Posted by: mrobayna | April 27, 2012

Student Loans – Is Higher Education Worth the Debt?

With national student loan debt hitting the One Trillion dollar mark this past week and federal student loan interest rates set to double soon, student loans have gotten the attention of many in Washington over the past few weeks. Both President Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney have called for Congress to stop the increase of the federally subsidized student loan rates from jumping to 6.8% APR from the current 3.4%. Rates are set to increase in July as legislation signed during the Bush presidency expires, returning unsubsidized loan rates back to their 2007 levels.

Education costs have been steadily increasing for the past few years. In 2010 alone, public education saw an increase in tuition and fees of about 8.3%. In public education, this trend has been seen nationwide as state schools offset lost funding that previously came from state tax revenues.  The average borrower now graduates with $25,250 in debt. Student loan debt has gotten so high that some, like Rep. Hansen Clarke of Michigan, have called for the forgiveness of student debt if the borrower has repaid 10% of their income over the course of 10 years.

Regardless of where the political debate leads our country over the coming months, it’s evident that prospective and current college students need to adequately plan for the costs of higher education. College is still seen as one of the best investments you can make in yourself, with holders of Bachelor’s degrees earning 84% more over their lifetime than high school graduates. So if college is in your plans, it’s important to figure out your options.

So how is it possible to avoid ending up with thousands in debt to get a good education? Here are a few points for consideration when making choices about your education:

  1. Look at your entire financial aid package

Student Loans should make up just a portion of your total funds for education. Make sure you are looking at scholarship programs offered by your school, your state, or private foundations to cover part (or all!) of your tuition expenses. State and federal grants, like the Pell Grant program, also exist to fund higher education.

  1. Consider cheaper educational alternatives

Thinking about going to a four-year private university? If you plan to pay for the majority of it with loans, maybe you should consider cheaper alternatives. Many state schools offer the same education for a fraction of the cost. Attending a two-year school and then transferring to a four-year school has also been an alternative for students looking to get a degree from their school of choice, but who need to save money in the process.

  1. Understand different loan options

Generally, there are three broad categories of loans: federal loans, parent PLUS loans and private loans, each with their own interest rates and payment flexibility. Private loans tend to have the highest interest rates, which are often variable, and the strictest repayment policies.

  1. Calculate your estimated loan payments

There are many useful tools online, including this calculator, that allow you to figure out what your loans will cost you to pay back once you’ve graduated from college. Many times it’s helpful to see what all your loan debt will translate into once you’re out of school to make an educated decision about higher education.

If you are a student who is planning on going to college and want to know more about your financial options, CONNECT offers one-on-one financial aid counseling through partner Bunker Hill Community College and TERI. For more information, contact us at 617-889-1375, ext. 28.

Posted by: mrobayna | April 19, 2012

New, Free Money Managing Tool for the DIY-er

Ever get the feeling that you have no idea where all your money is going? Or that your paycheck is spent before you ever really get a chance to figure out what you’re spending it on? Budgeting is critical tool to help you manage your money, but is sometimes difficult to do on your own. Learnvest.com, a website designed to help you budget and manage your money, helps simplify the process and gets you in control of your money.

Learnvest has a few useful tools that allows users to easily track their money. The website has a feature that allows you to link to your credit card and bank accounts to more easily track your spending habits. You can also develop a detailed budget and set savings goals on the website. Learnvest also offers tips on how to get in control of your money, including how to cut your expenses, pay down your debt and take control of your finances.

Membership for a basic account is free, but members have the option of upgrading their account for more personalized support.

Remember that if you would like personalized advice on structuring your budget, improving your credit, paying down your debt, or learning how to save, CONNECT offers free one-on-one financial coaching and group financial workshops. For more information, contact Laura Lucas at llucas@connectnow.org,  617-889-1375, ext. 17 or Carol Rijo at crijo@chelseand.org, 617-889-1375, ext. 16.

