MONEY College

Yes, College Costs Are Eating Up More of Your Income

A year of public college costs low-income families 40% of their annual salary now, up from 29% in 2007.

It’s not your imagination, parents: Your kids’ college costs are indeed eating up a higher percentage of your income, a new federal report shows.

The report, which looked at the costs of college in the 2011-2012 academic year (the last year for which data is available) also documents a shocking increase in net costs for America’s lowest earners. That’s raising worries that the poor are increasingly being priced out of college, one of the main paths to a berth in the middle class.

The study found that families with incomes of up to about $31,000—who were the lowest-earning 25% of all American families with kids in college at that time—paid, on average, $12,300 to send a child to a public university, after grants and scholarships were subtracted. That was the equivalent of 40% of that group’s top annual income. In the fall of 2007, that same group would have paid only 29% of their income, a full 11 percentage points less.

For the families in the lower- to- middle- quarter—$69,000 was the midpoint for families with kids in college—net public college costs ate up 23% of the group’s top income, a 2 percentage point hike from the share of income needed by similar families in 2007.

Upper middle class families also saw their net costs rise. Families with incomes of about $111,000 earned more than 75% of all families in the study with children in college. The group with incomes between $69,000 and $111,000 paid about $20,400 (or 18% of top earners’ income) to send their kids to in-state public college, up 2 percentage points from 2007. Families in the top quarter, earning $111,000 a year and up, paid an average of $22,800 for their kids to attend in-state public college.

The data show that when it comes to funding college, “it pays to be rich,” says Margaret Cahalan, director of the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, a Washington, D.C., think tank. The findings, she says, are further evidence that claims the poor are getting more or better financial aid than the middle or upper classes “are simply not true.”

In fact, Cahalan says, the numbers show that financial aid has lagged so far behind rising living and tuition costs that many low-income students are being priced out of college. “Low-income students have to work too many hours to survive, and that is depressing their ability to compete and be successful,” she says. “Many of them end up leaving school because they can’t juggle work and school.”

A growing body of research shows that being priced out of college can have devastating lifetime effects. Workers without higher education are at a disadvantage in the job market and tend to get stuck in lower-paying jobs, according to several reports by the Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce. A 2014 analysis of the job market, for example, found that just about 28% of all jobs in 1973 required at least an associate’s degree. By 2010, those requirements covered 42% of jobs. And by 2020, 47% of jobs are expected to require at least a two-year degree.

Income quartile
(annual income range)
1st
($0-$31,000)
2nd
($31-$69,000)
3rd
($69-$111,000)
% of top income needed to pay average net price (after grants are subtracted) for 2011-2 at a typical in-state public college 40% 23% 18%
% of top income needed to pay average net price (after grants subtracted) for 2011-2 at a typical private college 64% 34% 26%

Sources: U.S. Department of Education, Money calculations

Read next: How to Find a College That Won’t Drown You in Debt

MONEY College

How to Decipher a Financial Aid Letter

magnifying glass over $5 in dark
Alamy—Alamy

The financial aid letters that colleges send accepted students are often confusing. Here's how to figure out how much a school will really cost.

When colleges start releasing their admissions decisions toward the end of March, it’s easy for applicants and their parents to figure out the end result: You’re in, you’re out, or you’re on the waiting list.

Unfortunately, when those same schools release their financial aid decisions for accepted students, the results aren’t quite so clear.

Over the years that I’ve worked with families as an independent college admissions counselor, I’ve learned that the financial aid letters that arrive in the mail can be terribly confusing. Parents’ sweat turns icy cold as they try to figure out which college offers the best deal. It takes some work to decipher exactly how much help a family is being offered.

The first step for families trying to assess financial aid packages from different schools is to separate “family money” from “other people’s money.” This process helps focus the mind — and the budget — on forms of financial aid that truly reduce the overall cost of a college education.

Each college provides a total Cost of Attendance — the educational equivalent of the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. The COA includes tuition, fees, room, board, a travel allowance, and a bit of spending money that is somewhat randomly determined by the director of financial aid.

Generally, I find these estimates a bit low, so I encourage families to think about these variable expenditures — things like travel, pizza, cell phones, and dorm furnishings — and come up with a more realistic figure. Then I put these figures into a spreadsheet so that we can see how the starting price tags of similar colleges can vary widely.

