MONEY College

Why an Out-of-Stater May Be Taking Your Kid’s Seat at State U.

Getty Images/David McNew UCLA, like many state schools, has been increasing the number of out-of-state students to make up for reductions in funding.

Study says public universities' need for revenue and desire for reputation means they’re increasingly giving grants to wealthy, smart, out-of-staters.

State universities historically served the public good, offering a college degree to a broad swath of residents and paving a path to the middle class for low-income families.

But a paper out today from New America says the nature of state universities is changing—for the worse.

Driven by a desire for dollars and higher rankings, public colleges are increasingly using their financial awards to recruit affluent out-of-staters instead of helping needy state residents attend college, the report charges.

As a result, writes author Stephen Burd, public colleges are losing sight of their public mission.

An analysis of non-need-based aid at 424 public four-year colleges found that schools that provide large amounts of merit aid have seen a greater drop in enrollment of in-state freshmen since 2000 than colleges that don’t award much merit aid.

Those colleges also tend to enroll fewer students with Pell Grants and charge low-income students a higher average net price. (In this case, merit aid is defined as any aid that’s awarded to students who don’t meet federal guidelines for need-based financial aid.)

Burd identifies several factors driving the trend. Some colleges, especially after seeing their state allocations cut during the economic recession, need the higher tuition that out-of-state students provide to meet their bottom line.

At the University of South Carolina, for example, the state has cut its annual funding to the university by 50% since 2007. This year, out-of-state students had a sticker tuition price of $29,372, compared with $11,128 for in-state students. Offering an out-of-state student a $10,000 tuition discount still generates more tuition revenue for the university than it would get by giving that seat to a state resident.

“Now we’re becoming more like the private schools in the way we approach admissions,” said Scott Verzyl, an associate vice president for enrollment management, who was quoted in the report. “We’re more in the mode of hustling for business and trying to find new markets.”

Nonresidents now compose 45% the University of South Carolina’s freshman class—more than double what it was in 2000.

Other universities use institutional aid to recruit high-achieving students to help it climb up college rankings lists, or to offset the decline in the number of high school graduates in some parts of the country. In some states, such as Missouri, colleges started directing their aid money to high-achieving in-state students to keep them from being poached by other states, the report notes.

Competition has grown so aggressive that even small, regional universities that once filled their seats with students from a limited geographic area are feeling the pressure. “Everyone’s territory appears to be becoming everyone else’s territory, to the point that we don’t have a territory, really,” said Thomas J. Calhoun Jr., a vice president for enrollment management at the University of North Alabama, in the report. “It has created the need for us to redefine what our region is.”

Almost one in five public colleges gives merit aid to at least 20% of freshmen, and nearly half provide merit aid to at least 10% of freshmen, the analysis found.

The idea of an “aid arms race” isn’t new to higher education insiders, and the paper cites other media reports and policy studies that have examined the issue at the university level.

The problem is there’s little incentive for any one institution to unilaterally stop the practice. And so colleges have continued increasing the dollar value of their awards to meet their goals, creating a self-perpetuating cycle.

An Inside Higher Ed report on a recent analysis from Moody’s captures the pressure public universities are under: “Universities that have greater flexibility to adjust revenue, such as through tuition increases and growth in out-of-state enrollment” stand the best chance of outperforming their peers in a particularly tough higher education market.

One could argue that filling up seats with nonresidents who still pay a significant amount of tuition produces revenue that could then help subsidize the cost for low-income students.

But the New America report notes that there are concerning trends linking merit aid and low-income enrollment, even if there isn’t enough data to prove an increase in merit aid is directly responsible for freezing out low-income students.

For example, Pell Grant recipients made up about 32% of the student body at schools that provide a lot of merit aid, compared with 42% of the student body at low merit aid schools.

Likewise, at schools where merit aid is given to at least a quarter of incoming students, the freshman class is made up of about 28% out-of-state students. But at schools that don’t award much merit aid, nonresidents comprise just 10% of the freshman class.

