College Planning Specialists

November 15, 2007

San Francisco Bay Area: One of the Highest Quality Education Centers in the Universe

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The quality and quantity of educational institutions in the Bay Area are two of the driving factors for many home buyers in today’s Real Estate market. With the recent college loan scandal hitting the front pages all over the country, a renewed emphasis is being placed upon real estate agents to act as valuable sources of information during the home buying process.

Agents in the Bay Area are becoming “experts” on school systems, high schools, colleges, & universities within the areas they are selling real estate. The following is a reminder of the Bay Area’s quality educational opportunities at the university & high school levels:

*Stanford University: Palo Alto, California–Stanford University has long been considered one of the elite educational institutions in the United States. Stanford’s proud tradition places it on the same level as the best Ivy League schools. The Stanford blog is a great resource for incoming students. Some of Stanford’s academic credentials (National Rankings) as provided by US News & World Report:

Law school rank #3 ; Business school rank #2

Engineering rank #2 ; Biological Science rank #1

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Courtesy www.wikipedia.org

*University of California at Berkeley: Berkeley, California–Another titan in the scholastic world, U.C. Berkeley has long been considered one of the preimenent breeding grounds for future legal and business professionals. With a long history of social and political activism the university is a unique institution. The following are national rankings provided by US News & World Report:

Law school rank #8 ; Business school rank #8 ; Engineering school rank #3

Sciences (Biological) rank #2 ; Psychology (Clinical) rank #2

*University of San Francisco: San Francisco, California–USF is one of the highest ranked medical institutions in the country. USF is a cutting edge leader in medical research. US News & World Report national rankings for USF:

Medical Research rank #5 ; Primary Care rank #8 ; Internal Medicine rank #3

Drug & Alcohol rank #3 ; AIDS Research rank #1 ; Women’s Health rank #2

The Bay Area is also home to Santa Clara University; Saint Mary’s; San Francisco State University; San Jose State; and a rich Junior College system numbering 22 campuses throughout the region.

The region supports a vast number of outstanding college preparatory high schools. The following is a small sampling:

*The Branson School: Ross, California–Branson is considered one of the finest prep schools in the nation; tuition weighs in at $28,575 making it one of the most expensive high schools as well.

*University High School: San Francisco, California–University High School established in 1973 has a well earned reputation as a supreme academic prep school. Tuition is in the Branson range, $27,300, and so is it’s reputation for excellence.

*Bentley School: Lafayette, California–Bentley is a progressive institution with split campuses. One campus is for grade school level and junior high students; the high school prep level students reside on another campus. Tuition for grade 9-12 is $22,995.

Although this is a tiny sampling, it is representative of the quality of education that is attainable at the prep school and the university levels in the Bay Area. Consult your local Realtor for more information about the schools available in your community of choice.

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October 18, 2007

College Planning Specialists: What the Nation’s 6 Largest Student Loan Providers Do NOT Want You To Know

In my last article, I began the process of throughly outlining what is one of the most overlooked yet greatest methods of financing a college education: College Planning Specialists. In previous months I have reported on the banking scandal that rocked University of Texas and other large institutions. This scandal involved the use of kick backs and illegal perks or payments made to large university student loan counselors. The trade off being those university officials would “steer” students and families into a loan program, from the kickback inducing bank, that was detrimental to the family.

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In June of this year, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo of New York outlined and implemented a Code of Conduct plan for the 6 largest student loan lenders. Cuomo’s plan includes the following 7 provisions:

1. Ban on Financial Ties. Lenders are prohibited from giving anything of value to any college in exchange for any advantage sought by the lender. This severs any inappropriate financial arrangements between lenders and schools and specifically prohibits “revenue sharing” arrangements.

2. Ban on Payments for Preferred Lender Status. Lenders may not pay or give colleges any financial benefits whatsoever to get on a college’s preferred lender list.

