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You Shouldn't Have To Choose Between Financial Aid and Crushing Debt

If you have trouble reading the financial aid letters and awards documents that you received with your acceptance letters from colleges, you’re not alone. Colleges send vague letters with mixed messages about what it will cost to attend. One would think that colleges would write letters that inform prospective students about their financial aid offers: 1) How much they will receive in grants and scholarships each year (free money!), 2) how much they will receive in loans (money to pay back after graduation), 3) how much their parents can borrow (money that parents back in monthly installments), and 4) work/study and student employment (paid jobs on campus). After all, wouldn’t colleges want students to get their degrees and prosper?

Doesn’t look like they do.

UAspire, a nonprofit company that promotes college access and affordability, recently reviewed 11,000 financial aid award letters from 900 colleges. They found that one third of these financial aid letters didn’t define what type of money the student was to receive (loans and grants) and camouflaged parent contributions by subtracting their financial responsibility from the total cost (making it look like the parents didn’t have to pay anything!). Other letters didn’t use the words “loan” and some didn’t indicate the total cost of attending.

Yikes!

When you have super excited kids wanting to attend colleges that are out of their family’s financial comfort zone, many students accept offers before realizing the incredible debt they will face upon graduation. For the poorest families, college tuition took about 20% of their income back in 1990, but today, tuition takes about 75%. This is creating a deep divide between those who can afford college and those who can’t. Do we really want a college education for just the wealthy?

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My Baby Is Getting Her MBA!

Just returned from Chicago where Jaclyn received her MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Yes, my baby walked the stage with her class of 2018. This has been quite a whirlwind for Jaclyn as she moved to Chicago last June to join this exceptional group of MBA students. 

We had a blast as we celebrated with her Kellogg friends and family for several days.  So excited to see what marketing opportunities Jaclyn will have this September when she completes her coursework at Kellogg.

I’m so proud of the dynamic young lady that Jaclyn has become!

Law Schools No Longer Require The LSAT For Admissions

According to the American Bar Association (ABA), law schools are no longer required to use the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) to be accredited by the ABA. That doesn’t mean that you don’t need to take a standardized test to apply to law school, it simply means that law schools can choose which tests they’ll accept because they won’t be required to use the LSAT.

The College Board couldn’t be more pleased with this decision because most law schools will probably accept the GRE, which is offered by the College Board. When looking to see what tests offer the best predictor of success in law school, most find that the GRE and the LSAT result in equal predictive values.

So, if you’re law school bound, you now have options. Like high school students who can take the SAT or ACT, law school applicants who didn’t do well with the LSAT may do better with the GRE.

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Nicole's Graduation

Just celebrated Nicole's graduation from UCSF's EMS and Disaster Fellowship program.

We toured San Francisco General Hospital and the SF VA to see where she's been working over the past year. Now that she is completely done with training, she will be full-time at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center as an ER doctor. So excited that she's ready to enjoy medicine and life -- and that she's only 45 minutes from Santa Cruz! I am so proud of her!

Is The Nuclear Family Dying?

Does the nuclear family have to die for civilization to prosper?

Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, we revolutionized how we worked, whom we married, and how we raised our children.  We didn’t copy our parents – instead, we reinvented the “nuclear family” as we chased big money, questioned every parenting guru, and became super-moms and super-people. Even before the computer, internet, and virtual meetings, we jet-setted across that nation and took pride in our independence – and success.

This actually goes back to the Industrial Revolution where we automated everything from agriculture to transportation.  Bigger and faster became the motto.  We drove gas guzzlers because petroleum was cheap and abundant.  And we looked down on people who were afraid of technological advances. It was the demise of extended families as their children set off to chase get-rich schemes, and these new nuclear families used their education and resources to bridge the gaps that their families used to fill.

Now the sandwich generation is raising their babies while caring for their elderly parents in a very different world.  It’s not the 80’s when you could buy a house and make a 100% return in less than a year.  Millennials don’t have pensions and probably won’t have social security benefits by the time they retire. So raising children and paying $1,000+ per month for childcare and education without family support is a rude awakening for this new generation of families.  Then paying $6,000 per month for eldercare for each parent, is just about impossible for most Americans. Baby Boomers are retiring and with great medical care, they’re living much longer than their parents.