 

MONEY financial advisers

The 3 Biggest Money Worries of First-Time Parents

first time parents
Ashley Gill—Getty Images

Good news, explains a financial planner: They're easily addressed.

Over the last 13 years I’ve worked with countless millennials preparing to embark on their journey to parenthood. First-time parents are concerned about many things, starting with feeding their newborn, keeping the little one healthy, or just sleeping through the night (for both parent and baby).

Amid the whirlwind of emotions a single parent or couple may go through leading into the birth of their first child, I’ve found that first-time parents all find themselves confronting the same three financial questions:

  1. How will we afford this baby?
  2. How will we pay for college?
  3. What if something happens to us?

As a financial adviser, I often find myself counseling first-time parent trying to process it all. The great news is that all three of these questions can be answered with a little bit of planning.

1. How will we afford this baby?
You can count on new and unexpected expenses with your little one on the way. Many of my new-parent clients have found that three of the most significant expenses in the first year are daycare, diapers, and baby food. By increasing your monthly contributions to a liquid investment savings account, you can get a head start on changing your spending habits and begin to prepare for costs you know are coming.

2. How will we pay for college?
College is getting more expensive every year. If you want to put your money to work, start saving early and take advantage of time and compound returns. A 529 college savings plan offers you 100% federal tax-free growth for qualified higher-education expenses. (State tax advantages vary from state to state and may depend on whether you are a resident of the state sponsoring the plan.) As the parent, you retain complete control of the assets. To help bolster their child’s college fund, many parents encourage family and friends to contribute to their child’s 529 plan instead of giving toys or other presents for major events like birthdays and graduations.

3. What if something happens to us?
It probably isn’t going to hit you in the first trimester, or maybe even the second, but it’s a realization so many parents reach by the time their newborn comes home to the nursery: What if something happens to us? Most new parents have never had to sit down and plan for contingencies like death. But the moment you have someone depending on you — both financially and emotionally — for the next 20-plus years, it hits you: “I need a plan.” For many, this plan has two major pieces that ultimately answer two questions:

a. Who will take care of my baby? An estate planning attorney can help you gather information and consider some important issues designed to protect your family. Through your estate plan you can dictate guardianship instructions for your baby, control over the distribution of your assets, and medical directives.
b. Who will pay all my baby’s expenses? Life insurance can provide your child, or your child’s guardian, with a lump sum payout upon your death. Term life insurance is typically the least expensive, and thus the most common, option; you pay a set amount each month over a certain number of years, and in turn are guaranteed a death benefit should you die during that term. The policy’s lump sum payout can help your beneficiaries cover the costs you would have otherwise paid.

By starting your planning early, you can set aside the extra cash you’ll need when your family’s newest addition arrives, split the college bill with your old pal “compound returns,” and prepare for the unthinkable. Once you have these pieces in place, you’ll have your mind clear to focus on what is most important — your family. (And your sleep.)

Joe O’Boyle is a financial adviser with Voya Financial Advisors. Based in Beverly Hills, Calif., O’Boyle provides personalized, full service financial and retirement planning to individual and corporate clients. O’Boyle focuses on the entertainment, legal and medical industries, with a particular interest in educating Gen Xers and Millennials about the benefits of early retirement planning.

MONEY Workplace

2015 College Grads May Not Be As Ready for the Workplace as They Think They Are

college grad
Jonathan Fernstrom—Getty Images

College students have rosy views about their chances of finding a job they like and performing well at it, but recent graduates tell a different story.

College students planning to graduate in 2015 are overwhelmingly confident in their career preparations and chances of getting hired.

Maybe it’s harsh to rain on their parade so shortly after they’ve tossed their graduation caps in the air, but surveys show new college graduates are probably viewing their professional lives through rose-colored lenses.

