Purdue, Others to Help With Micro Debt

Purdue University is one of 11 schools that formed the University Innovation Alliance (UIA) in 2014. As reported recently by Fast Company, the UIA members are planning to tackle a challenge that is preventing many students from completing their degree.

Bridget Burns, the executive director of the coalition, says that most of UIA’s school presidents realized they were doing an awful job at keeping students enrolled, particularly those who from low-income households, first generation, or students of color. “It seems like a bunch of institutions … repeating the same experiments (to fix things) over and over and in many cases making the same mistakes.”

One alarming trend: Despite receiving financial aid, roughly 4,000 seniors who have good grades may quit school because of small outstanding scholastic debt. The sums are often less than $1,000 – but in many cases, such balances make them unable to register for their next batch of classes.

UIA and its partners will spend $4 million on micro-debt forgiveness, which will be managed by in-network academic advisors to use at their discretion over the course of the next five semesters. Half of the money is coming primarily from the Gates Foundation and Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates but the other half is a school match. Because every project that UIA does is carefully vetted beforehand, all institutions agree to double whatever philanthropic amount is directed toward their campuses.

The estimated award per student is projected to be about $900, but students can’t apply; administrators, who are adhering to an internal formula designed to spot the best candidates, will identify candidates and offer the one-time surprise infusion. “We know there’s variation across the 11 (schools) but we want to find the students who are low income, on track to graduate within a year – so they’ve already got a lot of effort behind them and it’s not too far ahead – but they have some unexpected costs,” Burns says.

Those costs might be anything that could disrupt an already tight budget, from a parking ticket that went unpaid and snowballed, to car repair, or an unexpected rent or medical issue that affected someone’s prioritization for what must be repaid. For low-income students already on loans, that’s generally a dream killer.

“If we don’t help them through to the finish line, that could waste all their effort.”

The concept of micro-debt relief has already proven effective at Georgia State University, a UIA affiliate that started its own retention granting program in 2011 to try to support the 1,000 or so students that it was losing each semester of extremely small tuition balances. Georgia State’s program is open to all students, not just seniors. Historically, it has 75% of those with more than a year to go are still enrolled 12 months later, while 60% of senior recipients go on to graduate within the same year that they receive assistance.

Burns expects UIA disbursements to cover only about half of the coalition’s students in need. That’s partly because of limited funding but also necessary because it’s a wide-scale experiment. Not aiding everyone creates a sad but necessary control group, allowing future funders to better compare the power of small, emergency cash allowances for those who received them versus those who didn’t.

More broadly, however, she hopes that UIA’s investment encourages other schools to act similarly. “This signaled where they should be focusing their attention,” she says. “These are many of the most innovative universities, who are saying, ‘These are things that are worth your limited time energy and money.’ ”

Purdue’s Income Share Agreement Program Takes On Philanthropic Component

We covered Purdue’s new income share agreement program, a measure to help students lessen the debt they incur, in BizVoice last year.

Purdue recently announced its “Back a Boiler” program has added a philanthropic aspect by allowing donors to contribute as well. A release from the school has more:

Beginning this fall, Purdue students who apply to take part in Back a Boiler – designed to offer students and their families an alternative financing option – may also apply for available funding support from the new Pave the Way program.

Addressing Purdue alumni and friends at a dinner in Naples, Florida, President Mitch Daniels recognized the support of Bob and Patti Truitt, Purdue alumni who approached the university about expanding Back a Boiler so that donors could participate, in addition to investors.

“Our hope is that we can not only help students finance their education, but also help teach the importance of charitable giving, including the joy and importance of giving back to Purdue,” said Bob Truitt, a 1962 graduate of Purdue’s School of Aeronautics and Astronautics. “Patti and I are honored to make the initial commitment to Pave the Way.”

Back a Boiler participants receive education funding in exchange for an agreed-upon percentage of their post-graduation income over a set number of months. In addition to signing a Back a Boiler contract, Pave the Way participants are asked to make a voluntary pledge. After graduation, students fulfill their Back a Boiler commitment and are encouraged to donate to Purdue through charitable giving, creating an evergreen Pave the Way fund to benefit future students.

“It’s what we like to call a virtuous cycle,” said Amy Noah, vice president for development, Purdue Research Foundation. “We’re grateful to Bob and Patti for establishing an ongoing legacy of philanthropy, and we’re hopeful that our generous alumni and friends will be interested in supporting future generations of Boilermakers through this new way of giving to Purdue.”

To learn more, visit purdue.edu/evertrue/pavetheway.

Purdue’s Income Share Agreement Option Moves Forward

boiler

In the latest BizVoice, we covered Purdue University’s recent exploration into the world of Income Share Agreements (ISAs). The funding strategy allows students to pay back loans based on their future earnings. It’s a way to mitigate the mountains of debt today’s college students often find themselves in after graduation.

