Does studying for the ACT or SAT pay?

Does studying for the ACT or SAT pay? It does at least when merit money is being considered. Colleges use many factors in determining whether a student will be accepted – geography, gender, strength of curriculum, GPA, race, community service, leadership opportunities.

High SAT or ACT can mean more free money.

Colleges use these same factors to then determine merit money for accepted students. Scores are probably the simplest — and most visual — measure to understand what colleges value. The chart to the left shows the breakdown at one ‘very selective’ southern college of ACT scores and what appears to be a sliding scale of merit money awarded to 6 different students. Students submitted ACT scores and received a range of merit amounts. The range of money attached to specific scores (SAT or ACT) for each college will vary. For this particular college, the cut-off seems to be a score of 31. For another less selective college, the cut-off would be lower, maybe a 28. For more selective colleges, the cut-off might be a 34. Bringing the score up a point or two might make the difference between a college being affordable for a family or not affordable.

The College That Fits Your Child: Pasadena Seminar 10/2/18

Looking to find the college that best fits your child or to obtain free money?  We will show you how to find schools that are the right fit as we walk you through the admissions process.  Learn about merit money opportunities and what you can do to better your child’s chances of receiving this free money, regardless of whether your child is a top student or an average student.

Understand why starting the college early can offer significant advantages. This seminar class is particularly important if your student is at the top of the class, has learning differences, is an athlete, or is average. See what it takes to get into an Ivy and why your child may be rejected from the school you considered to be a “safety” school.

2018 was a year of significant change, Standardized testing has changed, admissions have become more competitive than ever, and a new “Coalition” application is being used by some colleges. In addition, the financial aid application process has undergone recent changes that require planning in the freshman year of high school.

Parents who are separated, divorced, or never married will learn what they should know about financial aid. Dr. Lee Ann Cornell has spent years working in this field and has a wide breadth of knowledge on this subject and a staff of recognized experts to help your child achieve their dreams.

Immigrant parents or parents whose children will be the first in their family to attend college will find this class very helpful.  You will learn the subtleties of the college process and develop an understanding of how your child may be at a disadvantage at some schools and have advantages at others.

Dr. Lee Ann Cornell manages the California practice of College Solutions. She brings ten years of admission experience from several colleges. Dr. Cornell understands exactly how to position a student in the admission process. She specializes in essay brainstorming and editing, as well as application mapping.

March Madness is Choosing a College

March is a month for nail-biters – fans on edge with basketball madness and high school seniors anxiously waiting to hear from colleges. Choosing a college is a big decision, one that impacts the next four years of a student’s life and a lot of money, typically $120,000 for an in-state public college or close to $270,000 for an out-of-state or private college.

When researching colleges, families may not ask one of the most important questions – what percentage of students graduate in four years? If it takes longer than four years to graduate, that’s more than four years of tuition. One college that lost early in the tournament has a great four-year graduation rate – University of Virginia with a four-year graduation rate of 86%. Compare that with Georgia State’s rate at 21%.

Another important question is what percentage of students return for the second year? This statistic is called retention rate, and there’s a 20-point difference this year in retention rates of the colleges in the tournament! University of Virginia, University of Michigan and Duke all boast retention rates of 98% versus UNC-Greensboro’s lower 77% retention rate.

Nationwide 27% of students do not return for year two. When students transfer, not all their credits are likely to transfer, thus adding to the cost of that college diploma. No one wants to pay for an extra semester or year of college at these prices.

So, remember choosing a college to attend is not the same as choosing your favorite March Madness pick.

2018 March Madness PDF

4 Year Graduation Rates?

National Merit Scholarship: What Are the Chances?

For all the talk and obsession with National Merit, students may be better off studying more diligently, selecting more challenging curricula, or looking for more (or larger) scholarships than focusing on what the National Merit Scholarship (NMS) organization ultimately offers.

 

All PSAT test takers in junior year of high school are automatically considered for National Merit Scholarships. Students with the highest scores on the PSAT are recognized each year with the offer of a scholarship.

