TIME

Libertarian Student Activists Rally at National Convention

White House contender Rand Paul revved up the youthful crowd, asking "Anybody here from the 'Leave Me Alone' coalition? How about the 'Leave Me The Hell Alone' coalition?”

A crowd of college kids screamed and cheered, belting out chants and pumping their fists. The energy in the room was palpable. Some craned their necks to get a better view and others nudged their friends in excitement. The kids weren’t waiting for a rock concert to start or a celebrity to walk across the stage. They were waiting for Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky) to kick off the annual Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) National Convention in Washington, D.C.

Almost 300 student activists for YAL traveled from around the country to convene for a five-day convention filled with talks about liberty and appearances by prominent libertarian leaders. The convention kicked off Wednesday evening with an address by Sen. Rand Paul followed by a House of Representatives panel, featuring six members of the House Liberty Caucus.

“Anybody here from the leave me alone coalition? How about the leave me the hell alone coalition?” Paul asked the room to a response of cheers. “Some people are writing and saying there’s a libertarian moment in our country right now.”

Speakers went on to talk about key libertarian party principles of personal and economic liberty, then touch on hot button issues for millennials, including the NSA, social security and the legalization of marijuana. The panel’s six congressional leaders detailed their personal journeys in politics and offered advice to the budding libertarian leaders. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky) urged the student activists to “find more of you” and Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) told students to “be willing to lose.”

The discussion was more than just an advice session for aspiring college students. It was also a clear call for young people to help broadcast the Libertarian message and to recruit more of their peers to join the party.

“I keep reminding my Republican colleagues that if you want to continue to have a bunch of old people with old ideas in the Republican Party, we will no longer have a vibrant party,” Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Wisc.) said at the panel on Wednesday. “If we can invite young people that will actually bring new ideas and will bring energy to the party then we will be the dominant party in the United States.”

MONEY College

How Families Are Keeping a Lid on College Costs

Even though the price of a degree is steep, a new report finds that Americans are coming up with ways to limit the damage.

Despite the rising sticker price for a college education, American families are keeping higher education spending in check, according to Sallie Mae’s annual study of how students and their parents pay for college. One key reason: families are working hard to keep costs down.

This past academic year, families devoted an average of $20,882 toward a college degree, about the same amount they’ve paid for the past three years, and well below the 2010 high of $24,097.

“Even though we read stories about tuition going up, families are really holding the line on how much they’re spending,” says Sallie Mae’s Sarah Ducich, co-author of How America Pays for College. “They’re just not willing to write a blank check, and they are taking determined steps to make college affordable for them.”

They also relied less on debt. Borrowed funds covered an average of 22% of college costs this year, down from 27% the previous two years and the lowest level in five years. One of the main reasons for that, says Ducich, is that more students, especially low-income ones, were awarded grants and scholarships.

Overall, families are employing a number of cost-cutting measures, with the average family taking five different steps to bring expenses down, the report found. Among the biggest ways to trim education budgets:
  • Enrolling in two-year schools: In 2014 34% of students were enrolled in two-year public colleges, vs. 30% last year. That let them spend $10,060 less than four-year public school students did on average, and $23,843 less on average than their peers at four-year private schools.
  • Shopping by price: Two thirds of families reported eliminating colleges because of high costs. “This cost curve is something we saw jump post-recession, and it’s stayed at this high since,” Ducich says. Another 12% transferred to a less expensive school, up from 9% who did so last year. (For help finding a good education at the right price, check out our new ranking of the best college values.)
  • Changing majors: One in five families admitted to swapping majors to pursue a field that is more marketable, a trend that’s been steadily rising since 2012.
  • Lowering “fun” spending: Two-thirds of students said they cut personal spending to help shoulder college costs, vs. 60% who said the same last year.
  • Staying local: A full 69% of students opted for in-state tuition to save, and more than half chose to live at home or with relatives to cut down on housing bills.

More on how to save on college:

 

MONEY College

Yes, College Costs a Lot — But Here’s Why It’s Probably Less Than You Think

Perceptions don't jibe with reality for one simple reason: Most families don't actually pay full price for college.

For most families with college-bound kids, the sharp rise in tuition over the past two decades has been downright scary. The price of higher education has more than doubled in the last 20 years—and that’s after factoring in inflation. The full tab for tuition, room, board, and fees at the typical private four-year university was just shy of $41,000 for the past academic year; at public schools, the bill ran over $18,000. That’s a lot of money.

But, as the New York Times points out, this increase doesn’t jibe with reality for one simple reason: Most families don’t actually pay full price for college.

