Minggu, 29 April 2012

Cut Your Tax Bill by Educating Your Grandchild

There is no better source of greater pleasure in life for aged taxpayers than spoiling their grandchildren by showering them with all kinds of gifts. The young ones too, seem to have some deeper connections to their grandparents than their own parents. With college education increasingly becoming expensive, the grandparents can chip in and at the same time, enjoy extensive tax benefits. There are several tax-friendly channels available for older taxpayers who desire to see their grandkids through college, by helping cover their college costs.
Qualified Tuition Programs-529 Plans
The prepaid tuition and college savings plans are the two types of qualified tuition plans.
Prepaid Tuition Plans
Also referred to as prepaid education arrangements or prepaid tuition programs, prepaid tuition plans offers families a way to beat rising costs of living buy virtually buying the projected future cost of education using the current prevailing rates. Sold in contracts or in units, these plans cover up a given number of year's tuition or a certain number of credits. These plans have the blessings of the state and avail a low-risk option for state-conscious donors with the desire to move large amounts of assets to their heirs without cutting their integrated credit. The withdrawal penalties and a relatively low return rate compared to other options, like college savings plans, are the main downsides of these plans. Moreover, these plans are only accessible by in-state residents and school alumni and may further be restricted to within-the-state public institutions. Some of these plans don't cater for the costs of private or out-of state schools.
College Savings Plans
Established by a state or eligible educational institution, college savings plans allows individuals to contribute towards the financing of the beneficiary's higher education. The contributions are made to a college saving account and the balance in the amount is determined by the performance of the primary investments. This eventually affects the amount of finances available to meet the recipient's education expenses.
All contributions build up on a tax-deferred foundation basis and earnings are tax free if a qualified education expense is used. Residents whom use their state's plan, plus a tax break for the rich taxpayers looking for ways to reduce their taxable estates, are offered tax deductions in most states. Contributors can accumulate to the limit of five annual gift tax exclusions on top of each year; this is stipulated in the qualified tuition rules. Up to $65,000 can be contributed by a single qualified tuition program in 2010 without creating a gift tax, provided the money does not exceed the amount necessary for the kids to finish their advanced education. Married couples can double that amount.
It is important to note that these limits are only applied per plan. You can contribute up to $120,000 to several different beneficiaries in a single year if you are a couple. The beneficiary is not necessarily expected to be a biological grandchild. In fact, it is not mandatory that the beneficiary be a relation of the contributor. An older couple can even opt to donate the amount to their neighbor's kid.
The main set back of the qualified tuition programs is the penalty tax that any earnings included in any plan distribution not qualified for education costs is subjected to. Equally subjected to the same treatment are the nonqualified distributions which are handled as early distributions from retirement plans or annuity, which are both assessed a 10% early distributions penalty as well as counted as taxable income. However, the income and the penalty are only assessed on the earnings. A major factor for donors to think about is that any tax penalty only applies to the plan beneficiary and not the contributor.
U.S. Savings Bonds
Bonds, which are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government, offer another ideal education sanctuary, preferred for the Conservative investors. This program permits tax exemptions of some types of bonds if the proceeds are channeled towards funding higher education expenses. Eligible under this program, is the interest realized in Series I bonds and EE bonds, Zero-coupon bonds and STRIPS, and Treasury inflation protected securities (TIPS). Series H and H are not eligible. For this exemption to apply however, there are a number of exemptions that apply.
i. Using the bonds to cover for a junior's higher education implies that the kid can only be a beneficiary and not the bond's direct owner.
ii. The child must be claimed as a dependent on the parent's or grandparent's tax return.
iii. Any eligible bonds must have been issued after 1989 to an investor who must have been at least 24 years old at the time of issuance.
iv. No single investor can purchase more than $30,000 of savings bonds (or $60,000 for couples) in a given year to be entitled to exemption.
Savings bonds provide a more elastic source of college funding than 529 plans if these conditions are met. This is because bonds are not subjected to a penalty in the event that the funds are used for a different purpose. On the other hand, the interest on the bonds then becomes taxable.
Coverdell Education Savings Account
Overhauled and stretched out in 2002, the Coverdell Education Savings Accounts were originally created as Education IRAs. These accounts allow a $2,000 an annual non deductible per child till they reach the age of 18. Provided the IRA is used for qualified education expenses, the earning grows tax-free, usually at the state and federal levels. When the beneficiary hits 30, the early distribution penalty and income tax are assessed on the earnings share of any amount left in the account for 30 days or more. There are some exemptions, like death or disability of the beneficiary, in which the early distribution penalty does not apply. Also, special needs beneficiaries are not subjected to the age 18 and 30 limitations.
The main distinctive feature between the Education savings accounts and qualified tuition programs is the integration of payments per child, just like the IRA contributions. The same beneficiary cannot receive contributions of $2,000 from four different family members in the same year. Furthermore, contributions are counted toward the gift tax exclusion. This implies that a fellow who contributes $2,000 for tax year 2010 to these plans can only apportion another $ 10,000 as a non taxable gift to a qualified tuition program for the same beneficiary.
The taxpayer's ability to benefit from education tax credits can be affected by the withdrawals from the accounts. The distribution and the credit cannot be used to cover the same expenses, irrespective of the recipient's ability to claim the credit in the same year that the distribution is made from the education savings account.
It is for these setbacks that these plans are less popular compared to other saving avenues, like the qualified tuition program

