Breaking – College Board Cancels At-Home SAT Testing

The Washington Post reported early this afternoon that the College Board would not conduct at-home SAT tests this summer and fall.

The College Board explained that it was concerned that many students would not have reliable internet service for a three hour test. In fact, the recent College Board’s Advanced Placement examinations done at home met with many problems when students were unable to submit their work due to computer problems. A great deal of criticism followed.

The Washington Post quoted David Coleman, Chief Executive of the College Board, as acknowledging, “We know demand is very high and the registration process for students and families under this kind of pressure is extremely stressful.” He continued, “There are more important things than tests right now. … We therefore are asking our member colleges to be flexible toward students who can’t submit scores, who submit them later, or who did not have a chance to test more than once.”

When adequate technology to conduct at-home testing will be available is speculative. Students should plan on taking their SAT tests in person at their schools or other testing center.

The ACT has said it is planning at-home testing “if necessary,” but it is unlikely at-home testing will be possible.

Good News! Loan Rates Reduced

At a time when we can all use some good news, here’s some.

NASFAA (Nat’l. Assoc. of Student Financial Aid Advisors) advised yesterday afternoon that interest rates for federal loans disbursed on or after July 1, 2020 will drop sharply. The rate for undergraduate Direct Loans will drop to 2.75% and the rate for parent/graduate PLUS loans will drop to 5.30%. The interest rate for graduate/professional Direct Unsubsidized Loans will drop to 4.30%.

May 1 Decision Day — Not!

May 1 date for blog

May1 has traditionally been the deadline for students to tell colleges where they plan to attend college in the fall. This year, however, that deadline should be considered flexible. More than that, students and their families should be advising the colleges they wish to attend that they will be postponing their decision until they know more about whether the college will open for the fall semester, whether courses will be taught in person or online and whether there will be dormitory facilities available. (There are lots of other questions, but these will do to start.)

Survey after survey has revealed that many students are very reluctant to commit without knowing what the college will be able to provide in the fall. You should be too.

A poll conducted in March by the marketing and research firm SimpsonScarborough revealed dramatic findings for high school seniors who were planning to attend college before the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Twenty percent of those surveyed believed that because of Covid-19 it is likely or highly likely they will not attend a four-year college in the fall, but will, instead, attend a community college, take courses online or not attend college.

Even students who have already paid deposits are rethinking their decision. A survey of 1,171 American high school seniors released today reveal that 12% of students who paid a deposit changed their minds and no longer plan to attend a four-year college full time. Art & Science Group, which did this survey, also reported in a press release that “for all but 400 institutions that have extended their deadline to June 1, over four-fifths of non-depositors have expressed doubts about their ability to attend their first-choice school.”

While it is difficult to contact colleges by phone because they are closed, families should be contacting the colleges the student wishes to attend in order to get clarification about these and other matters. That said, the fact is that nearly all colleges are still trying to decide what they will be able to provide when college reopens. In these circumstances, the traditional May 1 deadline cannot be what it used to be, nor should it.

Today’s SATs Delayed 3 Hours in Hong Kong

Today’s SATs were delayed about three hours in Hong Kong because the subway system had been shut down by the authorities in response to protests by thousands of citizens opposing the heavy hand of China in Hong Kong.  Hong Kong is 12 hours ahead of eastern daylight time.

The Wall Street Journal reported, “Thousands of students from Hong Kong and mainland China take the test each year in a cavernous exposition center near the airport.” Imagine the stresses on these kids as they went in to take their SATs.

If you haven’t been following the protests in Hong Kong, you should be. Why? Because of their effect on China. The protests take place on the weekend and are now in the 18th weekend. They began in opposition to a China-sponsored bill that would have allowed people to be sent for trial in mainland China’s opaque justice system. Additional civil rights demands have been added as the number of protestors has grown to tens of thousands.

Rising Seniors! Listen up!

The first College Board Scholarships Deadline is July 31. Don’t miss out.

The first scholarship, the Build Your College List scholarship, will close on July 31st for the class of 2020. Be sure to build your list of 6+ colleges on BigFuture to be eligible for the $40,000 Complete Your Journey scholarship.

You must participate in all six scholarships to be eligible for the $40,000 Complete Your Journey scholarship, but if you miss the July 31 deadline, there are five more drawings for scholarships, each with its own deadline.  So, check out the College Board Opportunity Scholarships website for the rules.