An online survey of about 2,000 recent college graduates shows disparities between career expectations and the reality of entry-level jobs. The survey, which included 2013, 2014, and 2015 graduates, was the third annual College Graduate Employment Survey conducted by Accenture Strategy.

Eight in 10 members of the Class of 2015 said they felt their education prepared them well for the workforce, compared with 64% of 2013 and 2014 graduates.

Perhaps most striking is that more than half of the soon-to-be graduates don’t think they’ll have trouble finding a job, even though only 12% had one lined up.

Among the older graduates in the survey, 49% said they were underemployed or were working in a job that doesn’t require a college degree.

About three-quarters of new college graduates said they expect to receive formal training in their first job, whereas only half of 2013 and 2014 graduates report having had such opportunities.

The positive outlook stretched into salary expectations, too.

Just 15% of this year’s graduates think they’ll earn $25,000 or less in their first job. But almost three times as many 2013 and 2014 graduates report a salary at or below that level.

Some of the 2015 graduates’ optimism may reflect an increased emphasis on measuring college outcomes and improving career services on campuses. Eighty-two percent of the 2015 group said they considered job availability before selecting a major, up from 75% of 2014 graduates.

The Class of 2015 also was more likely to participate in internships or apprenticeships and to pursue a degree in the science, technology, engineering or math fields. Recent graduates reported receiving more help from their college in finding job opportunities, too.

Accenture blames the discrepancy between expectations and reality on the employers.

By choosing majors in fields with robust job offerings and taking on internships, students are doing what they can to be prepared for their careers. The study suggests that employers are dropping the ball with a lack of investment in entry-level jobs.

This isn’t the only recent survey to suggest upcoming college graduates are overestimating their readiness and success in the workplace, though.

A paper published by the Association of American Colleges and Universities in January reported wide disparities in the career strengths students said they had versus what employers reported.

An online survey of 613 students that was part of that report found 65% of students were confident they’d get a job that fits their interests after graduation. And nearly three-quarters thought their college was doing a good job giving them skills they’ll need for their first professional role.

But while 59% of students said they were well prepared to apply their knowledge to the real world, just 23% of employers said so.

In fact, employers gave recent college graduates low grades in all 17 career-learning outcomes that the survey asked about. In 15 of them, the percentage of students who felt they were well prepared was at least double the percentage of employers who felt the same way.

Of course, the survey respondents aren’t a scientific sample, and so it’s possible that the students who answered the career-oriented questions were the best prepared for the demands of the workplace.

But assuming there’s some truth to the survey results, soon-to-be college graduates be advised: the honeymoon phase of your first post-college chapter may be short-lived.

To help you land that first job after graduation, follow these four tips.

Read next: Millennials Aren’t Buying Homes, But Not for the Reason You Think

MONEY Debt

Millennials Aren’t Buying Homes, but Not for the Reason You Think

couple looking at house
Troels Graugaard—Getty Images

As student debt has exploded, young consumers are taking out fewer mortgages and auto loans. But are student loans really to blame?

There’s a familiar narrative that the burden of student loans is forcing young borrowers out of the auto and housing markets, crippling their ability to take the same financial steps into adulthood as previous generations.

Think again. A new study from TransUnion says that fears about how much student loan obligations are hindering young borrowers are overblown.

The study looked at consumers aged 18 to 29 who had student loans alongside those who did not, grouped by age and credit score, then tracked their performance on other types of loans in the two years after they started paying off their student debt.

The bottom line: While student loans are way up since the end of the recession, the study found no evidence that such loans are causing young adults to stop opening credit cards, buying new cars, or applying for mortgages. Sure, today’s millennials are doing less of all three than 20- to 29-year-olds did a decade ago—but that’s true whether they’re paying off student loans or not.

According to TransUnion data, the percentage of consumers in their 20s with student debt has jumped from 32% in 2005 to 52% in 2014. The share of student loans in relation to other debt held by young consumers has skyrocketed, too, increasing from 12.9% to 36.8% over the past decade. At the same time, their share of mortgage debt dropped from 63.2% to 42.9%.