Then we tally up the “other people’s money” in the financial aid letter — grants and scholarships with no strings attached. OPM reduces the bottom-line cost of a college education.

Throughout the college selection and application process, I like to help my families zero in on those schools that will be most generous. Assuming all has gone well, a good student may receive 50% or more off the price of tuition. That can be a good chunk of change.

Once we’ve subtracted the OPM from the COA, then we look at the part of the financial aid award that’s dressed up as “aid” …but is really just the family’s money in disguise.

This gussied-up aid comes in two forms. First is work-study aid, which is merely an expectation of a kid’s sweat equity in the coming years. Work-study aid is family money that doesn’t yet exist.

Then there are the loans. Generally, I won’t let my clients borrow more than the maximum that the government will lend to the student directly. These are the federal loans that max out at $27,000 for a 4-year undergraduate education.

Armed with all this information, we then create a spreadsheet to line up the different COA prices and subtract the OPM. That helps us arrive at a total cost of the education to the family — including both the immediate costs and the subsequent costs in the form of either future employment or loans that will have to be repaid.

And if we really want to get down and dirty, we can add the cost of interest over the life of those loans to illustrate exactly how much that college education will cost.

Unless the family has front-loaded the process by picking schools that are likely to maximize the grants and scholarships, I’ve found that most families are taken aback by the cost of college.

But with strong planning and a realistic look at the numbers, families can make wiser long-term financial decisions.

For example, a family I worked with a few years back made the painful but smart decision not to send their daughter to Notre Dame, which offered her nothing in scholarship aid, but to choose Loyola University of Maryland, which with a lower COA and hefty scholarship saved the family over $100,000 for her bachelor’s degree.

The family had money left over to buy their daughter a nice used car, cover expenses for a great summer internship in New York, and subsidize a spring-break service trip to New Orleans. And the young woman graduated from college debt-free.

As parents of college-bound seniors suddenly realize this time of year, a college education is not priceless. A cold, hard look at the numbers makes the price very clear, and enables a family to make the most reasonable financial decision possible.

———-

Mark A. Montgomery, Ph.D., is an independent college admissions consultant. He advises families around the country on setting winning strategies for both admissions and financial aid. He also speaks to schools and civic groups nationwide about how to choose, and get into, the right college. His firm, Montgomery Educational Consulting, has offices in Colorado and New Jersey.

MONEY Taxes

How To Make the Most of the Single Best College Tax Break

College campus
Andersen Ross—Getty Images This scene can save you money on your taxes.

Nearly 2 million Americans pay too much in taxes because of confusion over education benefits. Here's how to avoid that mistake.

Back in January President Obama proposed consolidating many overlapping education tax benefits, a plan that appears long dead. Too bad, since millions of taxpayers make mistakes writing off education expenses on their 1040s and pay hundreds in unnecessary taxes as a result.

A 2012 Government Accountability Office report found that education tax breaks were so complicated and poorly understood that 1.5 million families who were eligible for one failed to claim it and overpaid their taxes by more than $450 a year. Another 275,000 families were so confused that they opted for the wrong benefit and overpaid by an average of $284.

Here’s how to get college tax breaks right on this year’s return and beyond.

Stick With The Winner

In any given year, you’re allowed to claim only one of these three tuition tax benefits: The tuition and fees deduction, the lifetime learning credit or the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC).

Don’t be distracted by all the options. The AOTC is the most lucrative and broadest education tax benefit available, and it should be your first choice, says Gary Carpenter, a CPA who is executive director of the National College Advocacy Group.

The AOTC, available to a student for up to four years, cuts your federal taxes dollar-for-dollar. You can take the credit for up to $2,000 in tuition or fees, and 25% of another $2,000 of qualified expenses, for a total max of $2,500. Married couples with adjusted gross incomes of up to $180,000, or $90,000 for single filers, are eligible to claim the AOTC.

Even if you owe no federal income taxes, you can get a refund check for up to $1,000 by claiming the AOTC.

Maximize Your Benefit

Now that you know that the AOTC is tops, you need to know how to get the full benefit on the maximum $4,000 in eligible expenses, which can be complicated in these four situations.

1. You have a super generous financial aid package: Did your little genius get such a big scholarship that you’ll pay less than $4,000 for tuition, fees, and books? Once you’re done celebrating, call the scholarship provider and ask if you can use some of that money to pay for room and board instead, advises Alison Flores, principal tax research analyst with The Tax Institute at H&R Block.

