Franklin First Federal Credit Union launches college planning center with Invite Education

Press release from CUInsight:

GREENFIELD, MA (July 19, 2017) — Franklin First Federal Credit Union (FFFCU) has announced a partnership with Invite Education to offer a free comprehensive, life-cycle college planning website. FFFCU’s College Planning Center, powered by Invite Education, is available to anyone, FFFCU members or non-members, who would like better information, tools, and services to more effectively plan and pay for college. FFFCU is the first Credit Union to partner with Invite Education.

“Planning and paying for higher education can be a daunting task for families. Our hope in partnering with Invite Education is to make this process less stressful by helping families answer critical questions such as ‘How do I save for my children’s education?’ ‘Can my child get in to their dream school?’ and ‘Can we afford it?’” said Franklin First CEO/President Michelle Dwyer. “We look forward to helping all families in the community make the college planning process more positive and rewarding with our new College Planning Center.”

Jeff Bentley, Director of Strategic Partnerships for Invite Education added: “Invite Education is thrilled to have a strategic partner such as Franklin First, which is a visionary thought leader in offering a College Planning Center to clarify the college process for its members.”

The FFFCU/Invite Education College Planning Center is a robust platform with an intuitive design that empowers families to manage the entire college planning process from birth through high school. The website offers:

  • Age-appropriate guidance to empower families with detailed information on preparing, financing, and successfully applying to college
  • Easy-to-understand explanations to help parents evaluate options: savings, scholarships, financial aid, and loans
  • Comprehensive calculators and college and scholarship search engines
  • Resource Center with college planning resources and FFFCU endorsed products/services
  • Calendar that integrates relevant testing dates, college and scholarship deadlines, and family specific events

Those interested can access the FFFCU College Planning Center at https://franklinfirst.inviteeducation.com/. For more information, call Franklin First Federal Credit Union at (413) 774-6700.


About Franklin First Federal Credit Union

Franklin First Federal Credit Union began in 1958 at Franklin County Public Hospital. In the 1980’s there were mergers of four Franklin County credit unions: Franklin County Public Hospital FCU, Franklin County Teachers FCU, Lunt Silversmiths CU, and Greenfield Tap & Die Credit Union. Anyone who lives, works, attends school or worships in Franklin County can join Franklin First. They currently serve over 7,000 members and over 250 Business Group Partners at their branch at 57 Newton Street in Greenfield, Massachusetts.

About Invite Education

Founded in 2012, Invite Education demystifies the process of planning and paying for college by providing a comprehensive suite of information, tools and services for families. Offering an online custom College Planning Center, a weekly podcast called My College Corner, a blog and a book, they partner with organizations to provide this valuable information to their employees, members and customers.

Contacts

Michelle Dwyer
Franklin First Federal Credit Union
(413) 774-6700

Student Loan miniseries just in time for for your college plans: #MyCollegeCorner

Students and parents are already gearing up for college payment decisions, so we put together a student loan miniseries on our Youtube Channel to help get the knowledge out there. #MyCollegeCorner features weekly updates, so subscribe to stay on track with your plan.  Today’s episode covers subsidized and unsubsidized loans.  Stay tuned for insight on Parent Plus in upcoming episodes.

Gen Z wants to Save $: Lessons from #AmericaSavesWeek

Times are changing! It was an exciting #AmericaSavesWeek Feb 27-March 4 and much was learned. Check your socials for #ASW17 or #ASW2017 for loads of financial wisdom and motivation from a variety of institutions. If you ever wonder if it’s making an impact, remember a new generation “Gen-Z” grew up in the “Financial Crises” era with a different view  of money not seen since the Great Depression, so get ready to roll out even more financial literacy content to support their goals and share prosperity!

A study from the Gild featured on Marcomm.com explains:

“Yet Gen Z were shown to be a generation of savers having grown up post-financial crash, with 25% saying they would rather save for the future than spend money they don’t have and 22% saying they never spend on “unnecessary, frivolous things” because saving is so important. These attitudes were shared with the Silent Generation, with 43% and 25% of respectively.”

The study also notes that this is a generation that grew up with the internet and is accustomed to information being made available quickly on any modern device. It’s a long way from the dial-up modem days!

