Guided by the blind: Butler University will soon debut a campus guide app to aid visually impaired students

Although my son did not attend Butler, the university is an example of what a just released study by Moody’s Investors Service, Inc. on higher education.

Panos Linos, Butler University professor of computer science and software engineering, and one of the student developers. Linos started developing GuideDawg 1.0 in 2015, an app to guide Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired students around their building. Students at ISBVI and other campuses usually have to be accompanied by someone to navigate campus until they memorize their route. (Butler University)

As a Mom of a blind son who attended a few colleges/universities until he found the perfect fit, the Indiana School for the Blind and now Butler University app resource is appreciated. With a $19K seed grant, Butler University students who are visually impaired, will have an app to help guide them around campus. This is a novel idea that should be duplicated throughout the world’s university and college campuses.

Although my son did not attend Butler, the university is an example of what a just released study by Moody’s Investors Service, Inc. on higher education. The leading credit rating and risk analysis firm also upgraded the higher education sector from negative to stable over the next year to 18 months, based on the large, “comprehensive universities” strong financial performance from endowments, gifts and related non-tuition dependent income.

From Moody’s (Dec. 10, 2019):
“Over the longer term, social risks will continue to transform the US higher education sector, with demographic changes presenting both challenges and opportunities. While traditional-age enrollment may decline, expanding online programs and growing workforce needs will provide new types of learners with access to higher education. Governance will remain a key differentiator among higher education institutions, Moody’s says. Those that are able to identify their strengths and weaknesses and take appropriate action where necessary will fare better than those that remain reactive.”

New types of learners and non-traditional students will serve as the largest group of college and university students. Take heed, university and college administrators, faculty, alumni, students and parents. There has long been a hashtag for individuals to #staywoke. This same hashtag is relevant for university and college administrations. I say 🔗 the dots. Connect the dots!

After the 1.0 version of the app was developed in 2015, Panos Linos, Butler University professor of computer science and software engineering, and a team of students are developing second version o…THEBUTLERCOLLEGIAN.COMProfessors, students develop GuideDawg 2.0: a mobile app designed to help blind or visually impaired students 

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By “doing the right thing” and ‘trusting no one’ learn if graduate school is right for you: Four, sure-fire ways to find out

m delighted to report that I followed Dr. James’ sound advice: A little more than one year after she directed me to this unknown territory, I graduated from the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. Part of my decision to attend Medill was based on the sage advice of my classmate, Spike Lee, who experienced a similar conversation with Dr. James just a year ahead of me. Spike simply said, “Do what she (Dr. James) said. It is easier that way.” I easily recall what Spike said since it was straight-forward and impactful. Do what she said. It is easier that way.

When I was a student nearing the end of my matriculation at small, private and United Methodist Church-based school in Atlanta, Ga., my department chair, Dr. Gloria James, strongly recommended that attend graduate school.

My response: No way.

I financed my undergraduate education at the private institution of Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University) with an annually renewable Reader’s Digest essay scholarship, grants, cash and limited student loans. I didn’t want to take on any more debt. Period. Also, my ego was calling most of the shots in 20-year-old mind. I was anxious to begin my career and thereby make my mark upon this world. Yet, my consistent pattern of listening to and following the advice of folk much wiser than me, overruled my lesser reasoning. On top of it all, I received a job offer from the Atlanta Journal/Constitution to serve as a city beat reporter.

Wised up

The thumbnail outcome of my choices is that graduate education has paid off in many ways for me, including serving as the first female dean of journalism school, serving as the highest-ranking female local government administrator in Georgia, multi-media and award-winning financial journalist, and a myriad of other career and personal highlights. My salaries have typically remained higher than my peers in the industry.

Tip #1: Weigh investment of graduate $ investment v. other factors

As the parent of adult children who matriculated through college and graduate school, I am well aware of the cost-benefit ratio when considering graduate schools. While there are several articles, government studies and other research available to help students and their parents determine if graduate is worth it based on costs alone, I found this document to prove the most useful.

I am upfront in my recognition of the costs factors of graduate education. Yet, I advocate for graduate degrees based on the lifetime benefits of the investment.

