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Opinion: Why is choosing a college major so fraught with anxiety?

This is the time of year when college majors probably garner the most attention – from high school seniors who often need to pick one to complete their admissions applications and from undergraduates returning home after the fall semester wondering if they made the wrong choice.

Plenty of guidebooks and websites exist for picking a college, but by comparison, relatively few resources exist to guide students in choosing a major. Several reports about majors that landed in my email inbox recently highlight why the decision is so fraught for so many students who see it as tantamount to choosing a career. The data about majors are often confusing and sometimes contradictory. Here’s some of what I learned from reading these studies:

Men and women segregate themselves by major. Men major in engineering and computer science; women major in nursing, education, social work. That’s the conclusion from a forthcoming study to be published by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.
Women constitute just 10 percent of electrical engineering majors, 8 percent of mechanical engineering majors and 20 percent of computer science majors. Meanwhile, only 12 percent of nursing majors are men, and men represent 14 percent of majors in social work and 4 percent in early childhood education.

College officials who see these trends play out on their campuses are reluctant to talk about them out of fear their comments might come off as sexist. Women, they say, pursue their passions – whether it pays off or not – while men go for the money.

Majors are changeable. For all the anxiety around picking a major among high school students, it’s very likely they will change their mind. Some 52 percent of students change their intended major between the time they first take the SAT or ACT and the time they apply for college, according to Royall Co., a firm that assists colleges with their student recruitment.

If students don’t change their major before they get to college, they might once they are there. A report released this month by the U.S. Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics found that nearly one-third of first-time college students change their majors at least once within three years. Students who chose education or humanities as their first majors were more likely to switch than those who selected business or engineering. The major most likely to switch: math.

Students change majors for a variety of reasons. In the case of math, it might be it turns out to be more difficult in college than it was in high school. In other cases, students see jobs up close as interns and decide a field is not for them. Or they succumb to pressure to pick a practical major their parents think will lead to a job.

Watch where you get advice about choosing a major. More than half of students turn to their family and friends for counseling on picking a major, according to a survey released this fall from Gallup and the Strada Education Network. But the study found that those most common sources of advice were also the least useful.

When asked what advice was most helpful, 83 percent of students cited advice from employers or co-workers or from people with experience in an intriguing line of work. That’s well above the scores of 66 percent for college counselors and 61 percent for high school counselors.

The problem is few students turned to those more formal sources of advice. Only 20 percent said they got advice from informal work sources; 11 percent had sought guidance from a high school counselor; and 28 percent from a college adviser.

Students today are commonly told they should follow their passions and find a mission in life, but very few 18-year-olds or even 22-year-olds have enough experience in the world to know what truly excites them. Pick a major that interests you, but allow it and external experiences to help shape, not dictate, your mission in life. While you should consider different majors and you should keep your options open for a while, don’t think you can do anything you want. Talent and drive matter to success in most majors, of course. You can’t major in physics, after all, if you’re terrible at math.

– Selingo is the author of “There Is Life After College,” about how today’s graduates launch into their careers. He is former editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education, a professor of practice at Arizona State University, a trustee of Ithaca College and a visiting scholar at Georgia Tech’s Center for 21st Century Universities.

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Aussies hit back at Jacinda Ardern’s advice

A meeting between Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Australia’s Opposition leader Bill Shorten has resulted in some brutal comments online.

Ms Ardern raised the issue of Australia’s education policy with Mr Shorten during his visit to Auckland, telling him inaction will ultimately “hold Australia back”.

From next year New Zealand will let Australians enjoy a free year of education, but Australia may soon strip Kiwi students of the subsidies they presently enjoy. 

When Aussie newspaper The Australian posted Ms Ardern’s comments on Facebook, the response was intense.

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What does it take to get a perfect score on the ACT? First, ask these students.

Paul Laurence Dunbar High School Senior Zsombor Gal likes to think of the ACT as a game.

“It’s a game where the time is really important and you really can’t afford to make any mistakes, at least for a 36,” said Gal, 17.

A 36 is a perfect score on the ACT standardized test, which Gal and 12 other Fayette County public school students earned in the 2016-17 school year. Gal took the exam twice and scored a 36 both times.

Nationally, and in Kentucky, only around one-tenth of 1 percent of students who take the ACT earn a top score of 36, according to ACT spokesman Ed Colby.

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Kentucky is one of 16 states in which every student is required to take the ACT. In Kentucky, only 40 of the 51,203 graduating seniors in 2017 received a perfect 36, Colby said. Nationally that number was 2,760 out of more than 2 million graduating seniors who took it, he said.

“I think I got a 36 on the ACT because my goal is just to keep moving through each question,” said Augustine “Gus” Carlson from Henry Clay High School. “I don’t spend a lot of time on each thing. I just focus on keep moving so I have to answer every question and not letting anything get left unanswered.”

The ACT requires fast thinking and steady pacing, the Kaplan test prep website said. The ACT covers 215 questions in 2 hours and 55 minutes, plus an optional 40-minute Writing Test. That’s less than one minute per question.

“There’s a lot of tips and tricks which can help you beat the game of ACT,” said Gal. “You can go into the science section knowing nothing about science. All the information is right there in the passage.”

The ACT consists of tests in English, mathematics, reading, and science. Each is scored on a scale of 1 to 36, and the student’s composite score is the average of the four tests, a district news release said.

Nationwide and in Fayette County, the average score was 21 in 2016-17. In Kentucky for that school year, it was 19.8, according to the Kentucky Department of Education website.

