How NOT To Drive Professors Crazy: $56,642.09 Paid, $28,665.98 Till Pay Off

As stated in earlier posts, I work in the field of education. In one of my roles, I serve as an adjunct college professor.  Around mid-semester due to midterms and after final grades are posted, professors get frantic emails at unholy hours in the morning.  I’ve literally had students attempt to call me at 3 a.m.

If you or someone you care about is a college student, pass this message along. Below are guidelines to follow when emailing college professors (faculty).  By doing so, you may help save the little hair I have left remaining on my hairline haha.

When emailing a faculty, here are a few things to remember:

  1. Start any email by addressing them with an honorific

An honorific is a title used to communicate respect for a person’s position. For example, call them Professor/Mr./Ms. (Insert Last Name). Rule of thumb, respect is always appreciated!

  1. Don’t misspell your faculty’s name

Double check your spelling through the entire email but also the faculty’s name.  Also, be sure to get your gender pronouns correct: address a female faculty as Ms. Or male as Mr. using “Professor (last name)” is gender neutral and acceptable.

  1. Proofread your email before sending

Your faculty spend their office time and free time reading.  That’s what they love to do.  They will notice the way you write.  Check your grammar and spelling. Use proper English and avoid common phrases reserved for texting your friends (e.g. LOL, LMK).

  1. Keep it professional

Use emails to improve your ability to write succinctly. You aren’t the only student your faculty is receiving message from.

  1. Give the faculty time to respond

Most faculty will need a day or two to reply to your email.  Give the faculty at a minimum 48 hours to respond.  This means not waiting until the last minute an assignment is due.  Whenever you face this type of emergency, reach out to your classmates.

 

Outline:

Dear Professor (Last-Name),

I’m in your (Name of Class) class, section (section number),

(Insert the question you have or the help you need here).

I’ve looked in the syllabus, at my notes from class and I asked someone else from the class.  I think (Insert here what you think may be the answer), but I’m still not sure.

Can you (insert here what action you want the faculty to take: answer my question, let me know what to do?)

Thank you for your help with this issue.

(Your name)

(Student ID Number)

 

Example:

Dear Professor Johnson,

I’m in your SPCH 1300 class, section 12345.

For my class presentation, I want to include a short video clip.  But, I’m not sure how long the video can be.

I’ve looked in the syllabus, at my notes from class, and I asked a classmate.  I have found a 30 second video and another that is 2 minutes long.

Can you confirm if I can use a video clip, and if so, which one?

Thank you for your help with this issue.

Matt Stanley

ID: 0123456

The Case for Community Colleges: $55,645.14 Paid, $29,662.93 Till Pay Off

Lively lobbies, Silent Offices

I started my career in academia as a community college Admissions Specialist and later, Academic Advisor. I remember the numbers of students and their families huddled like cattle in lobbies, waiting to discuss class registration.

Once inside my office, scowl-wearing parents with arms crossed, stood directly behind students plopped in chairs with faces buried in their hands.

Too often, community colleges are students’ backup plan for the following reasons:

  1. Not getting into college of choice
  2. Unable to afford college of choice.
  3. Failed out of college of choice.
  4. Not knowing what to do in life.

Universities offer their share of many advantages, the purpose of the blog entry is to help cash-strapped students/families to make informed decisions, and avoid big student loan debt as I incurred.

 

The Case for Community Colleges

  1. The community college offers a smaller class setting. I remember my first class in a university lecture hall of 150 students, it was intimidating.
  • The largest class size at my place of employment, a community college, is maxed at 47.
  • Although many universities may boast this same benefit, these institutions will cost students more.

With smaller class sizes, teachers are able to respond to the needs of students faster. Universities rely heavily on TAs (teacher’s assistant), who are highly competent, but are students themselves with their own academic stresses.

  1. In the wise words of Warren Buffett, “Price is what you pay, value is what you get”. Lately, people in high student loan debt don’t view the price paid for education as highly valuable.
  • As of 2018-2019, a local community college in my area of residence costs $59 per credit hour. Therefore, a 3 and 4 credit hour course will cost $177 and $236 respectively.
  • A university in my state will cost you $1,338 per credit hour this academic year; making 3 and 4 credit hour courses cost $4,014 and $5,352 respectively.

