Paying for College

Smart college shoppers take timely action and get help when needed



For many college-bound students, it's the end of their junior year. If they (and their parents) don't know the answers to some critical questions about college, or they aren't comfortable with their answers, maybe it's time to get some help. After all, preparing for college, finding the right college, and making sure the family doesn't go broke paying for college are among the most complex and important issues they will face in their lifetimes.
What are these questions and how do smart college shoppers answer them in their quest to discover outstanding educational values? They ask:
1. Am I ready for college? Have I done all that's needed to prepare myself academically?
2. Have I matched my academic interests with at least five colleges I want to attend so I know in detail why these schools are the right ones for me?
3. Am I (and is my family) prepared financially to attend these particular colleges?
4. Have I formed a team with my parents and/or others to help me address these and other tough questions about what I need to do before, during and after college?

Better ask the questions now. Recently, I received a phone call from some distraught parents. They needed help because they have over $200,000 in undergraduate college debt they incurred getting their child through a pricey university. From my perspective, it's a bit like calling firemen to a home that's already ablaze. The real problems started over four years ago when they selected a school they simply couldn't afford. The choices you make now will have consequences – sometimes negative ones that can last for years.

To experience more positive outcomes, many families form a team to identify a few schools and determine what's needed to get admitted. That's a good start. But too often they don't get much further because the team is incomplete or dominated by one person. Sometimes the dominator is a parent whose done all the leg work. Sometimes it's the student whose gathered information and has presented a fait accompli ... "Mom, Dad, I've worked hard. I've researched several colleges, and I've decided I want to go to New York University. My heart's set on it." Unfortunately, Mom and Dad's pocketbook isn't quite "set on it."

Too often, the right answers aren't forthcoming because the team fails to ask the right questions. They'd do well to seek the help of an objective third party who is knowledgeable about the entire process of getting ready for and succeeding in college, one who at the very least can be an objective arbitrator. They need someone who can determine the right questions because he or she has taken the time to get to know the family, to understand their strengths and weaknesses, who can find viable college choices for the student from both an academic and financial perspective, who can help them select the best value, as well as figure out how to pay for a great education without descending into back-breaking debt.

Nor does this process stop once the student is admitted. College is a huge investment and sometimes the family needs help making sure their investment in a college education is being protected and maximized. Sometimes the college is not delivering on its promise. Sometimes the student isn't performing at a high standard. Sometimes the student's interests change. What's the appropriate response? For instance, one of every three students will transfer to another college. How do you maximize the move?

Where do parents and students get help to answer these and countless other questions? High school guidance counselors are often a good start. Many are very capable. Unfortunately many are overwhelmed by numbers: too many students and too little time to provide meaningful assistance.

Another possibility are financial planners. Even better, if possible find one living near you who is also a "certified college planner." But do your homework before selecting one. Most are expert about only a part of the process. They may know the admissions and financial aid standards at some schools, or have some accounting and/or tax expertise. That's good but recognize you may need more than one person. And don't expect miracles if you are looking for help at the eleventh hour. So start early. Find some help and form a strong team. Identify all the members you need, and then go shopping for a great education – the smart way.


Dr. Ronstadt is a former vice president of Boston University. He consults with parents and students about selecting and paying for college. You can contact him at 267-7349 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Finn's Garage - Take care of your toys (581)

The story is as old as the automobile itself. Spring has sprung in the Lakes Region, and my clients are taking their cars out of winter storage. It's a perennial event, dusting off the cars and hitting the road for the maiden voyage.

It was just this week, that I encountered the second of two annual visits. I will share with you the story of two Mustangs, one of Ford's most enduring marks, and a "summer toy" for many automotive enthusiasts.

Customer A, owns a mid-'90s Mustang convertible, a triple black V8 5-speed car. Not a six-figure collectible; howeverl he treats it as such. Since purchasing this vehicle from me at the garage, he has treated it like a treasured possession. It comes to me every fall for a thorough detailing and a proper winterization prior to storage. We then take the trip to the storage place (heated, of course) and park her for the next five to six months. When weather allows, the call comes in, scheduling a pickup date, and we go to the storage facility, dust it off, check the fluids, tire pressures and reconnect the battery. A turn of the key, he's off and running. This is how most of my customers are with their cars, whether antique, classic or more modern special interest.