I’m hearing 20-somethings and 30-somethings talk about bringing back the extended family again.  The conversation usually starts when the real numbers hit them.  All of a sudden, having aunts and uncles, grandparents and even great grandparents nearby makes sense when they need help with child care, transportation, and meal prep.  Family dinners and gathering make a socially healthy environment to raise children and it takes off the tremendous burden of being a supermom who brings home the bacon, cooks it, cleans up, bathes the kids, runs errands, pays the bills and reads stories every night.  Sound familiar?

The nuclear family, like the Industrial Revolution, had its place in society. We kept improving technology and expanding our reach until we over consumed causing climate change, social injustice, and now family dynamics that are neither healthy nor sustainable.  It reminds me of a quote, “Just because we can doesn't mean we should, and just because we should doesn't mean we can.”

It’s time to look at the big picture.  Let’s get back to spending time with loved ones and living a more sustainable lifestyle.

Love To Eat Salmon?

Smoked salmon, or any kind of fresh wild salmon, is my favorite food.  Unlike the farm raised or genetically-engineered salmon that is sold in most grocery stores and fish markets, wild salmon meat is firm – not soggy – and flavorful.  Unfortunately, food scientists continue to mess with nature by genetically engineering a super salmon comprised of Atlantic salmon (farm raised), deep-water ocean eelpout, and Pacific Chinook salmon. 

So what’s wrong with this?

Their goal is to create a super salmon that grows twice as fast so they can reap profits quicker.  But the real problem is that this GE salmon has the potential to mate with endangered salmon species, outcompete the wild salmon for food and habitat, and introduce new diseases.  Beyond these issues, I’m worried about how our bodies will respond to yet another GE food that we consume.

Like all consumer issues today, our government and the FDA have been looking the other way and not considering risk assessments and allowing these practices to continue without proper oversight. 

The good news, however, is that the courts are leveling the playing field and pressing federal agencies to be accountable for omitting facts.  The FDA is now required to provide all relevant documents so the courts can decide whether or not these GE salmon should be raised and sold to people.

Let’s just hope this review is done with the intent of protecting consumers, and not corporate greed.

Is College Just For The Rich?

When I was a college student, anyone could pay for their own college education with a summer job and a Pell Grant (or scholarship).  Back then, Pell Grants covered almost 80% of the tuition.  Today, Pells only cover about 18%. 

Public colleges – you know, the ones funded by your hard earned taxes – were established to provide an equal opportunity for all students who wanted to get a college degree.  Anyone from any background could lift themselves out of poverty and into a successful career by sheer grit and determination. 

I’m worried that the divide between the haves and the have nots is going to create class wars. Socioeconomic status dictates who has more opportunities to advance themselves than race, gender, or religion do. 

When bright and eager students from low-income families don’t apply to colleges because they don’t want to start their lives in debt, that’s a big red flag in my book.  The wealthy students spend 4 years at elite campuses – I remember my father telling me that my college was like a country club! – taking classes, living in dorms, partying every night, and not worrying one bit about paying the $250,000 or more for a bachelor’s degree.

Yes, two years at a community college does reduce your college tuition by 50% but only 35% of low-income students actually transfer to a 4-year college.  When that much-sought-after bachelor’s degree is the surest way for low-income students to break out of poverty, these stats just aren’t fair.  

School Shootings

As an educator, I see school shootings differently than the polarizing NRA vs Mental Health advocates.  I work one-on-one with teens every day.  I hear about their studies, their families, their friends, and their fears.  They’re inundated with information.  Receiving over 100 texts per day, they don’t have the bandwidth to engage in conversations, dig deeper to learn more, or reach out to friends/family who need them.  Our teens are lonely.  Yes, technology interferes with healthy, and much needed, human-to-human interaction.