This may seem odd, since scholarships are tax-free only if you use the money for tuition and fees. But by shifting some of the aid so that you pay $4,000 worth of tuition, fees, or book costs out of your own pocket, you can get the maximum benefit from the AOTC. That $2,500 credit typically outweighs whatever additional taxes you’d have to pay on a re-allocated scholarship, says Flores.

2. Your tuition payments are low: One way students attending low-tuition colleges can make sure they get the full advantage of the AOTC is by paying a full academic year’s tuition by Dec. 31, instead of waiting until the start of the second semester in January to pay that semester’s bills.

3. You’ve saved in a 529 plan: You can claim the AOTC only for tuition that you paid for with taxable savings, notes the NCAG’s Carpenter. When you take money from a 529 college savings plan to pay your tuition, that withdrawal is tax-free. So there’s no double dipping. You can’t also claim the AOTC for those funds.

Assuming you don’t have enough in the 529 plan to pay the entire annual tuition, room and board bill (and who does?), earmark the 529 withdrawal for room and board, and pay at least $4,000 in tuition with taxable savings.

4. You’re taking out large loans. If you’re using loans to cover tuition, you can use the money you borrowed to claim the AOTC. If you and your spouse report a joint income of less than $160,000, you can also deduct the interest on your payments.

Parents can deduct the interest on loans they take out for their children’s education, but not on payments they voluntarily make on the student’s loans, Flores notes.

Take Care With the Paperwork

Once you’ve done everything else right, don’t lose a tax break at filing time. For that, you need to keep good records.

Colleges typically don’t report all the information you need to claim all of your education tax breaks on the 1098-T forms they send out each year. They usually provide only the amount they’ve billed you, explains Anne Gross, vice president of regulatory affairs for the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO).

To get all of the tax goodies, you’ll have to show the IRS how much you paid, and where the money came from. Some colleges will allow you to gather that information from their online accounts portal, Gross says. But as a backup, it’s smart to keep your own records.

Shift Gears as a Super Senior or Grad Student

Once you’ve used up a student’s four years of eligibility for the AOTC, try for some of the smaller, more limited education tax breaks. If you earn less than $128,000 as a married couple, switch to claiming the lifetime learning credit starting in year five of your dependent student’s higher education. There is no limit to the number of years you can receive this credit of up to $2,000.

If you make between $128,000 and $160,000, you can write off up to $4,000 from your income using the tuition and fees deduction.

Keep Cutting Your Taxes Post-Graduation

When school is finally over, the tax breaks don’t end. Singles earning less than $80,000 and couples earning less than $160,000 can deduct up to $2,500 a year in student loan interest. Parents with federal PLUS loans can claim their interest payments on this deduction. But parents who are voluntarily making payments on their children’s student loans cannot claim that interest.

Catch a Break When You Save Too

Finally, President Obama’s plan to eliminate tax-free withdrawals from 529 college savings plan has been squashed as well, preserving the tax benefits on the money you’ve set aside for your, your children’s, or your grandchildren’s college costs. Although contributions to a 529 are not deductible on your federal income tax return, the earnings grow tax-free. And as long as you spend the money on qualified college expenses, withdrawals are tax-free as well.

What’s more, 32 states give you a break on your state taxes for your 529 contributions (or, in New Jersey’s case, a scholarship). These benefits are worth exploiting: A Morningstar report found that, on average, they equate to a first-year boost on your investment returns of 6%. Check this map to see if you live in a state that rewards college savers.

MONEY College

The 25 Public Colleges Where Students Graduate The Fastest

Final exercises, University of Virginia
Dan Addison—U.Va. Public Affairs At the University of Virginia, 86% of freshman graduation in four years.

The schools that will help you avoid the wasted time and added expense of spending a fifth year (or more) in the classroom.

One casualty of the ongoing budget problems and overcrowding at public colleges is speed. The average time public college students take to earn what used to be called a “four-year degree” is currently about 4.6 years.

In fact, only one third of public college students earn their bachelor’s degree in four years, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

And that means the average in-state public college student is paying for an additional semester of tuition, room, board, and books—which is currently running about $12,000, according to College Board data.