Feel old yet? THINK AGAIN! Traditional institutions like banks, credit unions, educational non-profits and 529 providers are in position to grow using a combination of new technology and time tested wisdom already present in your culture.  Technology is more socialized with Gen Z to where expectations for simple online tools has grown. They have goals and want to move forward. Will your organization help or hinder this process? Here’s a few ideas:

What is your narrative? Even if you think your organization doesn’t have one, or maybe it’s to “maximize shareholder value” (No small feat), your group’s goals are a piece of the greater story Gen-Z is living through.  Are you helping them get where they want to be? If the answer is a resounding “YES” then stick to it and continue to empower Gen-Z with your traditions adapted up to new technology.  Yes, you can promote financial literacy to a new generation of savvy savers and they want to engage your organization to do so!

Your content can provide both sides of the story: Let’s face it, it’s a noisy environment on social media. There appears to be a storm in every news cycle, and the cycles are happening faster than ever!   The good news is your organization does not need to pick sides on hot media topics (Education, Healthcare, Government are astoundingly media driven at times), it just needs to know both sides of the story.  If you are sticking with a principled narrative, you help people guide themselves through any situation using your concepts and ideas. Gen Z is very aware that a single story may be interpreted in many different ways, so instead of pushing an agenda, keep it simple and show both sides of the story while promoting honest dialogue.  Keep your comments section open to allow different views to participate and communicate perspective on your content.

Help with decision making first: There’s a lot of options! We’ve learned this first hand at Invite Education with software covering the financial variables related to college attendance. With over 4,000 institutions of higher learning plus a huge scholarship database, the best thing we can do is provide transparency and financial literacy fundamentals to help families make smart decisions.  We realize there is no perfect “one way” for everyone, so we take a “Consumer Reports” approach to the question of college choice.  This way anyone can use the resources and find what they need.  Just let people make their own personal decisions with your organization’s assistance.  This is far removed from the days of pushing product first on radio or tv.  It’s about targeting the goals of your audience first and providing value with products/services supporting those goals featured second.  Gen-Z is ready to move their life forward, are you ready to help?

Learn more about Invite Education; Subscribe to the Youtube Page for great interviews, college planning advice and more.

John Hupalo on college planning solutions with “The Opening Bell” WGN Chicago

Families putting together college plans are looking at different avenues to find success.  John joined The Opening Bell to share some insight from the book “Plan and Finance Your Family’s College Dreams“, helping families get through the planning process.

  • Starting early on savings will reduce the need to borrow in the future.  There’s 529 programs in place with creative ways to hit savings goals over time. Consistent long term savings combined with any gifts can really grow.
  • College value is different for every family. Be realistic, rather than pessimistic or optimistic.  The planning process has many little steps involved to determine the right fit school considering everything going on in a young person’s life.
  • During election season, we hear ideas about “free” college and student loan debt forgiveness being made more widely available.  At the end of the day, college choices come down to individual decisions based on personal goals and needs. Real solutions are not easily found through claims made during elections.

Check out the full recording beginning @ 19:43 on WGNRadio.com

 

Invite Education co-founder Peter Mazareas talking college affordability on Plan Stronger Radio

Peter Mazareas joined Plan Stronger Radio with host David Holland to cover the topic of college affordability, a major issue faced by many families, especially this time of year.

Peter covers some critical topics by sharing his wisdom and expertise, especially important for families approaching this challenge:

  • College planning is recognized equally with retirement planning given the size and scope of the process.
  • How can families simplify college planning given all the financial variables?
  • What can be done to increase college options and reduce debt dependency?
  • What are some smart strategies that can help with college savings?
  • How the new book “Plan and Finance Your Family’s College Dreams” helps families every step of the way from early planning to graduation.

Invite Education Featured on “Money Matters” @KPFTHouston

It’s “Back-to-school” season and parents are looking for answers when dealing with the high cost of college.  Join Chris Insley of the “Money Matters” show on @KPFTHouston interviewing Invite Education CEO John Hupalo to discuss the new book Plan and Finance Your Family’s College Dreams.  Early savings strategies, student lending, choosing a major, considering career opportunities and other key topics are up for discussion and solutions.

Student debt crisis does not require a big government solution. Here’s my full Letter to the Editor of the Wall Street Journal

Kudos to WSJ for maintaining focus on the student debt crisis and offering its pages to voice various views.  On Wednesday, August 10th, the Journal  printed my Letter to the Editor — see the full letter below.

