What’s the Best College Saving Strategy When You Have Young Kids?

Dear Carrie,

Help. I have three young children ages 2, 5 and 10 and havent started saving for college for any of them. Is it too late?

Dear Reader,

Of course its not too late. Your children are still young — even with a 10-year-old you have almost 12 years to save counting the four-plus years your child may be in college. On the flip side, theres no time to waste since college costs seem to be growing right along with your kids.

And as important as it is to start saving for college, its equally important to be strategic about how you do it. From tax considerations to investing to understanding financial aid formulas, there are ways to get more mileage out of your money.

Set a realistic monthly savings goal
First, dont get discouraged by the high cost of college. There are many ways to pay for education. In fact, according to the 2014 national Sallie Mae study, How America Pays for College, parents income and savings cover only about 30 percent of college expenses.

So determine what you can realistically afford to put towards education each month. You can try using an online calculator to help you estimate how much your savings can grow over time. Then, after you explore college savings accounts, you might consider apportioning funds to each child according to their age and the years before theyll enter college.

Choose a tax-smart account
There are two tax-advantaged choices for education savings — a 529 College Savings account and a Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA). Both provide tax-free growth potential as well as tax-free withdrawals if the money is used for what the IRS has determined to be qualified education expenses (tuition, fees, books, room and board, etc).

I favor a state-sponsored 529 account. Theres no annual contribution limit and the lifetime limit per beneficiary is upwards of $300,000 depending on the state. While you dont have to choose your own states plan, some states offer a partial or full state income tax deduction if you do, so always consider your own states plan first.

Another plus is that anyone — parents, relatives and friends — can contribute to a 529. In fact, anyone can open a 529, so your children could potentially benefit from more than one account if, for instance, a grandparent wanted to help you save.

For the record, if you think your child will attend a public in-state school, there are also prepaid 529 plans that allow you to pay for tomorrows tuition at todays rates. The details go beyond the scope of this column but it could be worth looking into. A good source of information is savingforcollege.com.

An ESA offers similar tax benefits but has an annual $2,000 contribution limit, plus income limits for opening one. On the positive side, while 529 withdrawals can only be used for post-secondary education expenses, an ESA can be used for certain elementary- and high-school costs. You could have both types of accounts to cover all your bases.

Whatever your choice, ideally youd open a separate account for each child — and set up automatic monthly payments.

Be aware of gift tax rules
Contributions to education savings accounts are subject to gift tax rules, which currently require that any annual individual contribution over $14,000 ($28,000 per couple) to a single beneficiary be reported on your tax return.

However, a special gift tax exclusion allows an individual to contribute a lump sum of up to $70,000 ($140,000 per couple) to a 529 Plan. This is treated as a five-year gift, so any gifts beyond this amount to the same beneficiary during the five years would be subject to the gift tax.

Invest aggressively in the early years
Once youve set up accounts, consider investing for maximum growth potential, especially for your youngest children. Of course, you have to be careful about the investments you select and maintain a close eye on their performance, but investing more aggressively when the kids are young can potentially result in better returns over time.

A 529 account may offer a choice of investment portfolios, some of which are designed to automatically become more conservative as your child approaches college age. With an ESA, investment selection is up to you.

Understand what affects financial aid decisions
Assets in either a 529 or an ESA belong to the parent or other adult account owner, so theres minimal impact on financial aid. Only 5.64 percent of a parents assets (excluding retirement accounts and home equity, which are not counted at all) are considered available for college expenses, as opposed to 20 percent of a students assets.

However, distributions from 529s other than one set up by a parent are considered income to the beneficiary. Fifty percent of a students income is considered available for college expenses, so a withdrawal from a 529 set up by a grandparent could potentially affect a students financial aid eligibility. As kids approach college age, it can sometimes be better for others to contribute to the parents 529, or simply make a direct payment to the school.

Get started
Talk to your financial institution about the 529 plans they offer, and check into your states plan. Collegesavings.org is another good resource for more in-depth information. And dont delay. Your kids will be looking at college brochures in no time. I know from experience!

Looking for answers to your retirement questions? Check out Carries new book, The Charles Schwab Guide to Finances After Fifty: Answers to Your Most Important Money Questions.

