Go to College in Finland for Free

Finland Flag downloadWhile this idea might be out of your comfort zone, I would like to suggest that studying abroad, in English, is a viable option for many students. While you would have some expenses certainly, such as housing and airfare, it would certainly be cheaper than almost anything you could imagine in the U.S.

One country where this is possible is Finland.

Finland has 38 schools (14 universities and 24 technology institutes) that offer many undergraduate programs in English. Surprisingly, for such a relatively small country, Finland has 6,000 foreign students each year.

Continue reading Go to College in Finland for Free

So why a student loan for my daughter?

student-loansIn a previous post, I talked about my daughter choosing to take out a student loan to finance her college education.

Let me start from what should be the truth for everyone. Student loans are a bad idea. A really bad idea. For something above 90% of students, I would strongly encourage finding another way to fund college.

However, for a select few, there may be a reason to use them. Some of those reasons include:

  1. You are taking out the minimum amount possible. Just because they will give you more than you need, does not mean that you should take it.
  2. You are majoring in something that, in theory, will pay you a reasonable salary. Yes, they will give you student loans if you are majoring in teacher education or social work, but think carefully how much you will earn from those majors.It’s not about the job; it’s about the fact that you will owe more in loans than the job can support.
  3. There exists the possibility that either you or your parents can (and wish to) pay them off early). One of the reasons that I am not a fan of student loans for undergraduates is because I am somewhat less strict when it comes to graduate school.

Continue reading So why a student loan for my daughter?

Parent Loans are a Bad Idea

PLUS CaptureYou are here most likely because you are trying to fund either your own education or your child’s education in a way that makes fiscal sense for you and for your family.

Long-time readers know that I am not a big fan of student loans. There are a very few reasons for why you should use them and more for why you should not.

So what does that look like in my personal life? My son graduated from college this spring and has no student loans. Imagine the feeling of freedom.

My daughter will be starting in the fall and, as part of her financial aid package, does have student loans. It is likely that she will graduate with those loans. There were reasons for why this made sense.

Continue reading Parent Loans are a Bad Idea

Caramel Brulee Latte and a College Degree to Go

Starbucks CaptureWhen we think of companies that help pay for college degrees, we tend to think white collar jobs.

Starbucks recently announced that all of its employees were eligible to join the new Starbucks College Achievement Plan.

So how soon can you start? The program is now up and running. I will be very curious to see if they get an increased number of applications for what is clearly going to be an amazing program.

Here are a couple of answers from the FAQ for this program:

Q: Why is Starbucks offering this program?

A: Starbucks believes in the promise and pursuit of the American Dream. While more than 70% of our U.S. partners (employees) are students or aspiring students, we know that only half of Americans who begin college today will actually finish, largely due to financial and work/life barriers. We’re in a position to help. Investing in our partners and education is one of the very best investments Starbucks can make.

Q: Why did Starbucks choose Arizona State University?

A: We spent considerable time looking for the right collaboration for our partners. Arizona State University’s mission, values and brand are a good match to our own. Arizona State is the only University that could stand side-by-side with Starbucks to offer a high-quality education, at scale, to all of our U.S. partners. Plus, ASU is ranked the second most innovative school in the country by U.S. News & World Report, and ranks 5th in the U.S. in producing the best-qualified graduates. Starbucks is proud to join with an academic institution that recognizes the need for innovation to offer more people an opportunity at a quality higher education, and the freedom to pursue their passions in any field.

So do I recommend using this program for an 18-year-old first-time student? Since I do not know your personal life story, it’s hard to know what is best for you. Probably it is not a good idea to make this your first and only choice if you are not already a Starbucks employee.

However, if you are already employed by the company, then all bets are off.


1. Starbucks College Achievement Plan

“The 25 Most Affordable Colleges”

Money CaptureI am always a little reticent to share these sorts of lists. This one, The 25 Most Affordable Colleges, comes from the Money website. The factors that they use in the selection process include:

  • Financial aid (need, merit, athletic)
  • Tuition inflation (average amount that tuition goes up each year)
  • Typical student graduation time (how long it takes to finish)

One of my challenges with these sorts of lists is that it assumes there are no outside factors beyond cost. While there a few well-known schools (Webb, BYU, Grinnell) on the list below, most are more regional schools. Nothing wrong with that at all, but it’s unlikely that most students would be willing to go very far to attend. Notice that I have said nothing about quality of school; I rather suspect most of these schools are quite good.

I also have concerns that readers will think that the only way to go to school cheaply is to choose colleges based solely on cost. One obvious call-out is that these are all private schools. Clearly, there are many affordable public colleges.

Still, here is the list. It is certainly a good place to start.

Continue reading “The 25 Most Affordable Colleges”

Bargaining your tuition

TuitionMy youngest child is getting set to go off to college. Because she has done well in school, she was accepted to a large number of schools; a mix of state and private universities. She has her heart set on small, private liberal arts colleges. Most of those, with room and board, are in the 50k-60k range. More than a little sticker shock on my part.

