College Education spells costs. Savings nowadays accumulate just minimal interest rates; not enough to cover your entire child’s education. Good thing there are IRA assets. IRA stands for Individual Retirement Account and owning one can save you from the stress of financing your children’s education after high school. Using the IRA to cover for the qualified higher education expenses at a qualified educational institution gives a lot of convenience to parents nowadays.What are higher education expenses and what measures are used to determine if the expenses are qualified? Section 529 Chapter 3 of Internal Revenue Code defines “qualified higher education expenses” as a term denoting the essential college expenses. Essential college expenses constitute equipment, supplies, books, tuition and fees needed for attendance or enrollment in a qualified educational institution. If your child is a half time student, these expenses can also include his room and board.Be cautious however and remember that not all higher education expenses are covered by IRA. By law, it is required that the expenses should be coordinated with the other educational benefits of the student. On the recent rules released by Commissioner Gorski of the United States Tax Court, IRA distributions should be used to pay certain equipment or supplies necessary for enrollment or attendance; these expenses are penalty free. Moreover, the owner should withdraw his contributions for qualified higher education expenses the same year the expenses are incurred.IRA does not cover all expenses! This should be stressed to all IRA owners since most of the times, there are confusions as to what can be regarded as expense or not. Simple guidelines will be:a. Proper and complete documentation is necessary for purchase of books. The documentation is needed to show that the expense is really incurred during appropriate tax year.b. Household items are not needed for enrollment. These items are not higher education expenses and thus are not qualified.c. Laptop computers are important educational equipment needed by students nowadays. Although this maybe the case, these computers are not required for a student to be enrolled; and just the same, these will not qualify as higher educational expenses since schools will not require students to purchase one.As you can notice, the rules are basic and direct. The US Court definitely requires that the eligible educational institution should be the ones stating their specific requirements. What is set by the educational institution as school expenses will then be the basis of IRA’s higher education expenses.Being an IRA owner, you can choose to utilize all or just some of your IRA assets to help you settle your children’s education. Your distribution, when withdrawn before your age of 591/2, will be subject to 10% penalty tax and federal income tax. Nevertheless, the IRC allows several kinds of distribution exempted from the 10% penalty tax; this includes those distributions utilized to pay qualified expenses. Remember that if the amount you withdrew from your IRA account in a year does not exceed your eligible higher education expenses, the penalty tax of 10% will not be applied, however, you will still pay the regular income tax.With the bulging costs of higher education nowadays, it’s a good thing people are getting wiser by investing their money for future. Individual Retirement Account is good for supporting your child’s education. Proper preparation is vital and owners must be responsible enough to know which will qualify as higher education expenses and which are not.
The education system in the UK is one of the most comprehensive ever. Being the world’s leading super power for a very long period of time, before the US took over, UK’s education pattern is a superior one and is followed by many countries across the world including the Indian Subcontinents.Different StagesThe different stages of education in the UK is categorized into primary education, secondary education, further education and higher education. Children are supposed to study their primary education and secondary education which is about 5 years to 16 years.This system has 4 key stages. Stage one education is generally between 5-7 years, stage two between 7-11 years, stage three between 11-14 years and stage four between 14 to 16 years. Stage one and two are taken care by the primary school while three and four are taken care by secondary schools.Each student is evaluated on the basis of their performance by the end of these stages. The most important evaluation is at the time, a student completes his secondary schooling. After this stage, at the age of 16, a student is allowed to choose further education or start his job.After completion of GCSE’s, students of UK have few options to choose from where students complete their A-levels. A student of UK planning to take up higher education in a college or university must complete further education before they proceed to their A levels, BTEC’s, GNVQ’s and other qualifications (of which many are called as Vocational courses).With 100 universities offering a wide range of degree programs for UK and abroad students, the country offers great opportunities both for and after education. Most of the courses in the UK run as long as three years while these days the sandwich course that runs as long as four years are gaining in popularity. Professional degrees such as medicine, law and veterinary takes as much as five years.Entry RequirementsEach level or stage of education has different entry requirements that is to be fulfilled by a student in order to be eligible. The first and foremost requirement, especially in the case of a foreign student is the English language. Undertaking TOEFL, IELTS and UCLES tests and passing out in any one of them would be good enough.Entrance for the GSCE, that you take up, depends on the school that you choose as you generally have to register with these schools. The A-level entry requirement too depends upon the school that you choose as independent private schools have different