 

Students must earn a specific score to earn Semifinalist status (designated by the 99th percentile for test takers in that state). To determine who qualifies for National Merit, NMSC (National Merit Scholarship Corporation) adds the Math, Reading, and Writing section scores, which each fall between 8 and 38, and then multiplies that sum by 2. Thus, the NMSC Selection Index ranges from 48 to 228. The difference in cutoffs from state to state is tremendous. Semifinalist students then submit applications, must take the SAT and are considered for Finalist status.

 

Sampling of cutoffs for Class of 2018:

 

(Highest cutoff scores- DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA and NEW JERSEY)                     223

CALIFORNIA                                                                                                                         222

MASSACHUSETTS                                                                                                              222

VIRGINIA                                                                                                                               222

NORTH CAROLINA                                                                                                            219

 (Lowest cut-off scores- WEST VIRGINIA and WYOMING)                                   212

 

Half of National Merit Finalists are offered a National Merit scholarship, decided by a NMSC committee and based on academic achievement. Of course, every bit of aid counts, but the cash part of these benefits aren’t as plentiful as families might think. NMSC and sponsoring corporations and colleges offer scholarships to about 8,700 students. That is .5% of the 1.6 million PSAT test takers last year – and .04% (one twenty-fifth of a percent) of the 20 million high school graduates who entered college last fall.  Many students across the country don’t take the PSAT, and as the criteria is the PSAT score, these students are not considered.

 

NMSC offers the following scholarships:

  1. National Merit scholarships – 2,500 of these one-time $2,500 awarded in March (of student senior year). Selected by committee, all Finalists are automatically considered for these scholarships.
  2. Corporate-sponsored scholarships – 2,200 renewable scholarships awarded in March. The money amounts vary in size (up to $10,000) but are designated almost solely for children of those corporations.
  3. College-sponsored scholarships – 180 colleges offer multiple four-year renewable scholarships, from $500 to full tuition, most of them in the $400-$2,000 range. These are awarded starting May 1, and recipients must be National Merit Finalists to be considered. Students have to indicate their top college choice, and, if selected, will receive the scholarship from only that college. These are not transferrable to any other college. (See list of colleges that offer full-ride scholarships at the end of this article.)

For these college-sponsored scholarships, Finalist selection occurs in February of a student’s senior year and final scholarship recipients are identified after that.  If a student receives a National Merit Scholarship, the timing is such that the offer might occur after the college application process is over and the student has already accepted admission at a different college.

 

Students have control over their grades, involvement, and essays, and those factors will be much more relevant in the admissions process than the National Merit designation – or most likely the amount of money attached to it.

 

 

COLLEGES THAT OFFER NATIONAL MERIT FULL TUITION OR FULL-RIDE SCHOLARSHIPS:

ALABAMA

University of Alabama
NMSF Award: Full Tuition (NMSF + 3.5 GPA required)
NMF Award: Full tuition (up to 5 years) + 1 year housing + $3,500/year + $2,000 expenses + iPad
National Merit and National Achievement Scholarships – Undergraduate Scholarships – The University of Alabama

University of Alabama – Huntsville
NMSF Award: Full Tuition + fees + $500/year book stipend
NMF Award: Full Ride
UAH – Financial Aid – Entering Freshmen – General Information

University of Alabama – Birmingham
NMF Award: Full Tuition + fees + one year of housing + $3,500 annual stipend + $2,000 summer research or study abroad + iPad
http://scholarships.ua.edu/nationalscholars/

Faulkner University
NMSF Award: Full Tuition
NMF Award: Full tuition + fees + room & board
Faulkner University – Scholarships

Oakwood University
NMF Award: Full tuition + room
NMSF Award: Full Tuition
http://www.oakwood.edu/images/zfiles/enrollment/admission-forms/Academic%20Scholarships.pdf

Troy University
NMF Award: Full tuition + room & board
http://admissions.troy.edu/undergraduate/troy-scholarships.html

ALASKA

University of Alaska – Anchorage
NMF Award: Full tuition + $1,000/yr stipend
National Merit Tuition Waiver Scholarship

ARIZONA

University of Arizona
NMF Award: Full tuition + ($30,000/year + iPad + $1,500 expenses)
2013-2014 Terms and Conditions | financialaid.arizona.edu

