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What Is the Average Cost of College? (And How to Reduce Costs!)



cost of collegecost of college

How much will college cost for students aiming to enter in the fall of 2020?

If you’re a millennial or Gen Zer, you might have heard people in their 50s and 60s talking about working their way through college and graduating with little debt. Today, that seems impossible. And that has contributed to students graduating with an average of $30,000 in student loan debt.

How much does college cost today? Is it worth it to pay that much for a college degree?

In today’s post, we’ll talk about the average cost of a college education over time and how you can get the most for your money as you research and decide on which colleges to attend.

The Average Cost of College Since 1985

The National Center for Education Statistics, a section of the United States Department of Education, has gathered information on average tuition costs for years.

In 2019, they released data that showed that since 1985, tuition for both two-year colleges and four-year colleges had increased by more than four times by the 2016-17 academic year — whether the institution was public or private.

Here’s a summary of what those numbers look like. Note: All these numbers are adjusted for inflation to reflect 2016-17 dollars. The numbers we’ll discuss below were calculated to include tuition, fees, as well as room and board.

During the 1985-86 academic year, the average total cost for a college education regardless of whether it was a private or public institution was:

  • All institutions: $4,885
  • Four-year colleges: $5,504
  • Two-year colleges: $3,367

By the 2016-17 academic year, this is what the average cost of a college education per year was:

  • All institutions: $23,091
  • Four-year colleges: $26,593
  • Two-year colleges: $10,598

These numbers were then separated to reflect the average cost at a public institution versus a private institution.

For public colleges, this is what the numbers looked like in 1985:

  • All institutions: $3,571
  • Four-year colleges: $3,859
  • Two-year colleges: $2,981

By 2017, those numbers had increased to $17,237, $19,488, and $10,091, respectively.

For private colleges, the average costs in 1985 are shown below:

  • All institutions: $8,885
  • Four-year colleges: $9,228
  • Two-year colleges: $6,512

And by 2017, those numbers had increased to $40,925, $41,468, and $24,882, respectively.

A graphical representation of this data is below.

These costs don’t factor in what students might spend on books, food, and other associated costs of attending college.

Thinking About the Average Cost of College Over the Last 30 Years

A quick analysis of these numbers show that over the last 30+ years, the cost of going to college has increased by 400% to 500% — regardless of whether the institution was public, private, a four-year college, or a two-year college.

What does it mean? Well, it could mean that college costs will continue to go up over the coming years — for various complex economic reasons.

If the federal or state governments don’t make decisions about how to make college affordable, those skyrocketing costs could mean students will graduate from college with even higher student loan debt than we have now.

For aspiring college students (and parents who may pay for college), this can certainly sound distressing.

If you’d like to reduce college costs, here are some ideas you could consider:

  1. Consider all your options when you decide to pursue a college education. If you want to go directly into a profession like medicine, nursing, or dentistry after school, then it might make sense to opt for a four-year college knowing that you will be going into these more specialized professions.
  2. Two-year public colleges have been historically low-cost. Even with a five-times increase in the cost of education at a two-year public college, the average cost still sits at about $10,000 per year. Some people take the strategy of first attending a two-year college and then transferring to a four-year college to finish up their last two years. This is a viable path as well if you want to reduce costs.
  3. If you attend a college or university in your home state, generally, the costs are low. Thus, my recommendation is to check out schools in your state that offer the program you want to study before you look outside of your state.
  4. Even though you may start out as an out-of-state student, some schools allow you to convert to an in-state student after you’re able to prove you’ve lived in a state for a certain period of time. If you’d like to reduce the cost of your college education, you can take this route as well.
  5. While I’m an advocate for college degrees and graduate degrees that serve your purpose, I also realize that there are high-paying professions out there that don’t require that you have a college degree. You might have to get a certification or attend a vocational school to learn needed skills. However, this route will not cost you thousands of dollars.
  6. If there are scholarships available to you because you fall into a specific category or group, (e.g., military, military spouse, Native American, etc.), take advantage of those as well.
  7. Some jobs offer a college tuition incentive as part of their benefits. You can take advantage of that as well.

