Ready, AIMS fire?!?

August 28, 2009
The current state of the economy for Arizona is a determining factor if (and it is a big if) if the AIMS (Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards) [A.K.A. Regents High Honors Endorsement Scholarship] scholarship will be available to bright students in the very near future. Here is the latest news regarding the AIMS scholarship. The […]

The current state of the economy for Arizona is a determining factor if (and it is a big if) if the AIMS (Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards) [A.K.A. Regents High Honors Endorsement Scholarship] scholarship will be available to bright students in the very near future.

Here is the latest news regarding the AIMS scholarship.

The official statement is:

The Arizona Board of Regents has decided to retain the "AIMS Scholarship" or "Regents High Honors Tuition" scholarship with the existing eligibility criteria for the graduating classes of 2009 and 2010. All college students currently receiving this scholarship will continue to do so if they meet the renewal criteria set by the universities. The impact on the class of 2011 and subsequent class has yet to be determined. The Arizona Department of Education will keep our website updated (www.ade.az.gov/asd/tuitionwaiver) on any Arizona Board of Regents decisions regarding this scholarship.

So here are a couple AIMS facts

This scholarship applies only to the three Arizona State Universities (ASU, U of A, and NAU). Community colleges have scholarships/grants available to students who graduate in the top 15% of their graduating class or are severely in need.

This link http://www.maricopa.edu/foundation/apply has several community college scholarships for Maricopa county community colleges.

This is an university academic merit-based scholarship; therefore, students do not need to demonstrate financial need in order to qualify. However, all students are encouraged to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) regardless of their financial situation. Students who are offered other scholarships from the university may not receive this ABOR scholarship. Students automatically receive the higher scholarship offered from the university, but not both.

This scholarship is only good at the three Arizona state universities and cannot be used at private colleges or colleges outside of Arizona state boundaries.

The PEG grant can be used at Private colleges or universities in Arizona.

However, there are other merit-based scholarships that can be used at colleges in other states and these vary by state and by college.

Remember AZCollegePlanning.com is Arizona's exclusive and premier college financial planning firm.

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College ranking polls, is there a blatant ‘chad’ error?

August 21, 2009
Pool season is almost over and now it's POLL season. You know the ones. Those polls that rank colleges based on a variety of criteria. Polls that stir up a frenzy and make hopeful college students drool like puppies anticipating their Scooby snack. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal asks the questions ‘what […]

Pool season is almost over and now it's POLL season. You know the ones. Those polls that rank colleges based on a variety of criteria. Polls that stir up a frenzy and make hopeful college students drool like puppies anticipating their Scooby snack.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal asks the questions ‘what the heck are those college ranking lists for anyway?'

Understand that a college is a business and its business is education and nothing else. Also understand that a college produces income in a variety of ways. Two of the ways that a college produces income is 1.) through enrolment, somebody pays the tuition and other fees. Mom and dad write a check or loans or federal/state monies pays this section of the college's income and 2.) through application fees.

So the question is how does a college get more kids (and their eager parents) to fill out a application? Through the upward movement in the polls. When polling reports are published through US News and World Report or Princeton Review or a variety of other poll reporting entities; parents, students, teacher and counselors see that, "well last year this school was number 17 now it is number 14 it must be doing better" which results in hopeful students energized and enticed to apply.

Lets look at the numbers of UC Berkeley. The cost to apply to this school is $60. Now grated there are probably a few kids who had the application fee waived. So I am going to just assume that every one of those 48,627 applications sent into UC Berkeley had a check (or credit card) with $60 bucks.

So lets do the math. 48,627 applications multiplied by $60 = $2,917,620.00. Yes folks you read that right $2.9 million dollars. Not bad, not bad at all. (I'm not directly picking on UC Berkeley. It is a fine academic institution. I could have used the numbers for Duke University 23,750 applications or the University of Michigan 29,939 applications or any number of other colleges.)

This is why colleges pay serious attention to the reporting polls. If there is upward movement in the polls, then more than likely more hopeful future college kids will apply resulting in greater income revenue.

Let's ignore these silly numbers and focus more on your kid. Ask these questions. Does the college offer the major and career contacts my child needs? Is it a great fit and will this college help my child thrive so that he/she can get a jumpstart into his/her career as quick as possible. Focus more on the outcome for your child and how the college education and college environment will help than the polls.

AZCollegePlanning.com presents free local workshops that expose the dirty little secrets that colleges don't want you to know. Check the website for locations and dates. AZCollegePlanning.com is dedicated to help make college more affordable.

