Responsive Ad Slot

Popular Posts

Latest Posts


Fiske Guide to Colleges 2013 - Review

Posted on Dec 30, 2012 with No comments

Dec 30, 2012

The "Fiske Guide to Colleges" Is a good place to start when embarking on your journey in finding a good college. Fiske books have a long tradition of putting out comprehensive guides for helping up and coming college students and their parents select  and prepare for college. With over 2,000 colleges to pick from in the U.S. ti's hard to sort through them all. Fiske has solved this problem and narrowed the search down to the 320 most important colleges in the nation.

This comprehensive 848 page book describes 320 colleges in detail with 1,000 to 2,500 word detailed descriptions of each school. You will find an interesting in length discussion of the college campus and list of all the courses and degrees the college specializes in. Background information about acceptance rates, enrollment, and retention rates. A rating system for academics, social scene and quality of life is given. 

I like the "Fiske Guide to Colleges". Each college has a well written easy to read listing with much detail included like SAT score data, religious affiliations, sports, and college specializations. It's organized and clear layout lends itself to scanning quickly or more purposeful reading. 

Organization of information is one of Fiske's strong points. The 320 colleges are listed by state and country, price range, and private-public.

Each college has a complete essay that includes descriptions of academics, campus setting, student body, financial aid, housing, food, social life, and extracurricular activities.

There also is a listing where Fiske organizes each college by its strength in Architecture, business, art, journalism, engineering, dance, television, drama etc.

You'll find both the good and bad about a school. The result is not just a fact filled dry book but through the text you will get the feel of the college your reading about. Picking a college isn't just about the numbers, it is also about the human touch. Fiske specializes in describing the personality of a college.

With so many colleges Fiske takes a lot of criticism for not including more colleges in this book. You will find the shortcoming of just finding a lot of East and West coast colleges with many Midwest colleges missing. 

The "Fiske Guide to Colleges" is not as comprehensive as some other college guides in the number of colleges it covers, but it does cover many things other books don't. Is the Fiske book worth the money? It is if you need a book that gets down into the details and important things any college student needs to know about perspective colleges.

Here are some reviews from Amazon.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very helpful in the college search process August 6, 2012
Format:Paperback|Amazon Verified Purchase
The Fiske guide is very helpful in both the information that is given and the organization of each college review. The comments by students give a different perspective than the other guides. Although the Best Value list is helpful, I wish there was a sort function associated with the Fiske Guide. (Perhaps there is an on-line guide that I haven't found yet.) Despite the large number of schools in the guide, it is not complete. Still, it's the best of those college guides I have read.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very helpful August 9, 2012
A friend recommended this book to aid the college search with our son. It is well-organized and packed with information. My son has NOT been interested in the college process, but he actually started paging through this book and got pulled into comparing things like the male/female ratio and quality of life ratings at different schools. It's a start!


4 Simple Ways To Pay Off Student Loan Debt

Posted on Dec 27, 2012 with No comments

Dec 27, 2012

Lots of people think that they need to sacrifice much to pay off college debts. Yes, it’s not easy because it’s not a few hundred dollars debt, but everything is possible if you really want it. It’s absolutely possible to have a normal lifestyle, cover all the necessary expenses and proceed making payments on your loan. To get out of debt it’s necessary to follow just a few simple rules and very soon you’ll notice very positive changes in your financial life.

Be frugal

It seems like you spend a fortune on your little passion. It can be anything, starting from ordinary coffee up to buying old expensive cars. Now when you have a long-term goal and want to pay back you loan, it is senseless to spend money on different items you like but actually do not need. It can be hard to notice, but these small purchases just eat up an important part of your budget. Spend money on your needs only, to become debt-free it’s necessary to cut expenses and focus on the main goal.

Find a way to make more cash

Looking for a new source of money is momentous, so do that as quickly as possible. The sooner you will find a well-paid job, the sooner you will get rid of loans and debts. If you already have a job, think what you can do to make more money – maybe you can do some additional things and work more hours or get a part-time job. Think of some online options: writing articles or tutoring are very good ideas to raise your income.

Make payments in time

It’s extremely important to make payments on loans regularly. It’s not worth to think like in case you will gain sufficient amount of money then you will be able to pay off for all loans all together. That’s a bad idea. Do not hope that miracle will happen, some one rich will knock on your door and give you money just because you are a good person. If you do not make payments within 270 days, the creditors may take away your wages.

Do not take out any loans

Debt elimination is a difficult process, you should be very savvy and say no to yourself when you want something. You may think that you are tired and there’s nothing bad in taking out a small short-term loan like installment loan online for bad credit customer, but remember about your goal. It’s not just about becoming debt free, you should change your attitude to money and learn how to live within your means. It’s not that easy, but be goal-oriented, organized and do not forget that the success depends on you only.


Consider these Strategies to Prevent a College Loan Debt

Posted on Dec 19, 2012 with No comments

Dec 19, 2012

Choosing either a state college or an expensive private college is always a hard thing to do not only for those entering tertiary education, but also for their parents. As it is, entering college is always seen as a financial obligation, especially for parents who work hard just to send their teenage sons and daughters to school. The tricky part in completing their children’s college course, is, of course, when they undergoing some debt issues.

As it is, college loans are helpful throughout the teen’s college life, but it would be hard if the family is downed by debt before or during the duration of the teenager’s stay in a college or university. It would be then safe to say that he or she would be well off in a state college rather than taking on the private one.