Austin Booth, a senior at Lafayette High School, said he thought one reason he made a perfect score was that he kept up with his school work throughout the year.

“A lot of the stuff on the ACT you can just learn by paying attention in class and doing all your homework,” Booth said.” It’s not necessary to take a private class or anything you have to pay money for. Just make sure you always do your school work and If you are a good student through out the year you are going to do well on the ACT.”

“You can learn a lot of the information just inside your classes,” said David Thomas Litster, a student at Lafayette. ”Your teachers will do a good job of preparing you that way but then if you find that certain parts of the practice tests … are giving you some trouble that you should spend a little extra time focusing and studying on those parts.”

Students who earned a perfect score said there’s not one path to success.

“I practiced some of the more difficult sections beforehand,” said Jons Theodore Ehrenborg, a Henry Clay student, “and I also felt really rested before the actual test” Ehrenborg looked over the format of the questions beforehand so he wouldn’t be surprised. In general, he studies between 30 minutes to an hour each evening.

Ehrenborg was a sophomore in 2016-17 when he took the ACT. Two other students who received a 36, Joel Ahne who has graduated from Lafayette High School and Jan Balk, who graduated from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, are now in college and could not be reached for comment.

All other students who scored a 36 were juniors in 2016-17 when they took it. School district officials said a student from Henry Clay who earned a perfect score asked them not to release his name.

“There are a couple of techniques that I think are helpful,” said Kelly Chen, now a senior Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. “For example, instead of just doing practice tests, really focus on what you are bad at. If you are doing math and you are bad at slope for example just practice slope questions and really get the fundamentals of the concept but I also want to say that a lot of times the 36 isn’t just based off of individual ability. Once you reach a certain point of competency with all of the skills a lot of it is also based on chance. “

“I did a lot of preparation for this exam,” Emma Draper, a senior at Paul Laurence Dunbar said about the ACT. “Every thing I’ve ever done I kind of consider preparation because as you go through schooling you’re learning and you’re capturing the concepts that you’ll need to know.. Get yourself a prep book if you can and read through it. Think about ‘what do I already know, what do I not know, what do I need to focus on?’ For me that was science.”

But Chris Duncan, now a senior at Dunbar said, “I didn’t really do as much studying and preparation as a lot of people tend to do. My parents just told me ‘Hey, You go in there do your best and that’s all you really need to do. I’m fine with whatever you get.”

“Don’t put pressure on yourself. Just go in there with confidence,” said Duncan.

“The ACT measures what you’ve learned in school,” said ACT spokesman Colby. “That’s why Kentucky uses it to measure learning.”

Students with a perfect 36 “likely have taken challenging courses in school and have worked very hard to learn that material,” Colby said..“They are likely to be ready to hit the ground running in college from an academic standpoint. They’ve learned all the core skills they need to succeed in first year college course work.”

“I think what’s really important is understanding the test,” said David Ma, a senior at Dunbar High School. “Think from the perspective of a test writer, not just of a test taker. Also think about why some of those answers are incorrect. When you are choosing between certain answers you really have to be able to pick between two, why they put both of those answers on there and If there is a way to show one of them as incorrect.”

“Get a practice test,” said Joshua Pe, now a senior at Henry Clay. “Practicing a lot, getting familiar with the tests is what really helps me.”

The ACT, Joshua said, “is really a measurement of your academic aptitude. It’s not a measurement of intelligence or anything. It’s a test of how well you know the material. Knowing the material really well is what can get you a higher score, what can get you a 36.”

Don Witt, a University of Kentucky associate provost, said the students who received a perfect score on the ACT are being invited to UK’s campus by recruiters for campus tours and for meetings with people in their academic areas of interest.

Earning a 36 on the ACT makes students “very competitive” in the college admissions process, because it’s “very rare,” Witt said.

However, an ACT score is just one factor that admission officials look at. They look at grade point averages and whether students had leadership roles and extra curricular activities, he said. Witt said 47 current students at UK have earned a perfect score on the ACT or the SAT.

“I would say that a 36 is something to be proud of but it’s not the only measurement of somebody’s ability,” student Kelly Chen said. “ A lot of it is luck-based especially with the questions you get and the types of prompts you get. Making sure you … have a good understanding of all the concepts will increase your chances of acing the ACT.”

They’re not always studying: From Chinese Dance to Alzheimer’s disease research

The Lexington students who received perfect scores on the ACT last year also have plenty of extra-curricular or outside activities when they’re not studying.

Jons Theodore Ehrenborg is a leader in the Math Club.

In addition to being involved in academic bowl teams, Dunbar’s Zsombor Gal said, “I do archery and I weight lift.” Gal also conducts research through Dunbar’s Math, Science, and Technology Center (MSTC). He’s focusing on integrating computational methods into Alzheimer’s disease research.

Dunbar student Chris Duncan, 18, said he plays soccer competitively and is involved in service and honor clubs.

“I’ve been playing violin most of my life,” said Dunbar’s David Ma. “I really enjoy playing in groups, playing by myself. I also am part of Dunbar’s Speech and Debate Team. I also conduct research on the side. I’ve been doing research since 8th grade. It started as environmental research but now it’s more focused on computer science and more medicine research.”

“My big thing is theater,” said Emma Draper. “I’ve been involved in seven or eight Dunbar productions at this point. So, really , performing is my big thing.”