By J.D. Wyczalek (why-zall-ick)

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Why surf college websites

August 18, 2009
Tips for surfing college websites. Long gone are the days when colleges depended only on the brochures and view books they could fit inside your mailbox. They now devote large chunks of their websites to grabbing your attention. But there's much more to a college website than the Web pages of the admissions office. By […]

Tips for surfing college websites. Long gone are the days when colleges depended only on the brochures and view books they could fit inside your mailbox. They now devote large chunks of their websites to grabbing your attention. But there's much more to a college website than the Web pages of the admissions office. By surfing as though you're already a student, you can start to picture life on campus. Here are some tips that take you far beyond the home page.

Grab a tray. While some campuses offer only school-run cafeterias, others rent space to private businesses selling everything from pizza to garden burgers. Look for a link to dining services and get a taste of what's available. You might even find this week's menu online.

Check up on student health services. You'll be charged a student health fee when you register for classes, so why not find out what you're paying for? Look for a link on the home page that will take you to the student health services website. You'll learn which medical and counseling services are included and which are not.

Go clubbing. Are you an activist? A bird watcher? A master at the chess board? A future marketing exec? A South Asian female? Often funded by student government, clubs come in all shapes and sizes. Look for links like Student Life to find out if there are campus clubs you'd want to join. Get involved, make friends and enjoy college life.

Browse the school newspaper online. More and more colleges are putting their student-run newspapers online. Although it may take some digging to find them, they're well worth looking for. In everything from hard news to editorial cartoons, you'll get a feel for campus life, student concerns, and the caliber of student thinking and writing.

It is important to find if the college you are thinking of spending the next four years at is going to be a good fit. A bad or wrong fit college, can result in transferring to a different college (which is one reason why students spend 6 years earning a 4 year degree.)

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Obama’s new hope & lifetime learning credit changes

August 11, 2009
"HOPE & LIFETIME LEARNING CREDITS---CHANGES 2009 AND 2010" For the years 2009 and 2010, the following changes have been made to the Hope credit. The modified credit is also referred to as the American Opportunity Tax Credit. The maximum amount of the Hope credit increases to $2,500 per student. The credit is phased out (gradually […]

"HOPE & LIFETIME LEARNING CREDITS---CHANGES 2009 AND 2010"

For the years 2009 and 2010, the following changes have been made to
the Hope credit. The modified credit is also referred to as the
American Opportunity Tax Credit.

The maximum amount of the Hope credit increases to $2,500 per
student. The credit is phased out (gradually reduced) if your
modified adjusted gross income (AGI) is between $80,000 and $90,000
($160,000 and $180,000 if you file a joint return).

Exception. For 2009, if you claim a Hope credit for a student who attended a school
in a Midwestern disaster area, you can choose to figure the amount of
the credit using the previous rules. However, you must use the
previous rules in figuring the credit for all students for which you
claim the credit.

The Hope credit can now be claimed for the first four years of
post-secondary education. Previously the credit could be claimed for
only the first two years of post-secondary education.

Generally, 40% of the Hope credit is now a refundable credit, which
means that you can receive up to $1,000 even if you owe no taxes.
However, none of the credit is refundable if the taxpayer claiming
the credit is a child (a) who is under age 18 (or a student who is at
least age 18 and under age 24 and whose earned income does not exceed
one-half of his or her own support), (b) who has at least one living
parent, and (c) who does not file a joint return.

The term "qualified tuition and related expenses" has been expanded
to include expenditures for "course materials." For this purpose, the
term "course materials" means books, supplies, and equipment needed
for a course of study whether or not the materials are purchased from
the educational institution as a condition of enrollment or
attendance.

For 2009, the amount of your lifetime learning credit is phased out
(gradually reduced) if your modified adjusted gross income (AGI) is
between $50,000 and $60,000 ($100,000 and $120,000 if you file a
joint return). You cannot claim a lifetime learning credit if your
modified AGI is $60,000 or more ($120,000 or more if you file a joint
return).

  • Please consult with your tax professional or CPA before implementing any strategy.

If you need help or have any questions on how you're going to pay the upcoming astronomical costs of college, please contact us, your local AZ College Consulting firm. We can help you through several different scenarios options and help determine which is right for you.