My view in short: families empowered with better information, tools and services AND the emotional demeanor to choose less expensive schools over “brand-name” schools can avoid excessive student debt.  The educational outcome is likely to be excellent and their return on investment substantially better because they did not choose a higher cost, debt laden path.

What do you think?

To the Editor:

My career has been focused on helping families plan and pay for college: 20+ years as student loan investment banker, former CFO of First Marblehead Corporation (NYSE:FMD), school board member, education entrepreneur and, recently, the co-author of “Plan and Finance Your Family’s College Dreams.”

Sheila Bair hits a few of the high notes of the college financing crisis. The root problem: everyone’s to blame. The Congress has tinkered around the edges of a student loan program established in 1965 when it provided many students with low cost loans with caps that nearly covered 100% of education costs. The current Administration’s political response is to find ways to forgive student loans. Colleges have zero incentive to control costs. Some for-profit schools are bogus. Taxpayers appear oblivious to the fact that we pay for every defaulted and forgiven federal loan. Borrowers seemingly prefer the status of victim of greedy lenders and corrupt schools to educated consumer that no one forces to sign a loan note.

College affordability is within the grasp of all families starting with the acceptance of personal responsibility for the contracts signed.   Loans should be the last resort, not the first alternative, to pay for college – no matter what the government or the schools say. Families should first use savings, financial aid, scholarships, current income and other “free money.”  Then project the total amount of debt that might be needed. If it exceeds the projected first year salary after college, the school is not affordable. Finding a less expensive school, working for a year, living at home or taking any number of other actions is far preferable to being the next headlined poster child in the college financing crisis.   This is a solvable problem that does not require a big government solution.

 

3 Tips for Smart Student Borrowing

When it comes to paying for college, the process can seem overwhelming. There are so many financing options out there and you might be feeling lost about how to choose the correct ones for your family. The key is to equip yourself with information so that you can have knowledge you need to make an informed decision.

One of the most common ways to pay for college is student loans. There are two primary sources of student loan funding: federal loans and private credit loans. The two programs differ in fundamental ways: the money for federal loans comes from the Department of Education whereas private loans come from places like banks, credit unions and other financial institutions.  Federal loans are much more standardized providing the same rates and fees to all borrowers. Most students tend to take advantage of federal loans before moving onto private loans if they still need extra money.

For some families, private loans are a good option because offer competitive rates and a cosigner option to help student-borrowers gain approval. Other families will choose federal loans, which can be easier to get and offer flexible repayment options, like income-based repayment.  Whichever type of loan you choose (and some families take out both private and federal loans), there are a few ways to borrow smart.

Don’t borrow more than you need. Many families get caught up in the availability of what may seem like free money and end up taking out a bigger loan than they need, just because the option is there. But a loan is not free money, even though it is labeled as “financial aid” on a student’s award letter. Every cent you borrow has to be paid back in the future, and often with interest, which can sometimes be up to a few thousand dollars on top of the loan principal. Don’t take out too much money from a student loan; it should be used for education costs only. Take a careful look at actual expenses and remember that interest will accrue on the total balance. You can use a Student Loan Payment Amount Estimator to get an idea of what your payments might look like once you’ve graduated. Be smart about the debt you’re taking on. Only borrow the amount you actually need, otherwise you could be quite literally paying for your mistake down the line.

Review federal loans first. They tend to have the most favorable terms and flexible repayment options, and you generally don’t need a co-signer. To receive federal loans, families must submit the FAFSA form, with the 2016 – 2017 version available beginning October 1. Even if you don’t think your family will qualify for need-based aid, you should submit the FAFSA anyway. Every family that files one, regardless of family income level, is eligible for some type of federal student loan. You never know what you might be eligible for or how your family’s needs will change before the fall. There are different types of Federal Direct Student Loans, including Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, and Federal Direct PLUS, among others. We will cover the specific differences between these loans in an upcoming post, but all of them are managed by the federal government. Some can be covered by debt forgiveness programs, like the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, but when you’re taking out a loan it’s best practice to assume that you will be paying back the entirety of the balance.