Minggu, 22 April 2012

Noisy Libraries Embrace Blabbermouth Bias In Modern Education - More Evidence

The Problem
Three earlier EzineArticles introduce and discuss my analysis of the noise problem in modern libraries:
  1. (August 4, 2011) Library Standards Have Crumbled-Time To Reclaim Quiet introduces the problem and makes the call for a return to traditional quiet as the proper foundation of courtesy and concentration in true learning.

  2. (August 9, 2011) Library Noise Now The Golden Standard - New Values Corrupt Silence pins the blame for the problem of noisy libraries largely on the dominant cultural values of Western society that reject silence.

  3. (August 17, 2011) Modern Education Experts Profess Value Of Silence - Why Librarians Ignore locates the source of the noisy library problem in current pedagogies (i.e., teaching philosophies) that privilege speech, as documented by five, peer-reviewed expert sources in the field of education.
The present EzineArticle lists four additional, peer-reviewed, expert sources that further document troubling cultural forces in today's educational system that are degrading the quality of these once-quiet public spaces.
The following paragraphs list citations of my latest sources, along with my interpretations of each source's main points:
Huey-li Li (2001). Silences And Silencing Silences. THE PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION SOCIETY YEARBOOK 2001:157-165.
  • Educational discussions about silence seem to be erroneous and one-dimensional, treating the absence of talk as the consequence of a disciplinary act only.

  • In modern discussions about multi-cultural education, educators should re-think the simple dichotomy of silence versus speech and challenge the primacy of speech.

  • Technological advancements in modern industrial society are especially powerful lures that cause people of developed nations to avoid silence and to justify intolerance of silence.

  • Mass media and computer-mediated communication systems constantly erode and destroy silent spaces at the public level, thus making it nearly impossible for individuals to learn how to appreciate silence, either by themselves or in the presence of others.

  • Americans are a nation of "space pluggers" and "gap fillers", both in education and in life, as we obsessively fill what we think are empty spaces and empty sound gaps with the perpetual flux of objects and decibels.

  • The idea of "cooperative learning" has become the dominant idea in mainstream teacher education.

  • When teachers, in classroom settings, use the idea of "participation" as a measure of student participation, they inevitably condition students in the belief that silent, active listening is not a legitimate form of "participating."

  • Speech can be systematically distorted, consciously or unconsciously, to give some groups or individuals more importance than others.

  • "... the dichotomization of silence and speech misleads us to devalue silence and privilege speech.... I call for recognition of the need to dismantle this false dichotomy and to develop a pedagogical understanding of silences." (p. 162)
Megan Boler (2001). The Challenge Of Interpreting Silence In Public Spaces. THE PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION SOCIETY YEARBOOK 2001:166-169.
  • Emphasizing speaking is a method of enforcing the "silencing of silence", which perpetuates the false idea that talking automatically represents democratic participation.

  • Favoring speech ignores reflective practice.

  • Systematic education in the art of listening does not exist in elementary schools, in secondary schools, in higher learning, or in the public sphere.

  • Silence has deeply personal and spiritual aspects, regarded as evils in education and politics.

  • Educators need to be extremely cautious about emphasizing speech and de-emphasizing quiet.

  • By cultivating the practice of quiet mindfulness, teachers can greatly enhance the quality of interaction and the quality of thought that takes place in education.

  • In political and educational contexts, silence is automatically feared, "pathologized", and assigned no currency, yet, ironically, we must speak of this problem in order to avoid it.
Cathleen Haskins (2010). Integrating Silence Practices Into The Classroom: The Value of Quiet. ENCOUNTER: EDUCATION FOR MEANING AND SOCIAL JUSTICE 23 (3):1-6.
  • The current disregard for silence in modern educational philosophy begins to take hold early in a child's life, where the once slow, easy freedoms of childhood barely exist today.