Since the article’s release, Purdue has moved forward to the next phase of the process. Purdue Research Foundation (PRF) is managing and making the funding available for the program. This web site provides more information.

PRF is now focused on providing educational and informational sessions to students and parents. The application process for the Back a Boiler – ISA Fund will begin in May. PRF anticipates this will give students time to review all of their options and determine which best serves their educational funding needs.

Students: Some Tips for Saving Money While You’re Still in School

87649503College is expensive. There is just no way to sugarcoat that. It’s not just tuition, room and board and textbooks. There are parking fees and printing fees. There’s pizza to buy, events to attend and t-shirts to order. Even with significant help from scholarships, grants and loans, my school bill is still nearly $10,000 a semester. This semester I was told I needed to buy an economics text book that would cost me almost $400! What could possibly make one textbook be worth $400?

In many ways, there is no avoiding the financial blows that college life will inflict, but I have compiled a list of eight really easy ways to save that might help ease the pain:

  1. Cool it on the Chipotle. I love the deliciousness of a burrito bowl as much as the next girl, but all of those fast food runs start to add up. Set a limit on the number of times you will eat fast food each week and then stick to it. Keep a few simple groceries in your room so that you will have the ability to avoid temptation when it strikes.
  2. Don’t buy your books from the bookstore. I totally get the convenience of it. I mean it’s right there within walking distance. But like I said, my bookstore tried to get me to buy an econ book for $400. Not cool. With just a little time management and advance preparation you can save HUGE amounts by buying your textbooks online. And that brings me to number three …
  3. It may not have to be the exact edition your professor is using. I am taking a constitutional law class this semester. The required text was the most current edition and it was over $200. I got on Amazon and bought the same book just a few editions removed for only $5. I mean, let’s be real, when was the last time the constitution changed? For the most part, “new” editions of text books are the same material just moved around a little.
  4. No more Starbucks. I love Starbucks. I mean, I love it a lot. The frothy goodness of a latte is good for the soul, but it’s also $5. Just like with the fast food runs, those pumpkin spice lattes will sneak up on you and before you know it you’ve spent $250 in one semester. (True story from my life – and no I am not proud of that.) During this season of your life, you may need to forget you ever heard of Starbucks. The lattes will still be there later when you can actually afford them.
  5. Find out where you can get a student discount. Local businesses love college students. Many places will give discounts or even free things if you just flash your student ID. Ask around your school and keep your eyes open in the local shopping venues. In addition, many national brands offer discounts to students — especially in the areas of electronics and software. And don’t forget to check into good student discounts for your automobile insurance!
  6. Don’t fall into the trap of online shopping. I know, it is so easy. You don’t even have to get out of bed. They’ll deliver it right to your door. Essentially online shopping is the greatest invention since, well, Starbucks lattes. Because it is so easy, online shopping has cost me big bucks in the past. Set a budget, tell your roommates, have someone tackle you when you pull up the Macy’s web site. Whatever you need to do, do it. Shopping therapy is not the way to get through the stress of college.
  7. Take advantage of the campus facilities. My school just built a big, beautiful recreational center and it is totally free to students. I mean kind of free… we do pay for it in our tuition. That’s the point, though; part of what we pay for in our school tuition are the great facilities and activities that our school offers. Take advantage of those rather than going out and spending more.
  8. Go to class. Okay, technically this doesn’t save you money. But it keeps you from wasting the money you are already spending. And mentally, going to class helps you learn to assign value to the investment you are making. You are paying for this class. Skipping it is like setting fire to money.

Most importantly, enjoy your time in school. Life is expensive, and college is kind of like a trial run on life. Learn how to budget now and “real life” will be much easier when the days of ramen noodles and wearing leggings as pants are gone.

Paige Ferise, a sophomore at Butler University, is interning in the Indiana Chamber communications department this fall.

States Turning Tuition World Upside Down

Recently, Oregon was the first state to propose a "Pay it Forward" college tuition plan. While many questions remain on whether the dramatic proposal is valid, that isn't stopping a legislative leader from another part of the country from recommending further study of the concept. NJ.com reports:

Under the plan, New Jersey public colleges could waive tuition and fees for students who pledge to give the state a portion of their salaries after graduation.

In theory, the idea would reduce the amount of loans students take out to go to college.

"When kids are getting out of college, they’re buried in debt," Sweeney said. "It gives another pathway to higher education. As someone who didn’t go to college and recognizes how fortunate I am that things worked out for me, you don’t want to leave things up to luck."