Oh yeah… this doesn’t include prices for books, food, lodging, and transportation. God bless you if you are able to meet this educational request without debt. This is blog is for those who may find this request challenging. Haha!

  1. Universities don’t grow legs and walk away. They will still be there once you complete your desired school’s “Basics”.
  • Basics are classes required for all students regardless of major (English, History, Political Science, Mathematics, Natural and Social Sciences courses). If your student is unsure about their career, basics are a great place to start versus changing majors frequently.
  • Academic advisors have transfer guides needed to transfer work towards your university degree.

Furthermore, bachelor’s degrees are usually 120 credit hours and take 4 years to complete. Community colleges have articulation agreements which allow students to complete 45-60 credit hours, which is equal to the first 2 years of a bachelor’s degree. Therefore, community colleges allow students to complete half of their university requirements at a fraction of the cost.

  1. Scholarships abound for students transferring from community colleges to universities.
  • Hidden gems on community college campuses are the honor societies such as “The National Society of Collegiate Scholars” and “Phi Theta Kappa”.
  • For more information and eligibility criteria:
    https://nscs.org/member-eligibility/

  https://www.ptk.org/About/Membership/Eligibility.aspx

Feel free to visit the “Scholarship Resources” tab of this blog to view other great college funding opportunities.  The first link features resources for my home state, “The Lone Star State”-Texas. Other resources are links to legitimate scholarship search engines and honor societies.

 

Exciting Updates

Below is my student loans update. I am blessed to see the light getting brighter and closer at the end of tunnel. Thank you Jesus Christ for always providing for me in seasons of employment and unemployment, and I am confident you will continue to do so.

Fatherhood Part. 2: $54,321.24 Paid, $30,986.83 Till Pay Off

Celebrate with Me!

Thank you for supporting this blog! I have an exciting update to share. So my wife and I are expecting our second child. This time a baby boy! We are due October 15th and I couldn’t be happier to welcome him into the world.

You can read how my wife announced the first pregnancy by clicking the following title link, The Sacrifice of a Father.  My debt has gone down considerably since then. Praise the Lord!

The funny thing is she enjoys being pregnant. I’m proud of how hard she works and her passion to stay in shape.

She goes to the gym and even jogs with me. You go Wonder Woman! I gotta brag on her when I can to collect brownie points right?

Bills, Bills, Bills

Thank the Lord, we have saved ahead of our son’s arrival and grateful that medical bills will be covered. It would be a pain to pile on delivery expenses with student loan debt.

I am truly humble to be in the position to pay anything towards my student loans. I just hate seeing money go other places besides my wallet.

With that said, all birthing facilities are not equal. Prices range, and the quality of care can be a hit or miss.

Farewell… So Long

We have moved since the birth of our daughter; in doing so, we had to leave the midwife who delivered our first born. 😦

We loved the care received, but I figured the commute time would be too much. Besides, it would be a messy situation if my wife goes into labor during the hour-long drive. Haha!

Not Distress, It’s Eustress

Researching birthing centers can be stressful.   In our experience, many of the centers fall into one of the three categories: 1) don’t accept insurance, 2) are out-of-network, or 3) beyond our budget.

After phone calls and visits, we have found the right fit for delivery, for the THIRD time now lol.

Pray for my sanity. 

So, here’s an update on my student loans. I am pleased with progress made this summer.

Sincerely, God bless. Stay strong and fight on!

7 Years a Student Loan Debt Slave: $52,785.68 Paid, $32,522.39 Till Pay Off

Image result for debt slaveryI was afraid when my student loans were set for repayment on June 1, 2011.  Throughout the years, I’ve researched and made my share of mistakes in my student loan debt journey.  Here are a few resources and tips that have helped me along the way.

1)Know who you owe and how much.

Visit www.nslds.ed.gov to get the name of your loan servicer and their contact information.  Communicate  with your loan servicers as soon as possible, missing payments can impact your ability to buy a house.