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Will Obama’s bill save the financial aid system

July 29, 2009
Obama bill makes financial aid application simpler for college applicants by Nneka Enurah, July 29, 2009 (J.D.'s comments in red) The Obama administration has requested billions of dollars in new scholarships and credit along with a less complicated financial aid application which looks to make a college education more accessible for students. Experts say 16 […]

Obama bill makes financial aid application simpler for college applicants
by Nneka Enurah, July 29, 2009

(J.D.'s comments in red)

The Obama administration has requested billions of dollars in new scholarships and credit along with a less complicated financial aid application which looks to make a college education more accessible for students.

Experts say 16 million families struggle with the application process for federal aid and "an estimated 1.5 million enrolled students who are probably eligible for Pell grants failed to apply." (One reason the myth of ‘we make to much money to qualify for aid' is because a family fills out the FAFSA form incorrectly and they do not get aid. They then talk with a neighbor or friend, telling them they did not get aid so why bother. The second family then NEVER bothers to even try.)

The new bill aims to simplify the current Federal Application for Student Aid, eliminating questions that have no real bearing on a student's eligibility for federal aid. The current form consists of 153 questions, and millions of students and their families find it difficult to complete the application. (The new proposed form eliminates 8 questions only if you are a dependant student.)

The bill also hopes to invest money into historically black colleges and universities as well as hispanic-serving institutions. Additional changes include an increase in the minimum amount of the Pell Grant, which is $490 now and will be raised to $690. It will also put $6 billion into Perkins Loans.

Although some feel the proposed changes will benefit students, Patrick Murphy, the director of Financial Planning at Elon University, said he believes some of the changes presented could be harmful.

One of the first concerns that Murphy has involves the asset cap of $150,000 for students requesting need-based aid. This cap would prohibit students from receiving any need-based grants, loans or work assistance.

"It is not difficult for a family that has low income to acquire assets of up to $150,000," Murphy said. (As an example home equity, company stocks, an inheritance or a combination of these could easily top $150,000.)

The new cap, which would go into effect July 1, 2011, could exclude families that otherwise would qualify for need-based aid. (It is extremely important to shelter assets from the financial aid formula.)

The new bill also calls for drastic changes to the student loan program. Currently there are two ways in which students can get a loan. The school can act as the lender by direct lending, or a bank can lend the funds under the Federal Family Education Loan Program, FFELP.

Another issue that Murphy has with the proposed bill is that it plans to do away with FFELP. "Customer service would decrease if more schools were forced to handle all the loans themselves," Murphy said. "Some institutions might not be able to handle the new work load." (If schools are burdened with this the end result is tuition and fees will yet again increase placing this problem squarely on the shoulders of the consumers, students and parents.)

The bill will also eliminate subsidized Stafford loans to graduate and professional students after July 1, 2015. Murphy said currently, graduate students are eligible for $85,000 in subsidized loans and an additional $12,000 in unsubsidized loans.

Loans the government pays the interest on until a student is out of school are subsidized and are much more affordable in the long run. Eliminating unsubsidized loans as an option for graduate students could be a deterrent to students who would otherwise pursue graduate programs.

There are still a number of changes that must be addressed with the new bill.
"Elon University is going to do whatever it can do to make the transition unnoticeable to students and will continue to serve the students and their families to the best of its ability," Murphy said.

J.D.'s comments: When was the last time the government got it's grubby little paws on something and made it easier? The Higher Education Opportunity Act is a 432 page amendment of a 3,077 page document. How many more pages are they going to add? See it here- http://www.ed.gov/policy/highered/leg/hea08/index.html

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Kids college or build retirement: Have cake & eat it too!

July 8, 2009
Is Paying for Your Kid’s Education Still a Top Priority? In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to rank one financial priority over another. But now, more than ever, Americans are faced with many tough financial trade-offs. Paying off debt or saving for retirement? Raiding the 401(k) to pay the bills or putting them on […]

Is Paying for Your Kid’s Education Still a Top Priority?

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to rank one financial priority over another.

But now, more than ever, Americans are faced with many tough financial trade-offs. Paying off debt or saving for retirement? Raiding the 401(k) to pay the bills or putting them on a credit card? Trying to slog it out with a tough mortgage or walking away from a home?

New survey data from Country Financial highlights some of the tension parents are face when it comes to juggling their stressed retirement accounts and the ballooning cost of higher education for their kids.