The number that matters most is not a college’s sticker price (the total cost of tuition, fees, room, board, books, and other expenses) but rather the school’s net price—what a student pays to attend after factoring in scholarships and grants. The federal government publishes an average one-year net price for first-time full-time students on its College Navigator site for every college.

Net price is also one of the affordability metrics MONEY used in creating our own college rankings. But with a twist: Our calculation looks at the total price of getting a degree, from freshman year through graduation, instead of a single year. So in addition to factoring in the aid a typical student will get from each school, we also considered tuition inflation and the time the typical student takes to graduate, since many need more than four years to earn their BA.

Using net price instead of sticker price—whether it’s the government’s calculation, MONEY’s, or a personalized result from a net price calculator—makes sense of otherwise nonsensical data. If college tuition and fees really rose more than 100% over the last two decades, no one but Warren Buffett’s offspring could afford to attend even a mid-priced school.

But when you look at the net price instead of the sticker price, the cost of college has risen only about 40% to 50% over the past 20 years, based on data from the College Board—half of what the sticker would lead you to believe. The cost is still high, of course, but not nearly as bad as the unadjusted numbers suggest.

The following comparison is good way of visualizing how important this distinction is.

Case Study: Columbia University

MONEY Ranking: 22

Average Time to Degree: 4.1 Years

Sticker Price of Degree: $284,029

Net Price of Degree: $206,752 (72.8% of Sticker)

Sticker-Net Difference: $77,277

Case Study: Harvey Mudd

MONEY Ranking: 7

Average Time to Degree: 4.1 Years

Sticker Price of Degree: $295,024

Net Price of Degree: $187,694 (63.6% of Sticker)

Sticker-Net Difference: $107,330

If you looked at sticker prices alone, you’d think Columbia was the cheaper school. Over the time it takes to get a Columbia degree, a student would spend $284,029 (taking into account future inflation), and $295,024 studying at Harvey Mudd, assuming he or she paid sticker price. But when you look at net price, the picture completely changes.

Based on the average amount of aid students from each school receive, a person who enrolled in Columbia would actually spend about $19,000 more on average over four years than someone who went to Mudd. You could buy a new car with that kind of money. And often, the differences between similar schools can be even more dramatic. For instance, the difference between the net price of a degree at Columbia, the most expensive Ivy in the MONEY ranking, and Princeton, the cheapest, is about $60,000. (MONEY’s Best Colleges breaks out both the most expensive schools in our rankings here and the most affordable schools.)

So who actually pays sticker price? At private colleges, families who earn less than about $200,000 may get some need-based aid. For lower-cost public colleges, the income cutoff is typically closer to $100,000 to $125,000. And most schools will award merit grants to students with extraordinary talents or academic achievements, no matter how much their parents earn.

However, it’s important to remember the outliers. Elite universities, for example, are a totally different ball game. In general, 40% to 60% of students at top-level schools pay sticker price for their education. For example, only about half of Yale students receive grants from the school to defray the sticker price.

Conversely, there are less selective schools where almost nobody pays full price. At Ripon College, which MONEY ranked 554th, 95% of students receive scholarships from the school. Looking back to our case study, 51% of Columbia students are paying full price, compared to 29% at Harvey Mudd. Yet at No. 7, Harvey Mudd ranks higher than No. 22 Columbia, partly because it has a lower net price, but also because its graduates reported considerably higher average earnings early in their careers.

Of course, some of a college’s total cost also depends on the student. If a Columbia enrollee buys used books, cooks his own food, and makes sure to finish in four years, his final bill will be lower than it could have been. If he goes out every night and takes six years to graduate… well, under those circumstances, any school would eventually get pretty pricey.

MONEY College

Why Your College-Bound Kid Needs to Meet Your Financial Planner

Parents showing jars of money
Jamie Grill—Getty Images

Sheltering children from tough money choices now can lead to unhappiness later on.

When I schedule a meeting with parents to talk about college costs, I always ask if the student will be attending the consultation.

About 80% of the time, the parents say no. Their usual response: “He’s too busy,” or “We would rather not include her.”

That’s a big mistake.

What I do is help estimate the final costs that the parents will be facing, taking into consideration projected financial aid, merit awards and the family’s current resources. Those costs can vary widely, from $5,500 a year to attend a community college while living at home to over $70,000 per year to go to a private college such as New York University.

Students should be involved from the start, so they can understand the financial issues that their parents will be facing. Students need to see the great disparity in cost outcomes among the different colleges on their wish list.

When I meet with the whole family, we can narrow down the types of schools that would be affordable to the parents as well as meet the academic and social needs of the student.

That way, we can avoid a situation in which a high school student, ignorant of any financial implications, pursues whatever college he is interested in. Then, in April of his senior year, when all of the acceptances and awards arrive, his parents review the options and say, “We can’t afford any of these.”