This article originally appeared on Schwab.com. You can e-mail Carrie at askcarrie@schwab.com, or click here for additional Ask Carrie columns. This column is no substitute for an individualized recommendation, tax, legal or personalized investment advice. Where specific advice is necessary or appropriate, consult with a qualified tax advisor, CPA, financial planner or investment manager.


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How To Manage Stock Market Risk In Your Child’s 529 College Savings Plan

Question: Over time, stocks go up and stocks go down, but when stock prices fluctuate wildly in a short period of time investors are more likely to get nervous and question if they should stay in or get out of the market. What should investors consider before investing in stocks and what should they do when markets turn volatile?

Steve Dombrower: One of the most important considerations for an investor saving for college is their time horizon. Historically, stocks provide better returns over a longer time period, so if the student has many years to go, their 529 account can likely withstand the volatility that can come with equities. In this case, volatility can be viewed as a buying opportunity. Investors should consider weak time periods as an opportunity to add to their 529 account at lower prices, potentially helping their returns over the long term. Many 529 account holders accomplish this through automatic investment plans. Sometimes referred to as ‘dollar cost averaging,’ there is the potential to buy more shares on down days in the market in order to help returns over time. On the other hand, if a student is closer to college age, where they’ll need the 529 assets sooner rather than later, they should consider moving a portion of their assets to more conservative investments such as short term fixed income or money market funds in order to protect their principal as they get closer to paying college bills.

Question: For parents and grandparents saving for college in a 529 college savings plan, there are now many more investment options to choose from today than there were when the markets saw high volatility and losses in 2000 – 2001 and 2008 -2009. What are the savings options within most 529 plans today that parents seeking to avoid volatile swings in stocks could utilize, especially when the (student) beneficiary of the account may need the money to pay college expenses in the next 1 – 3 years?

Steve Dombrower: Most 529 plans offer age-based tracks which automatically move assets to more conservative portfolios as the student reaches college age. In fact, the majority of assets within the industry go to age-based investment tracks. Additionally, the typical 529 plan also offers ‘static’ portfolios which don’t move as the student gets closer to college. They come in many forms from aggressive equity portfolios to 100% fixed income. Some plans also offer capital preservation or principal protection portfolios, as well as a lineup of individual fund portfolios that allow clients and their financial advisors to design their own, customized asset allocations.

For students starting college within the next one-three years, it is important to keep in mind that an investment horizon should be five-seven years (base

d on four years in college). The majority of 529 assets for a student on that time horizon should be conservative; however, having some equity investments, such as a small allocation to large, high quality dividend paying stocks, may make sense to keep up with tuition inflation. The typical age-based portfolio for this student would be heavily weighted to fixed income and money market funds.

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How Canada’s auto loan bubble has become a ticking time bomb

Gord Donley, a used car dealer in Toronto, cringes at the customers he sees rolling old debt into new debt.

It is the worst thing to do, the absolute worst thing to do. What are you doing, you are borrowing money on borrowed money, he said

He says one of his customers did it three times — rolling older car loans into new sub-prime loans — until it was time to pay the piper,” and he was eventually rejected for being overextended. His final loan ended up being for 40% more than his car was worth.

That guy, he eventually had to dip into his home equity to get a car,” Mr. Donley says. “Another guy [with similar multiple loans], he didn’t have a home, so he’s taking the bus I guess.

In a recent report on car debt, Moody’s Investors Service warned that “the cycle of refinancing reinforces a debt treadmill cycle.”

But negative equity loans are not at all difficult to obtain today in the car industry. Walk into a dealer with a four-year-old vehicle with $10,000 still owing on a loan — the dealer might give you $5,000 for the car on trade-in, leaving you still owing $5,000 on the car you no longer have. If you have good credit, he might then sell you a $30,000 car with a $35,000 loan attached to it to cover the money you still owe on the original car. The bottom line: You drive off with a $30,000 car and $35,000 in debt borrowed against it.

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Top Tips for Financial Management

This year A Level results fell slightly for the first time in 30 years, yet a record number of university places have been offered to students in the UK. Those same students have now started what are arguably the most important three years of their lives. However, first year university students are now also in the process of managing debt of approximately £54,000 when taking a three year course, so the importance of staying on top of their finances has never been higher.

With the business owners of the future now stepping out on their own at university, its a great time to look at the lessons that can be learned from the ways professionals manage their money.