3. Gift and Trip Prohibition. Lenders are prohibited from giving college employees anything of more than nominal value. This includes a prohibition on trips for financial aid officers and other college officials paid for by lenders.

4. Advisory Board Rules. Lenders are prohibited from paying college employees anything of value for serving on the advisory boards of the lenders.

5. Call-Center and Staffing Prohibition. Lenders must ensure that employees of lenders never identify themselves to students as employees of colleges. No employee of a lender may ever work in or providing staffing assistance to a college financial aid office.

6. Disclosure of Range of Rates and Defaults. Lenders must disclose to any requesting school the range of rates they charge to students at the school, the number of borrowers at each rate at the school, and the lender’s historic default rate at the school. This will ensure that schools will have the information they need to select preferred lenders who are best for students and their families.

7. Loan Resale Disclosure. Lenders shall fully and prominently disclose to students and their parents any agreements they have to sell loans to any other lender.

Look at these provisions carefully. Would you want to collaborate or become a customer of an organization that is being reprimanded for provisions 2 and 3. Essentially these are rules against kickbacks. Does it not make sense to search for an alternative to the stratospheric, exorbitant costs of college tuition loans?

What would you rather have as your plan to finance a student’s education: a high interest rate and long term loan that creates financial unrest for your family for years or a financial plan that allows you to take advantage of the millions of dollars of government financial aid that goes untapped every year?

Stay tuned as the series about College Planning Specialists continues with a closer look at the services and value they provide.

October 17, 2007

STOP Servitude to Banks Providing Tuition Financing: College Planning Specialists’ Plan to Break the Loan Cycle

In today’s world of financing for a college education, the awesome and frightening reality for many students and parents are the lack of solid tuition financing alternatives. The main method of paying for an education., outside full athletic scholarships or parents who can afford to pay without discomfort, are student loans through fiance companies bent on creating an interest rate bonaza to your detriment.

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In step with the high interest rates and never ending loan pay off dates is the fact that college tuitions are simply a rip off. There is very little competition or what analysits call downward pressure on college tuition pricing. In a good example of this problem, Paul Streitz’s article “The Great American College Tuition Rip Off” outlines how parents and students push for higher education at the best colleges. This demand is manipulated by those colleges that receive the highest rankings from the US News and World Reports. US News and World Reports rankings have long been a respected measuring stick to parents and students helping them identify the best institutions.

Streitz posits that without tuition price competition from equally rated universities, and with demand escalating, universities will continue to raise tuitions. These cost increases are not caused by spiraling administration costs, professor salaries, or any cost of doing business factors. Instead the true explanation is simple: universities can and do raise tuition fee because students and parents are willing to pay the costs without question.

How do students receive academic scholarships when their parents economic standing disqualifies them from aid? And how do parents whose main assets are in property and whose income is just enough to keep their household afloat help pay for their student’s educations? Is it possible to “requalify” these families in such a way as to make them eligible for financial aid after all? The answer to the last question is a resounding YES!

Right now is the right time to look for alternatives to the traditional loan rip offs. Now is the time to investigate and engage with a new method to pay for college. Now is the time to contact College Planning Specialists.

College Planning Specialists provides a number of valuable services which in whole bring a new alternative to the traditional problem of qualifying for financial aid. The professionals at CPS Dan Evertsz and Gerna Benz provide expert analysis and an action plan that helps non qualifying (financial aid) families qualify under aid guidelines.

CPS’s Service Checklist is comprised of 24 action steps when implemented have a positive effect on qualifying a family for the millions of dollars, that go unused each year, of financial aid available. The first step is to outline a complete financial overview and analysis of a family’s assets as they relate to college as well as their budget. Analysis of the family budget, taxes, retirement and other areas of financial management gives a clear picture as to the best steps to take.

During this analysis, CPS will calculate the family’s Estimated Family Contribution (EFC). This form is a way to calculate how much a family must pay outside of the financial aid package that they qualify to receive. It is CPS job to help families understand this process, do the calculations for the family, and most valuable-provide a plan/and or recommendations to reduce the Estimated Family Contribution.

