By Anne Lee, CNNMoney
(MONEY Magazine) - Going back to school can be cheaper than you think, with a wealth of free online courses to choose from and an easy way to have your class work accredited. Saving for college can be easier too. We have three expert picks for the best 529 college savings plans.
If you just want to get smarter...
Search for thousands of free classes via the Open Courseware Consortium's website. If you want recommendations, Education-Portal.com will link you to some of the best free college courses, such as the 1,800-plus offered by M.I.T. and the arts and history at the U.K.'s Open University.
To get accreditation...
The $500 intro class at LearningCounts.org teaches you how to properly document a newly learned skill for college credit. For another $250, a professor will vouch that you've mastered the subject based on the body of submitted work; LearningCounts credits are accepted at dozens of colleges around the country.
By Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Stephen Joel Trachtenberg is president emeritus and university professor of public service at The George Washington University. He is chairman of the Korn Ferry Higher Education Practice and senior client partner at Korn Ferry International, an executive recruiting firm.
(CNN) - Over the last several decades, the reasons used to justify acquiring a university education has morphed from the academic to the applied, to the sublime and the ridiculous.
Once characterized as a noble intellectual pursuit - something one did to gain knowledge and wisdom, contemporary references define college as utilitarian and practical: Without a college degree, one cannot hope to successfully enter the job market. Stay in school and you'll "earn more," as some like to say.
The children of the incumbent middle and upper classes are increasingly the offspring of college graduates and for the most part they follow their parents' lead (especially young women). They understand that to maintain the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed, getting a degree is important both for image and long-term prospects. It is the thing to do, what is expected of the daughters and sons of doctors, lawyers, bankers, teachers, civil servants, etc. There are, of course, a small number of entrepreneurial types (the up-and-coming Steve Jobs and Bill Gates) who forgo college and seek their fortunes in garages. But most people trod a conventional path; they seek to get jobs rather than to be Jobs.
By Richard Fisher, Special to CNN
Editor’s Note: Richard Fisher is executive-in-residence at Rhodes College in Memphis. He has spent more than 30 years advising high-net-worth individuals and managing global portfolios.
I hope the job market improves this spring for college graduates, but whether they find employment or not, many young Americans with degrees in hand are plagued by questions about student loans, personal investments and credit scores.
I am teaching at a fine liberal arts college where very smart students in a variety of disciplines lack sufficient financial literacy skills. Indeed, across the nation, there are relatively few courses offered in personal finance, and they are nearly always electives.
That’s why I decided to teach a few years ago. I’ve spent a career in finance and investments, so I wanted to use my expertise to help college students make every dollar count, especially in this economy.
It’s really no surprise that college students don’t feel that financial literacy is important. Managing their personal finances is one of the few things that Americans seem to be willing to do without an understanding of what they are doing.
CNN’s Schools of Thought blog is a place for parents, educators and students to learn about and discuss what's happening in education. We're curious about what's happening before kindergarten, through college and beyond. Have a story to tell? Contact us at email@example.com