Businesses often rely on accountancy software to help them keep track of their cash flow. I believe the values accounting tools promote should also be embraced when managing personal finances. Below are a number of simple tips to help stay on top of personal accounts.

o Smart supplier choices – Whether its stationary or sandwiches, most businesses have preferred suppliers for all the products they require. This eases their financial management as they have a clear sight of how much is being spent on each area of the business. By having standard suppliers, consumers have the ability to predict monthly expenditure to ensure they avoid the dreaded unplanned overdraft. Once suppliers are under control, its vital that the costs are managed.

o Managing expenses – For most, expenses are part and parcel of working life so keeping stringent records of the money spent at work is often second nature. This should also be the case for personal finances. In the same way that business leaders have sight of exactly how much they spend on all their supplies, students and consumers should manage their expenses, whether its how much is being spent on food or household bills. Using tools such as internet banking and smartphone payslips can ensure they have a much tighter handle on their personal finances.

o Personal budgeting apps – With a recent study showing people on average pick up their smartphones 1,500 times a week, its clear they have become part of our everyday lives. In the business world apps are increasingly used to support finance management. By having easy to use technology which highlights expenditure, debts and bank balances, its never been easier to manage personal finances.

o Online learning – Businesses of all sizes often use e-learning tools to ensure they are utilising all the features of the operating systems they use throughout the working day. They also work with partners, such as accountants in similar ways but with far tighter security and workflow. Students also collaborate with other students too, using social media platforms such as Google docs and Dropbox. Its worth considering using similar online learning to support financial management to ensure you steer clear of the dangerous world of debt in the same way businesses utilise accountancy software to stay on top of their finances.

o Document collaboration – Many businesses rely on partners, such as accountants to manage their finances. Students collaborate with their lecturers throughout university to submit essays for marking, businesses share documents digitally to enable electronic tax approvals. Taking this experience once youve made it onto the career ladder will support stringent personal finance management.

Following these simple steps can have a big impact on financial management and cut out the stress brought on by a lack of funds when bills arrive. By taking a leaf out of the business playbook, personal finance issues could be a thing of the past.

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Saving for college? Most parents say "not yet"

Parents have big dreams of paying the bill for their childrens college years, but many are finding it difficult to make those dreams come true.

More than half of parents havent started saving for their childs college education at all, according to a new survey from Country Financial. And those arent just the younger parents, either. Some 52 percent of parents aged 40 to 49, and 47 percent of those aged 50 to 64, havent saved any money for the college years.

Meanwhile, the cost of college keeps rising. For newborns today, the cost of a four-year, in-state college will hit a jaw-dropping $222,000, according to Kiplinger. For a private university, the bill could come to twice that much. Kiplinger assumes a 5 percent annual growth in college costs in making its calculations.

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Saving For College With U.S. Savings Bonds

Both I Bonds and EE Bonds purchased after 1990 can be used for the Education Bond Program. This program allows tax exclusion for savings bonds interest when used to pay for college tuition and fees. This program was set up in the late 80s when savings bonds paid an interest rate of over 8%.

There are some strict requirements to meet. The bonds must be in the parents name, not the kids. The child can be the beneficiary just not an owner or co-owner. If grandma wants to gives the kids savings bonds for college, she needs to purchase them in mom or dad’s name.

The person purchasing the bonds must be over age 24. The costs of books and room and board are not considered qualified expenses.

You are not required to indicate that you intend to use the bonds for educational purposes when you buy them. So you can be saving for college in a 529 plan and have a stash of savings bonds as a backup. The bonds are in the parent’s name so they are not considered an asset owned by the child for financial aid.

There are income limits as to who can use the program. These limits are for the year you cash in the bonds, not the year you are purchasing them. For this year, single taxpayers have the ability to use the bonds tax-free if their income is under $76,000 but not more than $91,000.

For married couples filing jointly the income tax exclusion is phased out between $113,950 and $143,950.

You can only purchase these bonds online thru the Treasury’s website or through programs where you work. Paper bonds are no longer available.

You are limited to the number of bonds you can purchase annually; $10,000 of face value for each type of bond. There is no limit to the amount you can accumulate though.