Many private college students need more than four years to graduate as well, but on average, fully 53% of private college students earn their bachelors’ degree on time, 20 percentage points higher than the public college rate. (For the private colleges that graduate students the fastest, see our list of the top 50.)

One major cause of students’ slower progress at public colleges is underfunding. At some colleges, such as some low-cost California State University campuses, students complain they can’t get into the majors or classes they need to complete their degrees. At several CSU campuses, such as San Jose State University, students have almost no chance to finish on time.

But students also slow themselves down, research shows. Generally, schools that accept students with less-than-perfect high school records—such as open access public colleges—tend to have low four-year graduation rates. Many struggling students have to take remedial classes before they can handle college-level work, which adds a semester or two to their degree.

And students who change majors late in their college career may have to take additional requirements, which can force them to spend an extra semester or two at school. (You can read more about the simple strategies to help you graduate on time here.

These 25 public colleges have the best records of graduating students on time. They are ranked by four-year graduation rates in the table below, which also lists Money’s best college values ranking and our estimate of the average cost of a degree for an in-state student, after college scholarships and grants are subtracted.

College state Money ranking % of freshmen who earn a bachelor’s in 4 years Estimated average net cost of a degree for the class of 2019
1. University of Virginia-Main Campus VA 16 86% $96,963
2. College of William and Mary VA 60 83% $99,106
3. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill NC 40 81% $86,637
4. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor MI 22 76% $97,359
5. University of California-Berkeley CA 13 72% $130,629
6. The College of New Jersey NJ 53 72% $131,357
7. St Mary’s College of Maryland MD 319 71% $123,480
8. University of California-Los Angeles CA 31 69% $130,477
9. SUNY at Binghamton NY 162 69% $102,165
10. University of California-Irvine CA 32 68% $126,546
11. University of California-Santa Barbara CA 95 68% $135,233
12. University of Connecticut CT 120 68% $105,084
13. University of Delaware DE 66 68% $101,911
14. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign IL 76 68% $122,217
15. Miami University-Oxford OH 144 68% $128,987
16. University of Maryland-College Park MD 68 66% $102,069
17. SUNY College at Geneseo NY 359 66% $98,680
18. University of Mary Washington VA 107 66% $101,952
19. University of Florida FL 28 65% $89,572
20. Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus PA 177 65% $147,090
21. James Madison University VA 53 65% $101,193
22. University of Vermont VT 300 65% $96,549
23. University of New Hampshire-Main Campus NH 261 64% $121,657
24. University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus PA 319 64% $133,585
25. Citadel Military College of South Carolina SC 114 62% $98,671

Sources: U.S. Department of Education, Money calculations

MONEY College

4 Ways To Spend One Less Semester in College—and Save

Students walking on El Paseo de Cesar Chavez street on San Jose State University campus, California
Ellen Isaacs—Alamy San Jose State University, where the average student takes more than five years to graduate.

The average college graduate takes an extra semester to earn a degree. Here's how you can finish up in four years and avoid those additional costs.

In all the paperwork sent by colleges in those fat acceptance envelopes mailed out in the spring, one distressing fact is typically being left out: You’re probably going to pay at least one extra semester’s worth of tuition.

If past trends continue, only about 40% of the freshmen who start at a four-year college this fall will earn their bachelor’s in four years, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Another 15% will take five years. A few more stragglers will need six years or more, while 41% percent of freshmen won’t ever earn a bachelor’s degree. Overall, the average student who does graduate takes 4.4 years to earn a degree.

That means the typical student is paying for one extra semester of school, since about two-thirds of the students who need extra time are taking courses full-time and paying full tuition all the way through, according to analyses by Judith Scott-Clayton, an economist at Teachers’ College, Columbia University.

But Scott-Clayton and other experts say there are four things you can do to reduce the odds that you’ll have to pay for more than four years of college.

1. Bank credits in high school. Peter Van Buskirk, a former dean of admissions at Franklin & Marshall who now runs the Best College Fit private consulting firm, urges students to earn early college credits and perhaps place out of some requirements by taking advanced placement tests in high school. Once you’ve exhausted all your opportunities at your high school, another option is to enroll in other college credit courses, such as community college or online classes.

2. Take a full load at college. Part of the problem is that the federal government classifies 12 credits a semester and above as “full-time attendance,” says Scott-Clayton. So lots of students think taking 12 credits is sufficient.