“ I really really like to dance,” said Kelly Chen, also a Dunbar student. “ I actually do Chinese dance. Speech and debate, that’s my other thing. A lot of public speaking, acting. “

Austin Booth and David Thomas Litster are members of the storied Lafayette Band. Litster sings with the choir and plays piano. “When I have free time I like to play role playing games, Dungeons and Dragons and stuff like that.” he said.

Booth likes to fish and likes “to swim in my free time and read and I like to travel. I always like to go to new places and try new things and eat new foods.”

Henry Clay student Joshua Pe said, “I really like to cook. Every weekend. I get in the kitchen and I cook for a couple of hours. Right now I’m really into Japanese food.”

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SMOC seeking funds for small-business program

FRAMINGHAM — The South Middlesex Opportunity Council hopes to expand a program that helps existing and emerging businesses, particularly those downtown.

SMOC Financial Services won support from the town Tuesday to throw its weight behind an application for funding from the state’s Urban Agenda program.

Launched in 2015, and overseen by the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, the program promotes collaborative economic development projects in 53 eligible municipalities, including Framingham.

SMOC previously received $125,000 to enhance its small-business initiative, setting up a local office at 345 Union Ave. and establishing a coalition of chamber groups, schools and other organizations to assist business owners.

The group now hopes to secure $75,000 to maintain the program and increase its outreach.

However, competition might be stiffer this time around. Funding for the Urban Agenda grants program was cut this year from $2 million to $500,000, making it crucial to have the town’s support for the grant application, SMOC Chief Operating Officer Charles Gagnon said.

Ticking off the group’s accomplishments in the last two years, Gagnon said the group hired a full-time coordinator to run technical workshops and offer advisory services for startups and other local businesses. It also employed two full-time business interns at Framingham State University’s Innovation Center, who focused on developing entrepreneurship and education programs.

SMOC also spearheaded the formation of the Framingham Business Resource Alliance, with partners including FSU, MassBay Community College, Framingham Downtown Renaissance, Middlesex Savings, Mutual One, the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce, MetroWest Legal Services and the Brazilian New England Chamber of Commerce.

“We created a task force to look at how can we help businesses thrive and grow in Framingham,” Gagnon said. “And that gets down to allowing and helping banks make those loans, having SMOC financial services make those loans, or lastly giving them good education advice before they sign a commercial lease.”

The group also counsels business owners on the role of social media in a competitive market, and strives to make downtown Framingham a destination, Gagnon said.

Its programming has included one-night workshops and a free eight-week course in legal services. In the future, it will focus on offering one-on-one assistance, such as counseling and microloans, said Deidra MacLeod-Richardson, loan fund manager for SMOC Financial Services.

Some of the group’s proposed ideas and goals for the grant are:

• Sustain the Framingham Business Resource Alliance and engage three new partners.

• Hold four awareness and networking events featuring local small business resource providers.

• Close four microloans for businesses in Framingham that are unable to access bank financing.

• Provide one-to-one technical assistance to 25 entrepreneurs.

• Print and distribute rack cards promoting Framingham businesses.

• Employ two interns from Framingham State University.

Jim Haddadin can be reached at 617-863-7144 or Follow him on Twitter: @JimHaddadin

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How This Successful High School Entrepreneur Is Impacting Education At StartEdUp

Jeremy Miller

Miller talks with high school students about his journey.

Scrolling through Facebook one evening, I saw a video featuring a high school student chatting with a teacher about education and entrepreneurship. As an educator myself, I couldn’t help but notice his communication skills, high-level knowledge about business, and how he was adding critical value to his community. I had to learn more about this young founder and decided to reach out to him.

Jeremy Miller is a high school student from Indiana, and he is making his mark in the world as a young entrepreneur. He’s the founder of Inspired Blue Media, an advertising agency based in Indianapolis. His startup has between 1-10 employees, and they are on track to hit six figures by early 2018.

And Miller is not your ordinary young entrepreneur. He’s taken everything he’s learned so far, and gives back to high school students as a mentor and advisor. The video that caught my eye came from his work with Don Wettrick at Noblesville High School, where you will find StartEdUp.

StartEdUp is an innovative global network that features and supports some of the most renowned innovators, educators and entrepreneurs. Their site states that they define and employ the tactics of real innovation and leave the buzzwords in the dust. 

In this interview, which has been edited and condensed, Miller shares his journey into entrepreneurship, how he gives back through mentoring students at StartEdUp, his thoughts on college, and the most important lessons he’s learned.

Robyn Shulman: Jeremy, please tell me about your business.

Jeremy MillerInspired Blue Media is an advertising agency where we drive conversions and sales through Facebook advertising and funnels. Elliot Drake is my co-founder, a client onboarding specialist. We also have two advertising specialists, and a video editor.

I am also a Co-founder and the Chief Marketing Officer of a technology startup called IDEAvize.

IDEAvize is a tech company that connects people in real time to an innovation ecosystem of workspaces and resources all over one’s city with the intent to connect, collaborate, and brings ideas to life.

Shulman: How did you get into the media and marketing field? What was the motivation?

Miller: I founded my first company at the age of 16. It was a skateboard and longboard manufacturing company, and I lost thousands of dollars in that first startup. After the closing of the venture and the last team meeting, I called my mentor and said, “Now what?”

He told me to focus and double down on what I was best at doing. A month later I started a marketing agency. I’ve always been a person who understands how to develop relationships. I was able to carry-out this skill into marketing very easily.

Shulman: What role did your parents play in the launch of your startup?

Miller: My parents never gave me any money, and they aren’t entrepreneurs. However, they gave me something more important than financial support or business advice. They gave me the room and freedom to challenge myself and take risks.