One more thing: When researching the bond program I found that our Senator Ted Kennedy stated during a meeting in 1988 when they were setting up this plan That a child born in 1987, one year of private college, starting in 2005, will cost $30,000 not counting room, board, books and extras. He was so right!


You can hear Dee Lee’s expert financial advice on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 each weekday at 1:55 pm, 3:55 pm, and 7:55 pm

Subscribe to Dee’s Money Matters newsletter here.

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iPad drawing to promote college saving

An iPad Air 2 will be given away in December as part of a statewide campaign to promote a free, online tutorial to learn more about saving for college, State Treasurer Don Stenberg said Monday.

Nebraskans can access the tutorial at www.treasurer.org. Viewers who complete the tutorial between Nov. 10 and Dec. 10 may choose to enter a random drawing for an iPad Air 2 Wi-Fi 64GB. The winner will be announced the week of Dec. 15.

“Our financial literacy program for high schools, which is now in its second year, has gotten off to a strong start, and we want more Nebraskans to know about our companion program designed to help parents, grandparents, and others learn more about state-sponsored 529 college savings programs in general and the Nebraska Educational Savings Trust (NEST) program in particular,” Stenberg said in a news release. State-sponsored 529 college savings programs take their name from Section 529 of the US Internal Revenue Code.

Stenberg is Trustee of NEST, and First National Bank of Omaha is program manager.

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Your Students, Your Schools: Des Moines, Saydel

Elementary Schools


Brubaker students recently completed Fitness Gram testing. Grades 2-5 were tested on curl-up, push-ups, flexibility, pacer, mile run and measured for their height and weight. Students will be tested again in the spring to evaluate their fitness level and the growth they have made throughout the year.

On October 8th Brubaker participated in the Fall Fitness Walk/Healthiest State Intiative. A total of 746 students and staff walked for 30 minutes around the school campus and the neighborhood to encourage healthy lifestyles.


In kindergarten reading, we are working on recognizing the letters of the alphabet, learning the sounds of each letter, sight words, and word families. In math, kindergarteners are modeling, counting, and writing numbers 6-9.

In 1st grade reading, we are working on sight words and phonemic awareness. The students are really enjoying being able to decode words in the stories as they are reading. In first grade math, students are solving problems involving addition and subtraction.


On October 22nd the six pre-primary classes from Cowles Elementary traveled to Cambridge to go on a pumpkin tour at Center Grove Orchard in conjunction with our group discussions on the lifecycle of pumpkins. A pumpkin was cut in half revealing the pumpkins pulp, fibrous strands, seeds, and the cavity. Many of the students scraped the fibrous strands and seeds out of the pumpkin revealing an empty cavity. Additional discussions included the pumpkin flower and the essential roll bees play in the process of pollination. We were so excited to see the final stage of the lifecycle and actually walk through a patch and pick a pumpkin!

Downtown School

Families at the Downtown School participated in student-led conferences on Wednesday and Thursday, October 8-9 and then enjoyed a well-deserved week of vacation.

Students and teachers returned to school on Monday, October 20. Many classes began new project work and will share their learning with families in another 6-8 weeks.

Students have also been learning about what is involved with closing up the school garden for the winter.


At Edmunds, positive behavior in the classroom and the hallways are rewarded with monthly celebrations for those who achieve an affirmative rating for the month. Known as the PBIS (Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports) celebration, the students look forward to a fun and healthy reward, such as the last PBIS celebration in October where they played relay games and practiced good sportsmanship! Those students who take part in the celebration are working for a positive and nurturing school environment, which allows them to be better learners. PBIS is utilized by all the teachers throughout the school and it plays a part in the daily lesson plans.


Hanawalt K-5 students and their families participated in a Merry, Not Scary skating party at Skate West on October 16th. The students had lots of fun doing the limbo, hokey pokey and chicken dance while trying to stay up on their skates!

This year fifth grade has departmentalized and each teacher is specializing in a subject area. The departmentalization has been well received by both students and parents. Students like working with various teachers and being in classes with different students. Parents feel their children will be better prepared for middle school by learning how to work with various teachers and stay organized.


Howe students dressed as people in their dream occupations as part of an anti-drug program. Yessenia Borges came to school as a rock star and Keira Wysong as a zoo keeper.