Tip #2: Spike Lee told me to ‘do the right thing’

I am delighted to report that I followed Dr. James’ sound advice: A little more than one year after she directed me to this unknown territory, I graduated from the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. Part of my decision to attend Medill was based on the sage advice of my classmate, Spike Lee, who experienced a similar conversation with Dr. James just a year ahead of me. Spike simply said, “Do what she (Dr. James) said. It is easier that way.” I easily recall what Spike said since it was straight-forward and impactful. Do what she said. It is easier that way.

Spike, a graduate of Morehouse College and New York University, and me, a graduate of Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University) and Northwestern University, shared the same undergraduate communications majors’ experiences. At that time, Clark was the home of the mass communications students in the Atlanta University Center. The AUC is the nation’s largest consortium of historically black colleges and universities in the United States. Spike and I also shared a love of producing short, student films and videos and were among the approximate ten students who founded the AUC Newsreel under the watchful leadership of our favorite film professor, Dr. Herbert Eichelberger. The youtube feature about the AUC Newsreel is contained within the tribute by another founder, George Folkes.

Youtube image courtesy of Gentle George Folkes, “A Salute to Dr. E” Dec. 2, 2013

Shifting into high gear: Graduate education

Although Spike and I today appear ‘oh-so-smart’ by graduating from our respective top graduate schools, I moved ahead while often wondering why Dr. James’ recommendation was a better a better option than my-grand and totally uninformed plan to pursue an immediate career in journalism?

Here’s my remarks as a “thought leader” who was asked to share my thoughts about graduate school for communications majors. It was recorded by the National Association of Broadcasters Educational Foundation during the largest annual confab of the broadcast industry.

Since I graduated from Medill nearly 40 years ago, it is helpful to get an update on what the complex media industry has in store for today’s and recent grads of communication schools. Here’s a podcast with Gen Z views as captured during a November 2019 broadcast industry meeting in Texas: https://education.nab.org/nab/courses/14945.

Tip #3: Attending graduate schools based on its prestige?

The short answer is yes and no to whether one should attend a graduate school based on its prominence and views in the marketplace.

Tip #4: Determine if the investment will pay off

It’s safe to reveal that the cost of attaining my degree from Northwestern University some 40 years ago is approximately $30,000 less than what it would cost today. Although inflation and the CPI show marked increases in the financing of a graduate education, here are my recommendations. Yet, today, lots of the major universities have the means to finance one’s education in full or in part.

  • Consider whether your undergrad degree will “hold up” in the present marketplace. If not, consider graduate education or beneficial certificate programs.
  • Plan ahead. Begin to research the graduate school scholarships and grants of which there are plenty. Yet, it requires skilled research skills and networking to achieve desired educational goals.
  • Consider graduate schools that offer tuition assistance and/or those institutions willing to pay the full cost — tuition, fees, housing.
  • Consider working in a higher-than-average job while matriculating in graduate school.
  • Be selective in your graduate degree choice. Often, students in communications will inform me that they wish to attain a MBA degree. I hold a DBA and still I ask whether they wish to gain a master’s degree or a MBA? Their answers illustrate a bigger issue of students not necessarily researching the degree to assist in bright careers.

It is important to reiterate that graduate education is not for everyone. Yet, in one of my typical examples to undergraduate students who wish to specialize in digital media areas such as sports journalism, seek out graduate programs that can advance you into their desired positions.

“Trust no one”

Those words often uttered in the successful “Game of Thrones” HBO series were first crafted by my fellow alum of undergraduate and graduate degrees. That’s right, George R. R. Martin is a dual degree recipient of degrees from Northwestern University. The interpretation of the phrase — “trust no one” — was often uttered among journalism students inside of Fisk Hall. Fisk Hall is the home building of the Medill School in Evanston, Ill. It’s interpretation meant to always complete research on subjects before acting on it.

Photo by Gerd Altmann on Pexels.com

Ann Wead Kimbrough, DBA is a thought leader, professional journalist, university professor, former government senior official, blogger and author.
She teaches students how to professionally blog, develop podcasts, write with clarity and context and manage large, live events. Ann earned a Doctor of Business Administration degree, International Business, Argosy University; a MS degree specializing in financial journalism, NU Medill School of Journalism; and a BA degree from Clark Atlanta University. website: annweadkimbrough.com; Twitter: @ConnectMom


Pay to play: Cost of kids’ extracurricular sports

Everyone wins in the $15 billion youth sports economy.

