College News Flash – June 16, 2018

Top CEOs Didn’t Attend Elite Universities

We’ve previously discussed reasons to resist the temptation of Ivy League schools, but here’s another: America’s top CEOs didn’t come from the Ivies. CNBC reports that only one of the CEOs of the top 10 Fortune 500 companies went to an Ivy (Jeff Bezos from Amazon, who went to Princeton). Wal-Mart’s Douglas McMillon attended the University of Arkansas, Warren Buffet went to the University of Nebraska, and Apple CEO Tim Cook graduated from Auburn. Clearly, where you go to school isn’t as important as what you do with your education.

U.S. Colleges Rank #1 in Cost

The Insider reports on a 2017 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development study about college costs for member countries. Unsurprisingly, the United States has the highest college tuition. While Dutch and Estonian students don’t have to pay a dime in their respective countries, the average American pays an average of $8,202 per year at public four-year colleges.

University of Chicago is Now Test-Optional

The Washington Post reports that the University of Chicago is rocking the boat when it comes to college admissions testing. According to the Post, “It becomes the first top-10 research university to join the test-optional movement.”

Everyone knows that college has never been more competitive, but the opposite is also true: colleges fiercely compete for applicants. When an elite school like the University of Chicago no longer requires the SAT or ACT, it reduces a significant application barrier.

The university also recognizes the role that mobile devices play in the lives of today’s students, and invites applicants to submit a short video pitch about why they’re a good fit for the school.

The College Board and ACT, which run the lucrative SAT and ACT admissions tests, are likely to push back and emphasize the value of admissions testing in predicting college success.

Automatically Save for College with 529 Plans

Family members, friends, and strangers can contribute pre-tax dollars to 529 Plans, which can then be used to finance a student’s qualified educational expenses. In a recent article, Forbes noted that 529 plans usually allow for automatic recurring bank account transfers, enabling savers to commit to regular contributions.

Even small contributions can add up. According to the article’s author, Brian Boswell, “In a college savings account over 18 years, you could expect to turn a mere $50 a month – half the average single-user cell phone bill – into almost $27,000, and it would be entirely tax-free if withdrawn for higher-education expenses.”

For families who anticipate qualifying for need-based aid, it’s worth talking to a financial advisor before adopting a 529 Plan. A 529 Plan owned by the parent is considered a parental asset in determining the FAFSA’s Expected Family Contribution. An account in the student’s name is considered a student asset and the EFC will increase accordingly. Private schools that use the CSS Profile may place a 529 Plan in a different asset category.

However, for families that are footing the bill for college, a 529 Plan is a great way to make pre-tax dollars work for you.

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About the Author:

Sally Smith is a college and scholarship coach who helps families navigate the path after high school. She facilitates in-person and online group workshops, and provides one-on-one coaching on a variety of topics. Sally can help families gain an understanding of the college selection, application, and decision process; pinpoint scholarship opportunities; write effective college admission and scholarship essays; decipher the FAFSA and CSS Profile; gather stellar letters of recommendation; and develop strategies for college entrance testing and test preparation. To learn more about the services she provides and to schedule a free 30-minute consultation, visit

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