Sometimes you must have the heart-to-heart with your child. We were very clear that:

  1. We hoped she would have choice, but that we would not be going into debt to create that choice; and
  2. We would not be taking out PLUS (Parent Loans).

I am in my 50s and am quickly headed toward retirement. Now is not the time to take on new, massive debt. Also, importantly, we had some money and some investments that were meant for college tuition. We just needed to make up the difference in some way.

By May 1, she needs to make a decision on which school to attend. This has meant that February and March have been all about the acceptances (or, in one case, the rejection) and April is all about making the money work.

Continue reading Bargaining your tuition

CLEP for the Military (#CLEP)

CLEP is a good option for anyone. CLEP is an even better option for the military. If you are on Active Duty (or reserve or National Guard), DANTES pays for the exams. Even better, in many cases, the exams come to you via on-base testing centers.

Where’s the cheap? Hey, free is absolutely the epitome of cheap.

Who is Eligible?
The following groups are eligible for the DANTES-funded exams:

  • Military personnel (Army, Navy Air Force, Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard, Army Reserve, Airo Force Reserve Marine Corps Reserve, Navy Reserve, Coast Guard Reserve, Army and Air National Guard)
  • Spouses and civilian employees (Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, Army National Guard, Army Reserve, Coast Guard (active & reserve)).

Continue reading CLEP for the Military (#CLEP)

CLEP Exam Credit (#CLEP)

The College Level Examination Program, or CLEP, is a way for you to earn college credit by taking tests. It is a program of the College Board (purveyors of the SAT and other examinations). While there are certain other credit-by-exam programs available (and we will discuss those in future posts), CLEP is the largest. It is accepted by 2,900 universities and testing centers are available in 1,800 locations.

So where’s the cheap? Consider what a college class costs. Consider that a CLEP exam is $80. There’s the cheap.

Is it a Good Choice for You?
Whether or not this is a good place to invest your time and energy toward earning that cheap college degree depends upon three factors including:

  1. Are you a good test-taker? Obviously, this is one key component for doing well. There are people in the world who naturally have a gift for doing well on standardized examinations; and
  2. Do you retain information well information from previous courses and experiences? It doesn’t matter how you learned it. Can you dredge it back up in a testing environment; and
  3. Are you good at studying textbooks and other information independently? Certainly you can commit yourself to learning new information without taking a course. This could be through textbooks, CLEP study guides, or the Internet. A good resource on the Internet could be Wikipedia.

Notice that it is a combination of all three factors. The thinking here is that with some of these tests, you can bluff your way through, with some you have actually studied the material in the past (in a variety of ways), and with some, you would study in present-day to attain the knowledge necessary to pass. Continue reading CLEP Exam Credit (#CLEP)

Middle Class Scholarship in California (#scholarships)

If you are headed to either the University of California or California State University systems. you likely would be interested in this new scholarship for 2014-2015. Called the Middle Class Scholarship, it is specifically geared toward families who do not qualify for many other scholarships and grants due to income restrictions.

Typically, I prefer to look at unique scholarships that are more global in nature (as opposed to state-specific ones), but California has a notable percentage of the entire country’s college student population (in a way, for example, that Wyoming does not). So, this is to say, when I point out most scholarships, they will either be:

  1. Large scholarships available to significant numbers of students; or
  2. Unique scholarships available to a small number of students (but where the odds are very good for being awarded).

The Middle Class Scholarship begins in the 2014-2015 school year. It is important to understand that the California Student Aid Commission is the group that gets to decide whether or not you are middle class. I should tell you that, if both you and a spouse work, you may quickly discover that you are not considered in that bracket.

Continue reading Middle Class Scholarship in California (#scholarships)

Advanced Placement Exams

Advanced Placement exams are now a staple of academic life in high schools throughout the United States. These rigorous exams are typically the culminating experience for students who have been taking Advanced Placement courses. One side benefit of these exams (beyond admissions) is that it is possible to earn college credit that could shorten the amount of time that you would be at a college. Less time = less money.

Things to Know
The typical person taking an Advanced Placement exam will be a high school student. The College Board has several consecutive days in the spring of each year when the testing occurs. While there are other exams that will allow you to earn college credit if you are an adult (and those articles will be coming shortly), AP exams are solely for high school students.

AP exams available from the College Board include:

  • Arts (Art History, Music Theory, Studio Art: 2-D Design, Studio Art: 3-D Design, Studio Art: Drawing)
  • English (English Language & Composition, English Literature & Composition)
  • History & Social Science (Comparative Government & Politics, European History, Human Geography, Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, Psychology, U.S. Government & Politics, U.S. History, World History)
  • Math & Computer Science (Calculus AB, Calculus BC, Computer Science A, Statistics)
  • Sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science, Physics B, Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism, Physics C: Mechanics, Physics 1, Physics 2)
  • World Languages & Culture (Chinese Language & Culture, French Language & Culture, German Language & Culture, Italian Language & Culture, Japanese Language & Culture, Latin, Spanish Language & Culture, Spanish Literature & Culture)

Continue reading Advanced Placement Exams