The students at Jackson have had a number of great things happening lately. Close to 50 students received bikes from the Childrens Variety bike giveaway held at St. Anthonys School on October 18th. Many students had never had their own bike before. Recently, Bloomfield United Methodist Church made a very generous donation of brand new shoes for close to 30 students in need at Jackson. Next month, the Warm Winter Drive will be bringing in close to 30 coats, mittens, and hats for Jackson kids. The Success program and students of Jackson are so thankful to all of these generous organizations for helping!


Linda Fandel, Governor Branstads Special Assistant for Education, spent the morning of October 16th at King Elementary. Fandel shadowed counselor Nyla Mowery in order to learn more about school counseling in elementary schools.


Madison 5th graders have completed their science unit on the solar system. They learned so many interesting facts about each planet. They used games, construction of a scale model solar system and reports to help understand the planet placements and their landscapes. We have also finished our math unit on long division and are currently working on addition and subtraction of decimals.


Monroe students and families enjoyed a night filled with books and activities recently. Family Literacy Night was held October 28 and enjoyed by all. Families rotated through several classrooms where staff read to them, provided a related activity, and sent students off with a book of their own to take home. PTA joined in the reading celebration with a book fair in the library.


The new smart board technology purchased for all classrooms at Morris arrived at the beginning of October. The kindergarten students have been excited to use them! They practice reading and math skills and they can even write their letters and numbers on the interactive board using just their fingers! We use Go Noodle with the smart boards to take brain breaks. As part of the new technology purchase each classroom also received seven Revolve convertible laptop/tablet computers to use during math and reading small group time.


On October 17th third graders from Moulton took a field trip to Jester Park as an extension of the classroom science curriculum. The day included a nature hike, a seed search, and a nature scavenger hunt.

Park Avenue

Students at Park Avenue start every morning with a meeting. They gather in a circle to greet, share, and do an activity with each other. They also read the morning message. The morning meeting is a part of the Responsive Classroom program to strengthen positive relationships between and amongst students and teachers.

River Woods

Fourth-graders at River Woods are finishing up their human body unit in science. They learned about how the different systems in the body work together including the central nervous system, the digestive system, and the skeletal system.


First graders are really excited about our new math program and our new computers. The students enjoy completing math problems using the interactive whiteboard. We are able to practice solving math problems and have fun at the same time. These budding mathematicians are able to independently sign off/on the notebooks and go to an assigned program. We are looking forward to learn many new things on our new computers.


Students at Willard have been working hard and our fall parent conferences are complete. We have settled into routines and the learning can literally be seen as you walk through our halls — weve posted evidence. We are proud of the students hard work and are looking forward to a year full of discovery.

Oct. 31 is an especially busy day! We will have crazy hair/hat day. A city orchestra concert (for orchestra students only) is scheduled from 9:45 to 10:30 at Goodrell featuring high school orchestras from around the district, and fall parties will be held in classrooms at 2:00.

Please mark your calendar for our November PTO on Tuesday, November 4 at 3:30pm. First grade teachers will be presenting information to parents at this meeting.

If you are interested in seeing more great things that are happening at Willard Elementary, please join Willard Elementary School on our Facebook page.


Conference time again. Windsor teachers welcome parents to talk about how their students are doing in school. As always, the turnout of parents and their families is wonderful and everyone is eager to share information about educational goals and how we are achieving them. Along with our conferences its also time for the bi-annual Windsor Book Fair. All the proceeds benefit Windsor school, staff and students.


The Wright students have recently finished their fall Fitness Gram testing. This is a series of tests that measure flexibility, muscular strength, cardiovascular strength and endurance. Tests include Sit and Reach, Pacer, Modified Pull-ups, Sit-Ups, Push-ups, Shoulder Stretch and Back Arch, and also measure height and weight. Scores are recorded and kept throughout the students DMPS career.

Grades 2-5 will be playing a variety of team building games this fall, and the younger grades will be working on coordination and balance. All grades will continue to work on sportsmanship and rules.

Middle Schools


Goodrell is hosting a Halloween string concert from a combination of the DMPS high school orchestras on Friday, October 31st. The high school musicians will perform music from the Gauntlet by Doug Spata; Night Beat, The Magic of Harry Potter arranged by Mike Story; Zombie Intruders by Kirk Vogel, and more! Elementary students will attend as well. Not only will high school students be performing some mood music on Halloween, but Goodrell band and orchestra students also filled our halls with some spooky tunes! On October 30th the 8th grade band performed and on Halloween the 7/8 orchestra will perform in the cafeteria while our students eat breakfast.