Two-sport “star,” my grandson, Kingston, shooting a basketball during a recent game.
Nine-year-old Kingston on first base during recent game.

Parents are shelling out billions of dollars annually for their kids to play sports. In this “pay to play” society, the U.S. government and private organizations find that the youth sports industry is estimated to be a $15 billion industry.

During a recent @walbtv show, The Breakdown, I provided financial insight on costs associated with children’s sports and also briefly discussed the economic benefits of that community’s homecoming celebrations.


Baseball $659.96
Basketball $426.78
Bicycling $1,011.61
Cross country $420.86
Field hockey $2,124.62
Flag football $268.46
Tackle football $484.57
Golf $925.38
Gymnastics $1,580.28
Ice hockey $2,582.74
Lacrosse $1,289.22
Martial arts $776.51
Skateboarding $380.02
Skiing/Snowboarding $2,248.84
Soccer $536.90
Softball $612.83
Swimming $786.03
Tennis $1,170.09
Track & field $191.34
Volleyball $595.49
Wrestling $476.45
Other sports $1,233.30
Source: Aspen Institute

As a former “Soccer Mom” — aka basketball, baseball, track, golf, skiing, goalball and band Mom — of three children and now as a grandmother of young athletes and scholars, I know well that many businesses that benefit from children’s sports such as:

Sporting goods stores (gear, etc.)

Grocery stores (snacks and drinks per game)

Restaurants (teams’ celebrations)

Trophy stores (ribbons, plaques)

Private coaches

Clinics and camps

Specialized training centers

Gaming centers

Colleges and universities

My granddaughter, Kaidence, a soccer player and extracurricular math and science participant, poses with her favorite Florida State University goalie Brooke Bollinger, during a recent mini-camp.

The work of creative students on a scavenger hunt as part of a class assignment — Part 1

From student Jonathan David about his bicycle photo: Significance: Due to limited parking as a result of construction on Florida A&M’s campus, many students have resorted to cycling to campus. Although the hills may offer a workout, you do not have to worry about a ticket!
Tow Away Zone! Unless you’re a cyclist

Teaching digital native students is a welcomed challenge.

The first assignment for two sections of my digital storytelling courses was to complete a scavenger hunt within a 1.5 mile radius in downtown Tallahassee. Other students captured a single image with a caption in a deadline scenario. Both groups performed well.

In all, the assignment is related to field producing. We have book work and discussions to follow.

Here are some of the images from one of my classes. I will follow up this blog with the second set of images from the other class.


Don’t leave me! North Dakota and Minnesota competing for “my” Southern-bound college students

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Are they using their smart phones to shop for schools — colleges and universities?

I’ve been teaching college students for a few decades at schools in Arkansas, Florida and Georgia. The warm weather, relatively low college and university rates, costs-of-living expenses, and the so-called Southern hospitality are among the top reasons why students — like me — love our school and location choices.

Also, southern cities are the primary sites for historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) where many Hispanic and Black students have matriculated. As a Clark Atlanta University graduate, I too loved the warmer climate (in comparison to my home state of Nebraska) and cost-of-living attributes. Yet, to boost my career sustainability, I trekked north to Evanston and Chicago, IL to complete a Master of Science in Journalism program, specializing in financial news, at the Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University.

IYet, unlike me, it is in the northern cities where an increasing number of minority students are beginning their college education. Due to demographic changes in the population, North Dakota and Minnesota are expected to receive a healthy share of minority colleges in its colleges and universities.

It also helps that, on average, North Dakota’s and Minnesota’s college tuition and fees are low for bachelor’s, associate’s and certificate-seeking students in comparison to the national average. The national data does not necessarily provide an apples-to-apples comparison on college and university costs in each state.

While this study is helpful, you are not able to directly compare the national colleges and tuitions’ averages for an undergraduate education to each states’ figures. The states’ data are grouped together for community colleges, trade, and public and private schools undergraduate and certificate degrees. The national data separates each certificate and degree program related to undergraduate or bachelor’s education.