Why worry about the EFC when most families do not qualify for financial aid due to their economic standing? In many many cases Dan and Gerna have been able to find avenues for families to qualify for financial aid. Almost all of these families never thought they would qualify, never knew where to go to investigate these alternatives, and have nothing to lose by going through the College Planning Specialists consultations.

For more information please contact this blog or stay tuned for the Part 2 in my series: Stop Servitude to Banks. . .

October 11, 2007

College Students Preparing for Work Life: “Consulting” (Entrepreneurial Career) Can Be Lucrative And Absurd

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Courtesy of www.pendotech.com

You have spent the majority of your life learning, preparing, and fretting over the next step: work life aka “real world.” In that time you have concentrated your studies on a major-minor core curriculum. While you were performing your best work, you kept an eye on your eventual job prospects. Summertime was for internships and making business connections so that your transition from college life could be a smooth and rapid one. Finally you girded yourself for the possibilities that you will have to look long and hard for the job and career you want.

After all of this preparation, I bet nobody informed you about the world of “consulting.” It is entrepreneurial and it’s main requirement is that you have “expertise” in a specific field. This knowledge and your ability to bring this knowledge forward in a manner that is instructive are the major necessities to becoming a consultant-and hanging out your own shingle.

Now the fun part. The following story is true and it was reported in the October 11, 2007 San Francisco Chronicle “Bay Area” section of the paper-the headline reads:

Berkeley:

“LAW SCHOOL DROPS BOALT, $25,000

“Officials at UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law spent nearly $25,000 on a branding consultant to help them give the school a new name: ‘UC Berkely School of Law.’ . . . “Dean Christopher Edley Jr. said the money was-spent because people will now understand that the law school is tied to UC Berkeley.”

HUH? WAH? You mean to tell me one of the preeminent academic officials in one of the most respected universities in the world deemed it necessary to hire a “consultant” to formulate that brand name? How utterly absurd is the thought that all of this brainpower at the disposal of UC Berkeley through administrators, professors, and students was never tapped?

Analysis:

Why didn’t the UC Berkeley brains behind this branding move simply poll their professors, adminstration, alumni, and current students? Why not open it up as if it was a “Branding” contest: Winner receives a $10,000 grant?

Instead Marshall Strategy Inc. was handed a $200,000 contract to “design the school’s magazine, Web site and brochures for fundraising and student recruiting.” Within this $200 “large” was the $25k fee for the “name.”

Even more disturbing is the fact that UC Berkeley has allowed a wonderful opportunity in public relations and recruiting slip through it’s fingers. How great a tool would it be for the university to have tasked it’s Business school and Law school with the jobs of branding, media brochure materials, publicity, and marketing?

Why not give the consulting contract to it’s own students? Why not keep the money in-house? Why not use this type of project as a senior thesis which could provide real world experience a graduate could point to when interviewing for a position?

Finally why not bring the component of blogging into the picture? Blogging or citizen journalism would be a wonderful course that every business school should, unfortunately administration does not get it, provide in it’s curriculum.

Incredulous is the idea that anyone with half a brain could have come up with this “branded” moniker. What is wrong with this picture besides the fact that it must make every UC Berkeley student wonder where their hard earned tuition fees are being spent?

So there you have it in a nutshell. Consulting is a business and it is lucrative. It does not necessarily require brains or even expertise. It requires the skill of being able to sell even the most absurd idea to the smartest people without those smart people pushing back your idea.

Go forth and conquer! Young consultants unite and prosper.

August 14, 2007

10 Alternative Methods To Cut College Costs

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The incredible costs of a college education has every parent and student concerned for their future plans. The following is a list of 10 methods to cut college costs. The list is provided by www.bankrate.com and it could provide help to those people looking for any room to breathe.