New Jersey’s public colleges have some of the highest tuitions in the nation. For example, the average in-state Rutgers University undergraduate will pay $13,499 in tuition and fees for the 2013-14 school year. Once room and board are added in, the total cost of attending Rutgers will be $25,077 for students living on campus.

New Jersey would not be the first state to explore the idea of delaying tuition payments.

On July 29, the governor of Oregon signed a bill to appoint a commission to study a "Pay it Forward" plan and recommend whether the state should institute a trial program.

Although details have not been finalized, proponents of Oregon’s plan have called for the state to waive tuition for students who agree to pay 3 percent of their incomes over 24 years.

Supporters say the program will help alleviate the nation’s growing student loan problem since many graduates leave college encumbered with tens of thousands of dollars of debt before they ever find their first job.

But critics say the "Pay it Forward" idea has too many holes.

While students would get free tuition and fees while they are in school, they will still have to take out loans to cover the cost of living on or off campus, buying books, paying for transportation and other costs that often account for more than half of the expense of attending college.

It is also unclear if asking students in Oregon to repay 3 percent of their income for a quarter century would cover the cost of running a college or if the schools would have enough cash to operate in the first few years of the program. Critics also questioned whether the state would be able to keep track of the incomes of students who move out of state or out of the country.

Americans: Why Are We Working to Build More Debt?

It’s a four-letter word, and one I find almost as offensive as that other kind of four-letter word: debt. And while it should strike fear into the heart of every person, we just keep racking it up.

I heard one example on my way to work that was disguised as an easy way to pay for a LASIK vision procedure. Here’s my recollection of a portion of the commercial script that I found troubling:

Wife: “Go get LASIK.”
Husband: “But we can’t afford it.”
Wife: “Of course we can afford it, they have financing available.”

Uh-oh. Being able to afford something and being able to finance something is not the same thing. As a matter of fact, if you have to finance a product (that great pair of red pumps from the shoe store, a medical procedure such as LASIK eye surgery, etc.) that actually means you can’t afford it. Financing equals debt.

Here’s another alarming trend I read about recently in TIME magazine: according to a new study from CardHub.com, America is working to increase its collective credit card debt by $54 billion in 2011. The article goes on: in 2009, Americans actually reduced their credit card debt and added $9 billion in new credit card debt in 2010.

That means people were being smarter about their spending during the economic recession – or less able to be approved for credit cards. But, either way it means more people were actually living within their means.

I’m not sure where this turn-around from two years ago has come from. Possibly it’s similar to a teenager tasting his or her first bit of freedom after being grounded for a month – Americans are trying to make up for that time locked away without the ability to do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted.

The TIME article made conclusions that the increase in credit card debt is similar to the subprime mortgage crisis of a few years ago – what many say propelled us into the recession. I’m confident that no one wants a repeat just two or three years later with credit card debt to blame this time.

Getting out of debt is not easy and it’s not quick – but the first step is to stop accruing debt: No more credit cards, no more financing.

So, someday when I get LASIK, I’ll have worked to save the money and will be able to truly afford it – no financing for me, thank you very much. What about you? Are you relying on credit cards and financing or are you working to get out of that vicious debt cycle?

Just Listen to Jagger When It Comes to Finances

Remember the Game of Life board game? My favorite part was pretending to be the banker, which meant I counted and distributed the “play” money. That exercise helped illustrate a basic – but crucial – “life” lesson: When you run out of money, there’s no more to spend.

As an adult, you learn that’s only partially true – especially with credit cards, which pave a tempting path to overspending.

I’m not saying it’s easy, but here’s what I do as I longingly gaze at advertisements for Hawaiian vacations or elegant – but expensive – wardrobe styles: Begin silently singing what’s become my spending anthem – the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

I read an interesting Accumulating Money article describing a few reasons why people overspend. It notes that 43% of families shell out more than they earn each year. Here’s an excerpt: 

Keeping up with the Joneses – Psychology plays a big role in our spending habits. We want to feel as successful or more successful than those around us. We spend a lot of money to keep up that image. The reality is, the neighbors probably can’t afford that new boat either.

Plastic doesn’t feel like real money – It’s common to spend more when using credit cards than cash. The experience of handing over a card that you get back is just not the same as handing over some cold hard cash and seeing it disappear.

Immediate gratification – It’s all around us. We’re bombarded with the immediate gratification mentality. “Instant pain relief,” “fast food,” “on demand video” and the big financial one, “buy now, pay later.” We’re too used to getting what we want now even if we don’t know how we’ll pay later.

Can’t say no – Some people feel like a failure when they can’t meet the wants of others. Whether it’s new toys for the kids, new outfit for the spouse or a night out with the friends, some people just can’t say no, even when they can’t afford to say yes.