That’s why I took the available states’ data and compared it to the national colleges and universities’ statistics by averaging all six categories (1st and 2nd year certificates, associate, 2-4 year certificates, bachelor and post bachelor certificate). Using my bargain hunting wisdom, I used those averages to reach my comparison conclusions on the best-priced colleges and universities.

For instance, the average annual cost of a bachelor’s degree nationwide is $7, 934 for in-state residents and $21,201 for out-of-state students. A 2 to 4-year certificate is $4,113 and $14,077 for in-state and out-of-state students, respectively. In North Dakota, the comparisons are $6,608 and $9,845 for the in- and out-of-state students. Minnesota‘s average college costs are $8,004 and $17,223 for the same comparisons.

Connect the dots …

The continual rise in college/university tuitions, fees, expenses and related student loan costs, are causing many smart thinking parents and students to price shop in higher education.

  • This is a perfect time of year to begin planning for the 2020 and beyond years for your choices among colleges and universities.
  • Use the abundant Internet search engine tools to begin your real school shopping.
  • Don’t shop on price alone. Location, ambiance, safety statistics, campus housing, school policies and more should be considered in your final equation.
  • Ask friends, neighbors, co-workers and others by connecting via social media with graduates of your proposed colleges and universities. Get their feedback on and importantly, track where those graduates are working and how they are thriving (or not) in their careers.
  • If it is financially feasible, visit the campuses of the schools you are interested in. While there are many organized college fairs for students and parents, also consider an impromptu or planned visit to the classrooms where you or your child will likely spend the most time in as a prospective major.

Happy school shopping!


Prayer pouch with a purpose

I was in that place. I was a “baby Christian” as my Atlanta area pastor used to call us who stayed in the same spot without spiritual growth.

I was wrongly speaking aloud about another one of those”worse year of my life” moments when my mother gave me a colorful cloth pouch.

I didn’t go to church with her. I told Mom that I had too many things to sort out and that no one would miss me if I did not attend that day’s service. I also told her earlier that I needed additional funds to repair my vehicle and honor the medical co-payments related to my youngest son’s blindness. I was asking for patience, peace and a semblance of a so-called normal life. It was a too-often state-of-mind for me. I craved a change. That was in 1994.

My mother returned from church and was talking over me about how I should place photos, notes with my hopes and dreams, receipts and faith examples of any type. I tried to again interrupt my mother with my lengthy list of needs. I gave up and decided to try her way. After all, I had nothing to lose.

Nothing to lose: That’s a great place for spiritual interference to enter the room. I found myself clinging to the pouch like it was a necessary hand bag or makeup carrier. I still stuff the pouch today with items that are disparate and have individual meanings to me. The remembrances evoke tears, smiles and frowns from the stuffed away memories of the good in my life and the fears.

Several years ago, I heard a sermon by Dr. Barbara King, founder and senior pastor of Atlanta’s Hillside Chapel & Truth Center, about temporary possessions we give power to in place of the real power source — God, Allah and other deities. She spoke of a rabbit’s foot and other items deemed lucky by its owners. Dr. Barbara — as she is known — told the congregation to use until they could gain strength in trusting the true source.

I was in that place. I was a “baby Christian” as my Atlanta area pastor used to call us who stayed in the same spot without spiritual growth. Dr. Leon Hollinshed was among those kind individuals who helped me to get to my greatest place. For that, I am grateful to him and so many others who stood in the gap with prayers during the year my youngest son became blind and our world became a shadow of its former place.

Since 1994, I’ve cherished memories from some funeral programs, happy and encouraging notes, photos of my children in their early years, an usher pin, an airline ticket, donation receipts, name badges and encouraging letters and notes from family members and now deceased friends.

Connect the dots

1. Even if you don’t feel like it, graciously accept a gift of encouragement.

2. Listen to the still, small voice and act accordingly.

3. Believe in prayer.

4. Do something to honor your gifts. I write thank yous to folk who have extended kindness to my family and me.


How to find best bereavement and emergency travel rates when time is not on your side

Take a breath. Choose mindfulness techniques as sitting in peaceful stillness before planning your travel.
Organize your “proof of death” materials and your relationship to the deceased. If the materials are not readily available to you, the funeral home’s contact information can be used as verification by the carriers, hotels and rental car companies.
Check airline discount fares first and compare it to the bereavement, emergency, compassion rates offered by major carriers and hotels, motels.