1. Get College Credit in High School: Students can take AP college credited classes, with the help of a knowledgeable counselor, which will help to cut down on the number of courses need to graduate from college. Most AP courses are paid for by the high schools so as not to deter students from enrolling.

2. Junior Colleges: If you can convince your student, spending the first year or two in college at a JC is a huge cost savings. In many cases, students have yet to declare a major. In these cases, general education requirements can be fulfilled at a JC. The cost savings in tuition, books, supplies, housing, food, and travel may give a student and parent a head start on costs for graduate tuitions.

3. Cash in on Tax Credits: “What students need to know is that there’s the Hope and the Lifetime Learning tax credits,” says Joseph M. Re, author of “Financial Aid Financer: Expert Answers to College Financing Questions.”

“If you play those right, you can pick up $7,000 from Uncle Sam (over a four-year period) to pay for college. The Hope credit provides a $1,500 tax credit for each student for the first two years of college, as long as you are the one paying for college — rather than the federal government or private financial aid. (Parents who claim the student as a dependent on their tax return would be eligible for the credit.) The key to taking advantage of this credit, Re says, is to plan ahead and be aware of the stipulations.”

4. Rewards for Public Service: Some organizations like Americorps, the Peace Corps and Teach for America all offer educational service awards to students seeking cash for college.

5. Work for the College: According to Susan Hall her job with the University of Richmond (VA) comes with the “school’s tuition remission program which allows her, her spouse, and any of her dependents to attend the university for free, provided that they have the grades and test scores to make it into the school.” The benefits are obvious.

6. Pay Lower Out of State Tuition: Due to the complexity of this strategy, I am quoting www.bankrate.com :

“Get an out-of-state education, pay an in-state price. That’s the beauty of the Academic Common Market. Designed for students who can’t find their desired program of study in-state, the Academic Common Market allows students from any of the 16 member states to enroll in an institution in another member state without footing an out-of-state tuition bill. Reciprocity agreements such as the Academic Common Market, the National Student Exchange, and the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (which allows students to attend out-of-state public schools in member states at 150 percent the cost of in-state public school tuition or offers a ten percent discount at out-of-state private schools in member states) are some of the best-kept secrets of the financial aid world. If you’ve got your eye on an esoteric program of study (18th century French architecture?) or are set on a certain out-of-state school, taking advantage of a reciprocity agreement can save you money.”

7. Refinance Your Home: The home is normally the greatest asset a parent can count on for quick cash. A cash out refinance can provide the majority of funds needed to get a student through to their degree.

8. Qualify Student as “Independent”: “If you qualify as an independent and your income is very low, you probably would be eligible for a Pell grant which would be for $4,100 and you would probably be eligible for an FSEOG grant which would be another $4,000,” says Joseph Re. An independent student therefore would have a much easier time qualifying for grant monies than a family with an income in excess of $50,000 per year.

* Consult your tax accountant or attorney on all of the strategies outlined here but especially this one.

9. Attend a “Work College” : Work Colleges allow a student to work a part time job at the university between 10-20 hours per week. The becomes an employee of the college and as such earn a sizable reduction in tuition costs. Check out the Work College Consortium.

10. Establish Residency in the State of your College choice: “If you really want to pay in-state prices, the best way to do that is simply to live in-state before you enroll in school. To establish residency, independent students or families (when students are dependent) must show proof of living in state for at least one year prior to enrolling in school. Remember to throughly check and investigate the requirements of each state/college in regards to residency. Check out The College Board’s Web site.

 

August 1, 2007

University Charter Academy High School of Oakland Forced to Close Under Avalanche of Pressure

Filed under: Colleges,High Schools,SAT Testing,Scandal — deansguide @ 1:59 am

In a follow up story to the controversy and questions surrounding Oakland’s University Charter Academy high school, the governing board for the school voted 3-1 to close the school down. The vote, amid allegations of cheating on test scores, manipulation of student grades and transcript, and fraudulent collection of state funding, sealed the fate of the troubled institution.