At that point, the only choices are for the student to attend a school he’s not happy with (such as a local college commuter school), or for the parents to go into deep debt in order to finance an education they cannot afford.

So I try my best to convince the parents to invite their student. Perhaps the parents are trying to shield their finances from their children. Eventually, however, the kids will be part of the parent’s estate planning. The earlier the children know about the parent’s financial situation the better. If a family limits the college search to the types of colleges that meet all needs (financial, academic, and social), then the only outcome in senior year will be a happy one for both the parents and the student!

——————————-

Paula Bishop is a certified public accountant and an adviser on financial aid for college. She holds a BS in economics with a major in finance from the Wharton School and an MBA from the University of California at Berkeley. She is a member of the National College Advocacy Group, whose mission is to provide education and resources for college planning professionals, students and families. Her website is www.paulabishop.com.

MONEY Shopping

The Stunning Sales Figure That Shows Nobody Wants to Grow Up

Businessman carrying backpack and briefcase
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Working professionals seem to be trying really hard to look like they're still in college.

It’s not exactly like Wall Streeters have started wearing hoodies to the office, but it’s in the same ballpark. In a sign that indicates working professionals are embracing the delusion they could still pass for college students, many are skipping the tired old briefcase and turning to the youthful backpack as their go-to office bag of choice.

AdAge and GQ, among others, have noticed the trend, quantified by data from the NPD Group, which has it that for the 12-month period ending in May 2014, backpack sales among adults 18 and over were up 33%. Among adult women, backpack sales were up 48% over that time span, though men still outspend the gals on backpacks annually: $385 million vs. $311 million.

Clearly, one reason that backpack sales are soaring is simply that they’re practical: They can handle your gym gear, sunglasses, snacks, and an ever-increasing amount of gadgets that just wouldn’t fit in even the largest briefcases. Backpacks are also easier to tote around, especially if you’re on a bike or have a long walk.

We also must acknowledge that the rise of work backpacks goes hand in hand with a turn to more casual dress in the workplace, prompted as least partly by all of those scruffy, hoodie-wearing tech workers. By now, the Swiss Army backpack has become a key component of the official Silicon Valley tech uniform, alongside Warby Parkers, skater sneakers, and a general lack of grooming.

Professionals are allowing themselves to strap on the kind of bag they used when they were 15 without embarrassment or totally looking foolish thanks to the introduction of a wide range of packs that are more, well, professional. Tumi lists dozens of understated, black and earth-tone backpacks in the category of being appropriate for business.

What’s more, the backpack’s versatility and youthful cachet sends a certain message, to the wearer if not the entire world. The message is one of adventure and possibility—that you can jump from the boardroom, to a mountain bike, to an impromptu flight to Copenhagen. The backpack says I may work in an office, but I’m not just another drone commuter. I have more going on in my life than any sad, slim briefcase can handle.

Then again, maybe instead it just says you like pretending you’re still in college.

TIME Education

These 5 States Have the Best Colleges

Did your state or school make the cut?

Money ranked the nation’s top 50 colleges, and also took a look at which states have the most of those colleges. From California to New York, here are the top five, followed by the “Top 50″ colleges that are in each of the five states.

TIME health

NCAA Proposes $70M Concussion Fund To Settle Lawsuit

NCAA President Mark Emmert News Conference
NCAA President Mark Emmert speaks to the media during a press conference at AT&T Stadium on April 6, 2014 in Arlington, Texas. Jamie Squire—Getty Images

The settlement includes funding for testing current and former college athletes

The National Collegiate Athletic Association will pay $70 million for concussion testing as part of a proposed settlement over an ongoing head-injury lawsuit, the organization announced Tuesday. The money would pay for symptom identification for current and former college athletes.

If accepted, the proposed deal, which would also offer $5 million for concussion research, would put an end to an ongoing class-action lawsuit facing the NCAA in federal court. According to the plaintiffs in that case, a 2010 NCAA internal study showed that almost half of college trainers put athletes with signs of concussions back on the field. The suit has been riding a wave of accusations that the NCAA and college teams across the country have put players at risk of brain injuries.

“Student-athletes — not just football players — have dropped out of school and suffered huge long-term symptoms because of brain injuries,” the lead plaintiff’s lawyer, Steve Berman, told The New York Times. “Anything we can do to enhance concussion management is a very important day for student-athletes.”

The settlement would affect men and women across all NCAA divisions. In addition to football, ice hockey and soccer squads, the settlement also affects basketball, wrestling, field hockey and lacrosse teams. All current and former athletes in the NCAA would be eligible for concussion screening and possible damage claims under the proposal.