If you need more money, look into private loans. Federal loans are limited year-to-year, and if facing a tuition shortfall, you may need to look into private education loans. One of the best known private loan lenders is the company Sallie Mae, but private loans also come from banks, credit unions, and other lenders. In most cases you’ll need a co-signer. All private loans differ, but their interest rates may be fixed or variable and some require a minimum payment while still enrolled in school. You can learn more about the differences between the two types of loans at Studentaid.ed.gov.

When taking out loans, make sure you understand the terms of the loan. How will interest be charged? What is the grace period on the loan, that is, how much time will pass between graduation and when payments are due? Who will be the co-signer on the loan, if you need one? There are many factors to consider and like most aspects of the college process, the answers will differ among families. But with some research, you’ll feel more equipped to make the right choices for you. Good student loan borrowing is about being smart, making the right decisions, and doing what’s best for you and your family.

Let’s help college students land on their feet like Fearless Felix

Meet “Fearless” Felix Baumgartner (“Jump” image from Flickr) – an Australian daredevil. Fearless Felix participated in the Red Bull Stratos Project. He rode a helium balloon into the stratosphere – 24 miles up and should be an inspiration for all of us to ask why all college grads can’t be more like him and land on their feet after their diploma hits their hand.Felix_Baumgartner_2013 Wikipedia

After saying,  “I’m coming home,”   Felix casually leaned forward to begin his descent from the high altitude balloon. And what a descent it was:

  • He was in free fall for 4 minutes and 19 seconds.
  • Reached a speed of 843.6 miles per hour – that’s Mach 1.25.
  • He caused a sonic boom – by himself – the first person ever to break the sound barrier without the aid of a vehicle.
  • He also came out of a death spiral. The engineers who modeled his free fall realized that at some point he would start spinning out of control, which had to be stopped in order to deploy the parachute on his back. So they taught him how to right himself if this were to happen.

Watch the You Tube videos of this. It’s mesmerizing and was motivational for me.

After:

  • two years of planning,
  • 2 test jumps,
  • many visits to a sports psychologist to overcome his one fear – claustrophobia, and
  • 1 delayed jump due to bad weather

On October 14, 2012, Felix:

  • jumped from 127,852 feet
  • controlled his in-flight wobble that could easily have resulted in his death
  • and proceeded to land on his feet.

A perfect landing. An Olympic gymnast would have been in awe.

So I have to ask you: How is it that we can dedicate that kind of ingenuity to accomplish such an audacious goal, but we can’t seem to find a way to have our college graduates land on their feet: with a degree, a well-paying job and if they need some loans, with a debt burden that is manageable.   It boggles my mind.

We’ll discuss this in more detail in later posts, but here’s a start for families trying to achieve their dreams of a college education for their children.

Parents and students should recognize that colleges are a business with two primary goals  for admitting next year’s class:

  • Maximize net tuition revenue
  • assemble a diverse class that competes favorably against peer institutions, is well-balanced with a talented pool of matriculants, and will make the class, the administration, the faculty and the alumni proud.

Too often families take a “damn the torpedos” approach and borrow whatever they need for “the best” brand name college    Families that resist basing this important decision mostly on emotion and instead act like traditional consumers — in this case of education — have a much better chance of a college graduate who lands on their feet.  Here’s a simple formula for success for families:

  • Be realistic, college is not for everyone.  Is it the student’s dream, or at least strong desire, to attend college?  Is the student properly motivated to be successful or are they fulfilling what they perceive to be someone else’s dream: a parent, guardian or guidance counselor?  Sometimes delaying college of a year or two, or not attending, is a a better choice than starting, only to drop out.
  • Determine what type of school best fits the student’s needs. Cost aside for this moment, a  4 year private college may be the right answer for many, but not all – particularly the very most selective which admit fewer than 10% of the applicants. Community colleges give many students a terrific start.  Public colleges offer excellent learning environments that are the ticket to success for many students.  The key is finding the best academic and social fit for that particular student.
  • Select a school in that spectrum that is affordable.  There is no magic formula for affordability but a one litmus test:  will the student and/or parent be required to take debt in order for the student to attend?  If so, will the student’s potential post-graduate job prospects likely pay enough to repay the debt. Likewise, is parental debt affordable based on income?  Is the parent’s debt burden affecting their retirement savings?
  • Have these conversations early and over time — starting as early as ninth grade with general thoughts and become increasingly concrete as the student’s record of achievement in high school takes shape, test scores come in, college visits are made and the student’s desires sharpen.  The earlier you start and the franker the discussion you can have, the greater opportunity you  will have to manage expectations and provide our son or daughter with practical advice that they will hopefully listen to.