 

2) Split your monthly payment into bi-weekly payments.

This is a little hack I discovered homeowners use to reduce interest amount paid over the life of the loan.

Make sure that your payments are made before the due date.  If you pay under the monthly amount, you risk accrual of interest and other penalties. Consult with your student loan servicer for more details.

The below tool allows you to see the impact of making biweekly payments.  Click on the link below to view how my loan amount is impacted by making bi-weekly payments.  Experiment with this calculator by entering  your own loan amount and interest rate.

https://www.calcxml.com/calculators/should-i-convert-to-a-bi-weekly-payment-schedule?skn=#results

The standard student loan repayment term is 120 months or 10 years, you can edit this calculator to reflect when you expect to complete repayment. (1 year = 12 months)

 

3) Choose your major wisely.

Consider salaries for jobs within your major. Not every job will pay well for booksmarts and passion, so know your REALISTIC earning potential. For example, social workers don’t earn millions of dollars a year.

Using Finaid’s calculator, you can discover what minimum salary is needed to afford loan repayment. According to Finaid, I need to earn at least $117,807.27 annually to repay my debt comfortably.  Honestly, not making anywhere near this salary minimum has caused for lots of sacrifice and struggle.

Review your minimum salary needed for repayment below.

http://www.finaid.org/calculators/loanpayments.phtml

 

4) Choose the repayment plan that works best for you.

www.studentloans.gov

My loan servicers have calculated my updated monthly payments to be $45.  The reduced monthly payment allows me some wiggle room if I ever fall on hard times.

However, $45 would not cover monthly accrued interest. Not only must you pay the interest, but you also want to pay down a sizeable amount of principal.  Paying more than the minimum amount will effectively reduce your debt load and decrease the amount of time you are in debt.

Which leads us to the fifth point…

 

5) Make extra payments.

I currently make regular payments of $370 bi-weekly through money earned at my full-time job. Additional payments above the $370 bi-weekly amount are from my part-time job.

I have developed a strong hate for my student loans and try to throw as much money at them as possible. I refuse to have student loans when my kids start college.

 

6) Be Honest. Live below your means.

We all want to live in a certain area or drive a nice car.  But at this time for me, the finer things in life aren’t worth the work required to obtain.

It gets difficult at times to tell friends and family members about my financial struggles, but I enjoy very strong relationships.  Everyone won’t appreciate your honesty, get ready to develop thick skin.

 

7) Build a support system.

I’ve learned that you must simply ride the waves of life, as it is possible to feel alone in a room full of people. The key to life, in my opinion, is working to achieve full dependency on someone besides yourself.  For me it’s my relationship with Jesus Christ and right now, I need some Jesus time.

Below is an update on my student loan accounts.  Until next time folks, be blessed and fight on!

The Valentine’s Day Crashers: $51,133.40 Paid, $34,174.67 Till Pay Off

Come On Man!

I walked through the door tired from work, annoyed from sitting through traffic, and brow glistening with beads of sweat. My phone rang, “Hello?” I puffed. It was my wife on the line she asked, “Can you text me a copy of the car insurance policy?”

Confused I asked “Why, what happened?” The response I got made my heart sink. In the heat of the moment, I didn’t handle my wife telling me she’d been in an accident well. Thankfully, she was close to home, being in route from work/picking up our daughter from school.

As a self-described slowpoke driver, I floored the gas pedal to reach my wife and daughter. Rushing to the scene of an accident was foolish, being already tired from work and hangry. Haha!

Upon arrival, I noticed my wife had rear-ended a car. I was relieved to find our daughter smiling in my wife’s arms and no structural damage to our car. I then inspected the other driver’s car and took pictures, and found it too had no visible damage.

You Are Kidding… Right?

Later, the driver of the other car decided to call the cops. Before we knew it, our eyes were accosted by red and blue lasers from ambulance, firetruck, and police squad cars. The lights seemed to reflect off everything, including my wife’s face. The whole time I thought, “Is all this necessary?”