Healthy Choices classes are beginning the scooter/swimming safety unit promoting healthy lifestyles with real world application, part of this classs mission to help students become more balanced and knowledgeable thinkers.

Global Youth Leaders attended a special performance by the Danish gymnastics team at Grand View University on Monday, October 13th. While they were there, students used this experience to identify the different IB Learner Profile traits these athletes displayed (Example: Principled, Communicator, Balanced, Risk Taker, etc.) as well as identifying the different leadership skills the athletes used.


Media Clubs Donors Choose project reached its fundraising goal! The club purchased two Canon SLR camera bundles and multiple lenses and is now focused on learning to use the new equipment to capture images and tell stories about Harding and the people who make it such a special place.


On October 16th, Amos Hiatt Middle School SWAT students went on a fieldtrip to Wells Fargo Arena to watch the Denver Nuggets vs. Golden State Warriors Preseason NBA basketball game. SWAT is Amos Hiatt Middle Schools leadership team. SWAT stands for Students Working with Administrators and Teachers. The purpose of this group is to promote positive student behavior and to provide positive student leadership within the school.

High Schools

Central Academy

Faustine Wabwire, Senior Foreign Policy Analyst for Bread for the World, visited Dr. Tom Forsgrens social studies classes on October 16 in conjunction with the World Food Prize ceremonies in Des Moines that week. Ms. Wabwire discussed research-based advocacy for African agricultural development.

Central Campus

Marine Science teachers Kirk Embree and Greg Barord and their students hosted first graders from Jefferson Elementary School on a tour of the Marine Science lab on October 20. Three tours with a total of 69 students got to explore the acclaimed facilities.

Central Campus students are being recognized at the 2014 Wild Rose Film Festival for their work in music video production. Their work will be screened at the Fleur Cinema on Thursday, November 6th at 3:15PM. Congratulations to Trevor Spidle (Lincoln), Anna Steenson (Roosevelt), Helena Gruensteidl (Roosevelt), and Brandon Martinez (Roosevelt). All are second year students in the Broadcasting amp; Film Program at Central Campus.


Hoover Drama will present Once on this Island. The show runs November 6th, 7th, and 8th beginning at 7pm each night. Doors open at 6:30 pm and tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for students, and $4 for anyone with an SAT. This story combines African and Caribbean beats to tell the story of a young girl sent on a journey by the gods to test the strength of love against the power of death. This is a show you are not going to want to miss.

Senior Corbin Faidley participated in the World Food Prizes Global Youth Institute in Des Moines from October 16th to the 18th and presented a research paper on food security in the country of Niger. He investigated how education can improve food security in that country. Corbin was sponsored by physics teacher Michael Blair.


AVID students from RAILS Academy will travel to Simpson College on November 5th for a college visit.

Lincoln High School hosted College Night 2014: To Graduation and Beyond on Tuesday, October 28th at the Lincoln Main campus. Over forty colleges and universities – as well as military and other post-secondary opportunities – were present at Lincolns 6th annual college fair. Students and parents were able to attend sessions about college entrance requirements, scholarships, college admission essays, standardized testing, the Silver Cord of Service Award, and much more. Representatives from Herff Jones were present to speak with senior students and their families regarding graduation dues and other details.

Lincoln High School will host Financial Aid Night on Wednesday November 5, 2014 at 6:00 PM at Lincoln Main. The presentation will be given by a representative from the Iowa College Access Network.

Congratulations to Des Moines Lincoln at the Roosevelt Tournavelt the weekend of the 18th. Friday night speech awards included Ashley May placing 4th in Dramatic Interp and Original Oratory; Giovanni Bahana and Phylicia Brown placing 1st in Duo Interp; and Alicia Agular took 6th in Humorous Interp. On Saturday, Chris Said broke to quarterfinals of Novice LD Debate where he lost a close decision to the eventual champion of the tournament. In Varsity LD Debate and PF team of Seth Konkol and Jon Shelabarger was 3-2 but missed breaking on points. Ashley May defeated students from Nebraska, Minnesota, and Iowa to qualify for the final session of Student Congress where she placed 4th overall.

