College Planning and Civics Education

Today at lunch I saw an article in today’s USA Today about the update to the FAFSA form that supposedly makes it easier to fill out. Now, I’ve never filled out the form yet, although I will be facing it in a few years, but it is currently on my mind. This is because, based on an interesting talk given by Sam Mikhail at my daughter’s high school, we’ve begun working with his company to plan for the eventual FAFSA and applying to college. I’m doing this for the same reason we go to a CPA for our taxes: growing up in a family with CPAs as parent, we know that sometimes you need to plan for the presentation–that is, structuring your assets in the correct way to maximize benefits legally. You do this with taxes when you use your 401(k)s or 403(b)s, or use tax-free funds, or even pay your mortgage in one tax year vs. another. So just as I could do my own taxes but choose not to in order to get maximum benefits, I’m doing the same here. Plus, Sam will be working with our daughter (in fact, they are meeting this afternoon) to help her learn what to look for in college visits, and how to pick the right college for her interests. Teens seem to instinctively not listen to parents in this area, so having a neutral third party should help. I should note that they do more than fill in the FAFSA; their services are detailed here.

So why am I writing this note. I’m not sure, other than the fact that it is on my mind and was triggered by the change in the FAFSA.


In a related note, does anyone read the comments that are posted in response to articles in places like USA Today and get worried about our society? I read them, and all I seem to see are angry people that look down on others for being stupid, or that seem to like to blame all the ills of the world on their favorite target (usually Obama or Al Gore). These are the folks that believe “Global Warming” means it gets warmer everywhere, without realizing the real notion is climate change with wider climate shifts. These are the folks that see an article about earmarks being reduced in quantity by one-third, and castigate Obama for not bringing them to zero immediately. These are the folks that expect instant, perfect action, from their leaders, without realizing that that mantra of a representative republic is “progress, not perfection”. If they want leaders that give them instant perfect results, they should move to a dictatorship, where the dictator can dictate what he wants and is by definition perfect. With representative government, there are by nature comprimises to get legislation passed. But go read the comments to such an article. These are also often the folks that feel that people should get what they deserve (if not more) [in the sense of “oh, you got no aid because you were to stupid to fill out a form”], and in general don’t show compassion and give the benefit of the doubt to others. It just leaves me disallusioned.

I sometimes fear that the country is in the poor shape it is in, including the divisiveness and partisanship, because true civics education is so poor. I think much of the country just doesn’t understand how the country works, both in terms of the idealized process (i.e., how representation should work) and in real-life.