Shulman: Do you think your parents are rare? If so, why?

Miller: Yes, because they understand me. And as a teenager, they don’t question me all the time. I have the freedom to have business meetings late at night, the ability to invest thousands of my own dollars, and I’ve been fortunate enough to travel.

Shulman: What’s the most important way they support you?

Miller: They never hold a lid on my potential. I spent months fine-tuning and testing time management strategies and found what best worked for me. No questions asked.

Shulman: What has been your biggest win so far in your business?

Miller: My biggest win so far has been making enough money to be able to hire a team.

Education work and giving back

Shulman: You are in many videos with StartEdUp. Please tell me about your work with Don Wettrick and Noblesville High School. What exactly is StartEdUp?

Miller: For StartEdUp, I am a Vice President and Director of Marketing. StartEdUp is a global network of the most renowned innovators, educators and entrepreneurs who are all working together to empower, educate, and teach students to be more innovative and entrepreneurial. The organization has gained a following from some of the top entrepreneurs in the field. StartEdUp practices what it preaches. A majority of the StartEdUp team are 19-year old teenagers, and a majority of the team are Don Wettrick’s former students.

Shulman: Who are the entrepreneurs that follow StartEdUp and what do they say about it?

Miller: We’ve had a lot of commentary and positive feedback from some big names. For example, Gary Vaynerchuk says, “You guys are blowing it up,” and Tom Bilyeu claims “StartEdUp is a mindset incubator.” Daniel Pink states, “You’ve turned the classroom into an innovation factory.” And Tim Ferris told us he wishes more schools had the Innovation Class that Wettrick offers.

Shulman: How are you changing the education narrative with Wettrick regarding innovation and young entrepreneurship?

Miller: It all boils down to the way people see the environment that they’re in and how they use it. StartEdUp says, “Let’s take the worst weakness and turn it into a strength.” Everyone talks about how students are always on their phones and looking at social media. StartEdUp teaches students how to use social media as a networking tool, how to build their personal brands, as well as how to use social media to educate themselves.

Shulman: How often are you involved in Wettrick’s work entrepreneurial work, and how many students have you helped since leaving high school in this field?

Miller: Don Wettrick has always invited me into his classroom. I’ve been there multiple times to assist and mentor the students either as a whole or one-on-one basis. Don puts on Innovation Nights for students, and I’ve been a speaker at those events. I meet individually with some of his students and am considered to be a mentor to them.

Shulman: Do you work with students outside of the classroom, too? If so, how do you help them?

Miller: I’ve helped a lot of students outside of Don’s class. I’ve been an investor and an advisor to many students. However, and most importantly, I’m just “there” for students. I have a mantra I like to call “embrace your alien.” I even have a tattoo of an alien on my wrist.

Shulman: What does this mantra mean?

Miller: If there’s an entrepreneur while still in high school, there’s a very good chance that he or she feels alone and very different. Most students will go home and play video games and watch tv. However, a high-school aged entrepreneur goes home to work, teaches him or herself, reads books, and serves others. For me, it was challenging to be an entrepreneur in high school.

Shulman: How did you handle it mentally?

Miller: Instead of being upset about it, I embraced it and said, “This is who I am, and it’s okay to be different.”

Shulman: Tell me about your purpose in entrepreneurship. What is your why?

Miller: My why is to do something, however small, and to make others happier and better-this is my highest ambition, the most elevating hope, which can inspire a human being.

And, most of all, I want to inspire people to understand that they have a purpose in life.

Shulman: What are the three most important lessons you teach to the young, aspiring entrepreneur like you?

Miller: These are the most important things I like to share with young entrepreneurs:

  • Failure is not going to keep you from being successful, but it’s the fear of failure that will. Learn to speak to your negative concerns and overcome them.
  • Develop the mindset that every single person can lead you to a significant connection, customer, or client, and treat everyone with massive respect. Add value to their lives, so they remember you and talk about you.
  • Develop self-awareness and be patient.

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Ten ways to cut the cost of a private school education


“If your children have already been born, you have left it too late to save,” as the saying goes.

For those seeking to educate their children privately, the adage is pertinent: school fees have risen by more than a fifth since 2012, outstripping the rise in average earnings, says Lloyds Private Banking.

Many parents want to send their child to a private school “but increasing fees mean even those on higher salaries may struggle to afford it”, says Sarah Deaves, private banking director at Lloyd.

Just seven per cent of British children go to fee-paying schools. The charges vary depending on where in the UK you live and the type of education you want. London has seen the biggest rise in fees, up by a quarter since 2012 to £16,560 a year, according to the Independent Schools Council.

“Independent schools are very diverse and of course fees vary,” says Julie Robinson, ISC general secretary. A day school will cost on average £13,000 a year while a boarding school will be more than £32,000, she says.

Since school fees are paid from post-tax income, parents’ salaries need to be high. Mum and dad also have to factor in an extra 10 per cent for outings, uniforms and music lessons.

Finance experts know that funding private education is a challenge. Here they give their tips to keep costs down.

1. Plan early

After buying a home, a child may be your largest expense, says Darius McDermott, managing director at Chelsea Financial Services. He says that if you choose a private education, “it can seem an unachievable goal — but if you plan ahead, it can be done”.

The Lloyds study puts the average annual cost for a day pupil at £13,830 — up 21 per cent since 2012. Parents of children who left school this year will, on average, have paid £152,906 from reception until year 13. Over that time, fees have risen 67 per cent: in 2004, the average fee was £8,297.