ARKANSAS

Harding University 
NMF/NMSF Award: Full tuition
Harding University – Admissions – Scholarships

University of Arkansas – Monticello
NMF Award: Full tuition + fees + room & board stipend
University of Arkansas at Monticello

CALIFORNIA

Pacific Union College
NMF Award: Full tuition
NMSF Award: Half tuition
https://www.puc.edu/admissions/finance

FLORIDA

Florida A&M
NMF Award: Full tuition + $2000/year books/stipend + laptop
http://www.famu.edu/index.cfm?UniversityScholarships&Life-Gets-BetterScholarship
Note: Must major in Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Engineering, Environmental Science, Mathematics, or Physics

Florida College
NMF/NMSF Award: Full tuition
http://www.floridacollege.edu/admissions/financial-aid/scholarships/academic-scholarships/

Florida International University
NMF Award: Full tuition + fees + room & board
http:/;/admissions.fiu.edu/costs-and-aid/scholarships/index.html

University of Central Florida
NMF Award: Full tuition + laptop + guaranteed housing
https://admissions.ucf.edu/files/2012/09/NatMerit_2013.pdf

Lynn University
NMF Award: Full tuition
National Merit Scholarship ? Lynn University, Boca Raton, Florida

IDAHO

University of Idaho
NMF Award: Full Tuition + Fees + Room & Board
National Merit Scholars-Financial Aid & Scholarships-University of Idaho

INDIANA

University of Evansville
NMF Award: Full Tuition
NMSF Award: $20,000/year (approximately 2/3 tuition)
Freshmen Merit Scholarships for Fall 2014 – Tuition and Aid – University of Evansville

KANSAS

Fort Hays State University
NMF Award: Full tuition + fees + room & board + books
NMSF Award: Full tuition + fees + room & board + books
Opportunities for High-Achieving Students – Fort Hays State University

Wichita State University
NMF Award: $20,000/year for non-residents, $12,000/year residents. Can be applied to tuition, room & board, and fees.
http://webs.wichita.edu/?u=merit_scholarships&p=/National_merit/

KENTUCKY

University of Kentucky
Award: Full tuition + fees + room & board + $1,000 annual stipend + iPad 2 + $2,000 summer abroad program
Academic Scholarships for Freshmen | UK Student Financial Aid and Scholarships

LOUISIANA

Louisiana Tech University
NMF Award: Full tuition + fees + room & board + $5,000 bonus award (laptop, study abroad, or 5th year of study)
http://admissions.latech.edu/tuition_fees/pdfs/freshman_scholarships.pdf

MARYLAND

Washington Adventist University
NMF Award: Full tuition
NMSF Award: 3/4 Tuition
http://www.wau.edu/component/content/article/25-financial-planning/58-scholarships

MICHIGAN

Andrews University 
NMF Award: Full tuition
http://www.andrews.edu/future/financing/scholarships/index.html

MINNESOTA

University of Minnesota – Morris
NMF Award: Full tuition
NMSF Award: Up to $4,000 over four years
University of Minnesota, Morris | Admissions | Scholarships

MISSISSIPPI

Mississippi State University
NMF Award: Full tuition, fees, books, and room
NSMF Award: Full tuition, fees, and books
Academic Scholarships for Entering Freshmen – Scholarships || Office of Admissions and Scholarships || Mississippi State University

University of Southern Mississippi
NMF Award: Full tuition + fees + room & board + books + $4,000 study abroad stipend
NMSF Award: Full tuition + fees
Freshman Scholarships | The University of Southern Mississippi

University of Mississippi
NMF Award: Full tuition + room
NMSF Award: Full tuition + room
The University of Mississippi ? Office of Financial Aid

NEBRASKA

University of Nebraska
NMF Award: Full tuition + $2,000/year
Chancellor’s Scholarships | Scholarships & Financial Aid | University of Nebraska?Lincoln

NEVADA

University of Nevada – Las Vegas
NMF Award: Full Tuition + Study Abroad
President’s Scholarship | Financial Aid & Scholarships | University of Nevada, Las Vegas

