Posts published in February, 2012

Tips For Students To Afford College

Guest Blogger: Kate Forgash

While campus life hasn’t changed all that much since the heyday of the flower generation, Baby Boomers returning to college are noticing major differences on the educational side. More classes are taught by adjunct professors; what once was a C+ is now often graded as a B+; and, most strikingly, tuition rates have soared like pterodactyls in a prehistoric sky.

According to, public four-year institutions presently charge in-state students an average of $8,244 in tuition and fees each year. That’s a daunting investment. Yet in 2007,U.S. News and World Report found the previous decade saw the total number of college students aged 40 to 64 increase nearly 20 percent, to almost two million.

So how can Baby Boomers afford higher education? While going into debt is always an option — albeit an ugly one — there are readily available tricks to financing that first, second or third degree. Here are 10 such tips.

1. Comparison Shop
You’d compare prices when buying a computer or appliance, so it only makes sense to compare the costs of a college education. Happily, the U.S. Department of Education has a user-friendly website dedicated to the pursuit of this information.

2. Reduce Your Overhead
Begin paying down outstanding debts before you start paying for school or you’ll just have another monkey on your back. Learn the basic rules of frugal living and implement them into your daily life. A couple ways to start are by using coupons for everyday purchases, or buying necessities (like gas and food) with discount gift cards purchased from for up to 35-percent off the face value. There’s lots of advice in this area, so just Google your way to a cheaper lifestyle.

3. Depend on the Kindness of Strangers
Applying for financial aid seems self evident, but it’s easy to assume grants and fellowships are only for the young. In actuality, many such programs are now targeted specifically to non-traditional-age students (NTAs). For example, AARP annually awards a scholarship for women over 50.

Because the process is incredibly labyrinthine, you might consider going through a financial aid professional. You’ll need to start by filling out forms at the FAFSA website (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Scholarship Monkey is another useful site as it allows you to create a custom financial aid search.

4. Depend on the Kindness of Your Employer
You don’t have to work for a major employer like IBM to receive continuing-education support. Ask your employers if they’ll provide some financial aid as you update your skills, making you even more useful on the job.

5. Apply for Federal Work Study
Campus employers are often attracted by the work ethic of NTA students, so you have a better chance of securing one of these primo positions than your younger competitors. The Federal Work Study program offers the opportunity to gain valuable career experience while working on campus. As an added advantage, work study wages don’t count against your financial aid.

6. Attend a Community College First
It may not be glamorous, but starting at a community college can save you a boatload of money. These two-year schools account for approximately 40 percent of all enrollments in American higher education, according to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. That’s not surprising, considering a community college can cut your costs for the first two years of school to an average of around $6,000. If you decide to go this route in preparation for a four-year institution, meet with an advisor each term to make sure the classes you take will transfer for full credit.

7. Consider a For-profit School
A study released in 2010 by the Parthenon Group revealed for-profit students see an income boost of 54 percent when they leave school. That compares to 36 percent for community college students. In addition, for-profit colleges receive an average of $26,700 in funding for each student who transfers or successfully completes their program.

8. Study Abroad
Combine travel and lower tuition rates by attending school in another country. Canada is an excellent option you might overlook; learn more at MacLean’s magazine site. You’ll find a list of the most-respected institutions in the world at Times Higher Education.

9. Look Into Internships
You’re never too old to start at the bottom. Many employers now hire only after they’ve seen the quality of the employee, so an internship is your opportunity to show off your mature skills. Check for college and department websites that offer detailed listings. If you’re really lucky, you could end up with a paid internship and, possibly, a full-time job after graduation.

10. Don’t Fork Over a Fortune for Textbooks
The textbook racket has changed appreciably. Campus bookstores are no longer the only game in town as rental, swap and discount websites now make it easier and cheaper. Even major merchants, like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, offer great deals. Other online options where you can rent textbooks, buy them at a significantly reduced price, and even upload available books to your e-reader.

Kate Forgach is a Baby Boomer consumer specialist for Kinoli Inc. She has written about senior issues for 11 years as a Cooperative Extension specialist and for a wide variety of newspapers and magazines. She has been featured in USA Today, Detroit News, New Orleans Times-Picayune, New Yorker magazine, “ABC World News,” NBC’s “TODAY” show and many other media outlets.

Student Tips To Succeed In Testing



Ben Bernstein, PhD

As a performance coach, I work with college students to improve their test scores.  Here are the three most common issues I see.  Jake, a sophomore about to take his history final, is a bundle of nerves. “I’m so anxious,” he says.  His voice shakes and his shoulders are hiked up around his ears. Sienna, a freshman about to give her first major oral presentation, sighs, “I’m not as smart as the other students.”  Stephen, a senior, is studying for his comprehensives this spring. “I’m not getting anywhere,” he says, “I keep checking e-mails and texting everyone.” Are these students suffering from anxiety, depression, or ADHD? Once I start working with them, I discover the answer is “none of the above.” Jake needs to calm down. Sienna needs to regain her confidence. And Stephen needs to learn to focus. The foundation for test success is being calm, confident, and focused.

You may well ask, “But doesn’t a good test score depend on knowing the material?”  Of course it does.  But knowing the content is not enough. You have to deliver it at test time. If you’re tense, filled with self-doubt, or distracted, you won’t perform at your best.

Do a quick self-diagnosis. As you study for a test or take one, do your legs bob up and down, is your breath short, do you clench your jaw?  If so, you need tools to calm yourself down. When you’re staring at a tough test question, do you start thinking negatively about yourself?  Is your mind filled with “I can’t handle this!” or “I’m going to fail”?   If so, you need tools to keep your confidence strong.  When you’re studying for a test or taking the test itself, are you thinking about the other students, or what you’re going to eat for dinner?  These are signs that you need to learn how to stay focused.