The College Board Opportunity Scholarships program is open to all class of 2020 students in the United States, Puerto Rico and the US territories. Students in the class of 2021 will be eligible next year. For more information, please see Official Rules.

Good luck.

The Thrift Shop – Where your kids can learn about money

Personal finance is a subject many parents want to avoid, even if not consciously. Sometimes it’s something parents don’t speak about too much even between themselves, but it surely is a subject most parents avoid discussing with their children. This is a mistake.

Survey after survey reveals how parents avoid discussing money with their children.

According to the 11th annual (2019) T. RowePrice Parents, Kids & Money survey, when asked how often do you discuss money or financial topics with your child, 8% of the parents surveyed said never; 28% said once a month or less; and 30% said a few times a month.

Perhaps even more worrying is the fact that most of us simply do not have sufficient knowledge to deal with personal finance issues. For example, the 2016 National Financial Capability Study done by FINRA’s Investor Education Foundation found that just 37 percent of respondents are considered to have “high financial literacy,” meaning they could answer four or more questions on a five-question financial literacy quiz.  This is down from 39 percent in 2012 and 42 percent in 2009.

Recently, I was in a used furniture/thrift shop that had a whole array of things for sale, from small, used toys to comic books and paperbacks and furniture big enough that you needed a truck to take it home. What I saw in the store was absolutely wonderful. The toys, some from yesteryear, cast off knickknacks and a rolltop desk that looked like it came from an old movie were all very interesting, but what was truly wonderful was the interaction I watched between a mother and her young daughter and son (we’ll call them Emma and Billy). They were about six and eight years old.

“Now, you each have 10 cents to buy something with,” she told them.  They began looking about a corner of the store that was full of little push toys, stuffed animals, storybooks and a seemingly endless cornucopia of everything a little kid could want.

Billy picked up a truck almost immediately. It was a beauty, but mom reminded him, “That’s 50 cents. You can’t buy that.” Disappointed, he put the truck down and continued to look. Meanwhile, sister was fascinated by a set of colorful stickers you could do almost anything with. The price, 10 cents. Perfect!

By now, Billy had found a package of baseball cards and a little pinball machine, each 10 cents. The price was right, but the dilemma was frustrating. I could see it on his face, but in a few moments the package of baseball cards was back on the shelf and he was running to mom with his purchase.

If you’re reading this, your children are likely older than Emma and Billy but however old they are, it’s never too early to start teaching them (and yourself, if necessary) about personal finance. Financial literacy enables you to make wise decisions about what to buy and what the consequences of your purchases are going forward. I suspect that when it comes time for mom to speak with Emma and Billy about post-secondary education, whether it’s college or some other choice, they’ll be able to speak to each other freely, acknowledging that the financial decisions they are considering mustn’t become a burden in the years ahead.

We will speak a great deal more about financial literacy in coming blogs, but to get you and your children started, you might want to take a look at Jump Start! Financial Smarts for Students (https://www.jumpstart.org) and Schwab MoneyWise – the Teaching Kids section (https://www.schwabmoneywise.com). These are sources of good information, but don’t stop here. There are other quality sources to consider.

Bigger news than the college admissions scandal

As those indicted in the college admissions scandal continue to come into court in Boston to enter their pleas, the story continues to be front page news. But for all of the headlines and talk on television and in social media, the BIG college news had actually been made one week before the United States Attorney spoke in Boston and continues to go largely unreported.

Though unreported, that story will have very real consequences for the college landscape going forward and, therefore, for parents and students preparing for college.  The story was the statement by the president of the American Council on Education, Ted Mitchell, when he said higher education must recognize that it no longer is the sole arbiter of what the content of higher education will be.

To understand the deep meaning of this statement is to understand that colleges and what they teach will no longer be decided alone by college presidents and college faculties gathered behind the ivied walls of academe. Instead, going forward, others, outside the walls, will change what is taught and how it is taught.  Think of online courses, certifications instead of degrees, students who study at various times while they pursue careers and a host of new possibilities.  And think of the cost of earning a degree or certification, or both, going down even as the cost of books, rented or obtained in digital formats, also become more affordable.

The future of college like the future of work is full of excitement, accessibility and opportunity.  But while its coming is inexorable it will not be without objection, false starts and the need for persistence on the part of all the players.  For more of this and of coming changes in how we will pay for college, return for more blog posts here.