To help prevent any inconveniences when under a college loan, here are some of the strategies that would certainly help the family:
  • Save, save, save. It helps if the family saves money before the child enters college. This is especially good if they live in a state where income-tax break for contributions is given to 529 plan holders, which the state sponsors. What is good about here is that withdrawing money from 529 accounts is tax-free. That way, paying college expenses are not reduced. 
  • Choose a marketable major to take in college. This is for the sons and daughters who are about to take on college. It would be practical for them to take a major that is marketable and would guarantee an immediate job offer. Such majors such as accounting, business administration, engineering, and computer-related studies are some of them. Any course will do, so long as the industry is a marketable one. 
  • Obtain money smartly. Such loans as Stafford loans for students and PLUS loans for parents are two of the best programs to go if the family has to borrow money to pay bills. Expensive private loans don’t always work, so availing either or both of these two is much more practical. 
  • Parents should talk with their teenagers about their college plans. This is the first thing to do before letting the latter start their search for the university or college and the major they want to take. That way, they’ll know if these fit the family’s budget. They’ll also know the amount of money they need to contribute for their education. 


How Much Does a Bachelor Degree Cost Around the World? - Infographic

Posted on Dec 18, 2012 with No comments

Dec 18, 2012

Here is a great infographic depicting the cost of a bachelor degrees around the world. It’s interesting to see the costs in some countries. Also what you chose as your major will impact for the rest of your career what your income will be. Many parents do not realize the education their children are getting, for an insane cost, will lead to a poor paying job

Courtesy of  Job Requirements and Designed by Infographics 

Got further questions? Catch me on twitter and DM me @529SavingsPlans or e-mail me at 529CollegePlans at Gmail.comWant to be heard? Leave a reader comment below.

How to Save and Finance Your College Education

Posted on Dec 17, 2012 with No comments

Dec 17, 2012

Finance is a major factor that influences the decision to go for a college degree. It is an investment in your future that you need to take very seriously. Here is how one can gather a good amount of financial aid way before you even get the admission for a bachelor’s degree course.

Be an Early bird

Build a college fund for yourself. From the weekly allowances you get, the odd summer jobs that you take up and the garage sales that you have, you could put aside a good bit in a college fund. The trick is, the earlier you start the smaller the amount you will need to put aside each month.

Get Financial Aid

In addition to the systematic savings plan you might need to apply for financial aid to get into your college of choice and fulfill the education requirements for your career.. Your first shot should be to try for a grant or scholarships. They need not be repaid. Alternately, you could also apply for education loans that come with low interest rates and can be repaid after you finish your course and secure a job. You could also look for colleges which offer work-study programs. These let the students work during summer time or take up part-time jobs during non-study hours of the day. This way they can repay a sizable amount of the loan during the college term itself.

Got further questions? Catch me on twitter and DM me @529SavingsPlans or e-mail me at 529CollegePlans at Gmail.comWant to be heard? Leave a reader comment below.

Career Opportunities in the Accounting Field

Posted on Nov 13, 2012 with No comments

Nov 13, 2012

Any type of business needs an accountant who will be responsible for keeping records and also keep track of its income and assets over a period of time. In this type of career, you will see that as an accountant, you will be able to learn a lot of valuable things that can help you advance in this field. In accounting or accountancy, it is important for you to know how businesses work in order to have a full understanding on how you can do your job well.

In fact, a lot of successful businessmen and women today were former accountants who were also working in a business that they didn’t own but decided to work their way up in the field.

The great thing about this career is that it will increase your knowledge on how businesses work. You have to consider that accounting is sort of like a continuing education. Even after you graduated from college and you are already a certified accountant, you will still need to learn about the different changes and trends in the business world in order for you to know what to do and what not to do when owning businesses.

Accounting is basically the language of businesses. In accounting, you will see that there will be a lot of career opportunities that you can consider.

The first is public practice. Most accountants start their career as a certified public accountant. In this career choice, you will be able to charge a fee for your services or you can also work as a staff accountant or an in-house accountant.

Basically, public accountants offer their services in partnerships. They offer their services to individuals, as well as businesses and the government. You need to remember that in order to become a public accountant, you need to be a certified public accountant in order for you to work individually or as part of an accounting firm.

Public accountants basically do jobs, such as taxation, auditing, as well as management advisory services. You should remember that this particular career is considered to be a stepping stone of most accountants. If you want to start your career as an accountant, being a public accountant is usually the first job that you have to take. Here, you will learn a lot of things about running a business and you will also increase your experience.

Another great thing about being a public accountant early on in your accounting career is that it provides a lot of great opportunities as it will give you lots of experiences, and become more in demand by companies to handle their accounts and income.

Accountants can also work as professors, or as researchers in schools or colleges. They can also become reviewers. If you have a knack for teaching, then this career path is for you. Although you won't directly get experience as an accountant, you will see that this career path in accountancy can also provide you with great opportunities.

You can also enter the government. Whether it is the local, state or federal government, you will see that they will constantly have openings for accounting jobs.

Being in the government can also produce a lot of great opportunities in your field. It will let you meet important people who can help you in advancing in your career and it will also provide you with great intensive training as an accountant.

As you can see accounting or accountancy careers can provide you with a lot of opportunities as an accountant.

Got further questions? Catch me on twitter and DM me @529SavingsPlans or e-mail me at 529CollegePlans at Gmail.comWant to be heard? Leave a reader comment below.

5 Strange Reasons You Could Land a Scholarship

Posted on Nov 4, 2012 with 2 comments

Nov 4, 2012

Landing a scholarship is a great way to pay for your college education without having to save or take on debt that you'll carry for years after you graduate. However, many students think that a scholarship is out of their reach unless they are academic superstars.

The truth is that there are thousands of scholarships available for all types of students -- regardless of academic performance. Some are available based on factors such as religious affiliation or civic involvement. Other scholarships are awarded for reasons you might never suspect. Here are just 5 strange reasons you could land a scholarship to pay for your college education:

Being Tall

If you're a woman over 5'10" or a man over 6'2", you could get up to $1,000 from Tall Clubs International. You have to be entering your first year of college, and you have to contact a member of TCI to be sponsored.