Spending in America: The Unfunny Story of Where Some of it is Going

In the recent debt deal, there was plenty of debate from pundits and voters about the need — or lack of need — for more taxation. But one thing almost everyone seemed to agree on — politicians included — was that the U.S. simply must start cutting its spending. The Heritage Foundation has an interesting post showing some places we could likely start:

Late-night comedian Conan O’Brien’s blog has a new post parodying Washington’s excessive spending. “Team Coco has found out why our government is so broke,” the blog explains, “They’ve been spending all our hard earned tax dollars on some pretty ridiculous programs.” The post contains a list of humorous fake programs and encourages readers submit their own.

But sadly, there’s no need to turn to a crack team of comedy writers to gin up examples of ridiculous government spending. Instead, one need only look to the shenanigans on Capitol Hill to find a list of absurd expenditures of taxpayer dollars. As Heritage has reported, in addition to long-term, substantive reforms, $343 billion of wasteful government spending could be cut immediately. And while Conan’s list is populated by a number of outlandish (but fake) programs, there are plenty of REAL government programs that are just as ridiculous. Conan, try these on for size:

  • Washington will spend $2.6 million training Chinese prostitutes to drink more responsibly on the job.
  • Because of overstaffing, the U.S. Postal Service selects 1,125 employees per day to sit in empty rooms. They are not allowed to work, read, play cards, watch television, or do anything. This costs $50 million annually.
  • Stimulus dollars have been spent on mascot costumes, electric golf carts, and a university study examining how much alcohol college freshmen women require before agreeing to casual sex.
  • Washington will spend $615,175 on an archive honoring the Grateful Dead.
  • The Securities and Exchange Commission spent $3.9 million rearranging desks and offices at its Washington, D.C., headquarters.
  • Congress recently gave Alaska Airlines $500,000 to paint a Chinook salmon on a Boeing 737.
  • Washington spends $25 billion annually maintaining unused or vacant federal properties.
  • The Federal Communications Commission spent $350,000 to sponsor NASCAR driver David Gilliland.
  • Washington has spent $3 billion re-sanding beaches—even as this new sand washes back into the ocean.
  • Taxpayers are funding paintings of high-ranking government officials at a cost of up to $50,000 apiece.
  • The Conservation Reserve program pays farmers $2 billion annually not to farm their land.

And the list goes on and on. When it comes to government spending, the truth is often stranger than fiction.

Dealing With Debt One Cent or Percent at a Time

The intentions are in the right place, but you can’t help but leave people a little confused when your press release says: "The One Cent Solution Endorses … One Percent Spending Reduction Act."

To partially explain, The One Cent Solution is an effort to balance the U.S. budget and reduce the national debt. The One Percent Act, introduced by Congressman Connie Mack (R-Florida), would cut overall spending by 1% per year for the next six years.

I give up. I’ll let them try to explain:

Bruce Cook, chairman and CEO of the One Cent Solution, endorsed historic legislation introduced by Congressman Connie Mack (R-Fla.) that would end the nation’s debt binge and finally put the federal budget on a path to balance.    

Congressman Mack’s One Percent Spending Reduction Act of 2011 would move the government’s books into balance by 2019. The bill will reduce total government spending by $7.5 trillion for the next ten years, starting in fiscal year 2012. 
 
“Congressman Mack’s legislation embraces the broad parameters of the One Cent Solution,” said Cook. “The congressman is showing great leadership on the most important domestic issue of our time, and we are asking all of our supporters to tell their representatives in Washington to sponsor — and vote for — the One Percent Spending Reduction Act of 2011.” 
 
Co-sponsors of the bill thus far include John Campbell (California), Jeff Miller (Florida), Dennis Ross (Florida), Allen West (Florida), Steve King (Iowa), Marlin Stutzman (Indiana), Roscoe Bartlett (Maryland), John Duncan, Jr. (Tennessee), Reid Ribble (Wisconsin), Scott Garrett (New Jersey) and Cynthia Lummis (Wyoming).

Stutzman will be a special guest on the Indiana Chamber’s Policy Issue Conference Call on June 10.

Digging Out of a Big Debt Hole

Just where do your tax dollars go in Washington? According to Congressional Budget Office figures for fiscal year 2010:

  • Health: 24%
  • Defense and Social Security: 20% each
  • Safety net programs: 14%
  • Interest on debt: 6%
  • Everything else: 16%

The troubling figure is the smallest percentage listed above. Within 10 years, interest payments will rise to 9% (barring a reveral of course) with $1 trillion being doled out and none of it going to debt principal. Based on current tax rates, nearly half of all income tax revenue would be needed just to pay the interest on the national debt.

That’s an Unhappy New Year thought. Washington lawmakers and bureaucrats are you listening: Act now to give all a fighting chance in the future.