Now deposed founder Isaac Haqq had no comment to this latest announcement. Haqq’s resignation on July 12 fueled the storm of controversy that Uprep was never able to overcome.

In a previous notice, Oakland Unified School officials threatened to repeal the school’s charter if the Uprep governing board didn’t fix a avalanche of problems which included violations of California’s public meeting laws.

For further information regarding high school or college financing contact Dean Guadagni at ddguad@aol.com

How Previlent are College Scholarship Scams?

College tuition costs have been running out of control for decades, as students and parents search for answers to how they will finance an education. The sheer desperation of this problem has spawned a growing concern amongst families: the college scholarship scam. The Federal Trade Commission along with the Department of Education have been attempting to police this growing problem. Part of their program is to raise awareness of the scams, what to look for in a scam, and how to avoid these predators.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), any good “huckster” worth his sleezy salt will tryout the following lines in order to get into your pocketbook:

* “You can’t get this information anywhere else!”

* “Your a finalist”. . . in a contest you never entered

* “We will do all the work”

* “I just need your credit card number or bank account number to hold this scholarship”

* “The scholarship will cost some money”

* “You have been selected by a ‘national foundation’ to received a scholarship”

* “The Scholarship is guaranteed or your money back”

If you or your family decide to attend a seminar on college financing or scholarships be aware of the following steps which may help you from making a big mistake:

* “Do a background investigation, via Google and other search engines, on the company providing scholarship help. Interview a financial adviser or guidance counselor. You may be able to get the same help for free.

*Take your time at the seminar, don’t rush to sign a contract on the spot, and remember that “great opportunities” are those that are not sold on a rakish pressurized basis. *

*Be wary of “success stories” or testimonials of extraordinary success. Stories related at a seminar are just unsubstantiated rumors. Ask for a list of at least three local families who’ve used the services in the last year.

* Do not purchase from salespeople who are unwilling or vague when answering your questions. If it feels funny and sounds funny it most likely is not right.

*Ask the cost of the service, the types of services performed, and the company’s refund policy. If this information is NOT in writing it is worthless to you the consumer.

The FTC recommends that parents consult a Certified Public Accountant before agreeing to any “scholarship” or group which claims to help students receive scholarship monies. Their preferred company is College Parents of America at http://www.collegeparents.org.

If you have any questions please contact either Dan Evertsz or Dean Guadagni at dean_guadagni@yahoo.com

July 23, 2007

“Doctored Grades Scandal”: University Preparatory Charter Accused of Transcript Tampering!

Filed under: Colleges,High Schools,Preparing for College,Scandal — deansguide @ 7:38 pm

University Preparatory Charter Academy of East Oakland, California has been charged with falsifying student grades and tampering with the transcripts of five students in an effort to “give them a leg up in college.” According to insidebayarea.com: “The founder and director(Isaac Haqq) of an East Oakland charter school has resigned amid mounting evidence of cheating, falsifying course credits and other unethical conduct.”

According to the San Francisco Chronicle: “Haqq, a former Pasadena city councilman known in the early 1990’s as Isaac Richard, suggested in a letter that racism was at play in the accusations.” Haqq is quoted in the article as saying “Historically, successful people of color must periodically challenge those who call that success into question. . . It has been that way for a long time. Unfortunately, not much has changed.”

The Chronicle’s retort to this assertion is that the accusations are backed by college transcripts, for five students in the class of 2007, supporting the accusations which were brought forward by University Prep teachers themselves.

An example of the fraud was outlined by Bob Martel a math teacher who was fired from the school in May after alerting the state Department of Education. “A student gets a D in math. On the report card, both the grade and the name of the course are changed. Go to the transcript, and it’s all A’s and B’s. That’s the fraud.”

Make no mistake about it-University Prep is big business. With an enrollment of 475 students, the school received $3,000,000 in public funds. To this date University Prep Charter is under investigation by the California Department of Education.