But current conventional wisdom about the ripple effect of student debt on other types of borrowing is correlation, not causation, says Charlie Wise, vice president of TransUnion’s Innovative Solutions Group and co-author of the study.

“What we’re trying to do here is cut through the hype and say, ‘what’s the reality?’” Wise says.

The study tracked groups entering repayment at three different times—2005, 2009, and 2012—in an attempt to determine whether performance differed before the recession, immediately following the recession, and more recently as the economy has recovered.

In 2005, a smaller percentage of consumers with student debt had auto loans or mortgages relative to their peers without student loans. But after two years the gap narrowed, and in the case of auto loans, disappeared.

A similar pattern exists for the 2009 and 2012 groups, suggesting that borrowing trends in which individuals with student debt catch up to their peers over a period of a few years have remained steady.

So if student loan debt isn’t causing mortgage and auto loan participation to drop, what is?

Wise points out that about 50% of people aged 18 to 29 have credit scores that qualify them as nonprime borrowers—a percentage that has also held steady since 2005. What has changed, he says, is lending standards, which became stricter in the aftermath of the recession.

The study also shows that young consumers with student debt actually performed slightly better on their new accounts than their peers without student loans.

For example, consumers who started repaying their student loans at the end of 2012 had a 60-day delinquency rate on new auto loans that was 15% lower by the end of 2014 than their peers without a student loan.

The report counters research from a year ago by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York that found home ownership rates dropped more quickly among people aged 27 to 30 who had student debts compared with those who didn’t.

But TransUnion’s findings don’t come entirely out of the blue. A recent Wall Street Journal analysis of data from LoanDepot.com found that loan applicants with student loans aren’t any more likely than those without debt to be turned down for first-time home loans.

And some economists, such as Beth Akers, a fellow at Brookings Institute’s Brown Center of Education Policy, have pointed out that lower participation in the housing market among individuals with student debt is within the historical norm.

Akers says TransUnion’s report that student debt isn’t dooming young borrowers isn’t particularly surprising. “Given the fact that financial returns on investment for higher education are positive and large, the notion that debt is harmful to students is a little puzzling,” she says.

Getting clear answers to the question of how debt affects individuals is challenging, though.

Akers points out that you can’t randomly assign debt to people, and since there are significant differences between the backgrounds and demographics of households with student debt and those without, you can’t expect their behaviors around buying homes or cars to be the same.

Student loan debt may not be overburdening young consumers on a macroeconomic level, she says, but what’s still unknown is the emotional and social cost of carrying such debt.

TransUnion’s Wise describes the study’s findings as encouraging news. For soon-to-be college graduates, there’s evidence that they can stay above water with their loans, and for lenders, there are “credit hungry” millennials who are able to keep up with payments.

Wise’s major takeaway for both groups: don’t despair.

 

More on Managing Student Debt:

The 25 Most Affordable Colleges from MONEY’s Best Colleges
Why You Might Want to Take Student Loans Before Using Up College Savings
8 Ways to Stop Student Loans From Ruining Your Life

MONEY First-Time Dad

The 3 Things All Millennial Parents Should Be Saving For

Luke Tepper

MONEY writer and first-time dad Taylor Tepper asks some financial pros for help prioritizing his competing financial goals.

No one aspect of parenting is in itself particularly difficult.

What makes it the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, however, is that one discrete task continuously leads into another and another, until you’re ground down and raw. Bedtime follows a bath, which follows dinnertime, which follows a walk, which follows a trip to the playground, which follows…which follows…which follows…

It’s exhaustion by a thousand baby steps.

Family budgeting presents a similar Sisyphean sequence. I know I should have a healthy emergency fund and contribute up to the match in my 401(k) and save for Luke’s college education. But in which order? And how am I supposed to do those things while also paying for child care, Brooklyn rent and the occasional whisky ginger?