Being Short

If, on the other hand, you are shorter than 4'10", you could also get up to $1,000 a year for your education. You'll have to supply a medical record providing your height, but other than that, there are no special requirements for this scholarship from The Billy Barty Foundation.

Being Left-Handed

Here's another $1,000 scholarship, this time for students who are left handed and who will be attending Juniata College in Huntington, PA. There are two scholarships per year offered under the Frederick and Mary F. Beckley Scholarship program. 

Being Named Van Valkenburg

Is your last name Van Valkenburg? If it is, you could get the $1,000 Van Valkenburg Memorial Scholarship. Unfortunately, just having that last name won't be enough. You'll also have to show proof of your genealogy and write an essay.

Being Good with Duct Tape

This one is more about skill than having an innate characteristic. Students can win up to $5,000 for creating a prom gown or tux out of the famed duct tape in the Stuck at Prom Scholarship Contest. You'll get money for college and a cool and unique outfit for prom.

Writing an Essay

Many scholarships are available by being able to write a great essay. One at offers $6,000 in scholarships every year to three people, who share the issue about the hazards of smoking.

There are many more unusual scholarships out there that will give you money for quirky characteristics or skills that you may have. Make sure you search online scholarship databases and talk to your financial aid counselor to find all the opportunities that may be available for you.

What other strange scholarships have you come across in your research? Share your finds in the comments!

Charissa Newark is a writer and manager for, where she has recently been researching online accounting school. In her spare time, Charissa enjoys gardening and volunteering at animal shelters.

Got further questions? Catch me on twitter and DM me @529SavingsPlans or e-mail me at 529CollegePlans at Gmail.comWant to be heard? Leave a reader comment below.

Money Management Tips for College Students

Posted on Nov 2, 2012 with No comments

Nov 2, 2012

If you’re a student you may have lots of questions about money and making a budget. Students have lots of different expenses – paying for college, room, books, entertainments and etc. How to keep all that with no making harm to your budget? Hopefully, these helpful tips will help you to stay financially healthy and avoid unnecessary expenses. 

Live and Learn

Have you ever been thinking of using someone else’s experience? It can be very useful and will not make you any harm, for sure. Talk to your relatives, parents, friends to get to know what ways they were using for managing their expenses. Try to learn from others’ mistakes.

This way you will be able to learn lots of tips and pieces of advice what you shouldn’t do and what steps will help you to stay on the top of your finances. Search for some newsletters, blogs which are viewed by the professional experts, as they always may be very helpful. If you need a qualified assistance, write to some free financial expert and ask for a tip. 

It’s Time to Make up a Budget

Lots of people are terrified with the word “budget”, though there is nothing to be scared of. It is true that you will have to be maximally wise with all your income and expenses, but it is worth of trying. If you stick to it, you will be able to make most of your allowance.

You will need to make a list each time you go shopping, jot down all your expenses and spending. Never forget of the bill deadlines, as this may end up your budget and also have a negative impact on your credit score. 

Create a Saving Plan

An urgent situation or emergency may occur any time, so you have to be ready for that. Start saving money right away. Choose the most appropriate bank which will match all your requirements and open a saving plan to save some funds for a rainy day. That is why if any situation arises, you will not come to surprise so much.

If an unforeseen situation or need has occurred and you understand that you do not have any savings available, just do not get panicked as there are still ways to fix it. You can try to ask your friend of family member for financial assistance if that’s possible. But to use this service you should have a steady income to be able to pay back. Try to borrow money only if it’s really necessary and always pay back in time. 

Understand All the Importance Of Your Credit

If you have got a student credit card, then you should make out of it the best way you can. Do not forget of paying back for the bills fully on time. Avoid late payments and try to make a payment during the interest-free period. That will help you to avoid paying the interest rate and save you money. Do not overspend. If you have cash, then it is better to pay with cash, it’s not worth to put all your expenses on plastic. Take care of your finances, youth is the best time to provide yourself successful financial future.

Got further questions? Catch me on twitter and DM me @529SavingsPlans or e-mail me at 529CollegePlans at Gmail.comWant to be heard? Leave a reader comment below.


Why Have Student Loans Increased So Dramatically?

Posted on Oct 31, 2012 with No comments

Oct 31, 2012

Student loans have been significantly raised over the past few years, with top universities now charging £9,000, and most charging at least £6,000. Just over 10 years ago students didn't pay anything at all in terms of tuition fees, but now face extensive debts once they graduate.

When included with maintenance loans, which amount to around £5,500 to £7,675 depending on where you choose to study, the cumulative debt for university can be in the tens of thousands. It’s worth, then, looking at why loans have increased, and how it affects the repayments of students, as well as some of the options available to them to reduce the burden of debt. 

Cuts and Funding

Increased tuition fees primarily developed out of funding cuts to universities, and the need to make up for deficits in terms of paying teachers. Universities depend on public funding, fees, sponsorship and grants to survive, and when one area declines, more investment is needed in others.

The increase in fees also came as part of government pushes to make higher education more open and competitive, in line with global trends. Making UK student tuition fees higher similarly has the knock on effect of narrowing the gaps between British and international students, with the latter still tending to pay a lot more for studying in the UK.

Defenders of the tuition fee rises look past declining applications since 2010 to the staggered cost of repaying loans. Raising the earnings cap before repayments begin to £21,000 to £15,000 means that students have longer to pay off their loans, and don’t feel the full impact of interest on their loans for several years unless they enter into highly paid jobs - at which point the loan becomes more manageable in relation to earnings.

Other disparities exist, however, with students in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland either not paying fees for their home universities in the case of the Scottish, or having subsidized fees.

There are also a number of support schemes in place to help students from lower income backgrounds to afford the cost of study. The National Scholarship Program provides bursaries to students that can contribute towards fees and living costs.