norms. Vocational courses entry requirements are simply being strong in your English proficiency. Here again some schools might have special requirements.The University entry requirement depends on the courses that you undertake. Most degree programs requires a pass in the A-levels with some universities requiring a certain grade for eligibility. An international student may enter a university without passing the A-level or attaining the UK system of education but should have certain level of credential points as required by the course or university.The UCAS (University and Colleges Admission Services) looks after all the application services for universities and will detail on the eligibility criteria, date of openings, fee structures, duration and other details on each of the courses offered.The education system in Scotland is different and does not necessarily have all the information given above.”Upon the education of the people of this country, the fate of this country depends – Benjamin Disraeli”. Taking up education in a glorious nation like the UK is as great as trying to visit the Moon for a picnic.
As it currently stands in the second decade of the 21st Century, most of the adolescent and preadolescent boys and girls attending public schools in the United States sadly don’t grasp the meaningful value of the 12 years of free education offered to them. The most comfortable and technically modern classrooms and laboratories are, in most cases, provided by approximately 99,000 public schools in approximately 16,000 school districts across the country for the physical bodies of these, approximately, 50 million elementary, middle, and high school students. The reason I’ve said bodies, and not minds, is that around 70 percent of those millions of students don’t particularly find going to school, free of charge, mentally stimulating and educationally rewarding. These physically healthy school-age children attend school primarily because it is required by law, and when they do come to school, they park their bodies in the comfortable classroom desks, leaving their minds somewhere else, but not at school.It’s quite thought-provoking to realize that the greater percentage of all the 18 year-old adolescents in the USA, who graduated from American high schools in 2012, actually graduated on a cumulative 10th grade-level. That’s right. From the first-grade to the twelfth-grade, American students are given the freedom to learn as much, or as little, as they have the desire to do; but as the old expression goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” For the last 40 years most high school seniors in the U.S. have been graduating on a 10th grade-level, some on a 9th grade-level. Strangely though, from 1920 until around 1969, the exact opposite occurred. For those students who attended public schools during those years, 80 percent of all elementary, junior high, and high school students did well academically, and most of them finished 12 years of education and graduated on a 12th grade-level. The dismal decline in learning that started around 1970 was evidenced by the fact that most high school graduates began needing remediation in the basic learning skills (reading, writing, and mathematics). This disturbing trend has rampantly continued to the present day, as approximately 68 percent of the total number of American high school graduates, in 2012, had to remediate the basic academic skills (reading, writing, and basic finite math), which they should have learned during the elementary and middle school years, if they wanted to qualify academically for admission at a major university. Sadly, only a staggering 32 percent of all graduating high school seniors, in 2012, qualified, at the time of graduation, to attend four-year universities.These dismal figures are understandable only when they are viewed objectively in relationship with the concomitant variables of public education, which I have discussed in great detail in previous essays. These dependent variables are those directly, and primarily, associated with the types of parenting received by the millions of school-age children from their mothers, fathers, and alternate care-givers while at home during the years prior to 1970. In a nutshell, there has never been any reliable substitution in the public schools for the absence of nurturing, loving, caring parents, who send their children to the public schools ready and eager to learn.From 1920 until around 1969, more parents saw the benefit of active involvement in their children’s public education than after 1969. Moreover, with the increased learning experienced by those pre-1970 public school students during their twelve years of formal education, fewer high school graduates went to college, during those years, than they did to trade schools, vocational schools, into apprenticeship programs, or into the military. At that time, many more high school seniors were graduating with thorough understanding of the basic rudiments of learning, and saw the pecuniary long-term benefit of becoming skilled carpenters, electricians, plumbers, masons, welders, machinists, and the other professions requiring hands-on training and an understanding of mathematics, mensuration, and science, than those students who came after them. That was a time when more technicians, than engineers, were needed in industry and science. It was a time when high school graduates used their 12th grade-level reading and writing skills to continue learning what they had to learn to advance in their respective fields of endeavor. Comparing then with now, the sore lack of proper parenting in American homes and families, from 1970-on, has produced millions of children totally unprepared to enter the first-grade to properly begin learning academically. If children don’t learn the skills they need to know and use in the first-grade, they will enter the second-grade not progressing in knowledge and skill, but needing to remediate what they didn’t learn in the first-grade. By the time, the unskilled student is improperly promoted to the