  • In modern civilization, we live in a storm of noise that robs children of their abilities to know the beauty of silence.

  • Most children in today's developed world know silence only as discipline or as punishment from controlling adults, and these children are further denied positive, quiet experiences by adults who have lost their own ways in a noisy world.

  • Today's adolescents grow up with technological innovations that disable their desires to know fulfilling quiet and creative solitude.

  • Nonstop, incessant noise has become the norm that disconnects people of all ages from their inner resources.

  • Holistic education reform requires that teachers create learning environments that offer exercises in stillness and silence, where silence is NOT treated as the negative force of adult authority, but as the positive space of inner peace, creativity, and renewal.
  • Relying on verbal participation to assess learning often rewards compliance (i.e. talking that the teacher expects) instead of thoughtfulness and comprehension.

  • Speech becomes more powerful and insightful through a norm of silence.

  • American schools traditionally do not value silence.

  • Talk does not necessarily equal learning.

  • Schools and communities need to return to a wise understanding of silence, inspired by the saying, "You have two ears and one mouth for a reason. You should listen twice as much as you speak." (p. 4)
I attribute the relatively recent problem of excessive noise in libraries to four main causes:
  1. Modern, Western civilization has always treated speech in primarily positive terms, while treating silence in primarily negative terms of authoritative control and punishment.

  2. Runaway developments in technology (e.g., computers and mobile communication devices) have enacted and enforced Western cultural values that privilege speech in epic proportions.

  3. Parallel developments in education have mirrored popular culture's information-exchange mania, thus solidifying Western values that favor speech and fear silence.

  4. Seller/consumer relationships have surpassed student/teacher relationships in importance, as institutions struggle to survive in an economy that supports primarily goods and services "aimed to please."

Minggu, 15 April 2012

Continuing Dental Education Can Also Be Fun!

Dental Continuing Education is necessary and essential for all dental professionals and practitioners in order to maintain the most effective care for patients. As in many other medical professions ongoing training an education is required to maintain a high standard of quality care for the consumer. Ongoing Clinical knowledge as well as practical applications of the latest scientific trends will substantially improve overall practice and have the capacity to greatly reduce malpractice and malpractice costs for everyone involved.
There are many clear reasons for dentists and dental professionals to increase knowledge through dental continuing education programs, the most common being: expansion of ones practice, mastering or improvement of treatment methods, or even meeting state licensure requirements. Other benefits of dental continuing education are: to understand the latest tools, treatment methods, scientific research, and business practices. Depending on how one learns, numerous educational mediums can serve the purpose of increasing dental education and maintaining high practice standards.
However, for most it is through practical training programs and the latest most advanced technical updates DCE will be most beneficial to both dental professionals and consumers. Hands on experience combined with lectures are pertinent to the quality of dental continuing education. Other forms of education can be extremely helpful when it is nearly impossible to make the time commitment for in depth classroom training. There are many options available online courses & seminars, print, and through educational DVD format.
If improving your techniques and strengthening your practice isn't reason enough to continue dental education try an exotic cruise, no joke. This trend is becoming more and more popular and there are now a fair amount of agencies that will organize conferences on the latest dental related topics while sailing around the world's tropical and exotic locations. Think of it as a condensed study abroad experience for dental professionals. A cruise ship conference may not be the most economical but it can serve as an invaluable networking event as well as a memorable dental educational experience.
When deciding on a program dentists and dental professionals should seek one that offers the latest practical training programs and techniques. Ultimately the end result of dental continuing education should improve patient care and quality as well as lead to a more professional and sustainable organization in both the short and long term. Dental continuing education programs are required for all dentists, but when deciding on a particular program, it's important to remember your own core goals and objectives along with the needs of your own organization. Regardless of which type of program, class, or conference you choose, always remember that dental continuing education will always improve your practice and organization as a whole!