Homes with a joint income of under £25,000 can also receive non repayable maintenance grants, while homes earning £25,000 to £42,600 are eligible for smaller amounts. Universities are similarly expected to provide hardship loans and scholarships to students with low incomes.


In terms of when you have to make repayments on your loan as a student, the £21,000 cap means that many will not immediately start paying off their loans. Once this is activated, employers deduct 9 per cent from earnings through PAYE, while self employed workers receive automatic deductions after filling out their tax forms with HMRC.

Interest is also paid on loans at a rate of 3 per cent above inflation. If the thought of a long term set of repayments does not appeal, then there is the option of taking out a short-term loan to pay off a student loan. By taking a calculated risk on the short term interest rates on a loan providing enough of a deficit on a long term student loan repayment, this option can be a good one for those that can afford it.

Got further questions? Catch me on twitter and DM me @529SavingsPlans or e-mail me at 529CollegePlans at Gmail.comWant to be heard? Leave a reader comment below.

5 Things About Student Loans You Need to Know

Posted on Oct 29, 2012 with 2 comments

Oct 29, 2012

If your one of the thousands of students on track to graduate this year and you have student loans, there are a few things you need to be a ware of. Thankfully the President signed legislation that prevents federal student loans specifically, federally backed, subsidized Stafford loans originated for the 2012-2013 school years -- from doubling.

Here are six things you need to know about recent changes.

1. The grace period on Stafford loans has changed.

If you take out a Stafford loan for undergraduate work in 2012-2013, you won't have to make payments until six months after graduating. This has always been the policy. The difference is that in the past, this six-month grace period was interest-free. Starting July 1, 2014, interest will accrue during that grace period.

2. How much you make matters.

The government's Income-Based Repayment (IBR) program allows you to pay back federal loans on a sliding scale based on your income and family size. Anyone who owes more in federal student loans than they earn is eligible to choose IBR. For most borrowers, payments are less than 10 percent of income. The lower your salary, the lower your payment. (Prior to July 2012, the IBR rate was 15 percent.) If you still owe on your loan after 20 years, and consistently have made on-time payments, your remaining balance may be canceled (the previous requirement was 25 years). To switch to an IBR payment plan, contact your loan company. You also can learn more at Federal Student Aid or call 1-800-4FEDAID (1-800-433-3243).

3. Public service workers get a break.

With the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, people who meet certain criteria do not need to pay their loan. There are several qualifications. First, you need to be employed full-time in an eligible public service field for 10 years. You also need to have made 120 loan payments on or after Oct. 1, 2007 (payments made prior to that do not count). Eligible public service jobs include emergency management, government, military service, law enforcement, public health (including nurses and nurse practitioners), social work, public education, librarians and employees who work for tax-exempt nonprofit organizations. Learn more at

4. Consider consolidation.

If you have government and/or private direct loans or federal family education loans (FFEL), you may be able to consolidate them. The new consolidated loan could have a lower interest rate than your current blended rate. Learn more at Federal Student Aid or call 1-800-4FEDAID (1-800-433-3243).

5. Ask for assistance.

Graduates with educational debt who take low-paying jobs in certain fields may be eligible for Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP). LRAPs are most common in the fields of education, medicine (for work in certain high-need communities) and law (for work as public defenders or in public interest organizations). The best way to find out whether your employer offers an LRAP is to ask.

Thousands of college grads are entering a tight job market burdened with debt. If possible, talk to your school's financial aid officer about your repayment options before you don that cap and gown. Once you get into the right plan, you can focus on landing a good job and building your career.

Got further questions? Catch me on twitter and DM me @529SavingsPlans or e-mail me at 529CollegePlans at Want to be heard? Leave a reader comment below.

An Incorrect 1098-T Can Sink Your Tax Return

Posted on Oct 28, 2012 with No comments

Oct 28, 2012

And if this form is wrong, your tax return may be wrong. And you may be entitled to a refund.

The American Opportunity Education Credit is one of the favored ways to get some tax relief for many parents. It's based on the amounts you paid for college tuition and related fees. However, one of the forms used in the preparation of your college tuition deduction or credit, the 1098-T, which is provided by the college, may not show the correct figures. If it is not correct, you may want to file an amended return and lower your tax liability.

Here’s Why

1098-T, Box 1, ‘Payments Received for Qualified Tuition and Related Expenses.’Included in this box is suppose to be ‘total payments’ from any source. This means not only from the student, and/or parent, but also student loans, which went directly to the college from the lender. This figure is not supposed to include insurances or student health fees.

1098-T, Box 2, ‘Amounts Billed for Qualified Tuition and Related Expenses.’ For 99.99 percent of us, this box is totally useless because we are ‘cash basis’ taxpayers, and record expenses when they are paid, not when we receive a bill. Included in this box is usually the amounts the college billed you in December for the spring semester — January, February, and March. You don’t care when or how much is billed. You only care about what you paid. Ignore this box.

1098-T, Box 4, ‘Adjustments Made for a Prior Year.’ If there is a figure in this box, you may have to file an amended return to report that you overstated the tuition and fees deduction of a prior year. If it reduces your education credit claimed in the prior year, no amended return is required. The difference is added to the current year’s tax liability. If there is an adjustment, it is incumbent upon you to pay back the excess. You don’t want to add to the national deficit, do you?

1098-T, Box 5, ‘Scholarships or Grants.’ The institution records these benefits you received in this box. These generally reduce your payments to the college. Again review the tuition statement carefully. It is your money.

1098-T, Box 6, ‘Adjustments to Scholarships or Grants for a Prior Year.’ This may also require you to file an amended return for a prior year.
What To Do?

For now, examine your statements, and make sure that the total you paid by cash, check, and student loans agree to Box 1. If not, and if you used the amount in box 1, consider filing an amended tax return.