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Rivier University
NMF Award: Full tuition + room & board
http://www.rivier.edu/admissions.aspx?menu=98&id=1119&act=1118

NEW JERSEY

New Jersey Institute of Technology
NMF Award: Full tuition + fees + room & board
NJIT: Financial Aid: NJIT – Merit-based awards

NEW YORK

Roberts Wesleyan College
NMF Award: Full tuition
https://www.roberts.edu/undergraduate/tuition-and-aid/grants-scholarships/academic-scholarships.aspx

NORTH CAROLINA

North Carolina Central University
NMF/NMSF Award: In-state tuition + room & board + books + $500/semester stipend + internships + laptop
http://www.nccu.edu/formsdocs/proxy.cfm?file_id=2382

NORTH DAKOTA

North Dakota State University
NMF Award: Full tuition
http://www.ndsu.edu/admission/freshmen_scholarships/other_scholarship_programs/

OKLAHOMA

University of Oklahoma
NMF Award: Full tuition + fees + room & board + stipend
http://www.ou.edu/content/go2/nationalmerit/benefits.html
Oklahoma City University
NMF Award: Full tuition
http://www.okcu.edu/admissions/freshmen/starscholars/ – merit

Oklahoma Christian University
NMF Award: Full tuition + fees + room & board
Academic Merit Scholarships*| Oklahoma Christian University

Oklahoma Wesleyan University
NMF Award: Full tuition
NMSF Award: Half tuition
http://www.okwu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/FA-Traditional-student-aid.pdf

PENNSYLVANIA

Drexel University
NMF Award: Full tuition
http://drexel.edu/drexelcentral/finaid/grants/special-interest-scholarships/

TENNESSEE

Lipscomb University
NMF Award: Full tuition + fees (note: 10 students per year also will receive room & board)
NMSF Award: Full tuition
http://admissions.lipscomb.edu/financialaid/scholarships/

Bryan College
NMF/NMSF Award: Full tuition
National Merit Scholar Recognition Program

TEXAS

Abilene Christian University
NMF Award: Full tuition
ACU Scholarships

Baylor University
NMF Award: Full tuition
Baylor University | Texas Undergraduate University Admissions, Texas University Undergraduate programs at accredited Baylor University || Freshmen Academic Scholarships for 2014-2015

Lubbock Christian University
NMF Award: Full tuition
NMSF Award: $2,000/year
LCU: Major LCU Scholarships

University of Houston
NMF Award: Full tuition + fees + room & board + $3,000 annual stipend
National Merit Scholarship

University of Texas – Arlington
NMF Award: Full tuition + fees + room
http://wweb.uta.edu/aao/fao/content/scholarships/

University of Texas – Dallas
NMF Award: Full tuition + fees + $8,000/year stipend + $2,000 study abroad funds
National Merit Scholarships – Office of Undergraduate Education – The University of Texas at Dallas

University of Texas –Tyler
NMF Award: Full tuition + fees + room & board + books
NMSF Award: Full tuition + fees + books
https://www.uttyler.edu/scholarships/new-freshman-student.php

University of North Texas
NMF Award: Full tuition + fees + room & board + books
UNT Meritorious Scholarship for National Merit Finalists | Student Financial Aid and Scholarships

VIRGINIA

Liberty University
NMF: Full tuition + room & board
NMSF: Full tuition
National Merit Scholarship – Liberty University

WASHINGTON

Washington State University
NMF/NMSF Award: Full tuition
National Merit Scholarship – Admissions – Washington State University

WEST VIRGINIA

Alderson-Broaddus College
NMF Award: Full tuition
Alderson- Broaddus Scholarships | Alderson Broaddus University

New Tax Code will Impact Alimony

 

Of the changes in the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), one major one is the elimination of the deduction for alimony for the payor spouse in divorce agreements executed after December 31, 2018. These provisions could have a significant impact on divorces currently in process and will certainly change the landscape for all future divorces. The new rule won’t affect anyone already paying alimony. In addition, the payee spouse will no longer have to include alimony as income.  These changes to the individual income tax are scheduled to expire at the end of 2025 (referred to as the provision’s sunset), if they are not changed by a new law before then.