Minggu, 08 April 2012

Tips for Success in Online Education

Online education is becoming a popular and convenient way for people all over the world to learn. You can earn an advanced degree and further your career, without having to quit your job, relocate, or waste time commuting back and forth to class. Online learning is also a great way for people who want to take just a class or two to achieve personal enhancement. Whatever your educational goal, online learning is right at your fingertips, but there are some considerations to take into account. Here are a few things to consider before beginning an online educational program that will help make it an enjoyable and successful experience.
1. Define Your Goals
What do you hope to gain from your online educational experience? Are you aiming to earn a post-graduate degree to advance in your career, or do you simply desire to learn more about a certain field or subject? Know what your goals are before you begin looking for a program. This will help you find a school that will match your individual needs.
2. Do Your Research
Know exactly what you're getting yourself into. Utilize every resource you can to find out about different online programs that will help you reach your goals. Make sure the school is a legitimate, accredited institution. Compare tuition costs and program curriculum for different programs to make sure you're getting the most for your money, and ask to speak with admissions representatives to get a better feel for which program is right for you. You can also talk to people in your field who have taken online classes in the past and seek their advice. It's also important to remember that some "online" programs do require brief residencies at the university's campus. If you don't have the means or aren't willing to travel, make sure you don't enroll in a program that requires limited residency halfway across the country.
3. Seek Financial Aid
One major issue that keeps prospective students from reaching their educational goals is the potentially astronomical cost of education. Unfortunately, online education can be just as expensive as on-campus learning, but don't despair. There are plenty of school-awarded financial aid packages, graduation assistance, work study programs, and government-funded aid that can help cut down the cost of your online education. Be sure to fill out the FAFSA and apply for any applicable grants and scholarships you can find to help make your education more affordable. You don't have to stick to the grants and scholarships from the school, either. There are innumerable scholarships available every year for students. Ask people you know and use the Internet to search for scholarships you can apply for.
4. Perform a Technology Check
You'll want to make sure you have access to all the technological tools you'll need for your online program. Many online programs have specific computer requirements because of special software used in their classes. Find out what the requirements are for your program and make sure you have everything you'll need. If you're not sure how to go about getting your computer up to speed, ask a representative from the school or a computer savvy friend to help you. Make sure to do this before the class begins to avoid getting stuck and frustrated when something doesn't work properly during your class.
5. Stay Motivated
Some people find motivation harder to come by when taking online class as opposed to an on-campus class, especially if they are juggling work and family obligations with education. Be aware that online classes can be demanding, and finding time to do your assignments might be difficult. Be prepared to make sacrifices. If you're tight on time or not a self-starter, make sure you set up a study schedule that will work for you and keep you motivated. This might mean you need to have a friend, family member, or classmate help you study or hold you accountable for assignments. Find something that works for you and stick with it. Remember why you enrolled in the program in the first place and constantly keep your goals in mind. Keeping your eye on the prize will help you stay focused.
6. Take Pride in Your Accomplishments
Getting an education online is a big undertaking, and one that should not be taken lightly. When you do well, don't be afraid to be proud of yourself! Celebrate small achievements such as good grades and improved test scores. Tell people about what you're learning and let them know you're doing well. You'll gain more support and feel great about what you've accomplished.

Minggu, 01 April 2012

Online Education Has Come of Age!

Online education is becoming increasingly more popular as the quality and quantity of online degree programs expands. A few short years ago the perception of many professionals in the corporate world was that these degree programs were substandard. If that ever were the case, it is definitely no longer.
As the market embraced the expanding need for online education to cater to working adults, the programs achieved higher quality year after year. At this point most degree programs offered online are at least par with traditional programs and in many cases are much preferred by the working public. Online accredited universities can be easily found with a quick online search.
Most colleges now understand the value of having Internet based teaching modules in one way or another. The technology is too valuable and widespread not to take advantage of it. According to the Sloan Consortium's report of 2007, 5 years after the roll out of online education, there were almost 3.5 million students taking an online course during the fall of 2006. In addition to that there was a growth rate of almost 10% in online enrollments vs. the 1.5% growth of all educational enrollment combined. This in and of itself testifies to the strength and market of online education. I am sure the statistics have even expanded since that last report.
Taking an online course is quite tough. In a traditional setting it is possible to ask friends or classmates questions and get answers very quickly. While this may be an efficient use of time, working online through email or through a newsgroup setting requires the student to research answers to their questions in much more depth than otherwise. My experience is that the person walks away with a much more profound answer to their question, and that answer is now internalized into their knowledge base.
As a person that spent almost 8 years in traditional schooling and then another 2 years in online education, I can speak with experience that they both have their upsides and downsides. However, for the working adult online degree programs are absolutely the way to go. No longer is it a requirement that you need to quit your job, put your spouse to work, and head off to the bookstore. You now have the educational opportunities to advance your career right at your keyboard.
There are obvious degree programs that make sense to receive at a traditional institution. Anything that requires hands on lab work is an example. But even some of these are being addressed by remote and online institutions.
Most everyone understands the need to educate themselves to increase their financial value to the corporate community. For those that are in a situation where they have families and / or need to work online education is most definitely an alternative that will take you far in your chosen career.