When your 1099's come next year be sure to compare your records to the amounts on the statement
Got further questions? Catch me on twitter and DM me @529SavingsPlans or e-mail me at 529CollegePlans at Gmail.comWant to be heard? Leave a reader comment below.

Why Students Should Have a Budget?

Posted on with No comments
You say you know where your money goes and you don’t need it all written down to keep up with it? I issue you this challenge. Keep track of every penny you spend for one month and I do mean every penny.

You will be shocked at what the itty-bitty expenses add up to. Take the total you spent on just one unnecessary item for the month, multiply it by 12 for months in a year and multiply the result by 5 to represent 5 years.

That is how much you could have saved AND drawn interest on in just five years. That is the very reason all of us need a budget.

If we can get control of the small expenses that really don’t matter to the overall scheme of our lives, we can enjoy financial success.

The little things really do count. Cutting what you spend on lunch from five dollars a day to three dollars a day on every work day in a five day work week saves $10 a week… $40 a month… $480 a year… $2400 in five years….plus interest.

See what I mean… it really IS the little things and you still eat lunch everyday AND that was only one place to save money in your daily living without doing without one thing you really need. There are a lot of places to cut expenses if you look for them.
Set some specific long term and short term goals. There are no wrong answers here. If it’s important to you, then it’s important period.

If you want to be able to make a down payment on a house, start a business fund for your future, buy a sports car, take a vacation to Aruba… anything… then that is your goal and your reason to get a handle on your financial situation now.

Got further questions? Catch me on twitter and DM me @529SavingsPlans or e-mail me at 529CollegePlans at Gmail.comWant to be heard? Leave a reader comment below.

What Happens If I Take to Much Out of My 529 Account?

Posted on Oct 27, 2012 with No comments

Oct 27, 2012

By February 1, Form 1099-Q is issued when a withdrawal is taken from a 529 account. It will have the Social Security number of the person receiving the money — the beneficiary (student) or the account owner (you). The form will show the withdrawal and the earnings. The IRS also receives a copy of the form, which they will match with the recipient’s tax return.

Are the withdrawals federal and state tax-free? Yes, as long as they do not exceed your adjusted qualified education expenses or, as the IRS calls, it “AQEE.” Here’s how the tax rules work:

Total the educational expenses:

The account beneficiary’s tuition and related fees for an undergraduate or graduate program;

  • Room and board (but only if he or she carries at least half of a full-time load); and 
  • Books and supplies, computer and Internet access costs. 

From the above costs, you subtract:

  • Costs covered by Pell grants; tax-free scholarships, fellowships, tuition discounts and veterans’ educational assistance; 
  • Costs covered by employer-provided educational assistance or any other tax-free educational assistance (not including assistance received by a gift or inheritance); 
  • Expenses used to claim the American Opportunity or Lifetime Learning tax credit on your tax return; and 
  • Expenses used to claim the tax deduction for college tuition and fees on your tax return. 

This total is the adjusted qualified education expense. If the withdrawals exceed this AQEE, then part of the earnings is taxable.

For example, if college expenses are $36,000 and tuition discounts and scholarships total $24,000, then the AQEE equals $12,000.

If a withdrawal is made from the 529 plan of $36,000, including $6,000 of interest, then only $12,000, or one-third (36,000/12,000) of the withdrawal, is being used for college, and therefore, only one-third of the $6,000 earnings, or $2,000, is tax-free, with taxes due on the $4,000 balance.

Determine what the AQEE will be and, possibly have the check, and therefore the 1099-Q, issued to the student whose tax liability on the $4,000 would probably be lower than the parents.

For state tax purposes, in this example, the $24,000 withdrawn and not used for educational expenses will be taxed, plus a penalty.

Got further questions? Catch me on twitter and DM me @529SavingsPlans or e-mail me at 529CollegePlans at Gmail.comWant to be heard? Leave a reader comment below.

Where to Find Nursing Scholarships

Posted on Oct 25, 2012 with No comments

Oct 25, 2012

If you're on your way to college, you might be confused with the many courses being offered. Choosing one can give you a headache, but if you already know what particular career you want to pursue after college, you will not have much difficulty.

Observe the trends in the job market. The medical field hires a lot of competent people every year, and the demand for medical professionals is still increasing at present. Even those who already have a career are looking for ways to join this particular field.

Nurses are badly needed. The demand for nursing graduates is growing. Health agencies and other services are looking for highly trained and qualified nurses. That is probably why many students are attracted to this field.

The primary problem that most students encounter before they go to college, especially with a nursing course, is funding. Though this field is very much in demand, not all aspiring nursing students are able to graduate because of financial problems.

Public colleges which offer nursing courses can cost you around $14,000 a year; and if you want to attend college in a private university, the cost can reach as high as $30,000 a year. And to think that the tuition fees increase every year. You can just imagine how much it's going to cost you if you want to graduate with a nursing degree.

Nursing is quite an expensive course, and if you don’t have the money, you can't possibly graduate. What a sad ending for an aspiring student, but don’t lose hope yet. There are still ways to pursue your college studies without anymore worrying for your expenses.

Education helps people learn about different things, but it doesn’t end there, it is also a business in itself. If you don’t have enough money, you can't get the best education possible. If you don’t have money, that is not a problem. If you want to finish a course in nursing, you must be aware that it entails a lot of coursework. So if you are a working student, you will surely have difficulty in keeping up with your job and the coursework. What you need is a college scholarship to fully concentrate in your education.

First and foremost, you must contact nursing associations in your locality, your state's nursing board, and the American Nurses Association (ANA). Check the website of ANA on the net because they can provide you with the necessary information you will need for a nursing scholarship and grants. All it takes is a little research.