But at that rate you’ll need 10 semesters (five years) to earn the standard 120-credit requirement for a bachelor’s. Your first college math lesson: The only way to earn 120 credits in four years is to earn at least 30 per year, which means 15 per semester.

4. Test your major early. Take courses and internships related to your major in freshman and sophomore years so you can quickly find out if you want to switch.

Switching majors in junior and senior year is a common cause of graduation delays, says Jim Briggs, a founder of Reducing College Costs, a private financial aid consulting firm. “If you change your major and there are prerequisites that are only offered once in a year, you might be out of luck,” Briggs explains.

4. Find a college that’s on your side. Choose a college that has a track record of helping students finish on time. Students at public colleges that have been hit hard by budget cuts and overcrowding, such as many campuses of the California State University system, often can’t get into the courses they need to finish their degree. At several CSU campuses, such as San Jose State University, students have almost no chance of finishing on time. Only 8% of full-time entering SJSU freshmen earn their degrees in four years, and the average student needs slightly more than five years.

But even some expensive private colleges, such as the Brooklyn campus of Long Island University, report very low four-year graduation rates.

You can look up your college’s four-year graduation rate on the U.S. Department of Education’s College Navigator website. And check out Money’s list of the 50 private colleges and 25 public colleges most likely to get you to graduation in four years.

TIME Opinion

Before You Pick a College, Decide If You Want to Go Greek

Fraternity house exterior
John Greim—LightRocket via Getty Images Fraternity house exterior

Why deciding whether to join a fraternity or sorority should be a major part of the college selection process

As the college acceptances roll in over the next few weeks, kids and parents will be making some tough decisions about which school to pick: city or country? Big school or small school? Close to home or far away?

But there’s a major consideration that few kids take seriously, one that’s almost as important as financial aid and academic opportunity. Lost in the frenzy about dorm style and class size and sports ranking is one factor that could have an enormous effect on you for the next four years: Greek life.

The truth is, deciding to join a fraternity or sorority is as much about the campus dynamic as it is about a student’s own preferences. At a campus with a prominent Greek scene, so much of the social scene is dominated by fraternities and sororities that deciding not to join may have social consequences. That’s why students should decide how they feel about Greek life before they pick a campus, not after.

Because once you get to school, it may feel like that decision has been made for you. On a heavily Greek campus, choosing not to join can affect your housing and dining options as well as your social life. At many schools, the choice is virtually nonexistent: at University of Texas Pan-American, 100% of women on campus are in sororities and 99% of men are in fraternities, at Washington and Lee University, 82% of men and women go Greek. This kind of overwhelming majority is rare, but Greek life can still feel pervasive even at campuses with far lower rates of enrollment: at the University of Oklahoma, which has recently been embroiled in scandal over a racist chant sung by frat brothers, only 26% of male students are in frats.

True, the vast majority of people who participate in Greek life are thoughtful, productive members of society with no interest in racist chants or hazing anybody to death. Most fraternities and sororities were originally founded as philanthropic organizations, and many still make enormous contributions to their communities. But as we’ve seen recently, it can take just a few bad apples to change the way fraternity members behave as a group.

Going Greek can be risky business. In the last two weeks, five national fraternity chapters have been suspended for unethical and possibly illegal behavior. First, Sigma Alpha Epsilon frat brothers at University of Oklahoma were taped singing a racist chant that resulted in the suspension of the chapter and the expulsion of two members. Then, the Penn State chapter of Kappa Delta Rho was suspended after police found a secret Facebook page full of pictures of nude, passed out women– an incident which could lead to criminal charges. The University of South Carolina chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha was suspended Wednesday after the suspicious death of a student, the same day the University of Houston closed its Sigma Chi chapter after allegations of hazing. And last week, Washington & Lee suspended their chapter of Phi Kappa Psi over allegations that frat brothers hazed pledges with tasers. And that’s not even getting started on the sexual assault statistics: multiple studies have shown that men who join fraternities are statistically more likely to commit rape than men who don’t.

You might be thinking: how could anybody behave like that? But when you join a Greek organization, personal responsibility can get diluted into the group mindset. “People lose their sense of individuality when they become a member of a group,” explains Dr. Brad Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University. “Although a group is comprised of individuals, the individuals don’t necessarily think for themselves.”