To ease the financial burden, Mr McDermott suggests looking at how much you need to pay and when. How old are your children? Do you want to fund their whole education or just GCSEs and/or A-levels? Will you pay by the year or term? Find the schools you like and note their fees.

Cash is a poor savings vehicle, experts say. Interest rates are low and inflation is 3 per cent, so the value of your savings is falling. “Unless your child is within two to three years of going to private school, you need to look at higher-risk investments,” says Mr McDermott.

If you can save £550 a month as soon as a child is born then, with 5 per cent investment growth, you could have a £90,174 pot by the time they start secondary school, says Maike Currie, an investment director at Fidelity International. The later you leave it, she warns, the more you will have to save.

“If you have five to ten years or more until you need to access the money, it’s worth considering investing in funds with exposure to the stock market,” says Sarah Coles, an analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown. “Your investment will be at risk, but it has the potential to grow faster.”

2. Aim for tax efficiency

Parents should use their Individual Savings Account allowance, which lets each parent invest up to £20,000 this tax year. Your money grows in a tax-free environment and can be withdrawn to meet school fees without worrying about tax.

If you save £1,666.67 a month, and assuming 5 per cent annual growth, then in just over four years you could have a £90,000 pot to pay for education, says Ms Currie.

Mr McDermott says a Junior Isa will work if you start thinking early about university fees. This tax-efficient product allows parents, grandparents and family friends to invest in cash or shares on behalf of children. The money saved can only be withdrawn when the child reaches adulthood. It has an annual maximum investment of £4,128.

3. Invest with care

Experts advise caution over school-fee plans, which purport to mature and pay fees all in one go. These are typically structured as an endowment with some life cover, and the investment is tied up for up to ten years.

Such plans “offer few attractions in all but the most exceptional circumstances,” says Ms Coles. “They also may come with opaque charges and fees, and are less tax-efficient than an Isa”. A better option, she says, would be a unit trust or indextracking fund, many of which are cheap and money is readily accessible.

To maximise returns and reduce risk, experts advise holding a well-diversified portfolio, to include UK and international equities, fixed income and commercial property.

For anyone willing to accept more risk, venture-capital trusts may be worth a thought, says Mr McDermott. VCTs invest in small, often illiquid, companies in order to fuel their growth and realise gains for investors. They attract 30 per cent income tax relief, all dividends are free of income tax and all gains are free of capital gains tax providing the VCT is held for at least five years.

If you invest a lump sum of £100,000 you could reasonably expect 5 per cent annual dividends on some VCTs, says Mr McDermott. VCTs are, however, a high-risk investment: unless you have extra money to play with, experts say you should steer clear.

4. Bank on grandparents

Family members are often willing to boost regular savings for school fees or contribute a “starting pot”. Grandparents can see it as a way to reduce the value of their estate for inheritance tax purposes. Regular gifts from income can be made free of inheritance tax, or lump sums, if the donor survives seven years after making the gift. They could use their annual gift exemption of £3,000.

Setting up a bare trust is another way grandparents can help, says Robert Brodrick, private client partner at Payne Hicks Beach. These are created when a gift is made into a designated investment account with the intention of creating a trust. The child is the beneficiary and there are usually two adult trustees.

“A gift to a bare trust will be exempt from IHT if the donor survives seven years,” Mr Brodrick explains. “The grandparents can continue to contribute their annual IHT exemption [£3,000 per donor] and make gifts out of surplus income without any further IHT exposure.”

The advantage of a bare trust created by grandparents is that any income or gains will be taxed in the grandchild’s hands rather than the grandparents.

The other option could be a family partnership, where grandparents set up a family business and name the grandchildren as shareholders. Such partnerships pay special dividends, which can be used towards school fees.

That said, the set-up costs are high and tax advice will be needed. Svenja Keller, head of wealth planning at Killik, says they are best for much larger sums. “These are not really right for school fees,” she warns. “School fees could be a consideration as part of a wider plan, but we are talking about a lot of wealth.”

Ms Coles also advises: “The partnership would need to be carrying out a legitimate business in order to assure HM Revenue Customs that it hadn’t been set up for tax avoidance purposes.”

5. Take a loan or remortgage

If you have left things till the last minute, the only option may be to take the money from your monthly income and reduce outgoings — or borrow.

“Personal loans are one option but it is not uncommon for parents to use offset mortgages or even remortgage their homes,” says Mr McDermott. “With today’s low mortgage rates, this may be a cheaper option than getting a loan.”

He adds: “You will pay interest on any type of loan or mortgage, which means you will be paying a higher amount in the long term.”

Older parents could also consider drawing a tax-free lump sum worth a quarter of their pension, but advisers say this may leave them at retirement.

6. Pay upfront

Some schools offer a discount if you pay the fees in a lump sum upfront. Private schools have charitable status, which means they can put the money into low-risk investments and avoid capital gains tax on any returns. There are restrictions as schools cannot pass on all the benefits of their tax-exempt status — in other words, the saving to the parent will never be as big as the benefit to the school. Some schools charge less if fees are paid termly rather than monthly.

7. Be pushy

Several schemes offer discounts for siblings of current students. “Having siblings close in age is a good idea but parents don’t necessarily plan this far ahead,” says Susan Hamlyn, director of The Good Schools Guide Education Consultants. There may also be reductions for the children of parents in the clergy or armed forces, as well as for teachers working in private education. You have to be pushy: schools do not advertise such offers.

8. Bursaries and scholarships

Criticism that the costs restrict access to private education has led some schools to do more to assist parents. More than a third of pupils have been helped with fees via bursaries and scholarships this year, says the ISC.