Don’t fly away from the last-minute travel fares during times of bereavement or emergencies. Compare cheapest travel rates on all websites and avoid the stress.

When my 81-year-old uncle died in Pensacola, FL on the first Friday of August 2019, his next journey of 1,100 miles placed him in our hometown of Omaha, NE. My family members, too, trekked from several states by planes, trains, buses and automobiles to Uncle Sam’s funeral and burial.

Yet, the real trip was wading through the varied policies and rules on bereavement travel discounts. Hunting for bereavement and emergency rates is not your typical fun thing to do, unless you are in the funeral services business or a travel agent. Travel discount discussions about end-of-life are avoided or never conducted.

Part of the reason is that the bereavement, compassion and emergency rates are not easily understandable. It’s stressful enough dealing with trauma associated with a death of a loved one, whether it was immediate or anticipated after a lengthy illness. Add sorting through the tons of different rules by carriers and hotels to achieve discount rates, and it almost becomes unmanageable and therefore, often the grieving travelers end up paying too much for their travels.

Now that my uncle’s services have passed, I’m happy to share what I have unearthed from the latest emergency and bereavement offers among the airlines, buses, trains and hotels. Because of the time-sensitive nature of our travel, I relied on trustworthy blogs such as https://thepointsguy.com/guide/airline-bereavement-fares/ . It also helps that my sister is a hotel concierge and she guided my logistics.

Don’t cry: It’s personal

Also, most of the carriers and hotels will award the discounts if bereaved travelers are members of its respective loyalty programs. It is helpful to check online for the general policies, yet beware that what is published online may not be the latest information.

Despite my tips and that of others, if the discount travel shopping cause additional stress, choose stress-free living. Cheaper fares are no match for peace of mind.

The journey begins

Amtrak announces on its website that the train carrier offers bereavement rates. It doesn’t. I spoke with two persons from Amtrak and also tweeted a query. It shores up my recommendation to check with each company on its policies. I know it is time consuming during a time-sensitive mourning period.

Another piece of advice is to consider the low-cost offers on sites like Priceline, Kayak, Expedia, Cheap Tickets and more. Compare the travel website rates to the bereavement fares.

Fly away

Delta Airlines, 1-800-221-1212, has a bereavement page on its website that offers answers to most queries about its policy to obtain discounts. Be sure to call Delta if you wish to book a flight at its bereavement rate of 10 – 20 percent. They asked if my relative had a frequent flyer number and thankfully, he did. That is how we yielded a flight at a great rate. You also have to call Jet Blue, 1-800-Jet-Blue, to get discounts for the family members and the mourners attending public services of firefighters, police officers and others in similar professions. Like Delta and Jet Blue, Air Canada, 1-888-247-2262, wants the bereaved to call to finalize details displayed on its website page. The carrier’s bereavement page explains that its policy on discounts for travel and refunds for tickets that were booked at full rates.

Lufthansa offers discounts for the bereaved. In its words, ” In the event of a death abroad Lufthansa offers immediate family members special fares for outbound and return flights to attend the funeral if their journey starts in the USA or Canada. Customers from the USA or Canada are kindly requested to contact their Lufthansa reservations office in the USA or Canada before the start of their trip for further information and to make a booking.” Its number is 1 800 – 645 3880.

Yet, one of my other favorite airlines, Southwest Airlines, 1-800-435-9792, offers condolences to the bereaved and yet does not provide discounts. Frontier Airlines,1-801-401-9000, also does not offer discounts in its fares, yet it has a very liberal refund policy for emergencies that include bereavement.

Check with other airlines and all hotels for special rates and sometimes waived fees for ground transportation and room costs.

Where to lay your head

My family prefers the Marriott hotels and for good reasons. Much like the airlines, if you are members of its loyalty program, the hotel chain offers lower rates for its rooms. Also, similar to the airlines, contact each hotel, compare the bereavement or compassion rates to that of the low-cost airfares offered on travel websites.