Even Will Ferrell, a former brother of Delta Tau Delta who played an overgrown frat boy in the movie Old School, thinks fraternities are problematic. “The incident in Oklahoma, that is a real argument for getting rid of the system altogether, in my opinion, even having been through a fraternity,” he said in a Q&A with the New York Times. “Because when you break it down, it really is about creating cliques and clubs and being exclusionary.”

And if you want to avoid that atmosphere, your best bet might be to avoid campuses where the Greek scene rules–the Princeton Review lists the schools that have the most Greek life, and US News & World Report lists the schools with the highest percentage of students in frats and sororities.

But even on campuses where fewer than half the students rush, Greek life can feel ubiquitous. “Going into school I didn’t really have any exposure to Greek life,” says Dylan Tucker, a senior psychology major at Cornell University who chose not to rush a frat. “But once I got here, I was a little bit surprised at how prominent Greek life was, how many people who were in frats.” At Cornell, only 27% of men are in fraternities, but it can feel like much more than that.

Tucker was able to make friends through the basketball scene, but he says if you’re not in a frat, it can be hard to meet people unless you participate in another activity. “If you don’t plan on being in a frat or sorority, people should be aware that it can affect your ability to make friends,” he says. “If you’re going to a school that has a very prominent Greek life, be aware that you will be excluded from a lot of events and things.”

So when it comes to going Greek, you can be damned if you do, damned if you don’t: joining can lead to risky situations, but resisting can feel isolating. That’s why you should decide on Greek life before you decide on a campus, so the choice is actually up to you.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 20

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. The prison system is costly and rarely rehabilitates prisoners. Imagine a better way to transition inmates to freedom.

By Mark A.R. Kleiman, Angela Hawken, & Ross Halperin in Vox

2. Lawmakers should listen to the budget hawks, not the defense hawks.

By Robert Gard and Angela Canterbury in Defense One

3. For teenage girls, it’s possible to shift “attention bias” — literally focusing them on happy faces instead of sad ones — and fight the risk of depression.

By Jennifer Kahn in Pacific Standard

4. The next generation of American workers isn’t prepared to take over the jobs of departing baby boomers. The cost of this failure will be enormous.

By Jennifer Bradley in the Brookings Essay

5. As a four-year college education slips further out of reach, community college has some important lessons to teach us.

By Josh Wyner in the Miami Herald

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME apps

These 8 March Madness Apps Are a Slam Dunk

Kentucky v Arkansas
Andy Lyons—Getty Images Tyler Ulis #3 of the Kentucky Wildcats goes to the basket as Rashad Madden #00 of the Arkansas Razorbacks defends during the championship game of the SEC basketball tournament at Bridgestone Arena on March 15, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee.

These sure-shots will get you in the games you love

With the tip-off of the NCAA’s national men’s basketball championship tournament, all eyes and ears are pointed towards the hardwood Thursday, whether you’re perched in a corner office or cheering from some nosebleed seats. But wherever you watch the games from, your experience will no doubt be enhanced by a second screen where March Madness apps can do everything from keep track of your bracket to stream live video of the action.

Here are eight great March Madness apps worth loading into your tablet or smartphone:

Bracket The Madness

If you’re a fan of the dark horse or the underdog, this is the app you’re rooting for this March. A breakaway hit among basketball fans, this app lets people create their own pools which can be shared with Facebook friends or even via text.

And while you might’ve missed out on most of this app’s magic after the initial tip-off, it’s also got an easy to read bracket that’s updated live (ideal for staying in the loop on hoops as the month goes on) and a fun, beat-the-clock game where you try to pick the winner of all of 2014’s tournament games. (It’s even hard to pick the winners after the game has ended.)

Bracket The Madness is available for free on the App Store and Google Play.

CBS Sports

Whether you load this onto a tablet or a smartphone, this play-maker can do it all: scoring big with great, succinct analysis of the games (before and after tip-off), or passing you off to the NCAA March Madness Live app (see below) for live, in-game video. Though it overs all major sports, the app excels in its college basketball coverage, with links to breaking news, its blog, and expert picks.

CBS Sports is available for free on the App Store and Google Play.

Fanatic

Wherever life has brought you, it’s probably far from your alma mater. No bother — with Fanatic, you can find fan-friendly watering holes where you can enjoy a game in the company of people who bleed the same sports colors that you do.