Ms Robinson, of the ISC, says: “Last year more than 5,700 pupils paid no fees at all. Parents should always approach the school to see if they might qualify for fee assistance.”

Schools offer scholarships for pupils who have a talent in sport or academia. Scholarships at schools such as Eton, Rugby and Harrow reduce fees by about 10 per cent. However, some bring no fee reduction, only glory.

Bursaries are where the money is, say experts. Most bursaries top up scholarships for talented pupils but some go to needy pupils of modest ability. High-profile public schools have large endowment funds, often left to them in the wills of alumni, and can be more generous.

“A third of pupils at independent schools are receiving some sort of reduction in fees,” says Ms Hamlyn at the Good Schools Guide consultancy. “This is obviously the savviest thing hard-pressed parents can do.”

9. Cheaper options

Select your school with care, says Ms Hamlyn. “Bryanston school [in Dorset] successfully reduced fees a year or so ago and has a vastly increased rate of applications. What Bryanston, which is an excellent school, did was risky but it’s paying off for them,” she says.

Parents may also consider schools such as those run by the Girls’ Day School Trust, Cognita Schools associated with the City of London livery companies or local, no-frills schools.

10. Consider top state schools

If you cannot afford a private education for your children, look at your options. The state primary at the end of your road, for example, may excel in getting children into a local grammar school. Moving house to such an area may seem expensive but if the school continues to do well then your house is unlikely to see its value fall when you sell.

Some fee-paying schools have strong links to state schools. Bevington Primary School, London, has secured six free places for its pupils to go to Bales College, a nearby private secondary school, and two scholarships to Knightsbridge School, Chelsea.

Some parents go “state until 8” switching to the private system for secondary schooling. This can shave a third off the cost of an all-private education.

The ISC says there is a pick-up in pupil numbers in Year 7, when secondary education starts. The same applies to Year 9 to year 12, as pupils join a fee-paying school for their GCSEs, before returning to a state sixth-form college.

Other parents rely on private tutors or a few years at a preparatory school to try to get their children into state grammar schools, says Ms Hamlyn. Tutoring doesn’t come cheap, though. In London, tutors charge an average £50 an hour.

Ms Hamlyn adds: “There is no hard and fast rule. It depends, first, on your child, second, on what schools are near to you and, third, on your finances at any given time.”

What happened when my parents hit hard times

When parents decide on private schooling for their children, few imagine they could go bankrupt or fall ill. If a life-changing event occurs, however, parents can struggle to pay school fees.

This is what happened to Simon Caunt’s mother and father. He was a student at Wellingborough School when their business hit difficulties. They were unable to pay for his final year.

Simon Caunt

Fortunately Simon, left, received a £3,000 grant from the School Fees Charitable Trust, which enabled him to finish his schooling.

The SFCT, funded by specialist insurance provider SFS Group, assists parents Unable to pay fees as a result of genuine, unforeseen hardship.

“On balance, I would have got decent marks if I had to do my exams elsewhere,” says Mr Caunt, who is 28 and a senior manager in insurance. “But it would have been a life-changing blow to leave my friends, teachers and sport teams I could have lost my whole support network.”

He recently gave £3,000 to the trust, the sum he received in 2006, citing the huge difference it had made to his life.

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Universities could be accused of ‘mis-selling courses’

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Universities could be accused of “mis-selling” courses to teenagers who have little understanding of money matters, the public spending watchdog says.

National Audit Office head Amyas Morse said young people were taking out large loans to pay for tuition fees without much effective help or advice.

It compared the higher education market to financial products, highlighting how little regulation universities faced.

The government said its reforms were helping students make informed choices.

But the NAO report highlights that tighter rules apply to the sale of complex financial products than to universities offering courses that may well be more expensive.

Mr Morse said: “If this was a regulated financial market, we would be raising the question of mis-selling.”

‘Minimising risk’

The report says a student loan is likely to be a person’s biggest sum for borrowing after a mortgage and will require a long-term commitment.

The average loan is expected to top £50,000 by the time it is repaid.

But the decision whether or not to go to university and which course and provider to choose is typically made at the age of 16 or 17.

These choices can have a long-lasting impact on future employment and earnings prospects, the report says.

And where services or markets are especially complex, consumers often need additional support and protection to make good choices.

The report says the Financial Conduct Authority requires companies to disclose clearly the risks of such products to potential customers.

But for universities there are limited comparable disclosure requirements, despite the clear strong financial incentives to attract as many students as possible.

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Mr Morse said: “We are deliberately thinking of higher education as a market, and as a market, it has a number of points of failure.

“Young people are taking out substantial loans to pay for courses, without much effective help and advice, and the institutions concerned are under very little competitive pressure to provide best value.”

The report also suggests only a third of higher education students say their course offers value for money.

Mr Morse added: “The [education] department is taking action to address some of these issues, but there is a lot that remains to be done.”

The report also highlights how despite increased participation by students from disadvantaged groups, they are far more likely to attend courses at “lower ranked providers”.

The report does, however, note that students have statutory protections – including the fact repayments are based on earnings and liability is written off after a set amount of time – and that graduates earn on average 42% more than non-graduates.

The government said its student finance system removed the financial barriers for those going to university.

It is also planning a review of tertiary education to ensure a joined up system works for everyone.

‘Worth it?’

Meg Hillier MP, who chairs the Public Accounts Committee, said the government was failing to give inexperienced young people the advice and protection they needed when making one of the biggest financial decisions of their lives.