Federal government funds certain nursing scholarships, as well as private entities. Schools, agencies, and corporations offer nursing scholarships for individual students.   
You will need all indispensable information from certain people like the college of nursing department head. He/she can provide you with scholarship/grant applications. Or you can also contact the person in authority who provides scholarship/grants to nursing students.

You're quite lucky if you have parents who can fund your way to college, but if you're one of the less fortunate ones, you definitely need some form of assistance. Stand up and make a move, don’t just sit there and wait for someone to offer you a scholarship of some sort. Chances are it wouldn’t come looking for you.

If you are quite confident that you can maintain a scholarship, apply for one. It never hurts to try.

Got further questions? Catch me on twitter and DM me @529SavingsPlans or e-mail me at 529CollegePlans at Gmail.comWant to be heard? Leave a reader comment below.

529 Plans Pay for More Than Tuition and Books

Posted on Oct 24, 2012 with No comments

Oct 24, 2012

If you're one of the smart parents that have opened a 529 College Savings Plan you know it's going to help you pay for tuition and books. But what other things can you use the money for? According to 529 plan rules, you are allowed to use the funds for qualified education expenses.

Some examples of qualified education expenses:

If you are attending classes in the medical field you can expect to spend money on required medical supplies. Whether you're attending radiology, general diagnostic medical sonography, dental hygiene, or practical nursing you can expect to pay more than $3,000 on supplies depending on which field you are studying in. Dental hygiene has the highest costs, totaling more than $3,000. Radiology students need less than $400 in supplies.

Equipment and supplies are the most overlooked expense when attending college or trade school, according to Upromise Investments Inc. Don't let the costs for needed equipment sneak up on you. Save the necessary money in your 529 plan.

To prepare for acquiring this equipment you need to find out exactly how much the equipment will cost.

1. Find equipment estimates on school websites: School websites' financial aid offices post cost of attendance estimates online, including estimates for tools and supplies. These estimates aren't exact, largely because students have purchasing options beyond the school bookstore. For instance, medical scrubs are also available from uniform shops.

During the application stage, parents and students should use these estimates to compare costs among different programs. After choosing a program, an exact supply list is needed, she says.

2. Get the required tools list: A few months before schooling begins, students should request complete lists of supplies from the academic department or individual professors teaching first year courses. If contacting professors, confirm with academic counselors that the tool list is the same no matter which professor teaches the class, experts advise.

Don't forget to ask if there are any restrictions that might limit product selection. For instance, is new or branded equipment required? Are there manuals specifically for student use that come with the tool? Do scrubs need to be a certain style or color to identify students working in a hospital environment?

3. Be wary of extravagantly priced products: While a $250 pair of riding boots may look spiffier than the $150 required version estimated in the cost of attendance for a horse training program, using 529 plan withdrawals to pay for the more expensive boots could result in an audit. He notes that 529 plans have restrictions on how families can allocate distributions.

Sometimes the IRS will fall back on the 'ordinary and necessary' (section 162) theory, essentially that expenses considered ordinary and necessary for a particular situation are deductible, while those considered 'extravagant' are not. Parents should err on the side of caution and not purchase the most expensive supplies and equipment, unless required by the educational institution.

4. Compare prices: Determine rules for buying new or used supplies. For instance, don't buy used scrubs because they're relatively inexpensive; a top and bottom set starts at under $20. However, she'll consider used tools from a company that verifies sterilization and good, working condition of tools.
Next, compare prices. The selection depends on the career training program. For instance, tools for an automotive mechanic may be bought from hardware or automotive repair retailers, tool shops, and websites. Medical equipment may be bought from a variety of online outlets, as well as medical supply retailers.

No matter where equipment is bought, don't stray from the required tool list. If you're unsure if the tool is the exact same one from the list, consult the academic department.

Got further questions? Catch me on twitter and DM me @529SavingsPlans or e-mail me at 529CollegePlans at Gmail.comWant to be heard? Leave a reader comment below.

How to Apply for a College Scholarship

Posted on Oct 21, 2012 with No comments

Oct 21, 2012

When we speak of college scholarship application, the burden is always on the parents. Since they have the responsibility over the education of their children and they know what will be good for them, parents apply personally for the college scholarship of their children.

What if we turn the tide? From primary to secondary education, your parents accepted the responsibility. But you are old enough to take care of a simple college scholarship application. It takes some courage, self-confidence, and some excellent academic records to apply for a college scholarship. Keep in mind that is you who will utilize the financial aid that comes with the scholarship and not your parents. Thus, applying for a college scholarship is now your business, and you can do it with less supervision from your parents.

The procedure for college scholarship application is similar when you apply for college. You need to learn every scholarship opportunity available and make a list of potential prospects that you think will fit your personal needs. Once through with the list, you need to create an application letter and state your achievements (good high school scholastic records and recommendation letters from your high school director and teachers) and you are now on your way on getting into college for less, if not for free.

The above-mentioned procedure is the most common way of getting a college scholarship. However, the chances of success lies in you, and you need to exert more effort to assure yourself of a financial aid when you go to college. To increase your chances, here are some pointers that you can consider:

  • You should start as early as your high school years. There are many college scholarships that open during your senior high school year. In addition, these financial aid programs are only open in a specific period of time. Once the application closes, you have to wait for another year before you can file for your application. Starting early will give you better chances of getting the best financial aid available. 
  • Give importance to the scholarship requirements. Keep in mind that among all available scholarships, there are only few that will fit your qualifications. Read the eligibility standards of the college scholarship that you want to apply. If you found out that the financial aid does not fit with the qualifications that you have, search for another. Do not insist yourself on scholarships where your chances of success is minute.
  • Do not forget to complete the requirements asked by the college scholarship. Prepare the documents that are commonly asked by the scholarship grantee to its applicants. 
  • Your application letter will be your “speaking alter-ego” to the sponsor of the college scholarship you have applied for. Thus, you need to create an application letter that will convince the sponsor that you honestly need the financial aid and you deserve to get one, state honest information in your application. Never include false information especially if your purpose is just to “flatter” the sponsor with your achievements. 