Closing Thoughts

Unless there’s radical intervention, the cost of college education in the United States will continue to rise. It’s inconvenient, but it’s true.

Taking some of the steps above can help with reducing those costs so you don’t come out of college in over your head with loans to pay back.

The post What Is the Average Cost of College? (And How to Reduce Costs!) appeared first on The College Investor.

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How I Make $1,500 A Month As A Podcast Virtual Assistant



Hello! Today, I have a great guest post from Melanie. She started a business as a podcast virtual assistant and talks about how you can too. You can download her free workbook – Podcast VAs: What Services Should I Offer? Enjoy!

I’m Melanie Scroggins – voice actor and podcast producer. I currently live in Austin, TX with my husband and two fur babies.

I’ve been working in audio production for almost three years, and what started as a fun hobby, turned into a lucrative side gig that gave me the confidence to leave my last job and turn podcasting into a business.

At this point in my journey, I work part-time on podcasts. But when I was working on podcasts full-time, I usually worked with three clients (10-12 hours a week per show) and brought in over $3,000 a month. Now that I work on podcasts part-time (about 10 hours a week) I bring in an average of $1,500 a month.

Working as a Podcast VA allowed me the flexibility to quit my full-time office job and pursue what I believe to be my calling. I have continued to work as a Podcast virtual assistant because I love the work and the industry – there is always something new to learn!

Every day at my job was the same.

Fluorescent lights buzzing. Fingers clacking on keyboards. Phones ringing. People chatting… constantly.  

I’d go in, get my work done and then I’d go home. 

Hundreds of thousands of people manage to do this every day. And for a long while, I was one of them. 

But I repeatedly found myself asking, “Why isn’t this working for me?” 

When I finally sat down to talk it out with my husband, I realized the problem. 

I didn’t want to work for anyone else. 

It was as simple as that. I wanted to work for myself and our family, have creative freedom, and lots of flexibility. 

I wanted to create a work life I was proud of – doing something I actually wanted to do every day. 

Work on my terms.


It Was Me, Not Them

I wish I could tell you that my exit from corporate happened in a dramatic flair; the company went out of business and we were all laid off. 

Or that I was so poorly treated that I had no choice but to leave. (Oh the drama!)

I really wanted to believe that it was them – not me. 

But that wasn’t the truth. It was me. When 

I struggled to be okay with the fact that I wasn’t forced out of my office job. Deciding to leave meant choosing something unknown and that felt scary to me. 

I only knew that the “nine to five” world wasn’t for me. 

The only question was, what was? 


A Newfound Love for Audio Production 

My husband and I had some adventures after I stepped away from my desk job. 

We were living in an RV in a remote part of the coast of Oregon, when I really started to experiment with creativity and flexibility in my work.

At that point, I had been freelance writing for a couple of outdoor companies but I still found myself with a lot of extra time. 

I decided to start interviewing other female business owners and adventurers who were doing things differently.

I ordered a mic that could be set up at the RV diner table, downloaded some free software, learned some basic audio editing, and then set up interviews with other female business owners and friends.

It wasn’t long after I started creating and sharing my own content that friends, and friends of friends, began reaching out about how I could help them launch a podcast for their own businesses. 


Starting My Podcasting Virtual Assistant Business

Fast forward to the spring of 2018. With minimal help and very little know how, I began to build a podcast support business. 

I’ll be honest, it took me a while to trust that I had a good thing going. There were many times that I truly believed that I wasn’t going to make it. At one point, I ended up at another office job once we’d settled down again in Texas.

I was so afraid to dive in 100%.

But, I continued working at my little business. Every evening after my 9-5, I’d worked on a few client’s shows. 

After about four months of consistent client work, I gained the courage to quit my office job (again). It was time to expand and take myself (and my goals) seriously. 

I had a long way to go to build my portfolio and make enough money to support my family, but I was convinced that I had the skills to make a living doing audio production. 

About a year later, I was making well over what I was making in my last office job. And guess what? 

I was happier. So much happier. 

Today, I am working for myself. 

I now have the freedom for which I’d been searching for. And I’ve had it for nearly two years already! Somebody pinch me…

I have the flexibility to work or travel whenever I want to – my life and business on my terms and it feels good. 


Why Podcasting? 

Okay, okay, so I wanted to work for myself and I’d tried my hand at audio production. Big whoop, right? 

The real question is: why did I stick with podcasting? 

With over 800,000 podcasts out there (and this number’s increasing daily), you’ll find there is a lot of promise in offering podcasting services to clients, and that’s exactly what I realized. 

I initially started by creating a personal podcast, but I quickly became aware that podcasting is something a lot of businesses were interested in pursuing. 

And it makes sense, right? 

Podcasting allows small businesses to create a more personalized and intimate experience with their audience, which is a great way to approach the marketing idea, Know, Like, Trust.

When people reach out to you and ask how you can help them, that’s a pretty good sign that service is in demand. 


Is Becoming a Podcast Virtual Assistant Right for You?

Let’s get something out of the way real quick – there is nothing perfect about work, ever. 

Just like there is nothing perfect about life. There are still tough projects, frustrating client experiences, and lots of work to do. 

But it’s not about things being perfect. It’s about being honest with yourself and pursuing your calling – whatever that may be for you. 

For me, that thing was and is audio production. I love everything about it – editing, mixing, publication, distribution. It hits all my needs, and incorporates a good mix of my analytical and creative skill sets.

But you might be entirely different. 

One of my favorite things about becoming a Podcast Virtual Assistant is that there are so many variations of the role. And business owners need all of them! 


Why Business Owners Hire Podcast Virtual Assistants

One of the reasons clients prefer to outsource their podcast work to freelancers or virtual assistants is because they simply don’t have the time, desire, or know how. 

Their podcast is just one more line item on their very crowded agenda. But that’s good news for us!

There are so many different services you can potentially offer clients. Including (but certainly not limited to): 

  • Audio editing
  • Marketing and promotion
  • Publication 
  • Distribution
  • Show note creation

The list goes on! 

No matter your skill set, there is something you can likely offer.

If helping small businesses with their podcasts is something you’ve thought about doing, here are five services you could offer clients as well as what you could potentially earn. 

1. Audio Editing 

This is a particular skill that many clients don’t know how to do or want to do. They’re busy working on their businesses and simply don’t have the time or skills. 

If you’re interested in learning how to edit audio, YouTube has a ton of awesome videos on audio editing. If you’re worried about the cost, you can get started today – Audacity is free and great for editors at any level. 

Potential Earnings – $50-125/episode

2. Project Management

Yes, project management! A podcast project manager or PM works in the same capacity as a regular PM, they just work on podcast specific projects. 

Project managers offer an invaluable service to clients helping them manage production, team members, and content scheduling. 

Have a background in project management? Even better! 

Potential Earnings – $30-75/hour

3. Guest Management 

If a client is interested in interviewing people for their podcast, guest management is a critical skill set they need to have (or hire out). 

Your job would be to connect with potential guests, be sure they have everything they need for the interview, and touch base with them after the interview. 

This role is especially important because you’re guest facing and representing your client’s business. If you have experience in customer service or administration work, this would be an awesome service for you to offer. 

Potential Earnings – $25-40/hour

4. Marketing 

You’ve seen this word a gazillion times before, but it’s because marketing is essential to a business’s success and that is also true for the success of a podcast. 

Offering this service can make a good podcast an even better podcast. Getting in front of the right people can create unique opportunities for your clients and provide valuable resources to people who are looking for exactly what your client is offering. 

If you have a background in marketing, marketing for podcasting is a huge portion of the industry and could provide you with all kinds of potential business. 

Potential Earnings – $50-70/hour

5. Content Repurposing 

When a podcast is published consistently for a substantial period of time (i.e. six months to a year), oftentimes, it’s a good idea to repurpose content, or, reuse and redistribute content that has already been made in different ways. 

Have you ever seen an audiogram or sound bite? Those images with a wave form or quote over an image of a person? This is one small example of content repurposing that is used to promote a podcast. 

A large enough show has a dedicated team of people constantly utilizing bits and pieces of older podcast episodes and churning out fresh and updated content. 

If you have a background in social media or design, you could offer this much needed service. 

Potential Earnings – $25-40/hour


This All Sounds Exciting, But Where Do I Start? 

Some of you may be excited about the prospect of starting your own podcasting support business while others of you might be shaking in your boots thinking, “I was really excited, but now I’m overwhelmed!”

Don’t worry. I’ve been there too. 

I spent tons of time learning tactics for audio editing, keeping up-to-date with the latest and greatest in marketing, and figuring out distribution; all on my own. It was certainly going the long way around for my ultimate goal; flexibility and creative freedom.

All the knowledge I gained was so valuable! But to be honest, I wish someone was there to help me get from point A to point B more quickly.  


The Fastest, Easiest Way to Become a Podcast Virtual Assistant

As a result, I teamed up with my good friends (and fellow podcast lovers), Gina Horkey and Hailey Thomas to streamline your journey. 

We created Podcast Assist to help people learn to master the skills and strategies needed to launch, manage, and grow podcasts for small businesses. 

Our goal was to put together everything you need to bridge the gap from where you are now, to offering your first service and earning your very first paycheck as a Podcast Virtual Assistant. 


You Can Start Now! 

In the beginning, I felt like there were so many questions and barriers to moving forward. And so we’re going out of our way to remove as many as we can for you!  

So we created this FREE workbook – Podcast VAs: What Services Should I Offer?

It’s especially designed to help you explore the career of a Podcast Virtual Assistant and decide which services are best suited for you. 

Included in this free workbook: 

  • What is a Podcast Virtual Assistant?  
  • What services should I offer? 
  • Example service menu and starting rates
  • “Which services should I offer?” questionnaire 

You can also check out the Podcast Assist Course so that you can learn the skills needed to launch, manage, and grow podcasts for small businesses.

I hope my story was an inspiration! Dive into the workbook and explore what’s going to work best for you!

But before I go… which of the five services above resonates with you the most and why? Chime in via the comments below!

The post How I Make $1,500 A Month As A Podcast Virtual Assistant appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

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The Hartford Home Insurance Review



While most insurance companies are for anyone who wants to pay, The Hartford caters to a specific audience. In fact, if you’re under the age of 50, you’ll have to go through an independent insurance agent to get a policy with this provider. The Hartford targets a fairly specific demographic: AARP members.

With the AARP® Home Insurance Program from The Hartford, policyholders get discounts to keep their cost of coverage down while protecting their home through the later seasons of life. The Hartford even offers credits for retirees. If you’re an AARP member or are thinking about signing up, consider this coverage. If not, you might be better off shopping elsewhere.

Find the Best Home Insurance

Enter your ZIP code below and be sure to click at least 2-3 companies to find the very best rate.


The specs

Price Varies by location, home and other factors
Best for People over the age of 50
Not for People under 50 who don’t want to work with an independent insurance agent
States served All, although features and benefits may vary
  • AARP member
  • Home and auto bundle
  • Home security
  • Fire protection
  • Retiree credit
  • New home
  • Claims-free
AM Best Rating A+
Standout features
  • Partnership with AARP to lower rates for members
    Retiree credits
  • 24/7 claims specialists

The claim

The Hartford claims that they can give AARP members the best, most affordable home insurance available on the market today. It says it wants to “deliver the customer service you expect.”

Is it true?

If you’re a card-carrying AARP member, you’ll get special treatment when you choose The Hartford homeowners insurance. In fact, you’re the type of person the provider is trying to attract. Expect a discount for flashing your AARP card.

As far as customer service, The Hartford’s performance is about average — at best. In the most recent J.D. Power U.S. Home Insurance Study, it scored three out of five in overall satisfaction, policy offering, price and billing process and policy information. More concerningly, The Hartford scored just two out of five for interaction and claims. The perks you get as an AARP member may balance out the less-than-stellar service, but if you’re looking for an easy claims process, look elsewhere.

Our deep dive

  • Bundling discounts: If you have other policies, like auto insurance, with The Hartford, you can bundle them to lower your premiums.
  • Home discounts: You can get policy discounts if your house has a home security system or protective devices or fire protection (e.g., smoke detectors, sprinklers). You can also score a discount if you live in California or New York and your house is new.
  • Older individual discounts: The Hartford home insurance offers discounts for AARP members yet and gives credits to retirees.
  • Reward discounts: If you’re an ideal customer for The Hartford, you’ll get some perks. Specifically, you can get a claims-free discount that grows the longer you go without a claim and a discount if you renew your homeowners policy for four years or more.
  • Online quotes: The Hartford offers instant online quotes to AARP members.
  • Standard coverage: The Hartford home insurance covers everything you’d expect, including dwellings, other structures, personal property, loss of use, personal liability and medical payments. Remember, standard homeowners insurance policies don’t cover earthquakes or floods.
  • Additional coverage options: You can opt for full replacement cost coverage, ProtectorPLUS Zero Deductible Benefit for severe damage and green rebuilding coverage.
  • Home Advantage Package: This package bundles standard protections with “new for old” personal property coverage, personal injury liability coverage, lock replacement reimbursements and identity fraud expense coverage.
  • Home Advantage Plus Package: This package adds disappearing property deductible benefits, equipment breakdown coverage and valuable items blanket coverage to the Home Advantage Package.

Cost rundown

When you choose The Hartford homeowners insurance, your agent will customize your premium (how much you pay for your policy) for you. Some of the factors The Harford considers to determine how much you’ll pay include:

  • The cost to rebuild or repair your house
  • The age of your house
  • The number and type of dogs you own, if any (dogs increase your liability)
  • Your home’s location
  • Your claims history
  • The age of your roof
  • Your credit score (in some states)
  • The deductible you choose

The only way to know how much The Hartford home insurance will cost for your specific house is to get a quote.

Cheaper (or free!) alternatives

If you own your home outright, you can go without home insurance and hope you have enough in savings to cover you if disaster strikes. But all mortgage lenders require home insurance, so most homeowners will need to shell out for a policy.

Fortunately, you can do a few things to keep your cost low:

  • Become an AARP member
  • Fit your home with disaster prevention devices like a home security system and smoke alarms
  • Stay with The Hartford for four years to score the renewal discount
  • Work on your credit score
  • Avoid filing a claim unless it’s necessary
  • Bundle your home insurance policy with other coverage like auto insurance
  • Increase your deductible if you could comfortably cover it

The competition

The Hartford might not be the ideal provider for you, especially if you’re not an AARP member or over 50. One of the best ways to determine the right choice for you is to compare rates and the strengths of weaknesses of your options. Here are some of The Hartford’s top competitors and how they compare.

  • Allstate: Allstate balances relatively high rates with plenty of discounts and claim forgiveness. The customer satisfaction is average; it scored threes across the board in the J.D. Power study. Still, with an agent to guide you to the right policy for you, it’s worth checking out.
  • Farmers: With plenty of policy customization options and an emphasis on customer service, Farmers seems like a solid choice. It also scored all threes in the J.D. Power study, so don’t expect jaw-dropping service, but you’ll likely be satisfied with the results.
  • Geico: Rather than underwriting its own policies, Geico connects you to a provider. The model’s a little bit odd, but it works well. Geico offers reasonable rates and decent customer service. Get a quote to figure out which partner would be underwriting your policy so you can do your homework to make sure the underwriter will serve you well.
  • State Farm: The largest home insurance provider, State Farm offers a fairly broad range of coverage for a fairly good price with slightly above-average customer service (it scored threes and fours out of five in the 2019 J.D. Power Home Insurance Study). It’s worth getting a quote to see if it can offer you more affordable coverage than the competition.
  • What others are saying

    Forbes reports that The Hartford has seen “strong, steady growth” in recent years. Judging from happy The Hartford reviews, it seems that this provider will be around for a long time.