Prior to first responders showing up, the driver’s passenger was coherent and mobile. However, once the paramedics asked her if she was okay, she expressed pain in her neck and back. Lol. So in the most dramatic fashion, she asked to be placed on a stretcher and admitted to the ER.

Adding Insult To Injury

Come on man, you gotta be kidding me! To make matters worse, it was Valentine’s Day. So our romantic evening was scrapped for filing an insurance claim. Neither my wife or I had ever been in an accident, and full coverage was $86 monthly to insure our cars.

You better believe the insurance company jumped at the opportunity to raise our premium to $131. Being the frugal person I am, I declined and took my business elsewhere. Haha. I am happy the claim was resolved without issue. I am more excited for the continued progress in paying off my student loans. Check out the updates below.

I have a request for you all, pray that I finish this race strong while serving my family, friends, and community in integrity. Do you have any failed Valentine’s Day stories to share?  Until next time, be blessed and fight on.

Hey There Mr. Tax Man: $49,293.51 Paid, $36,014.56 Till Pay Off

Making it Rain!

Tax season is that time of year when people fantasize about how to spend their tax refunds.  In years past, I’ve used tax returns to fund vacations, cars, tuition payments, and clothes.  My favorite vacation was taking my wife to the Dominican Republic.  It was great practicing our Spanish, walking on beaches, and exploring caves.  It was a much needed vacation, as my wife 7 months earlier, gave birth to our daughter. 

This year, we made the difficult decision to forgo a trip to pay toward my student loans.  Well, it was difficult for my wife lol!  She is such a trooper, thanks for being Bonnie to my Clyde during these difficult times babe.

Big Belly, Small Wallet

Another component to my debt payoff journey is reducing how often we eat out.  After reviewing our credit card statements, I realized we spent over $6,000 last year at restaurants and fast food.  This year has not started off any better, as we’ve spent $600 in the month of February alone.  It seems like the more we make, the more we spend frivolously.  My family and I are blessed having not missed a meal, live in a safe dwelling, and have affordable transportation.  So the following questions boggle my mind: 1) Why must I feel entitled to dine out while having a refrigerator full of food?  2) What if I made a $6,000 payment toward my student loans instead of dining out?

With that being said, my old spending habits will not hold me back from a debt free future.  My last shopping trip included some of my all-time favorites: hamburger patties, General Tsao’s Chicken, and yogurt for smoothies.  There’s nothing like a blueberry/mango smoothie after a long day of work.

Challenge Accepted

The first challenge I foresee with not eating out would be my daughter missing out on pizza, her favorite meal.  Second, my wife and I enjoy trying new restaurants as a weekend hobby.  Cooking on weekends will take lots of time and energy.  Third, managing my schedule to help out more in the kitchen.  Disclaimer: I have cooked twice in the past month.  Thankfully, there were enough leftovers from each meal to last a few days.  Although my wife didn’t eat much of the food I prepared, she was gracious.  Hmmm…  Which leads me to my final challenge, to improve my cooking.

Thanks for stopping by.  Below, is an update of my student loan repayment progress.

What have you given up to help with debt payoff?  Until next time folks, fight on!

Educating the Homeless: $47,445.09 Paid, $37,862.98 Till Pay Off

I work closely with students and find the topics of student loans and homelessness invade our conference meetings almost daily.  This posting will veer from the usual talk of debt repayment to discuss homelessness.   As always, I hope this blog entry is uplifting and challenges the minds and hearts of its readers.

Human Identity:

Jimmy Carter once said, “Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns.” Homelessness is a growing problem in the United States and many believe the destitute are unenterprising. At work, we serve high school and college students who face housing instability and food insecurity daily.  Many days I hear volunteers say a mix of the following, “These people are just lazy.” “Why can’t they just pull themselves up by their bootstraps?” “If I can do it, why can’t they?”

To these statements I say, many students are simply born into situations they either can’t control or are unaware of the dysfunction.  Homelessness is caused by many factors, one seen too often is the lack of family support. Often times, these minors are forced out of their residences due to disagreements with parents and left without basic necessities.  As a result, students may turn to crime to meet personal needs. Recidivism persists when the basic essentials of life (food, water, and shelter) are inaccessible or difficult to come by.  The cycle of a life of crime is tough to break.