Lincolns 9th Grade Service Learning class toured the Ronald McDonald House on October 21st. Students were given a tour to find out what activities go on and what services are provided. Students are also collecting pop tabs throughout the year and donating them to the Ronald McDonald House for redemption.

The marching band enjoyed a very successful season. They started their competition schedule at the Southwest Iowa Band Jamboree. With 61 bands in the parade competition and 28 bands in the field competition, the Marching Rails tied for 1st place in their division in parade and took 1st place in the field competition. They were also awarded the most outstanding woodwind section. The band then proceeded to receive a very high score at State Contest and received the highest rating possible; Division I Superior. In the Waukee Marching Invitational the band did an excellent job and was awarded 10th place.

Lots was going on in iJAG (Jobs for Americas Graduates) the week of October 27-31. Monday and Tuesday, representatives from Principal Financial Group came in to talk about their company, the positions available there, and the learning opportunities theyre bringing to our classroom this year. They are partners providing regular instruction and partnership to iJAG students. Wednesday, since we are working on a personal budgeting project, DMACC visited to talk about budgeting while in college and financial aid. Thursday, representatives from Nationwide worked with the afternoon block in the classroom on an IT project the students are working on for a Hyperstream competition at Iowa State University next April. Friday, all iJAG students attended a field trip to Nationwide in the morning. Students toured the company, learned about the importance of insurance in personal budgets, and were able to network with our Nationwide community business partners.

Alternative Schools

Orchard Place

Students at Orchard Place School in the middle school classroom of Pat McCombs and Dorothy Jones are learning about vascular and non-vascular plants. What predictions would you make about adding food coloring to the plant water? How could you test your hypothesis? What if stems from the same plant were sitting in different colors of water? These students can answer those questions and also identify the basic plant structures that are involved in this process. They are learning to explain the functions of the structures in the growth and reproduction of the plant. The colorful plants and flowers are a vibrant byproduct of this science lesson.

Ruby Van Meter

Plymouth Grounds is a nonprofit coffee shop operated by students from Ruby Van Meter School in partnership with Plymouth Church volunteers. This special coffee shop is located on the west side of Plymouth Church at 4120 Ingersoll. The coffee shop will celebrate its third anniversary of operation in January and has expanded the hours of operation from 8:00 AM – 2:00 PM; Monday through Friday. On Wednesdays, the shop is open until 8:00 pm, and employs three (former) student baristas. The shop offers a variety of drinks, homemade pastries, and good conversation.

The twenty DMPS students that have worked at Plymouth Grounds have received various work experiences and training in the areas of customer service, dish room, laundry, food prep, and retail by working at the shop. These experiences have provided many of the students with the skills necessary to achieve competitive employment.

Congratulations to two of the Plymouth Grounds baristas who have been offered competitive employment opportunities in the community. Jordan Charter, recent Ruby Van Meter graduate, has been hired to run the evening dish room at Calvin Community, and current student Zach Lenhart is working at the Drake Holiday Inn Express as the breakfast room attendant.

Plymouth Grounds sponsored its second annual Octoberfest fundraiser on October 11. The bluegrass band CW Hobbs performed. There was an overflow turnout of customers that were entertained by good music, good company, and a great time. Proceeds from goodwill donations at the event will go towards compensating students that work at PG during the summer months.


Scavo biology students were participants recently in activities brought to them by Mike Zeller from Iowa State University. He is the Outreach Education Coordinator for the Office of Biotechnology at ISU. This was his third visit to Scavo to work with students here.

He brought materials and equipment to extract DNA from living cells. It was a crime scene simulation that the classes were performing. Each student was able to extract their own DNA from cheek cells and they also extracted DNA from bananas. Students also made banana smoothies to eat after the science was finished!

Students were able to observe DNA without using a microscope and learned that it can be visible to the naked eye.


In Lynn Williams class the students are learning about the seasons, pumpkins, apples and feelings. The students are leaning about solid, liquid, and gas, too, and rocks and their properties. The students have also been enjoying the new Starfall Calendar time in the morning. During this time they are able to interact with the calendar and place special days such as birthdays, class parties, or anyone who may have lost a tooth. The students will be focusing on recognizing their feelings and how to express them correctly. They have been doing a great job transitioning to specials and earning lots of Shields and Knights for being respectful, responsible, caring citizens. The class was excited for the fall party on October 31st.



