Posted on May 5, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |


In working with families of college bound students, the issue of “paying for college” will eventually enter the conversation, sometimes before the list of potential Universities is developed, and sometimes after acceptance letters and Student Aid Reports have been received. Financial consultants familiar with the college funding process will immediately look at specific areas of the family’s finances to see whether they are able to save the family money on true out of pocket expenses. Typical of these potential savings areas are cash flow savings, tax savings (use of tax credits), income and asset shifting to take advantage of the student’s low or zero tax rate, and private scholarships or additional Merit Aid from the University. However, none of these mention possibly the most important and potentially largest financial saving of all, the student’s future earnings potential. 


The United States and the entire developed world are going through a transformation that promises to impact our economy much like the Industrial Revolution and the Post World War II infrastructure build out. There is little doubt that this will cause tremendous growth in the need for certain skills and, likewise, a decline in labor needs for other sectors of our economy. As an admissions or financial counselor hired to help your prospective University student, am I giving you the best advice I can if I ignore the idea of helping your child graduate in the minimum timeframe with a degree or certification for a 21st century skill in a 21st century growth area? Have I done a better job if I save you $20,000 over a four year period or if place your child at a school where four years later he or she will graduate with skills that give them a chance to receive an entry level job that pays them $10,000-$15,000 a year more than those that graduate with a liberal arts degree and no direction.  


It is not the purpose of this article to delve into the emerging growth areas and the areas of decline. That has been done for us. The fellow who has done it for us happens to be President Obama and he has communicated it on many occasions in both the campaign and especially the first 100 days of his administration. Just last Sunday he went into it in depth in an interview in the New York Times.  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/03/magazine/03Obama-t.html?_r=3&pagewanted=2&8dpc


 Obama’s most telling words in this interview are “but somehow we have not done a good job of matching up the training with the need out there. And that’s one of the things where government can help, help to guide and steer our education process in a way that meets future needs and not just the needs of the past.” This certainly sounds to me like an indictment of our educational system and what our Universities are teaching. And I do not put it past this President to force some major changes. Hint—think science, math and engineering and your future should be bright. 


The argument for and against a liberal arts education as opposed to a specific skill based education will go on. However, it seems to me to be a time where information is SCREAMING out at you to pursue an education leading to a degree that will allow you to have an edge in specific careers. Helping the student choose a major or course of study based on his or her interests and in a growth area and, at the same time finding a school that is appealing geographically and in size and more importantly has a good reputation in your area of interest, must be a part of the admission process. It is incumbent upon admission counselors to stay abreast of changes and additions in the curriculum of all schools as our country proceeds to develop the new and rebuild the old in energy, healthcare, education, and infrastructure.  


Richard Borin is a Registered Investment Advisor and a Certified College Planning Specialist. He specializes in Wealth Management, Retirement Plans and Educational Saving Plans. He can be reached through email at richard@college-connections.com or richard@borinasset.com


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