“It has created a generation of students hit by massive debts, many of whom doubt their degree is worth the money paid for it,” she said.

But Universities UK said universities had increased investment in teaching and learning, and that students were now reporting record levels of satisfaction with their courses.

“Graduates leaving our universities are also increasingly in demand from employers and continue to benefit from their degrees. They earn on average almost £10,000 a year more than people without degrees and are more likely to be employed.”

It added that they would be working with the new Office for Students to ensure that students have the necessary information to make informed decisions and to ensure that competition works in the interests of all students.

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Delaware teachers use YouTube to inspire other teachers, share advice


Together, William “Ry” Culver and Justin Comegys make up the YouTube duo, Two Guys Who Sort of Know What They’re Doing. This video was originally posted on their YouTube channel.
Courtesy of Justin Comegys

William “Ry” Culver and Justin Comegys know how important it is for teachers to work together and share new ideas.  

Culver is an English teacher at St. Georges Technical High School, while Comegys is an instructional specialist for the New Castle County Vo-Tech School District. Together, they make up the YouTube duo Two Guys Who Sort of Know What They’re Doing.

Culver and Comegys create videos that provide teachers with strategies and tips they can use in the classroom the very next day. They also provide fun and engaging blended professional development sessions directed at empowering teachers.

Why? Because teachers are literally the best, they said. 

“Teachers are superheroes,” Comegys says in one video. 

“Name a problem, any problem in the modern world that cannot be solved by education,” Culver said. “The fact is: Batman is not coming to save us. Teachers are going to save us.” 

A few seconds later, and Culver is channeling his inner Superman and trying to rip apart his shirt. 

“I’m just not strong enough,” he laments, shaking his head. 

Then, the duo starts listing off reasons why teachers totally deserve capes. 

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“You’re a superhero because you keep smiling when someone throws up on you,” Culver says, pointing his finger at the camera. “Hashtag, I’ve seen worse.” 

Comegys jumps off a chair and tries to do a kick mid-air. 

“You worry more about your students than paying your bills,” he tells teachers. “Hashtag, electricity’s overrated.” 

The two go back and forth, praising teachers for refusing to take sick days or working through summer breaks to help kids and lesson-plan. 

“You’re a superhero because to you, these kids are people,” Culver tells teachers. “They’re not numbers. They’re not achievement factors. They’re not test scores. They’re people.” 

“Hashtag, they’re the future.” 

Culver and Comegys have a whole series of videos, shot either at home or in the halls of their school. St. Georges Principal Shanta Reynold has been one of their biggest supporters, Comegys said. 

In one video, Culver sneaks away from Comegys, a data expert who wants him to use research to better inform his teaching. 

(Spoiler alert: Culver finally sees the light and reconciles himself to the fact that homework doesn’t always correlate to student achievement.)

Other research shows larger class sizes have more impact on teachers than students, according to the duo. If teachers plan and organize effectively, they can still have a positive impact. 

(Watch the video for a better explanation!) 

The teachers’ YouTube channel is, and their Twitter handle is @twoguysde. Culver and Comegys also have a website and blog,

Online, they hold giveaways that reward educators with technology for their classrooms. For Christmas, they are giving away an Amazon Echo Dot and a Fire Stick using the hashtag #TechTheHalls. Teachers can follow the duo on Twitter for a chance to win. 

Comegys said the response has been enthusiastic, and last month alone, they increased their viewership by 1,000 teachers. Some of the viewers are from countries like England or Australia. 

The hope is to keep growing. Too often teachers work in silos, Comegys said, and teachers don’t share their experiences. 

“But our problems are similar, and our solutions can be collaborative,” he said. 

Teaching and professional development can be fun, he said, as the duo’s videos try to show. 

“We want them to be fun,” Comegys said. “We want them to be engaging. We’re a little quirky in our videos, but we do that on purpose.” 

Contact Jessica Bies at (302) 324-2881 or Follow her on Twitter @jessicajbies.

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UVU offering sensory-friendly performances of children’s theater

The house lights were kept on, the sound level was lowered and fewer tickets were purposely sold for the Saturday afternoon showing of Spicer W. Carr’s hour-long children’s operetta, “Jack and the Beanstalk.”

As a writer and composer on the autism spectrum, Carr considers it poetic justice that a sensory-friendly performance of his show was done so children on the spectrum could attend without getting sensory overload.

“I think it is awesome now that individuals who were like me when I was younger see what I wrote and perhaps see it in a way I would have liked to see it myself,” said Carr, a senior at Utah Valley University in Orem.

“Jack and the Beanstalk” is the fifth show UVU’s Theatre, Youth and Education Center, or TYE Center, has put on a sensory-friendly performance for. The first show with a sensory-friendly performance, “New Kid,” happened about a year ago after Kynsie Kiggins, the outreach coordinator for the TYE Center, was sent to Washington, D.C. by the center’s director for a conference and was instructed to meet with experts on sensory-friendly performances while she was there.

She came back to Orem and met with the Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism at UVU for advice on how to make performances sensory friendly.

Kiggins said the modifications are simple, like toning down dramatic lighting, keeping the house lights on, requesting actors to tone down their energy and minimizing loud noises or surprises. The theater also makes a social story pamphlet, which explains how to get to the theater, what might be along the way and shows actors in and out of their costumes.

She’s heard of other theaters that have ushers hold up glow sticks during the show to signal a surprise is coming.

The sensory-friendly performances are open to children being able to get up and move around during the show, or be loud.