Fourth grade took their annual field trip to the Capitol Building to begin learning about the government. It coincides with the general election. The students are also learning their role in the government as a citizen. Class governments are being used in order to further their understanding of government. In order to deepen their understanding of how a government works, students will take on a role of a government official.

In Art at Cornell Elementary, students drew from life. Students used a viewfinder to zoom in on a section of a pumpkin still life. The view finder helped them to fill their page. 4th grade students completed their still life projects by using water color techniques. 2nd grade was introduced to pastel and blending color while 3rd grade had an opportunity to refine those blending techniques. Kindergarten and 1st grade were great observers. They noticed dirt, bumps, bruises and even flat sides on the pumpkins. They then used a wax resist to finish their projects. After the completion of pumpkin still life projects Cornell art students will be working with clay. Kindergarten will create a radial design necklace. 1st grade will use the pinch pot technique to create a pinch pot pumpkin. 2nd grade will add many pinch pot pumpkins to create a cluster of clay pumpkins. 3rd grade will use soft slab construction to make a cornucopia, while 4th grade will use various hand building techniques to create a Native American Story Teller.

High School

Text, Talk, Act to Improve Mental Health is an initiative to spark a national dialogue about the importance of mental health. A contest was held Oct. 6 on National Day Without Stigma to support youth involvement in the national dialogue on mental health. Saydel High School was one of three high schools across the nation that received recognition for participating. Through text messaging, students received discussion questions and were given resources to learn how to take care of themselves and a friend in need. Students also discussed issues related to the mental health of young people and decided how they might take action to improve mental health in their families, schools, and communities. For their efforts the school will receive a $500 prize that can be utilized in psychology class.

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Mission: Saving For College

Amber and Nick Leonard of Hilliard have no doubt they want their two daughters to go to college.

We both went to college. We both have our masters degrees, the couple said. College is extremely important and paying for it would be a nice advantage to give to them.

At five and three, their daughters Addison and Julie are too young to know exactly what college is, but they already have a fund. The Leonards found a professional to help them figure out how much money to put aside.

Financial planner Adam Koos estimates that college costs will more than double by 2028.

Fourteen years from now, the cost of college will be right around $200,000 or just over $200,000, Koos said.

The best way for parents to prepare for the high-rising cost is to start saving early. That is, start the college savings fund before you are even parents.

The best time you start is before you have kids, he said. You can actually set up college savings plan before you have children and make them in your name. And transfer them to your kids names once you have a social security number and theyre born.

He also advises to open a brokerage account, a 529 savings plan, or both. The benefits of a 529 plan is that its tax free when your child is ready to use it.

If you use a college savings plan sponsored by Ohio, anything you put in that savings plan up to $2,000 per child per year is tax deductable per child per year, he said.

Also if a child decides not to go to college, a 529 savings plan allows you to transfer the money to someone else in the family, as long as it is used toward education.

As for the common savings plans, heres Kooss advice:

The average inflation of college costs is 7 percent. What do you get on your savings account, half a percent? So youre actually losing money for the sake of college, Koos said.

The question is, how much should you save?

Everybody is different. You kind of have to go online and find a calculator, Koos said. Bankrate.comhas some good calculators depending on the age of your kid, when theyre going to go to school, and how much you want to pay for it.

Other websites like blackrock.com, vanguard.com or savingforcollege.com allow parents to do their research without seeking a bank or financial advisor for help.

Though many parents want to help their kids afford expensive collegiate costs, financial planners advise parents like the Leonards to think of retirement first.

But parents will always want to do whats best for their kids.

Its our ultimate goal that when they get out of college, theyre not bound to student loans and in a hole, the Leonards said.

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Loans boost livability, resale value

The market for home-equity loans surged along with housing prices in the previous decade. While the ensuing real-estate bust may have cooled this trend, home improvement loans remain a viable and increasingly popular option as the market recovers.

Lenders report rising demand for home-improvement loans, both from homeowners seeking to boost resale value and from those who want to enjoy a house with more space or modern amenities. The credit bureau Experian estimates that homeowners nationwide opened $120 billion in home equity credit lines in the last 12 months, a 27 percent increase from the previous year.

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