Archives for March 2013

Controlling Student Debt – First Make Sure Tuition Cost Is Right

College debt is a topic we have been exploring in the last several posts.  The idea that the amount of debt you have when you get your degree is very dependent on the costs you take on at the beginning of your schooling.  Tuition is by far your biggest cost.  Buzz TodaySource: The annual tuition (Harvard University MBA) is $51,200 and it is severely discounted for at least half the students. In fact, Harvard’s average fellowship support per MBA student was $29,843 last year, essentially a 58.3 percent discount on that annual tuition.

The question you have to be asking is, “how do you control the tuition cost in the first place?”   For every college or university you are considering you must know what the true cost of tuition is.  In BUZZ Today here, we can see what the tuition costs truly are at one of the most prestigious programs in American higher education.  The degree is an MBA from Harvard University.

What the BUZZ data tells us, is that the “list” price of the degree is $51,200 per year.  By list price we mean the price published on the university web site for a year of enrollment in the program.  Every university has a published list price for their tuition.  It is this list tuition that is quoted when referring to the degrees being offered.  If you do nothing, this list price is what you will pay when you enroll.  This is true for every degree from every university.  The point is that what you actually end up paying is entirely dependent on what you do or don’t do.

The debt control comes in with the second half of the BUZZ data.  The actual (discounted) tuition cost for the students enrolled in the Harvard MBA in 2012 is shown to have been, on average $29,843.  This results in $29,843 less debt a student would have to repay after graduation.

The bottom line is that even in the hugely prestigious Harvard University MBA the average actual tuition price paid is 58.3% less than the list tuition price.

No matter where you decide to go to school it is very important that you take full advantage of the discounted versus list tuition cost at every university you are considering.  For detailed information on the list versus discounted tuition for every American higher education institution see Chapter 9 in my book Your Future Is Calling.

First In Your Family

Those of us who were the first in our families to go to college face some particular challenges. The biggest challenge is not having a trusted mentor to guide our decisions.

Buzz Today Source: First in the Family A first in the family student: “Everyone was telling me to go in there and get a business degree. I don’t know what the reason was but, yeah, sure, I’ll do it. I think that was another reason I struggled in early college. Why do I need to know this? As soon as I shifted over to political science I was loving it.”.

We see in the BUZZ Today quote how the absence of a trusted mentor impacts success in college. Notice this student was taking the advice of “everyone”. Business was what others steered him to with little regard for what fit him. In fact, what “everyone” was saying was what they thought about him and about business. Probably the “everyone” didn’t know very much about either one.

Those that come from a family where college education was the experience of earlier family generations have a real advantage.  Not only do the family elders have the experience of college, they have two equally important things to bring to the first in the family college student.

Knowing how to register for classes and where to look for scholarships are important, but there even more important things. A mother or father with a college degree know their son or daughter. As parents who have, for eighteen years, spent almost every day with their child, they know that child. They know their likes and dislikes. They know their habits and above all they know what motivates them. Without motivation all is lost. So the educated parent can act as a mentor and avoid the “everyone” advice in the BUZZ Today quote.

But even more important, the parent is a trusted adviser. The son or daughter knows the parent after nearly two decades in the relationship. It is that trust which can help the student avoid the risk of losing motivation because the courses simply do not fit who they are.

In the end, every first in the family college student needs a trusted source of advice and guidance. A good place to start is with the book Your Future is Calling.

Should You Earn A College Degree?

There are lots of stories these days about how unwise it is to waste your time and money earning a college degree.  Stories of taxi cable drivers with college degrees are plentiful.  Buzz TodaySource:  In a book called “BLEEDING TALENT” by Tim Kane, he writes that “The modern military requires that all officers have at least a bachelor’s degree to receive their initial commission.” 95% of Chief Executives (in America) hold bachelor or higher degree.

An equally popular theme is how successful some have been without a college education.  Bill Gates, Larry Ellison and Steve Jobs are often put forward as examples of successful people who did not complete a college education.

This is all well and good. The stories make for fun reading.  But the question for you is whether this type of information helps you make a personal decision about whether to invest your time, money and energy into a college education.  When it comes to your very personal GO – NO GO, decision you need better information than these headline stories tell.

Let’s take a look at the data in the BUZZ Today insert.  What the facts tell us, is that it is possible to become a CEO of an American corporation.  The evidence tells us that 5% of those CEOs have made it to the top without a degree.  What this tells us is that it is possible to get to the top in civilian life.  What the data also tells us is that it is not very likely.  If fact, what the data tells us is that you are nineteen times more likely with a degree than without a degree.

When it comes to the US military, the data tells us that you are not going to become an officer in the US military without a degree.  Here the odds are 100% to 0.

The point of this conversation is to help you avoid being seduced by the negative stories about colleges and degrees.   It may be fashionable for bloggers and journalists to rag on colleges, particularly because of their high cost of tuition.  Colleges need to be held accountable for rising tuition costs.

But for you, it may not be a good decision to let these stories distort decisions about your future. Not having a degree puts you at severe disadvantage today.  Any way you cut it having a college degree today vastly increases your odds of having a career with advancement potential.

See Your Future is Calling for more valuable information about careers and your future.

Managing Student Loan Debt

One of the best ways to keep debt from student loans under control is to not incur them in the first place.   Sounds simple.  In many ways it is, but you have to know what is actually going on in college pricing.    Buzz TodaySource:  Wall Street Journal  Almost 88% of first-time, full time freshmen at private nonprofit colleges and universities received some type of grant in 2011, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers. .

To understand how to reduce the amount of debt you incur, you have to know how the college pricing actually works.   Every college and university lists tuition costs, typically per semester credit hour, someplace in their materials.  If you search the web site hard enough you should be able to find the cost of tuition.  If you cannot find it online, you will need to ask when you talk to the university on the phone or in person.

It is important to ask the price of tuition per credit hour.  The reason this is important is because individual courses and programs are different numbers of credit hours in length.  It is also important to ask about credit hours instead of cost per course when comparing costs between two different colleges.  Semester credit hour is the standard unit of measure in higher education.

Beware of the difference between quarter credit hours and semester credit hours.  If you are quoted quarter hours you will need to convert the price to semester credit hours by dividing the price by .67 to get the equivalent semester hour cost.

Now here is where the reduction in debt comes in.  The college or university will not offer a grant.  You have to ask.  When you ask, the place to start is with the question:

“What was the average value of the grants your institution awarded to incoming students last year?”   They have the number but you have to ask.

For more information about grants, scholarships and other forms of financial aid go to where chapters in “Your Future is Calling” make information from each college and university available to you.

In the end, the goal has to be for you to reduce your college debt.  The best place to do that is at the beginning of the process, not at the end.