When I work with students, I always show them a three-legged stool.  This is a very sturdy, dependable platform when all three legs are equally strong. The three legs stand for being calm, remaining confident, and staying focused.  But if one gives out you’re going to have trouble. Any athlete who is playing his or her A-game is said to be in “the zone.” That’s a state a non athlete could never attain, right? I say, not so. Being in the zone is none other than being calm, confident, and focused. Anybody can get there. It’s just that we don’t teach this stuff in schools.

To train yourself, the first step is to become aware when you’re physically tense, when you are feeling negative about yourself, or when your attention starts wandering. Without awareness you’re going to be locked in the same old habits. If you want to improve your test performance-and who doesn’t?-start observing when one of the three legs of the stool starts slipping. Then you can use the right tools to get back on track. It’s not rocket science. Based on thirty years of coaching college students to improve their performance, you can get a grip on stress.

Ben Bernstein, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and performance coach, He is the author of Test Success! How to Be Calm, Confident and Focused on Any Test  (Spark Avenue Publishing, 2012).


Percent of 4 Year Degrees Continues To Increase Slowly


More than 30 percent of American adults hold bachelor’s degrees, a first in the
nation’s history, and women are on the brink of surpassing men in educational
attainment, the Census Bureau reported on Thursday. The figures reflect an
increase in the share of the population going to college that began in the
mid-1990s, after a relatively stagnant period that began in the 1970s. They
show significant gains in all demographic groups, but blacks and Latinos not
only continue to trail far behind whites, the gap has also widened in the last
decade.  As of last March, 30.4 percent of people over age 25 in the
United States held at least a bachelor’s degree, and 10.9 percent held a
graduate degree, up from 26.2 percent and 8.7 percent 10

College Reports Worth Reading

ECS provided the following list:

Completion by Design
State Policy Profiles
(Jobs for the Future)

Matter of Degrees: Promising Practices for Community College Student Success

(Center for Community College Student Engagement)

the Road to Success: How States Collaborate and Use Data to Improve Student
(Jobs for the Future)

to Success: Integrating Learning with Life and Work to Increase National
College Completion
(Advisory Committee on Student Financial Aid

Can Obama Control College Costs ?


Andrew Rotherham writes in
Time Magazine:
Let’s cut right to the chase — I have about the same
chance of being picked up by the Boston Red Sox as a utility player as
President Obama does of having his proposals to control college costs get
through Congress this year. But looking at what the President proposed on
Friday (in a raucous speech at the University of Michigan) through the lens of
short-term Capitol Hill feasibility misses the significance of what Obama is up
to. Source: Carnegie Foundation

Colleges Need To Measure Student Learning

Jonathan Zimmerman of New York University writes in the L.A. Times: Here’s the big open secret in American higher education: Most institutions have no meaningful way to measure the quality of their instruction. And the president didn’t ask us to develop one, either. Instead, he suggested that the federal government tie student aid to colleges’ success in reducing tuition and in helping students move forward. In a follow-up speech at the University of Michigan on Friday, he called for a “college score card” that would rank institutions according to cost, graduation rates and future earnings.

Should College Lectures Be Reduced?

Colleges looking beyond
the lecture

By Daniel de Vise, The
Washington Post

The lecture hall is under attack. Science, math and engineering departments at
many universities are abandoning or retooling the lecture as a style of
teaching, worried that it’s driving students away. The faculty at Johns Hopkins
University in Baltimore has dedicated this academic year to finding
alternatives to the lecture in those subjects. Johns Hopkins, Harvard
University and even the White House have hosted events in which scholars have
assailed the lecture. Lecture classrooms are the big-box retailers of academia,
paragons of efficiency. One professor can teach hundreds of students in a
single room, trailed by a retinue of teaching assistants.

Common Student Application Not As Common

The “Not-So-Common” Common App

By Watson Scott Swail, President & CEO, Educational Policy Institute/EPI International

For students who are planning on going to college or university, a major complaint is the complexity of the application process. Beyond being academically prepared, going to college requires that several steps be taken in order to be considered for acceptance. This, of course, gets more complicated if you want to apply to several colleges. Even more complicated if these colleges are in different states or are private institutions.

Back in the mid-1970s, the Common Application was created by 15 institutions to try and simplify the admissions process. The logic is simple: why not have just one application that can be directed at a particular institution (or institutions) so that students (and parents) have but one form to submit.

Today, with our computer and web-based electronics, this should even be simpler. In fact, over 400 colleges, including Yale and Princeton, subscribe to “The Common App” ( This seems wonderful enough, but there are two significant issues.


Students Who Qualify For AP Do Not Take Courses

Despite efforts to offer college-level courses to more high schoolers, new data show 80% of black graduates whose PSAT scores suggested they could have succeeded in an Advanced Placement courses never enrolled in the classes, according to a College Board report. That rate drops to about 40% for Asians and 60% for whites. The report provides state data on AP enrollment and test scores

Students Delay College Because They Lack Money

The economy leads one third of young adults to delay college
The State of Young America report, published by non-profit policy organization Demos, indicates that more than a third of young adults, ages 25 to 34, are currently delaying starting or returning to post-secondary degree programs because of the weak economy. Tamara Draut, co-author of The State of Young America report, lists three reasons young adults are delaying their education because of the economy: “One, the cost is really expensive for young people, but two, if they have a job, they’re probably unlikely to get rid of that job to pursue schooling. Three, there’s a general unease about what is going to happen.”