However, there are a select few, we will call them Customer type B. I just had B's car in my shop. He didn't call last year, he called this week, car is in his own garage. The battery is dead, car is filthy, and he can't find the registration stickers. We get the car to my shop. It was truly parked one day late last fall, just before snowfall. It has not been touched since. It's covered in dirt and sand, and on top of it, the interior is covered in mildew. Now, this is a newer, more modern Mustang, special edition, one of just a couple hundred produced. It deserves a much better life than it is living. The under house garage is a high moisture environment, and the lack of a proper dehumidifier caused the mildew to make a home on the leather interior.

Owner A is a preventative maintenance owner. Owner B is a reactionary owner. Owner A spent a fair amount to ensure his car was left in great shape, and ready to go in the spring. Owner B just got a bill higher than owner A, simply because it's much more work to get the car back to proper shape than it is to keep one in tip top condition.

The moral of the story is simple. If we keep our cars in top condition along the way, we will enjoy many miles of happy motoring! Keep this in mind if you are also taking your summer toys out of storage. Take the time to do the basics, check all fluids, check your battery, make sure tires are properly inflated. Once you have the basics covered, consider the next level of care, have your car detailed, washed, waxed and vacuumed. Take it in, have the fluids changed, check all belts, hoses and other rubber components. All these things will ensure your vehicle is ready for the summer fun we have here in the Lakes Region.

I hope to see you on the road, at a cruise night, car show, or down at the ice cream stand. Safe travels!

- Denis Finnerty is the owner of Finn's Garage in Meredith.

04-20 Finn - Mustang


The owner of this Mustang took proper care of it over the winter, so it was little work to open it up for the nice weather. (Courtesy photo)

04-20 Finn - Ray Allen car

Denis Finn of Finn's Garage enjoys a moment sitting in the Ray Allen car. (Courtesy photo)


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Froma Harrop - What team Bernie should do now

Bernie Sanders is almost certainly not going to be the Democratic nominee. Though he retains a devoted following, the crowds, the attention and the money are no longer what they were — death for a campaign built on momentum. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, holds a virtually insurmountable lead in both delegates and votes.

Passion is a valuable commodity in politics, and the time has come for team Sanders to redirect it. There are two useful paths at this point. No. 1 is joining Democrats, sensible Republicans and the rest of civilization in defeating the appalling Donald Trump. If Sanders and his troops can graft their idealism onto the realism of Clinton's campaign, then Trump goes down in a pink puff of stage powder smoke.

No. 2 is turning that liberal energy into an enduring political force. That would require making the "movement" less about Bernie and more about ideas.

The thorny question is, how much of Sanders' support is tied to one man? Sanders has won many young hearts, but turning a fan base into a voting bloc is not easy.

Some of Sanders' more ardent backers seem to have taken Clinton's criticisms of Sanders personally. A few vow to wave the bloody shirt, rather than support Clinton in the general election. It is Sanders' job to lay out the stakes for them.

Whether he will wield that shovel is not entirely clear. Sanders says he will work to prevent a Trump presidency. But is he able to join a parade in which he is not grand marshal?

And there remain opportunities to get final digs in on Clinton. The greatest one will be the Democratic National Convention, where Sanders vows "to fight as hard as we can ... to make sure that we have a progressive platform." You wonder whom he might want to smite and about what.

This might pain some of the revolutionaries, but in terms of getting progressive policies into law, Clinton has done worlds more than has Sanders. So have Elizabeth Warren and other members of the party that Sanders chose not to be a member of.

On the plus side, Sanders gives a rousing speech, and that's not a small thing. (If only Clinton could borrow some of his populist thunder.) And for all the misgivings many have about his quixotic visions and youthful rumblings about "the establishment," Sanders beyond a doubt has emboldened Democrats to champion their beliefs without apology.

And on the plus-plus side, some former Sanders staffers have started a group called Brand New Congress to turn the focus toward electing strong liberals to Congress. Without a cooperative Congress, the most progressive president is hampered. Just ask Barack Obama.

Opportunity knocks. With the scary Trump at the top of the ticket, Republicans risk losing their large House majority. There's a reason, beyond conservative principles, why House Speaker Paul Ryan has taken the extraordinary step of withholding support for Trump.

By the way, Brand New Congress is a PAC. It's into raising money for candidates. As Sanders correctly keeps saying, campaign finance overhaul is desperately needed. But as realists say, you need money right now to elect the people who would do the overhauling.