Following these steps will help high school seniors select a school that is right for them academically and financially ,and will substantial increase the odds that they will land on their feet with a degree, a well-paying job, and student loans, if necessary, that are manageable.

Making the most of a college visit

A visit to a college campus, though not essential, is one of the best ways to figure out if a college is the right fit for you. Visits can range from a one hour tour to a formal presentation to an overnight stay. Most visits include an information session and a tour. Ultimately a college visit is all about discovering your priorities in a university and figuring out if this is the place where you want to spend the next four years of your life. The college visit works best when it’s viewed as a tool to help you make that decision.

Make a plan. Like most aspects of the college process, you’ll get more out of the experience and feel calmer about the process if you plan ahead. There is a lot of information out there, and it can be tough to keep track of it. By taking good notes, making a timeline of when you can visit certain colleges, and staying on top of it all, you’ll be making the process much easier for yourself.

Research schools online. Before you make any travel plans, get on the internet and do some research. Have an idea of what you’re looking for. No one expects you to have a complete list, but take a look at different schools and figure out what you like and don’t like. Do you want to be in a big city or in a rural college down? There is a big difference between the two. If you know you want a school that’s bigger than 10,000 students, you can cross smaller schools off your list immediately. If you’re not sure what you want to study but think you’re interested in biochemistry, look for schools with a good biochemistry program and ignore the schools that don’t offer that program at all. Some students will already know what they want and that’s great. At this stage you are just researching potential colleges to visit, figuring out what your priorities are.

Visit local schools first. Try visiting a school nearby to get accustomed to the college tour process before trying to visit a campus on the other side of the country. This also helps you measure differences and make comparisons between colleges better. It’s likely you know students at a local campus, so contact friends that attend and make time for an impromptu campus visit to meet other students. You’ll save money and have a better idea of what schools you might want to travel to visit.

Arrange a visit ahead of time. Check colleges’ websites to see if you need to register beforehand. School vacation weeks especially are a busy time for high schoolers to visit colleges, so contact the college as soon as you know you’ll be visiting so that you can reserve your spot on a tour. Ask them about the different tours they offer and see if there are any opportunities to meet with a professor or eat in the dining hall.

Take great notes. Every college has a lot to offer, but after many tours it may all seem like a blur.  Taking notes and even taking pictures of the campus can help reinforce key differentiating points amongst the school tours that make a campus unique. Was College ABC the ones with the really nice dorms or was that College XYZ? Take note of anything that catches your eye, good or bad. This will help you keep track of your thoughts later on. If you write down similar things about each school, you can use these notes to compare them and help you make a decision.

Ask questions. Get in the habit of asking more questions, as it encourages greater engagement on campus tours. Make a list of standard questions you could ask on any tour, so that you can easily compare all the schools when it’s time to make a decision. This will be personal for every student, but after figuring out what’s most important, you can bring clarity to the college search process.

Visit while school is in session. If you can make it happen, visit the school while the students are there. It will give you a feel for what it would be like to attend. Visiting in the summer shows you what the buildings look like, but not the student body. Feel free to ask students what they like and dislike about the college; most will be happy to give you answers. If you have an idea of what you’d like to study, visit the building where major classes are held. It’s worth asking in advance if you can meet with a professor for a quick chat.

Go to an accepted students weekend. Most colleges host informational sessions on spring weekends for students who have been accepted to the school. This is a good time to get more in-depth info, whether you’ve been to the school before or not. By this point you should be narrowing down your list and getting a better idea of which school is going to be the right fit for you. Some students will already know where they want to attend and they’ll only to go one accepted students weekend, or they won’t attend at all. If there’s a school you’re uncertain about but remain interested in, this is a good time to revisit it to get some answers.

Break away from the tour. Guided tours are a great tool for seeing the campus and getting the most up to date information about the school. But by nature, they show the best possible parts of a school. After the tour, it can be nice to walk around independently and see areas of campus that weren’t shown on the tour. This could give you more information to make an informed decision.