July 21, 2007

A P Coursework Controversy: “Facts and Data vs Critical Thinking Skills”

Filed under: AP Courses,Colleges,High Schools,Preparing for College — deansguide @ 7:20 pm

In the article “A.P. Classes: Are These Courses as Important as Your Guidance Counselor Claims?”, I outlined some of the unforeseen detrimental effects upon a student’s ability to gain entrance into a top flight university. As a result of this report, I was challenged by some authorities for playing the “grades game” and not emphasizing the positive growth factor that A.P. courses bring to a student’s development.

As a follow up to this initial article, I found another perspective from a San Francisco based independent admissions adviser Joanne Levy-Prewitt. Joanne’s experiences and thoughts were outlined in her February 19, 2007 piece for Deseret News of Salt Lake City, Utah.

The questions about A.P. courses abound. Are AP courses “meant to replace college courses and provide college credit?” It seems that these courses are designed to move at a faster pace, cover more materials, and teach much tougher concepts and ideas. But Joanne asks a great question: “. . . is it the goal of advanced coursework to ask students to think deeper and more analytically about the subject?”

In my own experiences the answer to the last question is that students are asked to think deeper and more analytically about the coursework. On the other hand, Joanne’s experiences have been different and bare strong consideration:

“I’ve heard students and parents complain that college-level courses emphasize facts and data, and that ambitious syllabi leave little time to teach critical thinking skills such as reasoning, analyzing, comparing or critiquing. If that’s true, especially in light of Sadler and Tai’s research into AP science classes, other than impressing admissions offices, I wonder about the benefits of AP and IB classes.”

Consequently there are many variables and motivations for taking AP coursework. The positive effects have long been documented. Yet like most things in life, each individual student may have different results. Nothing is uniform. As Mathew L Tabor points out:

. . . any challenge is interpreted differently by each stakeholder in the educational process.”

If you have any questions beyond the comment area, please feel free to contact Dean Guadagni at ddguad@aol.com Thank you!


June 12, 2007

A.P. Classes: Are These Courses as Important as Your Guidance Counselor Claims?

Filed under: Colleges,High Schools — deansguide @ 11:42 pm

AP courses, the most advanced college prep classes available at the high school level, may have unforeseen detrimental effects upon a student’s ability to gain entrance into a top flight university. Often thought of as invaluable tools in the quest to impress discerning university admissions officers, AP classes are being evaluated differently by high schools than they are by universities.

The biggest pitfall remains the over scheduling of AP courses during a high school students curriculum. The majority of intelligent high school kids can and do excel in college level AP courses. The problems arise when students take 3-4-5 AP courses during a particular semester. More often than not one of these classes is far too difficult for the student; consequently the student dedicates huge chunks of time to one course. This time disparity usually leads to suffering grades in all a student’s course work.

Unfortunately or fortunately, depending upon your point of view, grades remain the driving force behind college admissions. The real catch and pitfall is that MOST colleges do not accept “weight” GPA’s when considering a student for admission. The high school gives added credit for difficulty but the colleges do not consider the difficulty level of AP course work when factoring in GPA for admissions according to Ron Caruthers of College Planning Specialists.

Caruthers goes on to state that high school admissions councilors are telling only half the truth when they advise their students to load up on AP course work. High schools do weight AP course grades much higher than normal high school classes; often an AP course “B” grade is counted as an “A” by many high schools. Unfortunately colleges count all grades equally meaning an “A” is an “A” and a “B” is a “B.”

Caruthers states that the reason for this disparity is that “most high schools are ranked by the number of students taking AP courses. . . ” consequently it is to the high schools’ advantage to push students to take AP courses regardless of the effects it may have on those students.

What is the right answer in regards to AP course work for your student? As a rule of thumb, have a student take as many AP courses as they can without hurting their GPA. It is a tough call as AP courses have benefits, challenging curriculum-time management-higher expectations, but remember that in the college admissions game-GPA is king.

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