Some of the effects from these alimony changes are not readily determinable. Oftentimes ex-spouses who receive alimony have been able to negotiate increased payments because that payment will reduce the tax liability of the ex-spouse paying the alimony.  So, will the elimination of the alimony tax deduction now reduce the bargaining power of the ex-spouse receiving the alimony payments? The idea behind providing an above-the-line deduction to those paying alimony was that it made sense to shift the income tax liability from the (generally) higher income payor spouse to the lower income payee spouse. Divorce experts worry the change will make negotiations tougher and lead to less spousal support as cash goes to taxes instead.

Why did the government change this part of the code?  Although payor spouses do, in most cases, claim a deduction for alimony paid, many payee spouses did not actually report the alimony payments in gross income as was required by the law, leading to millions of dollars escaping tax.

Because this new provision is set to sunset at the end of 2025, it’s unclear what could happen to the agreements that are executed during the seven years that the alimony deduction is eliminated.  Will there be an opportunity for parties to go back to the negotiating table? And how will judges handle matrimonial cases in light of the new law?

Given the generally contentious nature of alimony agreements, as well as costs involved, this may not be practical, thereby resulting in headaches for many. Parties should engage a tax professional to help decipher the tax consequences. Every divorce agreement, prenuptial agreement and post-nuptial agreement should address the consequences of the new law, be completed (i.e., executed) prior to 12/31/18 if that is preferable, and contemplate the possible change and sunset of the provision.

Written by Alan T. Huberman, CPA, MST a Partner at BlumShapiro. Alan specializes in assisting individuals and businesses with complex tax situations.

ahuberman@blumshapiro.com

Direct 617.658.5220

How The New Tax Plan Could Hurt Graduate Students

The new tax law introduced by the House Republicans could have a negative impact on universities, graduate students and individuals with student loans.

The way the current law works, the graduate student receives tuition waivers in exchange for teaching classes or doing research.  The money is paid directly from the university on behalf of the graduate student by the university and is not counted as income or subject to income tax on the students annual tax returns.

Under the new bill, the money that is paid for tuition for the benefit of the graduate student would be counted as income and subject to income taxes on the student’s tax return.  Basically, the student would be paying taxes on money they never receive.

As these students work towards Ph. D’s or towards their graduate degree the university typically pays them a stipend in exchange for their work in research and as a teaching assistant. This stipend is treated as taxable income currently and in the new House tax bill.

There are many schools speaking out on this as they are concerned about how this House bill will impact students and faculty.  Making higher education more costly for students may reduce the long term benefits of investing in graduate students.

There is also talk of eliminating the student loan interest deduction.  Currently individuals making less than $80,000 and paying back student loans are able to deduct up to $2,500 of student loan interest paid.

Another benefit in jeopardy of being taken away from students and their employers is tax free education assistance.  In the new proposal, if an employer pays for an employee’s education directly to the university or otherwise, the student will be required to pick this amount up as taxable income.

At this point we shall wait and see how it plays out.

Jill Treeful, CPA

TREEFUL DAMASO ANICETO, INC.

phone: 781-449-3346

website http://www.tdacpas.com/

Finding the College That Fits Your Child: Lexington Seminar 9/26

Looking to find the college that best fits your child or to obtain free money?  We will show you how to find schools that are the right fit as we walk you through the admissions process.  Learn about merit money opportunities and what you can do to better your child’s chances of receiving this free money, regardless of whether your child is a top student or an average student.

Understand why starting the college early can offer significant advantages. This seminar class is particularly important if your student is at the top of the class, has learning differences, is an athlete, or is average. See what it takes to get into an Ivy and why your child may be rejected from the school you considered to be a “safety” school.

2016 was a year of significant change, Standardized testing has changed, admissions have become more competitive than ever, and a new “Coalition” application is being used by some colleges. In addition, the financial aid application process has undergone recent changes that require planning in the freshman year of high school.critical-thinkings-is-key-in-college

Parents who are separated, divorced, or never married will learn what they should know about financial aid. Larry Dannenberg has spent years working in this field and has a wide breadth of knowledge on this subject. He wrote the chapter on financial aid in the “Financial aspects of divorce” for the MCLE and lectures on the subject at numerous financial planning groups.