Each financial responsibility can be fixed easily enough. In aggregate, though, it’s nearly impossible to see the forest through the trees.

One of the small advantages of reporting on personal finance, however, is that financial planners will take my calls and answer these questions for me for free. So I took advantage. What I learned may help you, too.

First: Start On Emergency Savings

“Emergency savings is about avoiding an immediate cash flow problem,” says Leesburg, Va.-based financial advisor Bonnie Sewell. “It’s the number one thing you should focus on.”

Here’s why, she explains: Without a sufficient rainy-day fund, your family is vulnerable to the vicissitudes of life (see: layoffs and car repairs and illnesses).

Now for the scariest part. Depending on your obligations and savings, and from whom you solicit advice, you should have anywhere from three to 12 months worth of expenses sitting in a bank account.

That’s madness. Between child care, rent, transportation and food, we spend at least $4,500 a month, or more than $50,000 a year. I can’t envision a world where I have $50,000 in cash, much less putting it to no use in a near-zero-rate savings account.

Pensacola, Fla. financial planner Matt Becker helped quell my panic.

He recommends tackling emergency savings in two steps: First, get about a month’s worth of expenses stowed away and then turn my attention to other priorities (see below). After I’ve found firm footing with those, I can try to build up my fund.

Next Step: Get a Start on Retirement

The next thing for me to consider is retirement.

Every expert I spoke with noted the costs of procrastinating on this one are significant. That’s because, by putting money aside for use at a later date, I’m giving up the power of compounding returns. To end up with $1 million in my 401(k) by 65, I’ll need to save almost $15,000 starting at age 30. If I wait to begin until I’m 40, I’ll need to put away around $23,500 more a year.

Of course, retirement accounts are illiquid by nature. They’re designed to reward people who wait to tap them until they’re nearing the end of their career.

Since I could also use liquid funds for things like a down payment on that house Mrs. Tepper hopes we’ll one day buy and savings for the college degree we hope Luke will one day get, Sewell says I should contribute up to my employer match and deploy the rest as follows…

Third: Set a Course for College

After I’m set up on retirement, Luke’s college savings comes into focus.

Everyone tells me to fund a 529, which allows me to invest tax-free so long as the money is used for higher education. I can also get a break on my state taxes. (Check out this article to see if you get a break on yours.)

As Melville, NY financial planner James J. Burns points out, every little bit I contribute for Luke’s college will go a long way.

For example, let’s assume that I contribute $200 a month and enjoy an average annual return of 8%. After 16 years, I’ll have amassed more than $73,000.

“That’s pretty darn good,” says Burns, who estimates that will go along way toward paying for two years of in-state tuition by the time Luke goes off to school.

Of course there’s a reason the 529 comes after retirement. “You can borrow money for college,” says Burns. “You can’t borrow money for retirement.”

Last: Grow Some Liquid Savings

Burns also recommends going over my budget annually, seeing if I can’t find more to save. If I do, I can divide that money between my emergency fund, retirement, Luke’s 529 and a taxable account through a portfolio of broadly diversified, low-cost funds for the house and our other goals.

Now that I’ve heard from the experts, I’m willing to take a more holistic approach as they suggested—patiently building up our anemic rainy day fund, contributing as much to our retirement accounts as we can afford, and making incremental additions to Luke’s college account. Whenever we earn a raise or unburden a significant cost like child care, we’ll judiciously target those extra dollars into the different buckets that will fund our lives.

But we’ll also set aside money for vacations and a few fancy dinners, even if that money could be leveraged elsewhere. The universe may be infinite, but our lives are short, and I intend to relish the occasional whisky ginger without pangs of guilt.

More From the First-Time Dad:

MONEY consumer psychology

The Simple Mind Trick That Will Boost Your Savings in No Time

mirage calendar
Howard Sokol—Getty Images

If you think about how many years you have to reach long-term savings goals, it's easy to procrastinate. A simple tweak to your thinking will get you started saving much sooner.

