems and enables many of us to get credit, 
      afford a home, or get an education. Supervising this market will help ensure that it works 
      properly for consumers, lenders, and the wider economy. There is much at stake in making 
      sure it is both fair and effective.”

According to a press release by CFPB, "credit reporting agencies are private businesses that track a consumer's credit history and other consumer transactions." These companies play a major in the consumer financial services marketplace and in the lives of consumers. Consumer reports are used for many things such as determining eligibility for credit and the interest rates that consumers pay for credit.

The Dodd- Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act gives the CFPB authority to supervise nonbanks in the specific markets of residential mortgage, payday, and private education lending. Previously, consumer reporting at the federal level was only subject to law enforcement authority. No single federal government agency could see the whole picture and adequately monitor what was happening with consumer reporting agencies. This new rules allows the CFPB to supervise the larger consumer reporting agencies as well as write rules and enforce the law as needed.

To supervise credit reporting, the CFPB will use the same approach it uses in supervising banks. The  credit bureaus will be subject to review of compliance systems and procedures, on-site examinations, and discussions with relevant personnel.

To view the full rule, click here.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

How Different Classes Spend Their Money

The following is a very interesting graphic shared by NPR Planet Money. It illustrates how Americans spend their money and how budgets change across the income spectrum. The graph shows average household spending patterns in three income brackets- just below the poverty line, at the middle of the income distribution, and one at the top of income distribution. 

There are some similarities. For example, each income bracket spends a similar portion of their budgets on clothing and shoes and food outside the home. But poor families are forced to spend a larger portion of their budget on basic necessities like utilities and health care. 

What jumps out at you when you look at this illustration? Does anything surprise you?

To read the full article from NPR, click here.