Now, truth be told, this app isn’t as accurate as I’d like it to be. When using its location-based search to find a nearby bar for my team, it didn’t give top-billing the one I know to be the home court for my town’s displaced fans. So, if you’re hoping to find the best spot, I’d recommend pairing Fanatic with a Google search for maximum effect. But it’s good for every major sport, so don’t delete this app after they cut down the nets.

Fanatic is available for free on the App Store and Google Play.

Sports Betting

If I were a betting man — and I am not — I’d put my money on this app when it comes to sizing up the individual March Madness match-ups. Sure, there may be more comprehensive odds-making apps out there, but for the casual fan (which includes most people who get swept up in basketball hysteria each March), Sports Betting provides clear information on the money line, point spread, and total points. And by simply tapping on the figures, the app shows you how much you’d win if you put down a bet — which you would do for entertainment purposes only, of course.

Sports Betting is available for free on the App Store and Google Play.

NCAA March Madness Live

No matter what television station the game is on, it’s also available to watch live on the NCAA’s official app. Free to download, the app requires you to log in with your cable provider information to watch the games. (Don’t be fooled by the app’s free, temporary preview — you will have to log in.)

The best way to get the hardwood action at your office or even on-the-go, the app goes beyond the live game streams, offering a great array of behind-the-scenes videos and historical highlights. And setting it up with notifications is another great way to stay up to speed on the scores, right from the source, while doing other things (like your job).

NCAA March Madness Live is available for free on the App Store and Google Play.

Thuuz

Watching all sixty-seven games is a big commitment, but Thuuz helps make it more manageable by telling you when the action is heating up. Rating games on a scale of 0-100, it tells sports fans of all stripes whether a game is worth watching. But once the first whistle blows, the app adjusts those ratings in real-time, telling, for example, if a low-ranked underdog who was expected to be blown out is in the mix to pull off a fantastic upset. In addition, the app can track your favorite teams and even your fantasy football and baseball players, so you can turn on the TV when they’re having a game for the ages.

Thuuz is available for free on the App Store and Google Play.

TuneIn Radio

Radio may be a shorter-wave technology, but TuneIn takes it worldwide with their streaming of local stations. By dumping a video stream for an audio play-by-play, the app will let you focus on the job at-hand, whether you’re a truck driver or a desk jockey. And TuneIn has a lot of live game broadcasts available — check out this link for what’s airing right now — which means even if you can’t watch the game, you don’t have to miss a minute of the action.

TuneIn Radio is available for free on the App Store and Google Play.

WatchESPN

Okay, so the worldwide leader in sports may not be broadcasting the NCAA games, but you know they are drooling over the highlights, digesting the effects of the surprise outcomes, and breaking down all the daily news. To watch the network’s channels (which include everything from the flagship station to the ESPN SEC Network), you’ll need a cable company log-in. But once you get past that gatekeeper, the only thing keeping you from watching as many basketball highlights as you can handle is your bandwidth. (Speaking of that, you might want to only use this app on Wi-Fi, because it will crush your wireless data budget.)

WatchESPN is available for free on the App Store and Google Play.

MONEY College

Why Harvard Will Win the NCAA Tournament

150319_FF_MarchMadnessHarvard
Hunter Martin—Getty Images Fans of the Harvard Crimson celebrate a win over the Yale Bulldogs in mid-March. Just imagine how excited they will be in Indianapolis in April if we're right.

Sure, the No. 13 seed in the West is a long shot. But our March Madness bracket favors colleges that produce alumni who win the financial tournament of life.

For the three weeks known as March Madness, college basketball fans focus on stats like field goal percentages or player efficiency. But we here at MONEY try to stay sane and pay attention to the numbers that matter over the long term.

So when we filled out this year’s NCAA men’s tournament bracket, we picked teams based on our Best Colleges rankings, which look at which schools do best in terms of affordability, quality of education, and graduating students into good-paying jobs. In other words, if we gathered these players and their classmates together again in, say, 25 or 50 years, who would likely be on the best financial footing?

This gave us an unorthodox final four of Harvard (6th in our value rankings, while a 13th seed in the tournament), Notre Dame (20th), Virginia (16th), and UCLA (31st), with Harvard besting Virginia in Indianapolis on April 6.