Today teens have the attention span of a gnat.  Seriously, if you text more than a phrase, they’re not going to read it. They won’t read magazines, newspaper, or books because they want the condensed version – no more than a paragraph-long description.  In my family, we call it the “10-second rule” – if you can’t say it in 10 seconds, don’t bother!  What’s worse, teachers only require students to write short essays, not research papers (that require extensive reading and editing), which will create a new generation of adults without the depth and breadth that we need to lead the world. 

My students tell me that they spend more time alone than they do with friends and family.  Most friends are superficial and convenient, and very few of them have true friends – the ones they can confide in.  But, these same students who are lonely have social media popularity that would make you believe that they have dozens of BFFs, hang out with friends every day, go to all of the parties, and have more fun than anyone. The sad part is that teens bottle up their disappointment in their friends, and in themselves, and don’t have a healthy outlet.

When our media glorifies these murderers (mass shooters) by posting their photos and telling their bios, they humanize the shooters.  Then other teens who share these same frustrations, fears, exile, and bullying, identify with the mass shooters.  Playing violent video games, watching gory TV shows, and even reading news clips normalizes brutal killings.  When teens don’t have real friends to talk to, sadly they won’t have friends to talk them down when they have crazy thoughts and to find other ways to deal with their pain.

Having a smartphone 24/7 is like being enveloped in cyber bubble wrap. They can’t have a conversation because it’s difficult to communicate.  They can text a few words but certainly not sentences. They can ask, “How are you?” but they really don’t have time to read or learn about anything other than “fine.” They scan the social media of choice (Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter) because it’s fast and easy.  Feeling left out – a social loser – they turn to YouTube to watch something to take their minds off of everything.

I don’t understand why anyone would need a gun intended to kill dozens of people in few seconds. Given how short-circuited individual people have become as technology reduces face-to-face interactions, I believe this is just the tip of the iceberg with mass shootings.

Let's reel back technology and let's bring back get-togethers, phone calls, and letter writing. Reach out to others and connect... then maybe we'll see more kids with empathy and less school killings. 

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Save Your Seeds!

I remember when my grandmother used to let her beans “go to seed” and dried them in a cool, dry place until the following season.  She had the best vegetables.  Her green beans were sweet and crisp.  Her tomatoes were flavorful. 

Over the past 20 years, I’ve found that the veggies we buy at Safeway and large grocery stores look beautiful but taste bland.  Monsanto has created genetically engineered fruits and vegetables that are bigger, last longer than their organic counterparts, and made rubbery to resist mold.  They have genetically engineering these plants to produce seeds that won’t grow – Yup! – to ensure that they can control all seed sales.

When I first heard this, it reminded me of “FernGully” – you know the animated children’s movie with Robin Williams about big business clear cutting all of the rainforests. But, there is hope.  The Global Seed Network has organized a program uniting seed savers to create an independent and diverse seed supply. 

Check out the Global Seed Network to see how you can share your seeds and get seeds that are favorable to your locale.  

We can beat Monsanto!  Save your seeds! Share your seeds!

Thinking About Getting An MBA? Think Again.

Considering getting an MBA?  Think again.  Many full-time MBA programs are changing the direction of their programs, and MBA grads are giving these programs low rankings. Although the international MBA programs are continuing at major universities, domestic programs are scaling back their executive MBA and MBA markets because of these 3 reasons: (1) employers are reluctant to pay higher salaries; (2) many MBA programs offer online courses; and (3) grad students are losing interest in the MBA programs. Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, and Simmons College have closed their MBA programs and that seems to be a new trend, but full-time MBA programs at the most elite colleges will continue.

Seems that grad students are preferring the master’s programs that can be completed in just 9 months and at about half the cost of an MBA.  These programs are more specialized so students can focus on finance, accounting, international business, management, marketing, economics, or business analytics.

Hmm. Sounds like you might consider avoiding more student debt in lieu of gaining specific business skills for half the cost.  Or, apply your knowledge and skills set where you’re currently working and reap the financial rewards and bonuses.

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