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Archive | August, 2015

3 Budget Tips for College Students Making Minimum Wage

3 Budget Tips for College Students Making Minimum Wage

CoffeeJobCollegeThe federal minimum wage hasn’t increased since July of 2009, and some would argue it has decreased. The U.S. dollar has lost about 10 percent of its buying power since 2009 due to inflation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Put another way, an item that cost $7.25 (the federal minimum wage) in 2009 would cost $8.00 today.

Granted, 21 states increased their minimum wages in 2015, but those just scraping by still must closely monitor every penny. College students are particularly vulnerable when it comes to money. A survey by public policy research firm Public Agenda found that 58 percent of college students receive no financial help from their parents. Those who said they dropped out cited financial reasons 70 percent of the time.

Parents naturally offer unconditional love and support to their future college graduates. But it’s your experience dealing with tough financial realities that can help them through the greatest and most challenging years of their lives. Here are three budget tips to pass along to them:

Be Smart About the Smartphone

A 2013 survey by the Campus Computing Project found that 79 percent of colleges use mobile apps for courses and to communicate with students. Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are fixtures in the lives of college students today, and smartphones are now true necessities on campus. However, it’s important to weigh the options before purchasing both the hardware and the calling and data plans.

Advise your kids to look for payment plans when shopping for top-of-the-line smartphones. For instance, T-Mobile allows 24 monthly payments on a new smartphone as part of the contract. Some plans even offer a free phone on approved credit.

Alternatively, an often overlooked way to save money on cellphone service is going the prepaid route. All major carriers have flat-rate prepaid plans that require no contract. You never have to worry about overages, late fees and other extra charges. Ask a sales representative next time you’re in a retail store of a wireless provider for details on what prepaid plans they have to offer.

Care for Your Car

A 2015 study commissioned by BankRate found that only 38 percent of Americans could pay for a $500 car repair in cash right now. A broken down car can lead to missed classes, missed days of work and more stress for your already busy college kids. A large estimate or bill from a mechanic is equally stressful. The chances of either happening can be minimized with a little due diligence.

Changing your oil every 3,000 miles is simply a marketing ploy by lube shops to scare people into spending more money. Most newer cars can go upwards of 10,000 miles between oil changes, according to Edmunds. Technology of both the oil and automobiles has made the “every 3,000″ mantra obsolete. Even older vehicles utilizing synthetic oil can go upwards of 10,000 miles without oil changes as long as you swap out the filter every few months.

However, your college student needs to keep up on all routine maintenance called for in your owner’s manual, particularly transmission, radiator and air filter service. Always get two to three estimates from different mechanics before having any major repairs done because it’s the labor costs that typically swell the final bill. Check with local community colleges with auto mechanic programs because they sometimes offer repairs at much lower costs since students are performing the work.

Be Disciplined

College students must get the maximum value out of every dollar they earn. That means making a few tax adjustments. Student workers should fill out a new W4 form with their employer and claim “exempt” on Line 7. People making less than $10,500 in a given year are not required to file a tax return according to H&R Block. Thus, students who are allowing federal withholdings are simply giving the government an interest-free loan on the money they’ve earned.

A slightly larger paycheck, however, doesn’t mean they can spend more. Students should eliminate any unnecessary expenses like cable, satellite TV and Internet bills. Students typically get free Internet everywhere on campus and can stream most of their favorite shows via Hulu or Netflix. Also, they should make it a point to save 5 percent of every paycheck no matter what. Over time, this will turn into an emergency fund that can come to the rescue when emergencies pop up.

When your kids ultimately graduate from college, they will have acquired real-life financial lessons to help them transform into successful young adults.

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Esports At Colleges Leads to Scholarships for Online Gamers

Esports At Colleges Leads to Scholarships for Online Gamers

gamescholarshipsAn explosion in the popularity of eSports competitions has led to video game companies helping organize collegiate competitions and prompted two American universities to offer scholarships for online gamers.

Esports has become the new frontier in collegiate games, with thousands of players competing online in sports ranging from arena battles and first-person shooters to video game versions of field sports such as soccer and baseball simulation games.

The numbers are huge. An estimated 71 million people watch video game competitions on streaming sites such as Twitch every year, a number that keeps growing. And the prize money also continues to grow.

For example, the prize pool for The International, the championship tournament for the online game “Dota 2,” has passed $14 million. The International will take place in August 2015.

Esports on College Campus

Esports has been played on college campuses for years, but really took off after online gaming competitions became popular in the first decade of the 21st Century. Teams for eSports are at many colleges – for example, more than 200 schools have teams that participate in organized “League of Legends” competitions.

It’s also grown as spectator sport. More than 90,000 people watched online in the summer of 2014 as San Jose State beat California State University-Fullerton in an online video game battle, according to the New York Times. The Times also reported that more than 10,000 students now play in the biggest college video game leagues – 4,600 more than play on NCAA Division I basketball teams.

Video game developers have quickly moved to support these teams, in some cases offering prizes, team banners and helping organize leagues.

College Gaming Scholarships

Online gaming scholarships are now being offered at two universities. Both Chicago-based Robert Morris University Illinois and the University of Pikesville in Kentucky began offering talented gamers a chance to earn scholarships to their respective schools.

Both schools have offered scholarships for those who play at a high level in League of Legends, the world’s most popular online video game with more than 27 million players every day.

Robert Morris offered 35 scholarships for the 2014-2015 school year. The University of Pikesville plans to offer 20 beginning in fall of 2015. Gaming skills aren’t the only condition – students will also be judged by their grade point average and work ethic, as well.

Players will compete in the Collegiate Star League, a “League of Legends” division open to accredited North American colleges. About 230 universities participate.

Criticism and the Future

The scholarships have come under some criticism from those who think of athletics in 20th Century terms. But, as pointed out by the associate athletic director at Robert Morris, a lot of the people doing the criticism never were athletes and spend weekends in a La-Z-Boy while having “a six-pack of beer and Cheetos.”

Even ESPN has embraced eSports. The network televised a “Call of Duty” gaming competition that was part of the X-Games in the summer of 2014 and televised The International, the global finals of the video game “Dota 2, according to USA Today. And Amazon recently paid almost $1 billion to acquire Twitch, according to the Harvard Crimson.

The Crimson also reported that more people watched the 2013 League of Legends World Championship (about 32 million) than that year’s NCAA BCS Championship and Game 7 of the NBA Finals (about 26 million each).

With the growing audience for eSports – both among players and spectators – it seems likely more schools will join Robert Morris and the University of Pikesville soon.

Today’s guest article was provided by iFame Media, an internet marketing agency that focuses on higher education among other industries.

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