Forty-seven percent of the 1,241 surveyed said that their children’s college plans are a higher priority than retirement savings, whereas 41% said that retirement savings came first. A majority (61%) said that the recession was not going to impact their plans for their children’s college education. Considering all of the belt-tightening — both from families and financial-aid offices strained by anemic endowments — we’ve heard about in the last few months, this is particularly astonishing. In spite of one of the worst economies in generations, parents say they’re still willing to shell out a lot for college education.

This is the first time in three years, according to the surveyors, that parents have put financing a child’s college education over saving for retirement. Last year, 47% of those surveyed put retirement over education funding and 42% put education funding as No. 1.

Financial advisers, who are already begging their clients to keep their eyes on the retirement prize, must be frustrated by this news — especially as federal options for student borrowing have expanded in recent months.

The belief is that college is still worth the cost pervades, with 79% saying that it’s a good investment. (Some economists beg to differ.) Interestingly, 65% of the respondents say the cost of college causes more worry than the thought of their child leaving home (24%).

original article here

J.D.’s comments: Have your cake and eat it too. There is a little known way to accumulate wealth, pay for college and build up a sizeable retirement account using a special investment vehicle. All this in a comfortable easy manner. Learn how to recoup the interest payments you are making on cars, credit cards etc. Wanna know how? Call my office for an appointment. 1-888-237-2087 ext. 2

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Student Athlete, who, what, how, when

June 26, 2009
Coming very soon Is available now! the new book by J.D. Wyczalek (why-zall-ick) entitled: The New Student Athlete Handbook. Within it’s pages the secrets of top recruiting coaches are revealed on- How to get a sport scholarship, financial aid, be noticed by college coaches and get recruited to play on a college team. You need the […]

Coming very soon Is available now! the new book by J.D. Wyczalek (why-zall-ick) entitled:
The New Student Athlete Handbook.
Within it’s pages the secrets of top recruiting coaches are revealed on-
How to get a sport scholarship, financial aid, be noticed by college coaches and get recruited to play on a college team.

You need the answers to these questions.

  • Will playing my sport at high school and in summer tournaments get me noticed by the right school for me?
  • Are club or high school sports programs better for being seen and recruited?
  • Does it matter if I play in state or showcase tournaments and events?
  • If I’m not being recruited should I forget about a future in college sports?

The New Student Athlete’s Handbook

click here to order it & get it downloaded instantly!

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How to get a $2,500 tuition rebate

June 24, 2009
It sounds too good to be true, but if you meet income qualifications (and are careful with any 529 savings accounts), Uncle Sam is prepared to help cover college bills. After all we have been paying billions into the tax pool bucket isn't it time to get a piece of that pie back? Millions of […]

It sounds too good to be true, but if you meet income qualifications (and are careful with any 529 savings accounts), Uncle Sam is prepared to help cover college bills.

After all we have been paying billions into the tax pool bucket isn't it time to get a piece of that pie back?

Millions of students and parents struggling to raise cash for college this fall could have a happy surprise early next year: a tax credit of up to $2,500.

The whole key is to properly position yourself to qualify for it.

Download the PDF Special Report here compliments of AZCollegePlanning.com

(you'll need Acrobat Reader to view it.)

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Honk toot beep! I’m tooting my own horn!

June 17, 2009
Private admissions advisers gaining favor By LESLIE BRODY 5-29-09 http://www.montereyherald.com/living/ci_12476014?nclick_check=1 The number of private admission counselors has grown in recent years - especially in hyper-anxious, high-achieving communities - and colleges are more open to talking with them about the students they represent, say counselors and college admission officers. Danielle Toglia, an admissions director at George […]

Private admissions advisers gaining favor
By LESLIE BRODY
5-29-09 http://www.montereyherald.com/living/ci_12476014?nclick_check=1

The number of private admission counselors has grown in recent years - especially in hyper-anxious, high-achieving communities - and colleges are more open to talking with them about the students they represent, say counselors and college admission officers.

Danielle Toglia, an admissions director at George Washington University, recently polled counterparts at 25 colleges and found that most now take calls from independent counselors to discuss specific students or the college's needs for an incoming freshman class.

While about 30 percent of admissions officers won't take calls from private counselors, she said, "The trend has been that the college side sees independent counselors more positively than it used to." She said they're particularly open to those who had experience as high school guidance counselors or college admissions officers, because they know the ins and outs of the process.

Toglia's comments came at a conference of the New Jersey Association for College Admission Counseling in Parsippany this month. Several independent counselors, high school guidance counselors and college admission officers echoed her view.

