Contributed by: Lewis J. Walker, CFP®
Planning for higher education expenses looms large for those with potentially collegebound children. Ditto for college graduates and adults seeking postgraduate education and skill upgrades. A May 2017 article in Delta Sky magazine, “Higher Education in the Fast Lane,” by Leah Ingram, noted trends offering “a better education more efficiently and affordably.”
Some institutions offer 5-year simultaneous baccalaureate/master’s degree programs highlighting the cost efficiency of earning two degrees in compressed time frames. Some schools allow undergraduates to begin taking graduate courses at a discounted undergraduate tuition rate. If teaching is a goal, if you arrive with a master’s degree often you start at a higher salary than those with only a bachelor’s degree. For those pursuing science, technology, engineering, and science (STEM) fields, entering the workforce with a master’s degree is a leg up!
Equipping students to be more competitive in a tight job market is promising. Notes Ingram, “High Point University (North Carolina) teaches business students not just how to sell products, but how to brand and sell themselves to future employers.” Fortune 500 companies that once only visited expensive Ivy League schools now come to High Point.
Institutions in Atlanta and elsewhere offer executive education non-degree programs designed to upgrade skills and burnish resumes. Many executive education certificate programs incorporate executive coaching into the mix.
Another trend is a 2-year program at community colleges geared to a transfer to a 4-year public college or university or private institution. Termed “articulation agreements,” courses are mapped at the community college for a seamless approach that provides credit at the institution the student ultimately will attend.
While not mentioned in Sky magazine, ex-military members have valuable education benefits under the Montgomery GI Bill and Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. Yours truly used the GI Bill to help finance a M.B.A. degree at Northwestern University, grateful for the educational rewards that applaud service to our country. The GI bill is not “financial aid” in the traditional sense as it is paid directly to the student, not the school. Schools may require one to sign a promissory note or apply for student loans to pay upfront. The student applies GI Bill payments to the loans. GI Bill payments are not taxable but may reduce the amount of student aid one receives. Nevertheless, the student is eligible for student loans, scholarships, and Pell Grants along with the GI Bill. There are varying time frames for one to use GI benefits after separation from active service. Check current regulations.
Coaching college-bound students beforehand is catching on. The Gallup organization, a leader in strengths-based coaching, notes that students expect that their education will equip them for a better life. Yet only 39% of college grads are engaged at work, and only 11% are thriving in all five elements of well-being. Could this be why Millennials are noted for job-hopping? Two-thirds of recent graduates with high student loan debt say their education was not worth the cost.
Over 600 schools work with Gallup and Gallup trained coaches to discover their natural talents and how to transition those talents into strengths with focused knowledge and skills training. How many students change majors, take more than 4 years to graduate, graduate with a major in a field they no longer wish to pursue, or just drop out? As advisors, we talk to frustrated parents who feel that expensive education dollars were suboptimal. Various assessments and advance coaching can help students play to their individual strengths and unique abilities, not someone else’s notion as to what’s best for them.
Data from the New York Federal Reserve Bank indicated that student loan debt passed the $1.31 trillion mark in 2016. Delinquency and default rates are creeping up. Graduates are living at home in greater numbers. Many delay marriage, family formation, and home buying, impacting economic growth rates.
Just as parents and students wish to use financial capital wisely in pursuing education, applying human capital dollars to develop career readiness skills leads to higher levels of overall success and life satisfaction. Gallup has found that only 22% of employees in the average company are truly engaged in their job. Many are just showing up and 51% can be tempted to change jobs. Employers have a dog in the fight for purposeful engagement. Coaching, before and post-graduation, makes a difference in meaningful educational and career experiences, with potentially higher earnings as a bonus!
Engagement...the new measure of meaning!
Lewis Walker is a financial planning and investment strategist at Capital Insight Group; 770-441-2603. Securities and advisory services offered through The Strategic Financial Alliance, Inc. (SFA). Lewis Walker is a registered representative and investment adviser representative of SFA which is otherwise unaffiliated with Capital Insight Group. Lewis Walker is a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach.