Ep. 68 Reconsidering Community College? They Have Dorms Now!

Community College with Dorms

Community College w/ Dorms, a new concept

We have a brief overview of the article and the topic of community college with dorms and meal plans across the country. I first came across a great article from the website diycollegerankings.com, Cutting College Costs: 209 Community College with Dorms.

This might change the game for some people. Community colleges are admittedly less costly than a traditional four year institution. A community college with dorms might be able to compete for attention now. The reason for this expansion is simple, dollars and sense. It makes sense because it can bring in more dollars!

Students can take their core general courses, take supplemental courses, take specialized certification programs, take remedial courses to get up to college level etc… There is something there for everyone to take advantage of. Community colleges are trying to improve their image. They now have honor programs, honor societies and even sports for students to participate in.

Considering a list from your state of a community college with dorms allows you to stay on campus, focus on your studies without the hassle of commuting. Currently, Texas has the most with 29 followed by New York and Kansas. NJ has 1 and PA has 7 schools.

If they are trying to compete with larger state institutions such as RUTGERS UNIVERSITY who now is focusing on attracting higher achieving low-income students with their Future Scholars program is a losing game. They will get swallowed up. Making themselves nimble and more attractive with dorms and meal plans, allows that low-income student to stay close to home at a lower price point.

I suggest you take a look at the original article with the list and see which schools in your state now have dorms.

Links mentioned in this article:

Essex County Community College

Rutgers University Future Scholars Program

Ep. 66 Out-of-State Colleges: Yea or Nay?

Out-of-state collegesThis episode is for you if any out-of-state colleges are at the top of your list. We discuss the pros and cons of why students migrate to schools in other states and why they might stay home.  There are advantages and disadvantages of both.

Let’s just assume you have at least 5 colleges on your list that you are looking at attending. We will assume that it includes at least one in-state public university for the lower cost factor, one flagship larger in-state private college and three out-of-state reasonable public universities. For the sake of this example, this would play out that the in-state public school would not offer you a lot of financial aid or scholarships because your average or even above scores are what they expect. You look more attractive to the out-of-state public university because of the diversity and the “allure” of being from somewhere else. These schools offer you MORE money to cross state lines and enroll with them.  The only thing to consider is your transportation expenses if it is not within driving distance for you to travel back and forth home.

This is not a hard and fast rule.  This is merely an observation. I suggest you prove me wrong and apply more than one in-state school and see what king of offer you get in terms of financial aid and scholarships (don’t look at the student loans).

Connect with us on our Facebook page and let us know how things turn out.

Colleges mentioned in this episode:

Arizona State University

Ohio State

Penn State

Rutgers University



University of Alabama

University of Pittsburgh

University of South Carolina


Ep. 29 Scholarship Success Story: Meet Briana!

Scholarship Success: How to stand outIn this episode, we present another parents/student scholarship success story. We want to introduce Brianna J., daughter of Aretha and Kevin.  She is currently a freshman at Hampton University in Virginia. She and her mother talk in depth about the college search process, extracurricular activities, applying for local scholarship, sports (volleyball), HBCU and her entire journey.

The colleges & links mentioned in this episode:

Rutgers University

Morgan State University

Fairleigh Dickinson University

University of Maryland

Loyola University

Kean University

Howard University

Spelman College

Temple University

Ramapo College


The Common Application

Jack and Jill of America, Inc.


[spp-tweet tweet=”Scholarship Tweet: Don’t leave money on the table!”]

Tips for parents & students:

  1. Plan, Plan, Plan – start as early as possible, for example account for expenses related to additional tutoring and what the financial impact for applying to many schools can be on your pocketbook.
  2. Be committed to the process. Use social media as a vehicle to find your scholarship.
  3. Find a way to handle stress in senior year with deadlines (exercise, go for a walk, etc…)
  4. Don’t procrastinate! Learn good time management techniques. Start college and scholarship essays as early as possible.



Ep. 21 Financial Aid Myths & Tips

Today’s episode is with a retired Rutgers financial aid administrator who helps to debunk Debunking Financial Aide Myths
college financial aid myths and gives valuable tips toward paying for college. Mr. Thomas Holmes retired from Rutgers University in 2010 and has started his own educational consulting business, Powerful Visions, LLC. This is somewhat longer than our usual episodes but well worth listening to from beginning to end.

Myth #1 Parents have to wait to file their taxes in order to complete the FAFSA.

WRONG. The FAFSA will be available beginning January 1, 2016 (and thereafter available as early as October) and you can use the previous years tax info to “estimate” what your tax liability will be.

Myth #2 You HAVE to take out a student loan to pay for college.

WRONG. An offer of a student loan can be part of the “financial aid award package” from the colleges that you apply for, especially if your need exceeds the cost of college admission (tuition + room/board/fees).  You can actually turn down a student loan if you have secured enough money to meet your financial need from outside sources such as scholarships.

Educator, Entrepreneur & Community Activist

Thomas Holmes, Educational Consultant and CEO Powerful Visions, LLC.

For example:

$30,000 is the cost of college

$5,000 is your EFC (expected family contribution) subject from above =

$25,000 is your financial need

$20,000 is the max you may be offered from federal and institutional aid=

$5,000 is the amount you are short to meet the cost of college.

It is at this point you may be offered a subsidized loan (interest free until graduation)

Myth #3 I can’t or shouldn’t apply for financial aid because my grades are not that good. Grades are not a prerequisite for getting financial aid. They are important when maintaining credit and satisfactory progress while in college.

Myth #4 I can’t change how much financial aid that I am awarded.

WRONG (Sometimes). You have the ability to file an appeal with the school and have them reconsider the amount of aid that is awarded. They may not have any control over the “state aid” but given certain circumstances, may award you more federal or institutional aid.

Myth #5 We make too much money to get financial aid, plus it is too much of a hassle.

WRONG (Almost). Everyone is “probably” eligible for something even at higher incomes such as over $200k, depends on what kind of school you are applying to.  The FAFSA is easier and simpler than ever to complete online.

Mr. Holmes’ tips for students/parents:

1. States may audit you and require additional info related to your assets before they award you financial aid.

2. Be smart about your assets, “[spp-tweet tweet=”if they can see, they will count it”.”]

3. Be aware of outside sources (scholarships) and how it will affect your award.

4. Start being intentional with your child’s academics and extra activities while they are in middle school to build up your “profile”.

5. Take your children on college tours while they are a freshman to get used to the concept.


Ep. 20 Road Trip: Philadelphia College Fair

This episode is a recap/debrief of our recent road trip to the College Fair in Philadelphia.  The college fair is sponsored by NACAC – National Association of College Admission Counselors. They have a complete listing of college fairs across the country for the fall and spring season every year.  This was my first experience and my brother’s second with his family. There were well over 800 colleges in attendance at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.College Fair

I try to describe it for you but you must attend one local to you atlas 2-3 times between sophomore and senior year of high school. The first time attending a college fair with a sophomore (or younger) is just to get them used to the concept.  The second time you attend with your child should be between 10th and 11th grade.  They most likely have more of a focus or an idea of what they want to major in. If they are interested in sports, they will be attracted to those schools and teams that they have heard and/or seen on TV.  By senior year, they will be laser focused when attending and only visit the top 5-10 schools of their choice and spending more quality time with the admissions person to show their genuine interest.

There is a lot of literature, brochures, cool stuff that they give away.  The schools that caught our interest were:

Rutgers (of course!)

Arcadia University

Virginia Tech

Rowan University

We also discuss the various workshops that we each attended.  There were representatives from the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA).  They answered questions about financial aid, FAFSA, scholarships etc…

Other financial aid resources:







Scholarship resources:





Ep. 6 Scholarship Success Story: Michael & Michele Christian

Scholarship Success: The Christian Family

Scholarship success: The Christian Family

One of the newest features at The College Money Maze Podcast is our Scholarship Success Stories. We will be profiling parents and students who have successfully navigated this college journey and were able to obtain a scholarship (or many) to fund their own or their child’s education. When Todd and I came up with the concept for the podcast, this topic was the main thing I wanted to do. I thought to myself, why not highlight successful people who have paved the way so others can benefit from their wisdom. There is no need in reinventing the wheel!

Our first set of parents is Michael and Michele Christian. In order to be totally transparent, Michele is a friend of ours from our home town in New Jersey. She is married to Michael and they have two children together, Brandon and Brianna. Michael has an older daughter, Alexis from a prior relationship. Brianna is their oldest daughter who graduated from high school this year and will be attending Rutgers University – New Brunswick Campus (GO SCARLET KNIGHTS!) in the fall. Michele graduated from Seton Hall University and Michael is from the west coast and is an alumna of California State Polytechnic University.

Their top tips for other Parents/Students:

  1. Start looking ASAP! ideally, as soon as they start high school
  2. Good idea to start studying for the PSAT/SAT as soon as possible, preferably in junior year.  Sometimes you get better scores when there is no pressure.
  3. Work hard on the college essay, it is very important.
  4. Listen to your child.  Don’t try to control them or the process.

Links mentioned in this episode:

George School

A Better Chance Program

Johns Hopkins University

Rutgers University, New Brunswick


Leave us a comment below to tell us what you think about this episode. Join our FACEBOOK COMMUNITY – The College Money Maze Community – to get first access to the scholarships and resources that are posted.



Ep. 3 College Planning Pt. 1

college planning

college planning

On this episode of The College Money Maze Podcast, Todd and Ellen discuss college planning for 9th and 10th grade students and parents. Todd measures his families’ activities against this checklist and provides commentary on their strategy as it relates to Charlie and his skills. This checklist can be found on the College Board website. The checklist also includes a comprehensive section for juniors (11th grade students) and seniors (12th grade students) as well. You can access your copy of the checklist by clicking here.

Other items that are discussed are Todd’s story about his experience as a freshman at Rutgers University and their Army ROTC Program.   Ellen confesses that her original desire for a college choice was to attend Montclair State University, but we know how that turned out.

Did you change your mind about YOUR college selection? If so, tell us about it and what the factors were that you needed to consider. Leave us a comment here or on our join the College Money Maze Community on Facebook and share there.

Resource Links:

College Board

Big Future

Rutgers University

Montclair State University

Leave us a comment below to tell us what you think about this episode. Join our FACEBOOK COMMUNITY – The College Money Maze Community – to get first access to the scholarships and resources that are posted.


Ep.1 Welcome and Introduction

This is the first episode of The College Money Maze Podcast hosted by Ellen Reaves and Todd Lovett – a dynamic brother/sister duo. We intend to share “success stories” of parents and students, educate you about college prep resources, discuss college financial aid and announce scholarships you may qualify for.

The inspiration for starting this podcast came out of the “real-life” conversations we have all the time about our college experiences, commenting on other colleges and whose child was accepted where, often wondering how they accomplished it.

I think we are either fascinated or slightly obsessed with this topic, largely due to Todd and his wife Bridgette’s quest to find money for their children’s college education. We toyed around with the idea of talking with other parents who have been successful at this and wondering why does it seem that no one is really sharing that information.

Death_to_stock_photography_weekend_work (10 of 10)


I came up with the concept of the podcast as a way of talking with other parents to tell “their story”, highlight their journey and at the same time, chronicling Todd’s families’ quest to finding financial resources for college education.

Listen in as we talk about our backgrounds, the high schools we went to, our experience and motivations to attend Rutgers University (with Todd taking a detour to NJIT and Rutgers University in Newark, NJ).

Leave us a comment below to tell us what you think about this episode. Join our FACEBOOK COMMUNITY – The College Money Maze Community – to get first access to the scholarships and resources that are posted.