“The kids seem to have a little bit more freedom to just be kids,” Kiggins said.

Only two children with autism attended the first sensory-friendly performance. But despite that turnout, the theater kept including the autism-friendly performances of children’s’ shows and has seen more children with autism attend.

“I think anything that is important, it is best to go with it and give it time to grow instead of give up on it,” Kiggins said. “The interest is there, and the families who would benefit from these performances, they are there. It is just a matter of time and educating them that we are here.”

The center hopes the university could eventually add sensory-friendly performances for adult shows as well.

Carr, who was diagnosed at the age of 5, was an usher for the sensory-friendly performance of “New Kid.” He’d previously heard about sensory-friendly performances that are done on Broadway.

He remembers being overwhelmed by the special effects or lighting in shows when he was a child.

For “Jack and the Beanstalk,” he purposely wrote in repetitive music and motifs, things that as someone on the spectrum he appreciates.

Sensory-friendly performances, Spicer said, helps people across the autism spectrum have better theater experiences.

The Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism has helped promote the shows and has analyzed the rehearsals for sensory needs.

“There’s just a need for some of our families and children to access things they haven’t been able to,” said Laurie Bowen, the associate director of community outreach for the autism center.

She said a sensory-friendly performance can give children the chance to express themselves and be loud during a performance. The opportunity can also break down a barrier for families of children with autism to attend performances.

“I think some families still don’t go, because it’s too hard or manageable,” Bowen said. “We are trying to help with that, trying to make sure this is a place where they can come.”

The next sensory-friendly performance will be in March.

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Quality education begins at home: read Jenny Hobbs’s advice on fixing South Africa’s literacy crisis


The literacy crisis among South Africa’s youth is worse than expected. It was recently announced that eight out of 10 grade four pupils still cannot ‘read at appropriate level’. Dr Nic Spaull of Sellenbosch University is quoted saying that an inability to read properly means ‘many pupils never get a firm grasp on the first rung of the academic ladder and fall further and further behind.’

Co-creator and former managing director of the Franschhoek Literary Festival (and author!), Jenny Hobbs, composed the following piece on the necessity of nurturing a love of reading among children, including helpful tips on encouraging a reading culture in South Africa:

Here’s the important thing about quality education: it starts with you, parents and caregivers, from the time babies are born. Talking and singing to them, giving them words and songs and stories, is the best way to ensure that they learn to talk and read confidently. These are the building blocks of education and success in life.

• Parents, gogos, caregivers and child minders: talk and sing often to babies and toddlers, passing on the magic of spoken words and singing.
• Speak from the beginning in your mother tongues, adding words and songs from other languages (especially English) as they grow. Languages are easily picked up by small kids and you will be giving them invaluable free skills.
• As soon as they can sit on your lap, tell them stories and read to them from books, magazines or catalogues, letting them turn the pages – however clumsily! – to discover the excitements on the next page.
• Encourage them to talk, chat and tell their own stories. Teach them the songs you sang and the games you played, family history and traditions. Children who own many words talk easily with friends and adults.
• Take them as young as you can to libraries to enjoy exciting, different books and choose some to bring home. Municipal and community libraries are free, and librarians are always ready to help with advice.
• Give children books as presents. Ask at the library for the late, great Chris van Wyk’s Ouma Ruby’s Secret, which tells the story of how his loving grandma bought him books in second-hand shops, always asking him to choose and then read them out loud to her. He only realised when he grew older that she couldn’t read – like so many elders who were denied education.

• Seeing parents read newspapers and books is inspiring for children. Keep books in your home and make reading a cool thing to do.
• All reading is good reading. Look for book sales and street vendors selling comics and well-priced picture and story books. Visit a library to access the online South African book sites for children and teens.
• Enrol children as soon as possible in early learning centres to expose them to new skills and the first formal steps to reading.
• Fight harder and more fiercely for schools with libraries that actively promote reading and a culture of independent learning.

Note: The government mandates weekly library lessons in schools which all receive library allocations, but random bookshelves are not enough. Libraries need assistants to help readers and control the books. For more information, see the downloadable school library booklet at

• Link older children and teens with the FunDza Literacy Trust for daily reading on their cellphones.
• Readers should recommend books they’ve enjoyed and circulate personal libraries in their communities. Record who has borrowed each book by taking a cellphone photo with them holding it.

Surely it’s time for VAT on books to be abolished – it’s a tax on learning!

Online sites for South African children’s young adult books:

Book Dash:
Children’s Book Network:


Quotes about reading to live by:

It is my wish that the voice of the storyteller will never die in Africa, that all children in the world may experience the wonder of books, and that they will never lose the capacity to enlarge their earthly dwelling place with the magic of stories. – Nelson Mandela

The key to a healthy society is a thriving community of storytellers. Stories are what really make us human. – Franco Sacchi

Reading books at home is an important part of the early development of children during which they confront in a pleasurable activity those human passions of love and hate, of ambition and desire, of change and hope. – Jonathan Jansen

If we want to break down barriers between ourselves across race, linguistic and cultural lines, we must promote reading. Fiction forces you to live in other people’s worlds. It develops our empathetic capacities … it can and does help to build bridges. Reading will help us to humanise each other. In a time of violence, we must spread the word about the power of books to make South African life a little easier. – Eusebius McKaiser

A book can change your life. You can read yourself out of poverty. – Annari van der Merwe

Books not only change the mind, they can change the course of society. – Jonathan Jansen

You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture – just get people to stop reading them. – Ray Bradbury

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