After you followed the aforementioned recipe, you are now ready to submit your application to the scholarship screening committee. Be prepared for other requirements (such as interviews and examinations) that will determine if you are eligible to receive a college scholarship.

Follow the aforementioned college freshman’s recipe when you apply for a college scholarship. And best of all, do not forget to pray that the sponsor would consider you eligible for the college scholarship.

Got further questions? Catch me on twitter and DM me @529SavingsPlans or e-mail me at 529CollegePlans at Gmail.comWant to be heard? Leave a reader comment below.

529 Plans - When to Change Providers

Posted on Oct 19, 2012 with No comments

Oct 19, 2012

Does it make sense to switch out of an expensive or poor-performing plan? Keep in mind that some states such as New York and Illinois require you to pay back the money you deducted from state income taxes if you move money out of that state's 529 plan. And you could also pay a fee of about $50, on average, to make the switch, said Joe Hurley, founder of, a website that offers advice on college savings, particularly 529 plans.

"Sometimes you can find another 529 plan that has essentially the same make-up of mutual funds in another state, with lower fees; then it becomes compelling to make the move. You can expect the same pre-fee investment, for a higher post-investment outcome," said Hurley.

There's no prohibition against having multiple plans, either, so you could always just stop contributing to an in-state plan you don't like and open a new plan in another state, without moving any money and incurring switch fees and taxes.

Before making a switch, it may be possible to improve savings by reallocating the funds that are invested in a 529 that is rated "neutral" or "negative".

Many plans with options to allocate savings in large equity or bond mutual funds can be reworked to place all or most of the savings in one of these funds. A federal law allows reallocations as well as rollovers to take place no more than once a year.

Morningstar analysts' concerns with some of the "negative" plans were due to the inclusion of a few weak funds. They also largely contained funds groups like Blackrock, however, which provided more stable investment options.

If you are making a small investment, chances are that you won't get much of a tax benefit with your state's deductions. It may be worth shopping for an out-of-state plan with better performance.

Got further questions? Catch me on twitter and DM me @529SavingsPlans or e-mail me at 529CollegePlans at Gmail.comWant to be heard? Leave a reader comment below.

Best 529 Plans for 2015 by Morningstar

Posted on Oct 18, 2012 with No comments

Oct 18, 2012

College is expensive and it seems that the costs only continue to increase. This is a point of financial stress for many of us with children in elementary school but the good news is that we still have many years to save.

One popular college savings avenue is a state-sponsored 529 plan. If you’re in the market for a 529 then you’re in luck, Morningstar just released its list of the Best 529 College-Savings Plans for 2015.

Morningstar’s list includes “27 plans that are likely to outperform their peers on a risk-adjusted basis over a full market cycle. These plans earned Gold, Silver, or Bronze Morningstar Analyst Ratings, which are forward-looking, qualitative ratings.” Source:

Four of the 27 plans earned a gold rating: Alaska’s T. Rowe Price College Savings Plan, the Maryland College Investment Plan, the Utah Educational Savings Plan and Nevada’s Vanguard 529 College Savings Plan.

An additional four 529 plans earned a silver rating: Arkansas’ iShares 529 Plan, the Michigan Education Savings Program, Ohio’s CollegeAdvantage 529 Savings Plan and Virginia’s CollegeAmerica program.

Got further questions? Catch me on twitter and DM me @529SavingsPlans or e-mail me at 529CollegePlans at Gmail.comWant to be heard? Leave a reader comment below.

What is the Difference Between Federal and Private Student Loans?

Posted on Oct 17, 2012 with 1 comment

Oct 17, 2012

With the high cost of a college education most students are forced to apply for student loans. Many people know of the existence of federal student loans but they don't know there are also private loans available also. Knowing the difference between the two are necessary because they have different rules for borrowing and repayment.

Key Differences Between Federal and Private Student Loans

There are several different types of federal student loans: Direct Subsidized and Direct Unsubsidized Loans; Direct PLUS Loans; and Federal Perkins Loans.

Your financial aid package will outline which loan(s) you’re eligible for. You might also qualify for private student loans, but keep in mind that these are generally more expensive than federal student loans and may not have fixed interest rates or attractive repayment plans.

Some of the key differences between federal and private student loans are listed below.

  • Repayment requirements – federal student loans don’t need to be paid until six months after you graduate, leave school, or change your enrollment status. Private student loans typically have to be repaid while you are still in school.
  • Interest rates – interest rates are fixed on federal student loans are usually much lower than private student loan rates. Also, some federal loans feature subsidized loans, where the government pays the interest on the loan while you’re in school. Private student loans are not subsidized so you are responsible for paying all the interest on the loan.
  • Credit checks – you won’t need a credit check for a federal loan, but private student loans will require you to have a good credit score and clean credit report.
  • Cosigner – federal student loans typically don’t require a cosigner; most private student loans do have this requirement.
  • Tax advantages – interest on federal student loans may be tax-deductible; interest on private loans typically are not tax-deductible.
  • Consolidation options – federal student loans can be consolidated into a Direct Consolidation Loan; you don’t have this option with private loans.
  • Repayment options – if you end up having struggling to make your loan payments on a federal loan, you may be able to reduce your monthly payment or postpone loan payments temporarily. Most private lenders don’t offer as many types of loan deferment or forbearance option, so these loans are less flexible in terms of repayment terms.
  • Prepayment penalty fees – federal loans don’t impose a penalty fee for paying off the loan before the loan term. Private loans can impose prepayment penalty fees, so be sure to review the terms carefully.
  • Loan forgiveness – if you work in public service – say, you are a police officer, social worker or a nurse – you may be eligible to have a portion of your federal loans forgiven. Lenders typically don’t offer any type of loan forgiveness program for private loans.
  • Loan assistance – you can get free help for federal loans by calling 1-800-4-FED-AID and review information on the U.S. Department of Education website. Recently, the federal government announced plans to oversee private lenders. As part of that effort, there will be an advocate for borrowers with private loans. To reach this advocate, you will need to contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s private student loan ombudsman.