Human nature being what it is, probably the best strategy to ensure you’ll sock money away and achieve long-term savings goals is to involve your fickle, easily distracted brain as little as possible. As renowned economist Richard Thaler explained in a recent Q&A with MONEY, it’s very difficult for humans to control our impulses, and therefore the wisest approach to saving is to remove it as a choice. Invariably in our lives, stuff comes up, and if it’s an option, we’ll find more pressing and seemingly good uses for money other than incrementally trying to hit goals that won’t be realities for decades.

“Here’s a model of saving for retirement that’s guaranteed to fail: Decide at the end of every month how much you want to save. You’ll have spent a lot of the money by then,” Thaler said. “Instead, the way to really save is to put the money away in a 401(k) even before you get it, via a payroll deduction.”

A new study published by Psychological Science has other insights about how to boost savings. In this instance, the trick isn’t turning your brain off but tweaking the way you think about savings goals. The gist is that you must think about the future as now, rather than, well, way off in the future. And the way to go about this is to consider deadlines for your goals in terms of days rather than years.

“The simplified message that we learned in these studies is if the future doesn’t feel imminent, then, even if it’s important, people won’t start working on their goals,” said Daphna Oyserman, co-author of the study and co-director of the USC Dornsife Mind and Society Center. “If you see it as ‘today’ rather than on your calendar for sometime in the future, you’re not going to put it off.”

In one part of the study, hundreds of participants were asked about when they would start saving for their (theoretical) newborn child’s college education. Some were told they had 18 years to reach this goal, while others heard their deadline would arrive in 6,570 days. These are the exact same amounts of time, yet the people who thought about the deadline in terms of days said they would start saving four times sooner than those who considered the event in years. A similar experiment concerning retirement savings yielded equally compelling results, indicating that thinking in days makes goals seem more imminent—and kicks people into action much, much sooner.

The takeaways don’t apply just to savings, but to sidestepping procrastination in order to reach goals at work or school as well. Tricking yourself into thinking about goals in terms of days rather than years, Oyserman said, “may be useful to anyone needing to save for retirement or their children’s college, to start working on a term paper or dissertation, pretty much anyone with long-term goals or wanting to support someone who has such goals.”

Read next: How a Bowl of Cashews Changed the Way You Save for Retirement

MONEY deals

This Week’s Best Deals: Cheapest China Trip, Free Target Gift Card

Chinese Ethnic Culture Park and Olympic Stadium, Beijing, China
José Fuste Raga—agefotostock Chinese Ethnic Culture Park and Olympic Stadium, Beijing, China

A special promotion brings a seven-night package to Beijing and Shanghai down to the lowest price we've seen in years. Or stay put and score a free $20 gift card at Target, or a (mostly) free desktop calendar from Walgreens.

Here are our top choices for bargains this week:

It Pays to Do Back-to-School Shopping Early

It’s just about time to start thinking about all the necessities your college-bound student will need before heading off for some higher learning, and Target is making it easier on your wallet. The first 50,000 people to create an online college registry with Target worth $500 or more before May 16 will receive a free $20 Target gift card. (It will be mailed to you within three weeks.) Plus, the next time a family member asks how they can help out, you can just direct them to the registry. Any way you can save money for college will help!

A Freebie That’s Ideal for Father’s Day

Another fantastic freebie this week comes from Walgreens. Normally this personalized desktop calendar costs $9.99, but coupon code “TOPOFDESK” cuts it to $0. Unfortunately you’ll have to shell out $5.95 for shipping, but that’s exceptionally cheap for a custom-made calendar. Mother’s Day has passed, but consider loading up some pictures for a nice Father’s Day treat. Deal ends May 13.