Immigrant parents or parents whose children will be the first in their family to attend college will find this class very helpful.  You will learn the subtleties of the college process and develop an understanding of how your child may be at a disadvantage at some schools and have advantages at others.

Larry Dannenberg, founder of College Solutions, is a professional college placement counselor with a deep understanding of the financial aid process.  College Solutions prides itself on a record of over 15 years of successful service in college placement and financial aid.

Register at Lexington Community Education
The $25 tuition is for two adults in the household. 146 Maple Street, Lexington, MA 02421 | tel: 781 862 8043 | info@lexingtoncommunityed.org

The seminar is being offered twice in upcoming weeks — on September 26th from 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM at Lexington High School.

 

Studying for the SAT or ACT does Pay!

If you’re wondering whether studying for the ACT or SAT that extra little bit matters, it might – at least when merit money is being considered. Colleges use many factors in determining whether a student will be accepted – geography, gender, strength of curriculum, GPA, race, community service, leadership opportunities. Colleges use these same factors to then determine merit money for accepted
students. Scores are probably the simplest — and most visual — measure to understand what colleges value.

SAT or ACT Studying Pays

The chart to the below shows the breakdown at one ‘very selective’ southern college of ACT scores and what appears to be a sliding scale of merit money awarded to 6 different students. Students submitted ACT scores and received a range of merit amounts. The range of money attached to specific scores (SAT or ACT) for each college will vary. For this particular college, the cut-off seems to be a score of 31. For another less selective college, the cut-off would be lower, maybe a 28. For more selective colleges, the cut-off might be a 34. Bringing the score up a point or two might make the difference between a college being affordable for a family or not affordable.

ACT Score Merit Money
35 $32,000
35 $32,000
35 $30,000
34 $32,000
31 $5,000
31 $0

March Madness is Choosing a College

March is a month for nail-biters – fans on edge with basketball madness and high school seniors anxiously waiting to hear from colleges. Choosing a college is a big decision, one that impacts the next four years of a student’s life and a lot of money, typically $120,000 for an in-state public college or close to $260,000 for an out-of-state or private college.

When researching colleges, families may not ask some of the most important questions – What percentage of students graduate in four years? If it takes longer than four years to graduate, that’s more than four years of tuition. UNC has a four-year graduation rate of 76% vs. Oregon with a 44% rate. Some of the other colleges that lost earlier in the tournament had even better four-year graduation rates. Bucknell’s four-year graduation rate is 86%.

Another important question is What percentage of students return for the second year? This statistic is called retention rate, and there’s a 10-point difference this year in retention rates of the colleges in the final four! Nationwide 27% of students do not return for year two. When students transfer, not all their credits are likely to transfer, thus adding to the cost of that college diploma. No one wants to pay for an extra semester or year of college at these prices.

So, remember choosing a college to attend is not the same as choosing your favorite March Madness pick.

March Madness 2017 vs College Selection

Don’t let basketball be your college guide 
            
If you are looking to ‘score’ the right college, basing your choices on March Madness picks may not be the wisest choice. Typically, families focus on the annual cost of attendance, but the price of the diploma is really the issue.

Nationally only 55% of students who start college receive a diploma by the end of six years. A college’s four-year graduation rate is critical to consider when selecting a college or you may be looking at colleges costs for five or six years, not just four. At colleges that have co-op programs, the five-year graduation rate should be your guide.

Research the percentage of students returning for their second year (called the retention rate). Twenty-seven percent of freshmen transfer or drop out each year in the US. As part of your research, find the retention rate for the schools you are considering and ask why students do not return.

You should look at all the numbers when considering a college, just as you do when completing your brackets for March Madness.

Click here or on the image below for retention rates and 4-year college costs for March Madness teams.

march-madness-bracket 2017 PDF Bracket

See College Solutions founder, Larry Dannenberg, on Fox 25 News.