Different Experiences:

Abilities apparent at birth or unfortunate events involving mental, emotional, and physical well-being play a role as well. For those who have worked to climb themselves out of the deepest recesses of economic despair, count yourself blessed and teach someone else how you did it.

Consider the following, 1) Not everyone you see on the street is a career panhandler, 2) Requesting financial support publicly by the homeless is the last resort, 3) A common factor plaguing the poor, is the poverty of relationships.

With that being said, the less fortunate need emotional care more than anything else. The sense of belonging is a powerful force.  What we purchase daily communicates something about us rather we want it to or not.  Some can afford to live in an apartment, others a 3 bedroom two bath home, while yet another owns multiple rental properties.

Possible Solution:

There’s nothing wrong with buying fancy houses, cars, and clothes. Allowing material positions to determine self-worth leaves emptiness when houses depreciate, cars rust, and clothes fade. Unfortunately, the poor are looked over daily due to what we can see, their evident lack.

So consider lending a helping hand to a high school or college student.  Someone in trouble may not know what they need to make their situation better.  Here are a few ways we can help combat homelessness if you are not already.  1) Become friends with people from different walks of life.   2) Learn of their needs through authentic relationship.  3) Fulfill legitimate needs without asking.  Most times, friends won’t come forth and request anything due to pride.

I am appreciative of the support received from this blog. You guys help keep me motivated! Below is an update of my student loan accounts.  Until next time, fight and strive on.

Merry Christmas?: $46,370.77 Paid, $38,937.30 Till Pay Off

Image result for christmas hollyWell it’s that time of year again, Merry Christmas and Prosperous New Year!  For those of you who are in college or have dependents, remember to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  The FAFSA application was made available October 1st and the submission deadline is June 30th.

In Other News:
There have been current rumblings surrounding issues of: 1) Graduate Student Tuition Waivers, 2) Student loan interest and 3) Student Loan forgiveness.
I will do my best to stay out of politics, since I have a difficult time managing my 1 year old.  In short, law makers as represented by the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate considered taxing graduate tuition waivers as income.  Understandably, students were unhappy and protested. Thankfully, their voices were heard.  College students don’t make much and I speak from experience. Click here for more from NPR.

Hard Times Were Fun Times:
During my college days, I worked 3 jobs and enrolled as a full-time student.  Money earned was spent attempting to cover tuition.  My usual meals were Chef Boyardee, Ramen, Ensure, and 99 cent double cheeseburgers from McDonald’s.
However, I was blessed to have some meals provided for by a loving elderly couple.  Also, 3 meals a week were provided at the cafeteria through a job as a Resident Assistant.  Man, college sure was fun.

Paying the Tax Man:
Next, lawmakers considered removing the $2,500 student loan interest deduction.  By what I understand, the deduction is not guaranteed. In fact, the amount a tax bill is reduced is based on the tax payer’s income.  So the higher your salary, the less interest deduction can be used; the lower your salary, the better your chances to use the full deduction.  This is the best I can do to explain this, for more information click here.  This interest deduction greatly reduced my tax bill for calendar year 2012, as my career was in its fledgling stages.  To hear more from the IRS click here.

Generational Debt:
I work in education and student loan debt is a concern for young and old. To my surprise, “seasoned” coworkers disclose more than the 20 somethings about financial issues. What I hear mostly is the shame of still paying school debt while having a child in college.

The recent graduates I work with are really hoping for student loan forgiveness. Unfortunately, not many of them are taking advantage of the Income-Based Repayment programs. Although I am currently enrolled in an IBR program, I’m prepared to pay off every penny of debt should loan forgiveness is denied.  Here, CNN gives insight on the current plight of the first group of borrowers who are eligible for loan forgiveness.

Help Is On The Way:

I am grateful for my talks with coworkers as they have been very supportive. Below is an update on my loan balance.