Posted by: pmayor | March 15, 2012

Signature Breads fundraiser celebration

Bernadette Rousseau, Chair of CND board of directors, contacted the CE department in late January about the Signature Breads fundraiser for the Spencer Green Afterschool Program. We were elated to hear that Signature Breads staff had run the fundraiser in the Everett farmer’s market and raised about five times the amount raised at the Chelsea farmer’s market! To raise the funds, Signature Bread’s staff participated in the weekly Everett farmer’s market where they sold bags of their excess bread from the week. This effort took a combined total of 612 hours from May thru October. Several volunteers dedicated every Saturday to the fundraiser.

Bernadette proposed we have a ceremony to celebrate the fundraiser’s success. We were immediately on board! After weeks of planning, we put on a successful event on February 16th in which we celebrated the hard work of Signature Staff and the future of the afterschool program.  Seven staff from Signature Breads, seven staff from CND, and about six families from the afterschool attended the event. It was wonderful to see the Signature Breads staff interact with the children. The kids had fun pairing up with the staff to make people out of vegetables. After their hard work creating veggie people, the kids rewarded themselves by dipping bananas in chocolate. After the event, a few parents spoke with CE staff about how impressed they were by the celebration and the commitment of the Signature Breads staff. One mother praised the event in poetically simple words, “Fue bonito”, which translates to, “It was beautiful”.


Too many working families are caught in the trap of chronic poverty. Tools that build wealth in more affluent communities, like homeownership and higher education, are often out of reach. On January 19th, Representative Michael Capuano will deliver a keynote to launch the collaboration called CONNECT, a new blueprint for building family economic security.

“Residents are facing a wide variety of challenges today: A highly competitive job market, isolated adult education and job training services, a lack of social capital. Those challenges are compounded for recent immigrants who may be completely unfamiliar with US banking systems and are still learning English,” explains Ann Houston, Executive Director of Chelsea Neighborhood Developers. “CONNECT builds on the partners’ deep experience and creates a new opportunity for families to integrate a network of services to achieve economic security.”

Six of Chelsea’s most respected community organizations have come together to co-locate and bundle their services, leveraging existing resources to support transformative economic mobility for low-income families. CONNECT will provide traditional workforce development support from CareerSource, Centro Latino, and Bunker Hill Community College in coordination with asset development and housing services from Chelsea Neighborhood Developers, Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership, and Metro Credit Union.  The CONNECT partners recognize that achieving the American dream of economic security is hard work, but believe low-income and immigrant families can break out of poverty with financial services, education and employment resources.

CONNECT’s “bundled” model of services is based on proven models for client success. The earliest supporters of the project include local and national funders who have developed a body of knowledge on what it takes for low-income households to overcome economic obstacles.  These funders include Boston LISC, Catalyst Fund for Non-Profits, Citi Foundation, Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development, National Credit Union Foundation, NeighborWorks America, and United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley .

A core component of CONNECT’s model is creating a place where peers c
an gather to talk and help each other reach their financial goals. “When you’re surrounded by people who want to go for the goal, it gives the opportunity for the other person to say, ‘if they can do it, I can do it too.’ Now let’s do it!” says a five year participant in Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership programs.

The launch of CONNECT is comprised of two events on January 19th, starting with a free afternoon symposium examining the economic challenges facing low-income Massachusetts residents and best practices for cost effective service delivery. In the evening, Representative Capuano will provide keynote remarks at a cocktail reception. To register for both events visit launchconnect.eventbrite.com.

Posted by: pmayor | December 2, 2011

Halloween on Spencer Ave

In the last week of October, tenants of CND properties Spencer Row and Spencer Green came together for food, conversation and games. The Halloween party was organized in a combined effort between tenants of both properties and the Community Engagement department. This was one of the first events organized and attended by tenants from both properties. Although Spencer Row is right down the street from Spencer Green, there has been a lack of interaction between the two.

 

 

 

The Community Engagement department saw this fun holiday event as an opportunity to build connections between neighbors and so we organized tenants to help make it happen. With suggestions from tenants, the party activities consisted of mask making, a mummy wrapping contest and string the donuts, in which kids had to race to eat donuts off a string.

It was great to see parents from both properties coming together to join in fun and games with their children. One of the kids’ favorite activities of the night, was posing with their mask creations.

Posted by: pmayor | November 22, 2011

Trip to the Boston Children’s Museum!