That Harvard is the overall winner is not exactly surprisingly: 97% of students graduate, there have been no recent defaulters on student loans, and the average recent graduate is earning about $55,000 a year these days, according to data from Payscale.com. But the elite private colleges don’t dominate in this bracket or in life. Two of our final four are public universities–Virginia and UCLA–which also have graduation rates above 90% and whose recent alumni typically earn about $50,000 a year.

Looking for this year’s Cinderella story? Manhattan (40th), the rightful winner of the play-in game against Hampton under our system, is predicted to oust undefeated Kentucky (389th) in the first round and go all the way to the Elite Eight. Another sixteen seed makes history in our bracket, as Lafayette College (28th) knocks off Villanova (114th) in the first round and hangs on until the Elite Eight as well.

There are some squeakers along the way. Schools within 20 places of each other in our ranking are roughly equivalent. But, strictly by our numbers, pricey, exclusive Lafayette edges out public and relatively affordable UC Irvine (32nd) in the Sweet 16 round. Lafayette Leopards tend to graduate into higher-paying jobs than do Irvine Anteaters (a difference of about $8,000 a year, according to Payscale), but they pay much more for their degrees. The average Leopard pays a total of $178,000 (after college scholarships are subtracted) for a bachelor’s degree, versus the Anteaters’ total bill of about $123,000.

Under our college value selection system, Brigham Young (9th) not only makes the roster of 64 teams but goes all the way to the Elite Eight before running up against unstoppable Harvard. Other notables in our bracket: Perennial basketball powerhouse Duke (32nd) barely makes it past Georgetown (37th) in the Sweet 16 before falling to UCLA. But high seeds like Gonzaga (177), Arizona (99), and Kansas (248) stumble early in the tournament.

To see how your college ranks in the competition of life, check out our full college rankings. Dig into our full NCAA bracket below (click the image to see a larger version).

MoneyBracket 3-18b

 

TIME College

Penn State President: Frat’s Posting of Nude Pictures ‘Very Offensive’

Penn State University Kappa Delta Rho fraternity house in State College, Pa., on Mar. 17, 2015.
Gene J. Puskar—AP Penn State University Kappa Delta Rho fraternity house in State College, Pa., on Mar. 17, 2015.

(STATE COLLEGE, Pa.) — A now-suspended Pennsylvania State University fraternity’s Facebook posting of photos of nude and partly nude women, some of them asleep or passed out, is sad and offensive and could lead to some students being expelled, the university’s president said Wednesday.

“I can’t imagine anybody that’s not appalled by the alleged behavior,” Eric Barron said in an interview.

The national leaders of Kappa Delta Rho on Tuesday suspended the Penn State chapter for a year over the photo scandal and said it would be reorganized.

Police in State College, home to Penn State’s main campus, are investigating allegations the fraternity operated a private Facebook page on which members shared frat house pictures of the women. According to a warrant, the invitation-only page had 144 active members, including students and alumni.

Barron said of the webpage: “It’s very sad, and it’s very offensive.”

Police said some of the photos they had seen showed women in “sexual or embarrassing positions.” While some of the women photographed appeared to be aware their pictures were being taken, others did not, police said in court documents.

Police have said they have identified at least two photographs that could lead to criminal charges but the investigation is continuing.

A young man who answered the door on Tuesday at Kappa Delta Rho said the fraternity had no comment. No-trespassing signs were posted there on Wednesday.

Barron said the university is working with police to determine the number of offenders and victims and will hold those responsible accountable for what they did.

“This is the kind of behavior that can get someone expelled,” he said.

Penn State’s flagship campus in State College has about 40,000 undergraduate students. About 4,000 of them belong to one of the 50 fraternity chapters, including Kappa Delta Rho, governed by the Interfraternity Council.

Barron, speaking to reporters at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, was asked about whether the fraternity system as a whole needs to be reviewed. He said the focus should be on dealing with people who act inappropriately, not targeting the system.

“I think if you punish those that are responsible, we all learn, and if you punish everybody, then I don’t think we really all learn,” he said.

Police were tipped off about the Facebook account on Jan. 18 by a former fraternity member who shared printouts of some of the pictures. The printouts were included in some of the court documents provided Tuesday to news outlets; police later said that was a mistake.

Police said anyone who posted the photos could face misdemeanor charges of harassment or invasion of privacy, with a fine being the most likely penalty. They also said they expected some women would only want to have the photos removed and not press charges.

____

Associated Press writer Marc Levy in Harrisburg contributed to this repor

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