As part of the deal, college athletes will be required to take a baseline neurological test at the beginning of each year, which will help doctors monitor the effects of potential concussions during the season. Concussion education will also be required for coaches and athletes.

“We have been and will continue to be committed to student-athlete safety, which is one of the NCAA’s foundational principles,” said NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline in a statement. “Medical knowledge of concussions will continue to grow, and consensus about diagnosis, treatment and management of concussions by the medical community will continue to evolve. This agreement’s proactive measures will ensure student-athletes have access to high quality medical care by physicians with experience in the diagnosis, treatment and management of concussions.”

MONEY Saving

You’re Giving Away Money By Shopping Before This Weekend

140728_EM_Shopping_1
Getty

No fewer than 15 states offer a remarkably no-hassle way to trim a few percentage points off back-to-school purchases, most with deals starting this Friday.

Every year around this time, states host sales-tax holidays, in which the usual sales tax is waived on a wide range of purchases. In most cases, tax-free purchases are limited to back-to-school items such as computers and traditional school supplies like notebooks, protractors, and pens, but clothing, footwear, and accessories are typically on the table as well.

What’s more, the tax is waived on online purchases as well as sales in traditional brick-and-mortar stores, and there’s no actual requirement that the items being purchased are for back-to-school prep, or even for kids. It would be too hard to police any such requirement, so instead most states simply limit purchases to a flat dollar amount—for instance, any article of clothing priced at $100 or less, typically.

Let’s be honest: The savings represented by these events isn’t all that spectacular. Most participating states have sales tax rates of 4% to 6%, so that’s the extent of the savings. Big whoop, you might say. But when the tax holiday is combined with terrific sale prices—and virtually every retailer has back-to-school promotions going on right about now—the net amounts paid by shoppers can be true bargains. Why not get an extra 5% or whatever off what is already a good deal, on stuff you absolutely need to buy? To do so, all you have to do is wait a few days.

There are those who say that sales tax holidays are gimmicks for exactly the reason hinted at above. The argument is that the holidays don’t promote more spending as much as they encourage shoppers to strategically postpone spending, with no net increase in purchases whatsoever. What’s more, while sales tax holidays play well in terms of politics, critics say they are questionable at best in terms of local economic stimulus, and that they cost states and municipalities millions in much-needed revenues. States such as North Carolina have dropped their annual sales tax holiday tradition because of this argument, though shoppers did still get to take advantage of a “Better Than Tax Free” sales event at a North Carolina outlet mall last weekend.

Gimmick or not, if you need to buy any of the many, many items eligible for tax-free purchase, you might as well wait until Friday, or whenever your state has its sales tax holiday. Failure to do so is tantamount to unnecessarily paying an extra 6% or so.

Resources including Bankrate and the Federal Tax Administrators site list the basic details, and below are the states with sales tax holidays starting this weekend. Check the links for all of the fine print about what is and isn’t included in your neck of the woods.

Alabama: August 1-3, limited to $30 per book, $50 for school supplies, $100 on clothing, and $750 on computers

Florida: August 1-3, limited to school supplies of $15 or less, $100 per clothing article, and $750 for computers and accessories

Georgia: August 1-2, limited to $20 school supplies, clothing priced at $100 or less, and computers capped at $1,000

Iowa: August 1-2, limited to footwear and clothing priced up to $100

Louisiana: August 1-2, sales tax is waived on purchases of all items for personal (rather than business) use, priced up to $2,500.

Missouri: August 1-3, limited to school supplies of $50 per purchase, clothing and footwear priced up to $100 each, computer software up to $350, and computers or accessories up to $3,500

New Mexico: August 1-3, limited to school supplies up to $30 per item, clothing and footwear up to $100, computer hardware up to $500, and computers up to $1,000

Oklahoma: August 1-3, limited to clothing and footwear up to $100 per item

South Carolina: August 1-3, with sales tax exemptions for all clothing, footwear, school supplies, computers and electronics, college dorm supplies like pillows, blankets, and shower curtains, and even delivery charges on all of the above

Tennessee: August 1-3, limited to clothing, footwear, school and art supplies priced up to $100 each, as well as computers up to $1,500

Virginia: August 1-3, limited to school supplies up to $20, and clothing and footwear of $100 or less per item

And here are a few more states offering tax holidays a little later this summer:

Texas: August 8-10, limited to clothing, footwear, backpacks, and school supplies up to $100

Maryland: August 10-16, limited to clothing and footwear priced up to $100

Connecticut: August 17-23, limited to $300 on clothing and footwear

Massachusetts: Lawmakers in the Bay State have promised shoppers will get a tax-free weekend sometime in August, but they haven’t gotten around to settling on a date yet.

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