Coffee Talk: The Pros and Cons of Helping Your Child Buy a Home

By Mémé

Should You Help Your Child Buy a Home?

…The article itself offers nothing unusual, but I think it might spark some discussion about the experiences of the totebaggers –  maybe a survey of the amount of assistance they got in buying a first home?   Would life have been easier?   Would it be worth the entanglement with parents?

Quiz Time: Are You Well Informed?

By Grace Nunez aka costofcollege

Do you have your facts straight?

Do you like your news when it’s grounded in data? So do we. Pew Research Center’s Fact Tank blog launched one year ago with the goal of bringing our unique brand of nonpartisan data journalism to your daily information diet. From global affairs, to U.S. politics, demographics, religion, media, technology and economics, we’ve collected quite a few important and interesting facts – from our own vault of data and from other reliable sources. (Not to mention, we’ve made a lot of maps and charts.) In honor of our birthday, we’ve built a short data quiz from some of our most popular posts.

Take the Pew Research Center’s quiz.

Were you surprised by your quiz results?  What are your main sources for news, and do you think you should expand your list?  Do you consider yourself well informed, or too busy to keep up with the news?

Friday Fun: Summer Movies!

by Houston

Summer is a great time to see movies.  It’s usually too hot outside to do much, and it’s a great activity to get the kids out of the house.

I fondly remember the summer movies of my childhood.  I’m dating myself, but I remember standing in line with my father to get tickets to see “Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back”.  I also loved “Back to the Future” and “Grease”.

This summer, we’ve already seen the new Captain America movie and have “How to Train Your Dragon 2″ and “Transformers” on our list.  We will most likely wait to see “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Lucy” on DVD.  As the price of movies has increase, I find myself being more picky about what we see in the theater.

Totebaggers, what movies are you looking forward to this summer, or have already seen?  What are your favorite childhood movies?  What movies do you recommend (either new or on DVD)?

Coffee Talk: No One Wants Your Old Stuff

By Mémé

… We have had the discussion before about families handing stuff down, and about clearing out your parents’ or grandparents’ home, but this article focuses on the fact that there may be nowhere to dispose of things.   I think that the most interesting take is how to balance responsible use of physical resources and goods with the waste of time and effort to find a home for items that have no commercial worth, even if “there is life in them.”    Small items live forever on ebay or ETSY,  but big items need a local home.

Ask The Totebag: Condo or Retirement Community

By Louise

My parents will be spending more time in the U.S. They don’t need day to day living assistance. They were thinking of either buying a condo close to me or getting an apartment in a retirement community.

The condo will be a walk to grocery stores, shopping and will be close to my house.

The retirement community will be close as well and they will be around people their own age with organized activities, meals and staff on site. The support system and having people to interact with will not be there with the condo.

The condo option means an asset whereas the retirement community apartment means spending on a rental apartment within the community. Perhaps the retirement community can wait till they actually need assistance?

I don’t really know what direction we should go on this. Several Totebaggers have been through variations of this situation with their parents. Please share your wisdom.

Why aren’t high school grads ready for college?

By Grace Nunez aka costofcollege

Even in one of the most prosperous and highly educated counties in the United States, less than half of high school graduates are ready for college.

Only 48% of Westchester County high school graduates are prepared to do college-level work.  This measure is based on students scoring “at least 75 on their English Regents exam and at least 80 on a math Regents exam”.

For my local high school, located in Westchester County, 64% of graduates are considered college ready.  This is a school district that spends about $25,000 per student each year and enjoys a student/teacher ratio of 14:1.  Using AP participation figures, US News determined that my local high school has a College Readiness Index of 44.5

On a national basis “SAT scores indicate ‘most freshmen aren’t academically prepared for college'”, so it appears this problem is not limited to high schools near me.

Some possible reasons for the low number of high school graduates who are prepared to do college-level work:

  1. The measures are flawed and do not give an accurate representation.
  2. Teaching and/or curriculum is mediocre, or worse.
  3. Schools do not place sufficient focus on academic goals, specifically on preparing students for college.
  4. We’re not spending enough on education.
  5. The money we spend on education is used inefficiently.
  6. No matter the demographics and despite how much a school tries, a certain percentage of high school graduates will never be ready for college work.
  7. “Kids these days.”
  8. Parents are not doing enough to support their children’s education.

I dismiss the first reason listed, having some familiarity with the New York State tests used to measure college readiness.  A high school student on the college-prep track should definitely be able to meet the scores required.  These tests are notoriously easy and/or graded on a very forgiving curve.

Achievement levels do not correlate closely with money spent on education, so I cannot see #4 being an important reason.

The rest of the listed reasons probably play some role in creating the disappointingly low college-readiness figures.  In theory, schools have the most control over remedying reasons 2, 3, and 5.  In practice, most experiments innovations that schools implement only seem to make things worse.

Are these college readiness numbers surprising?  Should they be higher, given the resources being devoted to education?  Or is it unrealistic to expect higher percentages of college-ready high school graduates, even in some of the most affluent areas of the country?

(A version of this post previously appeared on Cost of College blog.)