sixth-grade, she will be working on a 3rd or 4th grade-level. By the time the same student is socially promoted to the 10th grade, she will require extensive remediation, at a greatly increased cost to the public, to properly prepare her to perform high school-level work, to read to learn the things that she does not know.Now there is a disturbing notion among public school students, which has become more of a mindset, that, if you don’t learn what you need to learn in high school, you can learn it in college. Today when you ask the average high school junior (an eleventh-grader) what he, or she, wants to do after high school, that 17 year-old will invariably reply, “I’m going to college.” This is an especially troubling response coming from students who have managed to only maintain (C-) averages throughout eleven years of public education, who have spent more time not doing homework, than doing homework, not studying, than studying, and not applying themselves to the task of learning. At the present time, thousands of young people who have joined the U.S. military, after performing dismally in high school, are given military training on a 9th -to-10th grade-level, and then encouraged to take, supposedly, college-level courses online, while getting college-credit for their middle school-level military training. Do you see something very wrong occurring here? Unless an aspiring student has prepared in public school to obtain higher (than secondary) education at a college or university, in a particular academic discipline (such as engineering, mathematics, physics, English, a foreign language, or social science), the true purpose of the university is ultimately wasted on such an unprepared person. Students who cannot proficiently perform genuine 12th grade high school-level work will not be capable of performing genuine college-level work, unless the work, they presume is college-level, has been substantially watered-down.Today it seems that everyone graduating from a high school is going to college, and this highly-disordered trend is producing some very troubling educational illusions that falsely proclaim that people who do poorly in high school can take online college courses, pass open-book examinations that are not proctored, and, after a period of time, receive a piece of paper declaring the person a college graduate. There are also some disturbing financial issues directly connected to the foregoing facts that defy logic. If an 18 year-old cannot perform college-level work after completing twelve years of public schooling, what is a university saying when it confers on that person an online college degree, in an academic discipline, four years later? If a student cannot achieve, at least, a (B) grade in an academic course in a traditional college classroom, how, in the name of sophistry, can that same person derive a true equivalent grade of (B) in an online academic course where the academic requirements are seriously diluted, and there is no personal interaction with students or instructor? Why, pray tell, can’t an American attend law school online and then be permitted to sit for a state bar examination? Why won’t accredited medical schools accept online premed degrees from students seeking entrance? Why aren’t there any online ABA-approved law schools, and accredited medical schools? The answers to the three foregoing questions are pretty self-evident. Would you want a lawyer representing you, or a doctor treating you, who got a professional degree online? But who knows? If the future of American education digresses as much in the next 20 years as it has in the past 50 years, pre-law and pre-med students sorely lacking in rudimentary skills may, in 2033, be permitted to obtain watered-down professional law (J.D.) and medical (M.D.) degrees online. God forbid!Young people, between the ages of 19 and 29, are acquiring outrageous educational debts for college and graduate school degrees that aren’t worth the money they are paying to get them. Online colleges, and those that offer a system of one college course per-month are as sorely lacking in academic substance, as those courses offered online. Why? It has been thoroughly proven over time, in European and American university education, that the average undergraduate student cannot derive the same heuristic understanding of an academic course, such as U.S. history prior to 1865, in four weeks, as that derived through classroom attendance in academic semesters or quarters. Moreover, universities that offer academic degrees based upon such systems actually charge more for those courses than traditional universities.What I firmly think is that academic commercialism, the presumed buying and selling of education, has public school and college academia in its pecuniary and pragmatic grasp. Most high schools routinely consider their sports programs as “money making” (commercial) endeavors, and pave the way for their winning teams with highly-paid coaches (usually much better compensated than regular teachers), who encourage their middle school and high school athletes to spend more time preparing for athletic scholarships than arduously studying for scholastic achievement and academic scholarships. High school coaches, much like university coaches, are professionals paid top-money for producing winning football, baseball, and track teams. Sports-minded fathers and mothers of sons and daughters who show athletic prowess early in life frequently dominate their children’s lives, emphasizing the importance of athletic achievement over scholastic achievement. The crux of what I’m saying is that sports should remain sports and not be transformed into commercial, pending professional, activities. Children should be more encouraged to excel in their studies during their 12 years of public education, than being superb athletes. If tax money is to be invested into the public school systems around the nation, let the money be used enlarging libraries and for better-equipped laboratories, and highly trained teachers. Like I’ve said before, classrooms that are attractively