Private counselors have long been a controversial part of the admissions frenzy. Critics charge they give an unfair leg-up to affluent students who already have extra advantages of expensive test prep classes, enrichment activities and homes in neighborhoods with better schools.

One college that won't communicate with independent counselors is Georgetown. "There's an equity issue here," said Bruce Chamberlin, senior associate director of admissions. "We need to make sure we are as accessible to students across all different socioeconomic diversities." Chamberlin said his office can't always tell whether an independent counselor has helped a student, but sometimes efforts to polish students' applications go too far. "We find ourselves yearning to understand the adolescent in the essay or the interview," he said.

Independent advisers say they help clients choose where to apply, organize visits and give feedback on personal essays but don't actually write them. They say they can give students more individual attention than high school guidance counselors swamped with disciplinary problems and escalating caseloads.

Private advisers also say they calm overwhelmed parents and spare them from the unsavory job of nagging young procrastinators to finish applications.

According to the Independent Educational Consultants Organization, the average cost of a private counselor nationwide runs about $125 per hour, or $3,600 for a three-year package, with rates slightly higher in the northeast. Rates at the high end hover around $7,000 for a three-year package, with a scant handful charging more than $20,000.

The ranks of private advisers have grown rapidly in recent years. IECO claims 750 members, almost triple the count five years ago, and says members helped place more than 40,000 students last year. Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions, College Coach and other firms have also launched private advising services.

Most clients are upper-middle class, but the students have become more diverse, said Mark Sklarow, executive director of IECO. Beyond academic stars, some need help finding schools that work well with the disabled, or English language learners, or those with special interests in the arts, for example.

Claire Cafaro, an independent adviser in Ridgewood who used to be a guidance counselor at Ridgewood High School, said many college officials recognized that independent advisers could help them find qualified students who were a good match for their schools.

Attitudes toward independent counselors "have really changed a lot," said Cafaro, immediate past president of the NJACAC. "Some independent counselors have convinced admission reps that they know what they're doing and are valid people who can be trusted. ... There is an understanding that high school counselors may not have the opportunity to advocate for their students as much."

Dennis Vasquez, a guidance counselor in Livingston, N.J., public schools, lamented that unequal access to private advisers has had a discouraging "psychological impact" on disadvantaged students: "They think rich families have the extra help - 'I can't afford it, so it puts me at the bottom of the totem pole.'"

Cafaro acknowledged the inequity but said private advisers had no magic tricks, and noted that outside of the most highly competitive colleges, most schools accepted most applicants. "There's a notion that independent counselors help kids get in in a secret way**," she said. "I'd be the first to say the majority of students can apply on their own. I could do my taxes without help but would rather hire an accountant."

One of her clients, David Zrike of Ridgewood, N.J., said the money paid off. His daughter Caroline got into her first choice. Ironically, it was Georgetown.

"Since college is one of the most important decisions we will face bringing up children, as well as the most expensive, my wife and I decided that the relatively small investment in an independent counselor was certainly worthwhile," he said. The independent counselor "helped to make what is an extremely stressful process a little less stressful."

J.D.'s Comments: ** If you know how the game is played we can stack the deck legally in your favor

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The Tylenol scholarship program

June 16, 2009
The Tylenol scholarship program helps students who are pursuing careers in the healthcare, life sciences, or related fields, manage the rising costs of education. The program will award $250,000 in scholarships based on leadership qualities and academic performance, including ten $10,000 and thirty $5,000 grants. Qualifications:  1)Must be a resident of the 50 United States, […]

The Tylenol scholarship program helps students who are pursuing careers in the healthcare, life sciences, or related fields, manage the rising costs of education.

The program will award $250,000 in scholarships based on leadership qualities and academic performance, including ten $10,000 and thirty $5,000 grants.

Qualifications: 

1)Must be a resident of the 50 United States, Puerto Rico, or the District of Columbia.

2)Must have completed at least one year of undergraduate or graduate course of study in the Spring of 2009 at an accredited two or four year college, university or vocational - technical school.

3)Must provide proof of enrollment to a public health/health education, medical school, nursing and/or pharmacy degree program.

4)Must have one or more years of school remaining.

5)Past winners are not eligible to apply or win for the 2009/2010 year.

**Employees of McNeil Consumer and Specialty Pharmaceuticals, ISTS, Inc., their affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies and the families of each are not eligible.

http://www.tylenol.com/page.jhtml?id=tylenol/news/subptyschol.inc

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