If Democrats retake the Senate majority, which is a strong possibility, Sanders would be in line to head the Senate budget committee. This is a choice chairmanship offering much power over taxes and spending.

But there's a general election standing between now and that prospect. Can Sanders move his fiercest devotees to cast a ballot for her ? And would he actually campaign for Clinton in earnest? The answer to this we are "Berning" to know.

(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)

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Pat Buchanan - Who promoted Private Ryan?

Forty-eight hours after Donald Trump wrapped up the Republican nomination with a smashing victory in the Indiana primary, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced that he could not yet support Trump.

In millennial teen-talk, Ryan told CNN's Jake Tapper, "I'm just not ready to do that at this point. I'm not there right now." "(T)he bulk of the burden of unifying the party" falls on Trump, added Ryan. Trump must unify "all wings of the Republican Party, and the conservative movement." Trump must run a campaign that we can "be proud to support and proud to be a part of."

Then, maybe, our Hamlet of the House can be persuaded to support the elected nominee of his own party.

Excuse me, but upon what meat has this our Caesar fed?

Ryan is a congressman from Wisconsin. He has never won a statewide election. As number two on Mitt Romney's ticket, he got waxed by Joe Biden. He was compromise choice as speaker, only after John Boehner went into in his Brer Rabbit "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah" routine.

Who made Ryan the conscience of conservatism? Who made Ryan keeper of the keys of true Republicanism?

Trump "inherits something ... that's very special to a lot of us," said Ryan, "the party of Lincoln and Reagan and Jack Kemp."

But Trump did not "inherit" anything. He won the nomination of the Republican Party in an epic battle in the most wide-open race ever, in which Trump generated the largest turnout and greatest vote totals in the history of Republican primaries.

What is Ryan up to? He is pandering to the Trump-hating Beltway media and claiming the leadership of a Republican establishment routed and repudiated in the primaries, not only by that half of the party that voted for Trump, but also by that huge slice of the party that voted for Ted Cruz.

The hubris here astonishes. A Republican establishment that has been beaten as badly as Carthage in the Third Punic War is now making demands on Scipio Africanus and the victorious Romans.

This is difficult to absorb.

Someone should instruct Paul Ryan that losers do not make demands. They make requests. They make pleas.

What makes Ryan's demands more astonishing is that he is the designated chairman of the Republican National Convention, a majority of whose delegates and whose nomination Trump is about to win.

Ryan is saying he is ambivalent over whether he will accept the verdict of the Cleveland convention — of which he is the chairman.

If Ryan holds to his refusal to accept the decision of the Republican majority in the primaries, he should be removed from that role. And if Ryan does not come out of Thursday's meeting with the Donald, endorsing him, the presumptive nominee should turn to Paul Ryan, and, in two words, tell him, "You're fired!"

Trump cannot allow the establishment to claw back in the cloakrooms of Capitol Hill what he won on a political battlefield. He cannot allow a discredited establishment to dictate the issues he may run on.

That would be a betrayal of the troops who brought Trump victory after victory in the primaries.

To longtime students of politics, there is rarely anything new under the sun. And there is precedent for the shakedown Ryan and his Beltway collaborators are trying to do to Trump.

Paul Ryan is the Nelson Rockefeller of his generation. In 1960, Gov. Rockefeller refused to challenge Vice President Nixon in the primaries. When Nixon went to Rockefeller's New York apartment to persuade him to join the ticket, Rocky refused, but demanded concessions in the platform, to which Nixon acceded.

The Chicago convention, a Nixon convention, believed itself betrayed by the "Pact of Fifth Avenue."

Only the appearance of Sen. Barry Goldwater at the podium to tell conservatives to "grow up. We can take this party back," halted a suicidal drive to take the nomination away from Nixon.

After Goldwater won the nomination in the 1964 California primary by defeating Rockefeller, Rocky arrived at the San Francisco convention to demand that a plank equating the John Birch Society with the Communist Party and Ku Klux Klan be written into Goldwater's platform. Hooted and rejected, Rocky went home and refused to endorse the nominee, who went down to a crushing defeat by LBJ.

Nixon, a party loyalist, campaigned across the country for Barry and his doomed party.

In 1968, Nixon got his reward, the nomination, with Goldwater's support. And Govs. Rockefeller and George Romney, who had done the Paul Ryan thing, never came close.