adorned with expensive electronic gadgetry, such as laptop computers and digital computer displays are certainly state-of-the-art. But unless there are students, prepared to learn, sitting in those classrooms with eager minds attuned to the lessons the teachers are endeavoring to teach, the lessons will ultimately fall on deaf ears and no learning will occur. Overall, I tend to think that state school systems are more routinely concerned with spending money to modernize classrooms and school campuses, than in promoting better parenting for better prepared students. I can’t remember when last I saw a sign or billboard, upon entering a town or city, along with the Rotary Club, Lion’s Club, and the merchants’ association signs, boldly proclaming such things as “We support our parents in preparing eager students for our public schools,” or “Our students do their homework in our town!” or “Have YOU done your assigned homework for tomorrow?” I mean, you regularly see posters and billboards talking about high school sports boosters and the popular school athletic teams, but you don’t see any conspicuous signs about boosting knowledge, learning, and school grades in the public schools. Why aren’t signs regaling academic learning and achievement as popular to Americans as signs promoting the winning of high school and middle school football games?The essence of this essay has, so far, concerned the great value of a true 12-year public education, and how much such an education has been devalued in the minds of approximately 68 percent of the 50 million students attending the nation’s public schools. I will say, quite frankly, that any normal high-school sophomore, with the genuine ability to read, write, and perform mathematics on a true 10th grade-level, may use those abilities effectively during the last two years of high school to actually go beyond a 12th grade-level education. University study is, but, a natural extension of the academic subjects studied in high school through applied research, which is only the applied ability to read, write, and better understand those subjects as working disciplines. A normal high school library contains college-level reading material in the humanities, arts, and sciences, and, while still in high school, a student may acquire college-level knowledge and abilities by independently reading and learning beyond the required grade-level curriculum. Such advanced learning depends entirely upon how well preadolescent boys and girls are nurtured, and prepared for learning at home by parents, in order for them to perceive public education as a free high-value investment in time and human energy. It depends upon how hungry students are for knowledge, and upon how thirsty they are to wisely use that acquired knowledge for their benefit.My mother, Dessie, had only six years of formal education acquired between 1916 and 1922 in a one-room school house in rural East Texas. With the rudimentary skills to read, write, and perform mathematics that she acquired, and mastered, during those six years, she read many books and abundantly wrote grammatically correct English prose well beyond a high school level. With that acquired knowledge and ability, my mother taught me to read before I was five years of age. And so I read voraciously and entered the first-grade reading pretty well. As I attended Dixie Elementary School, Boulter Junior High School, and John Tyler High School, in Tyler, Texas, I took very seriously the academic work that I was tasked to learn and perform, and when I graduated from high school, in 1970, I had attained an ability to read on a college-level, the ability to write on a college-level, and the ability to do math on a college-level. With these abilities, I ultimately took A.A., B.A., and M.A. degrees from Tyler Junior College and the University of Texas at Tyler. But while at John Tyler High School, I had the wonderful opportunity to read a vast number of intriguing books, and to write a vast number of detailed essays and research papers, and to take classes that were college-level in social science, history, English, and math for electronics. Undoubtedly, the abilities that I demonstrated in high school were derived directly from the preparatory work that I arduously performed in elementary and junior high schools. And it was because of my dear mother, who nurtured and encouraged me, studied with me, and helped me to understand the things I didn’t know throughout my twelve years of learning, that I was able to achieve an education that someone, not having such a loving and caring parent, would probably not be able to obtain. Yet, it goes much, much further than the receipt of advanced degrees. There is so much, yet, to learn, and so little time in which to learn it. With well honed academic skills, personal learning never stops. Wise human beings learn to read well, so that they may continue to read to learn throughout their lives, and to write histories, essays, and treatises which will add dimensions of worth to their extended knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Earthly learning only ends with one’s own death.In the final analysis, a short account of one of the ancient philosopher Socrates’ experiences as an Athenian teacher would appropriately sum-up this essay. On one occasion, Socrates was confronted by a persistent student who desperately wanted the philosopher to teach him life’s true meaning. So Socrates took the Greek teenager down to the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, and led him out into chest-deep water. Then he abruptly grabbed the youth and held his head under water until he was about drowning. Then Socrates pulled the boy from the water and dragged him to the shore. The boy, gasping for breath, opened his eyes and looked into Socrates face above him.”Why did you try to drown me, Socrates?” The boy asked, to which Socrates replied.”My young friend, when you want to learn as badly as you wanted to breathe, at the moment you thought you were drowning, then, and only then, can I teach you the things you want to know.”