Speaking of college, I am excited to announce there is help out there. It is called the Dallas County Promise.  It is a last dollar tuition scholarship for students in attendance of any Dallas County Community College District campus or participating university.  So far, The University of North Texas-Dallas (UNT-D) and Southern Methodist University (SMU) are participants in this scholarship program.  Follow the link for details and spread the news!

 

 

Someone Call A Mechanic! $45,645.72 Paid, $39,662.35 Till Pay Off

College Years & 1985 Chevrolet Cavalier:

Ugh. Car problems are the absolute worst! They always happen at the most inopportune times.  My wife and I usually buy cash cars in effort to keep costs low. However, cash cars aren’t usually in the best shape.

My car issues began while in college, from 2004-2010 including graduate school.  At the time, I owned a 1985 Chevrolet Cavalier.  As shown to the left, is an actual picture a college buddy took of it.  I remember him telling me my car was cool lol.  Thanks for those kind words man, I never forgot them.

My wife who was my girlfriend then, owned a 1990 Honda Accord. To say the least, we both drove cars no one would be caught dead in.

Driving a car as old as me during my formative years definitely repelled the ladies lol. However, my car did attract the girl who didn’t mind being seen with me in it. I call that old Chevrolet Cavalier my “Wifey Magnet” haha.

Getting an Upgrade:

Anyways, I traded the Cavalier in for a 2002 Ford Explorer Sport in 2010. We then bought a 2003 Honda Accord in 2015. We were happy giving our “new” cars extra tender loving care. Despite our best efforts in keeping our cars maintained, both cars decided to give up the ghost the same day in September.

The Ford became impossible to turn due to problems with ball joints and steering rod. My poor wife knew of the issues a few days before, but decided it best to wait on telling me. At the time, we were battling incessant oil leaks with the Honda caused by a shady mechanic. In the end, the Honda’s engine started to make grinding noises due to lack of engine oil.

Enough is Enough:

Finally, I had enough with our car problems. We went to a car dealership and pulled the trigger to finance cars. The intent was to find cars: 1) manufactured in this decade and 2) low mileage.

I honestly feared financing a car, but truth be told, my monthly payment is about the same as I paid to maintain the Ford and Honda. It’s funny how my car loan’s interest rate is lower than my student loan interest rates of 3.03%-6.8%. Anywhoo…

Still Pushing Forward:

Although student loans have been the bane of my existence, they have enforced discipline in the areas of budgeting and saving. Besides car issues, it has been another great year for student loan repayment. I am thankful for the progress made in tackling this $85,308.06 monster.

Below is a running total of loan amounts. How are you guys doing? What goals have you made progress on this year? Until next time everyone, stay focused.

 

Good News!: $44,685.55 Paid, $40,621.52 Till Paid Off.

Hi everyone!

It has been a busy summer and fall is upon us. Lots has happened since June, so let’s dive in. After coming home from work one evening in August, my wife greeted me with two pieces of mail from Nelnet. My immediate response was to shake my head and groan, “What’s wrong now?”

In years past, receiving mail from a loan servicer meant one of the following frustrations occurred: 1. The servicer had not received a payment. 2. Interest accrued on a loan account; or 3. A loan account was transferred to another servicer.

After staring in space for a while, I reluctantly tore open the first envelope. I have included a picture of the letter below, click to enlarge if you wish.

In summary, the letter says that ACS owes me .01 and the student loan will be transferred to Nelnet. Yippee! ACS owes me a penny, thanks for the mini heart attack.

My interest is piqued at this point, I ripped apart the second envelop and expected to be another penny richer. To my surprise the second letter informed me that another loan was transferred from ACS to Nelnet, and I am owed $225!


Out of all the loan servicers I’ve worked with (University Accounting Services, Brazos, Fedloan, Nelnet, and ACS), ACS made the repayment process most difficult. Tax and income-based repayment paperwork always seemed to get lost with them.

So that’s my good news everyone! I am $225 closer to reaching my goal of repaying my student loans. Check out the updates below.

September Update2

Now I only have 2 loan servicers to keep up with.  Until next time everyone, fight on and keep my hometown Houston in prayers!