In October, Spencer Green tenants went on a trip to the Boston Children’s Museum. BNY Mellon donated tickets to the Boston Children’s Museum as recognition of the afterschool program’s success last spring. Because of this donation, the Community Engagement team was able to put on this field trip for all youth and parents who wanted to participate.

The trip was a great success! With ten tenants in attendance (youth and parents), the day was full of fun learning and active playtime. The kids jumped into the adventure of the museum the minute they saw the netted maze of a stairway at the entrance. Scaling to the top, just to explore one exhibit after the next. The favorite exhibits of the day were Arthur and Friends and The Japanese House. Although the Boston Black  exhibit held a close third. In this exhibit, the kids enjoyed shopping around at a Dominican grocery store and then jumping over to “John Smith’s Barbershop” to style their mothers’ hair. We even stopped into “Café Sodade” to learn some Cape Verdean dance steps.

It was great to organize a fun and positive activity for tenants outside of the Spencer Green property.The trip to downtown Boston itself was an educational adventure for the children—pushing the youth to navigate the train and bus systems with the help of the adults.

 

 

 

Overall, the trip was a great opportunity to strengthen the relationships between neighbors and to support the youth through positive recreational activities.  Best of all, the fieldtrip acted as a kick off to the second session of the afterschool program!

Posted by: mrobayna | October 31, 2011

Looking for a Job in Chelsea?

Two Chelsea employers are currently hiring and are looking for qualified applicants!

Dockside Restaurant & Grill: Dockside is opening a new location in Chelsea at the Mystic Mall shopping center on Everett Avenue. To apply, fill out the application for here. For more information on how to apply, please contact Dockside directly at their Malden location:

229 Centre Street
Malden, MA
781.321.3000

Marriott Hotel: The general contractor for the Marriott Hotel will hold a job fair this Thursday, November 3, from 12-4pm, at Chelsea City Hall. The job fair will take place in the Planning Conference Room. This fair is for construction jobs. There will be another job fair in the spring for the permanent jobs at the hotel. In you are interested, come to Chelsea City Hall on Thursday! City Hall is located at:

500 Broadway
Chelsea, MA 02150

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) recently announced chances to its Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP), making it feasible for homeowners who owe more than their home is worth to refinance at historically low interest rates. Previous rules prevented homeowners who owed more than 125% the value of their home from refinancing, but the most recent change in regulations eliminates that limit. HARP currently brands itself as the only program to allow homeowners who are “upside-down” on their investment to refinance.

With federal interest rates reaching record lows, refinancing has become an appetizing option for homeowners who bought their homes when interest rates were much higher. Refinancing at a lower interest rate usually results in a more favorable loan to the borrower, usually in the form of lower monthly payments, or a quicker loan repayment schedule. Financial institutions, however, are unwilling to refinance mortgages in situations where borrowers owe more than the market value of their home (or the value the home would sell for if it were to be put on sale today).

The changes to regulations also eliminate or reduce many of the fees associated with refinancing through the HARP program.

To be eligible for refinancing under new FHFA rules, borrowers need to have a loan owned or secured by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac as of May 31, 2009. This can be checked at the websites of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Additionally, you must be up-to-date with your mortgage payments, with no late payments in the last six months and a maximum of one late payment in the past twelve months.

Lenders should start offering refinancing through new HARP rules sometime in December, or early in 2012.

Sources:

http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/24/new-refi-rules-offer-help-to-more-underwater-borrowers/#
http://www.fhfa.gov/webfiles/22721/HARP_release_102411_Final.pdf

Posted by: mrobayna | October 20, 2011

Check out our Fall 2011 Workshops!

Posted by: mrobayna | October 11, 2011

Need Help Paying for Your Education?

One Family Scholars is a comprehensive college scholarship program that breaks the cycle of poverty and family homelessness for low-income single parents. The One Family Scholars program values higher education as the surest pathway to family self sufficiency.

Why apply?

  • One Family Scholars helps to pay for up to 5 years of education for a Bachelors Degree, and up to 3 years for an Associates Degree
  • 17 One Family Scholars graduates have gone on to purchase homes
  • The average earnings of One Family Scholar Alumnae working full time is $40,700

Interested in applying?

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