A Lot of Luxury at a Little Price

It’s rare for luxury brands to offer steep discounts, which is why this clearance sale from Cole Haan is so juicy. Predominantly known for high-end leather goods, the store is taking an extra 40% off both men’s and women’s clearance shoes, handbags, and accessories via coupon code “EXTRA40.” That’s the best discount we’ve seen from Cole Haan this year, knocking many items to exceptionally low prices. We recommend stocking up on some quintessential ballet flats while the shopping is hot. Deal ends May 13.

The Cheapest Way to Visit China

Smart travelers know that in order to save mucho dinero on a trip, you have to be flexible with your vacation dates. Case in point: If you don’t mind waiting until January 2016 to embark on this Beijing and Shanghai 7-night vacation package for two people, then you’ll pay only $2,198 total, which is the best price we’ve seen for anyweek-long Chinese vacation. You’ll save up to $1,580, which is no small chunk of change. The trip includes round-trip airfare from the U.S., hotels in Beijing and Shanghai, flights between the two cities, meals, and sightseeing tours, so it’s perfect for a traveler who gets overwhelmed by choice. Book this travel deal by May 27.

Amazing bargains pop up at any given moment, so consider signing up for a daily email digest from DealNews to have the best offers sent directly to your inbox.

MONEY College

Unsolicited Advice for the Class of 2015

150508_EM_AdviceforGrads
Dorann Weber—Getty Images

Tips for graduates about to enter the workplace.

More than a million people will be awarded a bachelor’s degree in the next month.

Congratulations!

Not that you asked, but a few words of advice…

If a company didn’t hire you because your SAT scores weren’t good enough, don’t feel bad. Be relieved. A company that short-sighted is probably a miserable place to work anyway.

Once you’re hired, no one cares what school you went to. They care about: Whether you’re pleasant to work with, whether you’re good at your job, and whether you make them feel good about themselves (in that order).

Be totally honest in job interviews. Embrace reality if you’re not a good fit.

Don’t feel bad changing careers. The odds that you have your life figured out at age 22 are barely higher than at age 18.

Get comfortable with the idea that some of what you were taught in school doesn’t apply to the real world. You’ll have to unlearn some things.

A long commute will ruin your life. There are only so many good podcasts that can support your sanity through rush hour.

A strict office dress code is your first sign that things are about to suck.

People get accustomed to their income, but the misery of an awful workplace and long hours are enduring.

Don’t suck up to your boss. They can smell your insincerity from a mile away. Impress them with good work.

Realize that a pound of emotional intelligence is worth a ton of book intelligence.

Say “I don’t know” when you don’t know.

Live in a big city at least once, and not one you grew up in.

Realize that some things you’re certain are true are either wrong or incomplete.

Realize that your youth is the biggest investment asset you have. You probably have 40 years in front of you to invest. Warren Buffett couldn’t dream about that kind of advantage.

Change your mind when the facts change.

Avoid people who don’t.

You’re under no obligation to have an opinion about anything.

You have a strict obligation to not have an opinion about things you don’t understand.

Get over the idea that because you’re done with college, you’re done learning. You’ve barely begun.

Make a budget. Stick to it.

Don’t complain about your student loans. You took them out. Nothing you can do about it now. Figure out the most practical way to pay them off as soon as possible.

Learn Excel. I don’t know why more schools don’t emphasize this. You’ll use it in most jobs, and it will make your life easier.

Read books. I love Twitter as much as anyone, but some topics take length to explain.

Don’t argue politics. With anyone. It’s a waste of energy. The odds that you’ll change someone else’s mind are the same that they will change yours.

Realize that rational people can disagree.

Don’t make big decisions when you’re emotional. The odds that you’ll regret them approach 100%.

Realize that everyone’s point of view is a product of the people they’ve met and the experiences they’ve had in life, most of which are outside of their control. This includes yourself.

Good luck.

For more:

MONEY College

One Easy Fix That Could Make College Financial Aid Simpler and Better

students on Yale campus
Mark Daffey—Getty Images/Lonely Planet Image

Allowing families to use older tax information when applying for financial aid would give them an earlier idea of how much they'll have to pay for college.