    Yahoo! Finance recently shared The Hartford’s release of its 2020 Home Fire Index, highlighting cities with the highest home fire risk. The article also outlines The Hartford’s plan to direct $3 million to its public education program called Junior Fire Marshal.

    The Sacramento Bee reports that The Hartford wrote homeowners insurance policies for Californians in high-risk fire areas, although at a cost.

    The Better Business Bureau gives The Hartford an A+, but it averaged just one star out of five in the reviews.

    The bottom line

    If you’re an AARP member, The Hartford wants to work with you. It’s worth getting an online quote, considering it should only take you a few minutes. But if you’re not over the age of 50, you might want to check out your other home insurance options.

    The post The Hartford Home Insurance Review appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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Life Update: Pregnancy (35 weeks) + baby boy got out of the NICU!



I’m 35 weeks pregnant this week — and we got to bring our precious baby boy that we’re fostering home from the NICU on Wednesday!!

All three kids have anxiously been waiting for two weeks to get to meet this very loved baby boy! They have willingly stayed home 24/7 to protect our home from germs, done the bulk of the laundry, cooking, and cleaning while I was taking care of this little guy at the NICU, and have talked incessantly about the day we would get to bring him to our house!

It brought tears to my eyes to see my husband and kids loving on this tiny boy whom I have fallen so in love with the past two and a half weeks. (See a video here.)

Welcome to our home, Champ. We already love you more than you can imagine. Our heart and hope is for you to have reunification with your mama, but we promise to love you, care for you, and advocate for you as long as we get to be your foster family.

(Note: We debated over what “internet name” to give this sweet guy and finally all decided on Champ. Because though he is little, he is so strong. And I kept finding myself reporting to people that he did this or that “like a champ”. I realized it was the perfect moniker for him online! Also, thank you for your understanding that there’s a lot we can’t share when it comes to photos and details. While everything in my mama heart wants to show the world how cute and amazing he is and how proud I am of how much progress he is making, protecting his privacy and story is much more important to us.)


It’s pretty surreal and special to get the opportunity to love on a tiny little newborn during the last few weeks of my pregnancy. Since I’m the only one who is trained to feed him right now (and he eats every 3 hours) and he’s still adjusting to being in a different bed/place after weeks in the NICU, my sleep has been a little on the short side this week.

However, God has been so faithful to carry me through — through the 24-hour stay with him at the hospital so the nurses could observe my care of him and make sure I was ready to bring him home, through a few relatively sleepless nights, and through so many meetings/appointments with various medical professionals about his long term medical needs.

I’m learning so much and feel like I add new words and terms to my vocabulary every day! Also, this whole having babies with older kids is just about the best.thing.ever!!! Jesse and the kids have done SO much this week and the transition has honestly felt so smooth and easy, thanks to them!


I feel like my belly popped yet again this week and I outgrew more clothes! Baby has been SO active and seems very healthy.

I’m also having much more intense contractions — which is very common for me in the last month. I get to start weekly ultrasounds next week and I’m excited to get to see our little babe on the screen again! We’re also hoping maybe just maybe baby will cooperate and we’ll be able confirm the gender with the DNA test.

We have almost everything ready except we need to buy another car seat, finalize a few things for the birth, and pack the hospital bags. I also am hoping to get Champ all adjusted to sleeping in his bed in our room and need to get Jesse and Kathrynne trained on making bottles and feeding/caring for him. (We’re supposed to have a nurse come stay at our house to care for him during my birth, but I still want to have some backup!) I don’t expect to go early, so I should have time!

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