Rockefeller got what he deserved when the Reaganite heirs of Barry Goldwater, at Kansas City in 1976, demanded the dumping of Rocky from President Ford's ticket. And they got it.

Paul Ryan, in declaring that he cannot now support Trump, and imposing conditions to earn his support, has crawled out on a long limb. Trump cannot capitulate. He has to saw it off. This is one Private Ryan we cannot save.

(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)

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Michael Barone - The presumptive nominees

So Republicans now have a presumptive nominee — one headed to a clear delegate majority without visible opposition — sooner than the Democrats. It's another way in which this year's presidential race has defied expectations and ignored precedent.

Donald Trump will now have months to stage-manage his Cleveland convention, while Hillary Clinton must spend the next four weeks going through the motions of campaigning against Bernie Sanders in 10 primaries and the North Dakota caucus.

Clinton will then be the presumptive Democratic nominee. But if Democrats used Republicans' delegate allocation rules, she would have been that two months ago.

Trump, despite his complaints about the "rigged" nomination process, actually used that process to great advantage. His celebrity and $2 billion worth of media coverage enabled him to win early contests in a 17-candidate field with minorities of the vote.

The same 36 percent of the vote that gave Trump a win in Michigan left him far behind a single competitor in nearby Ohio. Overall, in February and March Trump won just 38 percent of popular votes, but the winner-take-all rule and similar rules he later decried gave him 47 percent of delegates.

There is an eerie similarity between the patterns of support of the two parties' nominees. Both Trump and Clinton got their bedrock support from their parties' most downtrodden (and, in general elections, most faithful) constituencies.

Blacks, especially Southern blacks, produced just about all Clinton's popular vote margin over Bernie Sanders. Non-college-educated whites produced the highest percentages for Trump. "I love the poorly educated!" he exclaimed after winning in low-education Nevada.

It also appears that Trump and Clinton ran worst among groups with high degrees of what scholars Robert Putnam and Charles Murray call social connectedness, or social capital. Trump was especially weak among socially connected Mormons and German-Americans and strong in areas with high opioid addiction. Both were weaker in caucuses, which favor the socially connected, than primaries.

After Ted Cruz beat Trump in Wisconsin April 5 it appeared that Trump could fall short of the 1,237-delegate majority. At which point he charged repeatedly that the process was unfair. The candidate with "most" votes, whether or not it's a majority, should be nominated, he said; exit polls showed most Republicans agreed. As for the Cruz campaign's moves to choose sympathetic delegates, and Cruz and Kasich's partnership to divvy up states — unfair!

Attitudes evidently changed. Voters preferred the clarity of a Trump nomination to the uncertainty of a contested convention. Up through mid-April Trump never got 50 percent. He hasn't gotten less since. On April 19 and April 26 he, for the first time, outperformed his poll numbers in primaries in six Northeast states. But that could be discounted; like Clinton, he's run best in the Northeast and the South.

Indiana this week was another story. Trump got 53 percent there, 12 to 18 points better than in other Midwestern primaries; in contrast, Indiana Democrats gave Bernie Sanders his sixth Midwestern victory. Republican opinion has clearly swung toward Trump. Ted Cruz, who hoped for an Indiana victory, and John Kasich, who carried just seven counties outside his home state of Ohio, both left the race.

Trump's success in improving his standing among Republicans in the past six weeks raises the question of whether he can do so among general election voters in the next six months.

There's certainly plenty of room for improvement. Current polling averages show him trailing Clinton 47 to 41 percent, and the latest poll has him behind 54 to 41. About two-thirds of voters have unfavorable feelings toward him, including larger proportions of women and millennials.

Standard analysis says these are losing numbers and that a candidate universally known will have a hard time turning them around. That's plausible. But Hillary Clinton also has high (circa 55 percent) unfavorable numbers and even lower numbers on honesty. Results in a few recent target state polls look like the close partisan division that's prevailed for two decades, not a Democratic blowout.

Much could depend on turnout. Contrary to conventional wisdom, Democratic turnout has been declining during the Obama presidency and, in contrast to 2008, turnout this year has been higher in Republican than Democratic primaries. In nearly all contests, Clinton has received fewer votes than she (or Obama) got in 2008. Sanders has swept young voters, suggesting many may not turn out this fall.

Clinton's still the favorite. But Trump has shown his capacity to disrupt political alignments, and he'll be trying to do so again.

(Syndicated columnist Michael Barone is senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.)

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