BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
I’ve spent quite a bit of time down at the Elliott Test Kitchen for different events, and I always find myself drawn to the white boards with the math and science questions scripted out for the students that attend sessions there.
Kumar Wickramasingha’s storefront school and eats endeavor is something worth taking a look at. And if you looked at it, you might want to take a second look.
This program is put together with donations and grant money. No child is charged for coming down and studying. Let me say that again, no child is charged for coming down and taking part in study help and ACT prep. And although donations are a welcomed and necessary part of the business, coupled with federal, state and local funding grants, families looking to college for their students give this effort credence.
I just got the bill for my youngest daughter’s first year at the University of Iowa. $22,000…one year. That’s almost static to other universities in the state and really out of state as well. These universities are business first and foremost and don’t ever let anyone tell you anything else. They want people whose academic track record shows a consistent pattern of success and achievement. Those people stay four years and those people PAY for four years.
I’ve been railing about the costs of college for years now. And I think when you look at the efforts of our state’s community colleges to stay very affordable and offer alternatives to degrees, as well as state school districts looking at building regional education centers to offer some of the same academic and vocational programming at very reduced, if not free, tuition. You’ll see that the landscape is changing. The state can’t balance its budget so it pulls back on taxpayer contributions. Oh… and if you’re really athletic, they’ll pay for everything.
But there’s the rub, most of our students locally don’t fit that model of the Big Ten scholarship athlete. And this is not a knock on them. Parents spend a lot of money helping their kids follow their dreams of playing hoops or softball or what-have-you. But that’s a crap shoot at best. You might get there, but honestly probably you won’t. Maybe you do to another level, DIII or community college sports and they pay for your school. That’s wonderful, you’ve worked hard and you’ve earned it.
But for parents who don’t have the lineage and successful student athletes in the family, there is a way for your student who works hard at their studies to get some of that money.
Most colleges now use the ACT as a barometer coupled with your grade-point average. Our daughter qualified for an Old Gold scholarship at the University. She also was accepted into an honors program that also kicked in some money. All in all she’ll get about $9,000 per year paid by the university her first year. The Old Gold is renewable every year as long as she stays in good standing and keeps a 3.3 GPA on campus.
But that money is not competitive with the other students. It’s guaranteed. Every year…every student. The Old Gold is guaranteed if you have a 30 or 31 on your ACT and your student holds a 3.8 GPA. If your student accomplishes that, their college bill just dropped by $35,000. Now I don’t believe that a college education should cost much more than that. I believe we all should have some skin in this, but it shouldn’t be as hard as it is now. The health care industry is taking our savings. The FAFSA must be reinvented as it does not include any credits resulting from the increased costs of the Affordable Care Act. It gives little to no value for two or more students in college at the same time. It’s out of date.
But Wickramasingha, brings people in to help your child prepare for the ACT. At a minimum sit down with your student and formulate a plan. If they have a GPA over 3.0, it is worth it, believe me, it is worth it, to get them some ACT prep. Outside of the Test Kitchen you will likely pay for that prep on your own via online or at another facility There is a lot of money to be had in that test.
And by the way parents, if you don’t know this already, the government has changed the game with student loans. You can get a private loan to fund education through your bank but it’s not an education loan, it’s a private loan. Any student loans now go through Sallie Mae and Navient. Politicians and advocates have been screaming about the high cost of college, but universities and the government will only give your child about 20% of the net out-of-pocket cost of college to the students. If you don’t have about $15K to $20K per year set aside for each student you put in college, you..as a parent, are going to have to borrow 80% of what you don’t have. The government very rarely says no, because they make 6% to 8.5% on that money, that’s high enough to make up for default.
Take your student down to the Test Kitchen, he’ll even feed ’em and teach them to make some food. Your credit report will be glad you did – But that’s Beside the Point.