Got further questions? Catch me on twitter and DM me @529SavingsPlans or e-mail me at 529CollegePlans at Gmail.comWant to be heard? Leave a reader comment below.

Student Loans Within a Marriage Can Complicate Finances

Posted on Oct 16, 2012 with No comments

Oct 16, 2012

When a couple, each with student loan gets married, how are the student loans of each spouse treated. The good news is these loans have more repayment options and possible breaks than most other loans. There is some confusion about how to handle student loans in a family , I will try to answer a few here.

Whose loan should get paid off first?

There may be a point of contention in the family about whose loan should be paid of first. Should it be the one with the smallest balance or the one with the high interest?

There are two sets of answers to this question. The communal method suggests looking at you and your spouse’s loans as belonging to you jointly. In this scenario, you pay off any private student loans first, since these loans can change in interest over time – similar to a credit card – and have fewer hardship repayment options. If neither of you have private student loans, then you should pay off your highest interest rate loans first – unless one of you qualifies for income-based repayment. (We’ll go deeper into income-based repayment later in the article).

The other answer applies to couples who are newly married or will keep finances relatively separate. Since your spouse isn’t legally responsible for your student loans, you may not want to work together to pay off your honey’s loans before your own – no matter what the interest rate difference is. Thus, you have several options under the individual theory. Each of you pays your student loans out of your own paychecks. To pay off your student loans together (but not one person’s debt before the other), you can try the equal amounts system. Set an amount above your minimum payments that goes towards each of your debts. For example, if you have $200 total between the two of you for speeding up debt repayment, add $100 to your individual loan payments.

While it may seem unromantic to think of your loans as individual property, there are long term benefits should you ever get divorced. There are circumstances where you would qualify for a temporary break from loan payments, reduced payments, or loan forgiveness personally, but not if listing your partner’s income.

Will Marital Income Affect Income-Based Repayment Options?

Yes. If you file a joint tax return, you’re combined adjusted gross income (AGI) determines your eligibility for income-based repayment. For example, let’s say your AGI is $10,000 this year while your spouse’s is $60,000. Each of you has $50,000 of federal student loan debt at 6.8%. If you filed individually, you’d pay $0 on income-based repayment. Your spouse pays $475. If you filed a joint return, you’d each pay $300. This reason alone isn’t a good reason to file separately, but it’s a reason to compare filing options at tax time. If you utilize TurboTax or other tax software, fill out both individual and joint returns and then file whichever option works out better for you each year.

Is My Spouse Legally Responsible for My Loans?

No. Student loans do not go on each other’s credit reports when you get hitched. Your loans stay with the individual that borrowed the money, and remain that way through single life, marriage, and divorce.

Got further questions? Catch me on twitter and DM me @529SavingsPlans or e-mail me at 529CollegePlans at Gmail.comWant to be heard? Leave a reader comment below.

Credit Cards and Students

Posted on Oct 15, 2012 with No comments

Oct 15, 2012

In today’s world, having a credit card is a luxury. Credit cards are a great convenience, meaning that you don’t need to worry about cash when making a purchase. Although some credit cards have strict requirements, there are a lot of manufacturers that are giving both high school and college students the chance to get their own credit cards. Student credit cards can be used the same way as a traditional credit card, although they do come with certain restrictions and limitations that other credit cards don’t normally have.

A lot of companies and banks that offer student credit cards will normally need a co-signer as a form of insurance or collateral. This person will sign on the loan with the student, and will be the person the company falls back on if the student is unable to pay the bill. Normally a parent or guardian, the co-signer is considered to be back up and a peace of mind for the issuer of the student credit card, as they can always count on the co-signer with good credit to pay if the student can’t.

Normally, the APR or interest rate is higher with student credit cards, which helps to minimize the risk for the company. The spending limit is also different with these credit cards, as most are between 250 - 800 dollars. The reason for this, is because most students have established any credit, and therefore won’t have a great credit rating. Although the spending limit is obviously lower with these cards than other credit cards, they will still help students establish credit.

Students who plan to make a large purchase, can greatly benefit from using student credit cards. To make large purchases, you’ll need good credit - which is where a student credit card can really help out. You can use these credit cards as a stepping stone to building credit, and establishing a good credit rating. If you can get your credit rating high with your credit card, you’ll then be able to be approved for much higher loans in the future.

Student credit cards can also help students gain a sense of responsibility. The card works just like any other credit card, although the spending limit is much lower. Once the student has mastered usage of the card, he or she can manage money much better later on in life. These cards are great for students to have, and can teach them money skills that will last a lifetime.

Just like traditional credit cards, students should also know that student credits cards can be dangerous. Although they are great to have, there are pitfalls such as overspending. If students spend more money than they having coming in, they will be unable to pay their credit card bill, which will then affect their credit. If the company goes after the co-signer to pay the bill, it could also affect their credit as well. Therefore, students should always have a budget in mind before they start using their credit cards.

All in all, student credit cards are great to have. For high school students or college students, these credit cards are a means of freedom, and a way to teach responsibility. They can come in handy during emergencies, which is reason enough to invest in them. If your son or daughter is in school right now, you should look into student credit cards. They can help your child to establish credit - which will take them farther wherever they go in life.

Got further questions? Catch me on twitter and DM me @529SavingsPlans or e-mail me at 529CollegePlans at Gmail.comWant to be heard? Leave a reader comment below.

More Resources

Our Sponsors

Blog Archive