Everybody knows you don’t tell the salesman you’ll take the car before you negotiate the price. Now the nation’s college financial aid officers are saying it’s just as dumb for high school seniors to have to pick the colleges they want to apply to before they know how much aid they’ll get.

In a new paper, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators says students and families would be much better off if the federal government allowed them to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) the September their child starts senior year in high school instead of having to wait until January.

Applying for aid earlier would dramatically reduce the anxiety families face during college application season, because they would know how much aid they qualify for—and therefore have a better idea of what schools they could afford—earlier in the application process, NASFAA said. Current students would have more time to plan for the next school year too.

Moving up the deadline would also make filling out the FAFSA form much easier, since most families have filed their taxes by September and thus could use the FAFSA’s IRS Data Retrieval Tool to automatically fill in many fields with financial information from their tax returns. As it stands now, when families start the FAFSA in January they often haven’t even begun preparing their taxes for the prior year, which is the year on which the financial aid forms are based.

The change “stands to revolutionize the FAFSA application process and along with it the effectiveness of financial aid and admissions processes for institutions,” according to the administrators’ association.

The report is significant in that it represents the views of not only financial aid professionals, but also admissions officers, state grant agencies, and college access programs. Even before this paper, the proposal had widespread support. Forty-five organizations, ranging from student associations to major university lobbying groups, signed a memo in December lobbying for it.

So what’s stopping this great idea?

The two usual suspects: politics and money.

Only Congress can move the date that the FAFSA is released from January to September. And Congress hasn’t embraced the idea because lawmakers are afraid it will a lot of cost money, in part because making things easier for students will mean that more students apply for aid.

In a paper earlier this year, Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, estimated costs ranging from $6 billion to $13 billion over 10 years. Kelchen said his estimates are based on financial aid data from nine colleges.

Currently lawmakers are working to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, and proposals to simplify the FAFSA have been a major part of that discussion.

But NASFAA doesn’t think there’s a need to wait. The Department of Education has the authority to change the FAFSA process to let families use older tax information. That wouldn’t change the timeline to apply—applications would still become available in January—but it would make filling them out simpler, since families could use completed tax information. Education Department officials have indicated they support the idea generally but need more information about the cost.

Some experts have expressed concern about basing a student’s financial aid for each fall on their family income of two years prior. For example, a rising high school senior would fill out the FAFSA with information about his family’s income from 2014 in order to qualify for financial aid when he starts college in the fall of 2016. (Washington, D.C., wonks have dubbed the idea “prior-prior year” or PPY).

A layoff or an economic downturn can cause significant and sudden changes in a family’s need for aid that would be missed if the aid application only looks at two-year-old financial circumstances, says Barmak Nassirian, director of federal relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

“What would have happened if we had PPY in 2008?” Nassirian asks.

“I’m not against it,” Nassirian adds, “I’m just pointing out that it’s not a no-brainer. It has a predictable down side that we should at least talk about.”

NASFAA officials, however, say aid offices can handle appeals based on sudden changes, known as “professional judgment reviews,” especially if the timeline is moved up to give offices more time to process applications.

Megan McClean, director of policy and federal relations at NASFAA, notes that in a previous study, the organization looked at financial information of Pell Grant recipients between 2007 and 2012, and even with the recession, it found minimal fluctuations in income over two-year periods.

Even then, Nassirian describes it as an “operational failure” to use old data instead of current income information. The amount a family should be able to contribute to college costs is determined by income, assets, household size and number of children in college. Most of that information is already collected every year by the federal government, and can be easily accessed and transferred with today’s technology.

A real solution, Nassirian says, would be eliminating the FAFSA altogether. Instead, he says, people could use their tax return as their financial aid application.

Read next: 7 Legal Ways to Squeeze More College Aid From the FAFSA

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