Consider other sources

Groupon, for instance, has discount coupons on its websites for low cost travel in times of emergencies. Some ‘plan ahead’ funeral services offer to arrange and pay for travel for the bereaved. My advice is to read the fine print and check the Better Business Bureau, Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Consumer Protection and other oversight agencies for ethical practices.

Even with the best planning and discount rates, flights may be cancelled. It happened to my family. Give yourself extra time to reach destination.

Recap: Connect the dots

  1. Take a breath. Choose mindfulness techniques as sitting in peaceful stillness before planning your travel.
  2. Organize your “proof of death” materials and your relationship to the deceased. If the materials are not readily available to you, the funeral home’s contact information can be used as verification by the carriers, hotels and rental car companies.
  3. Check airline discount fares first and compare it to the bereavement, emergency, compassion rates offered by major carriers and hotels, motels.
  4. Choose stress-free over haggling over cheapest rates. Save your grieving energy.
  5. Remember all of the loving condolences extended to your family or close friend. I offer my condolences and wishes for safe travels.


FAMU Reporting and Writing II students’ podcasts … Spring 2019

Enjoy the first podcasts of Reporting and Writing II students.

Students in two courses of Reporting and Writing II were given assignments to produce radio stories that spring from their semester-long news beat coverage.

Among their requirements: Produce an edited 7-minute podcast. It seemed a near impossible feat. Listen and learn. Enjoy!

Ann Wead Kimbrough, DBA, Professor


The Bob Gibson I know

Shared via PayScale Career News career-news-briefcase: Companies that offer student loan reimbursement programs

These programs are growing, but are not yet widespread. According to data from the Society for Human Resource Management, only 4% of organizations in 2018 offered student loan reimbursement programs, with a 4% increase in 2019.

This article was written by Matthew W. Burr, SHRM-SCP, owner of Burr Consulting, LLC, an HR consultant and an assistant professor at Elmira College. It was so well done and timely that I wished to share it with you.

Topics: Work CultureDECEMBER 5, 2019

Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

The total student loan debt in the U.S. is now $1.6 trillion, with over 44 million Americans holding student loans. Over the past 20 years, younger working professionals (and their parents) have been forced to borrow more for a college degree. As a result, many employers are now offering an enticing new perk: student loan reimbursement programs.

These programs are growing, but are not yet widespread. According to data from the Society for Human Resource Management, only 4% of organizations in 2018 offered student loan reimbursement programs, with a 4% increase in 2019.

These programs can and will make a difference in borrowers’ lives, just as the many wellness programs offered in our organizations have for decades. Educating our workforce on financial wellness is just as important as offering any other wellness perk. This is the new dental insurance for my generation.


Photo by Juhasz Imre on Pexels.com

Student loan debt is a personal issue for me, as I currently owe roughly $50,000 for my Syracuse University MBA and I have already paid off almost $74,000 in less than two years.

The case for student loan reimbursement programs is simple. The benefits for employers and employees are clear. Creative financial wellness programs such as this can be a true value add for organizations and generate opportunities for recruitment and retention of talented employees. These programs can help brand organizations as an employer of choice.



For professionals, student loan reimbursement programs offer a way out of seemingly insurmountable financial struggle. According to Student Loan Hero, 69% of the class of 2018 graduated with student loan debt. Debt holders owed an average of $29,800. That’s an astronomical figure for many 21- or 22-year-olds, and climbing out of this level of debt can seem impossible.

Financial stability in the workforce is essential both for organizations and the workers they employ. Regardless of the size of the loan, debt is stress and a distraction. These reimbursement programs assist in setting employees up for financial success throughout their lives and careers.

“Historically most employer’s tuition-based incentives only help those currently pursing formal education. These new programs reward employees for hard work already done to prepare them for their current roles.” – Jeanne Stewart, HR Consultant, HR on the Move

Learn more about popular employee perks in PayScale’s Compensation Best Practices Report.


company culture

1. PricewaterhouseCoopersThe professional services firm employs over 250,000 people around the world. Currently, PwC offers a student loan reimbursement program that provides $1,200 per year for six years to any employee with student loan debt.

2. Fidelity InvestmentsSimilar to PwC, Fidelity offers eligible employees $2,000 per year with a cap of $10,000. The financial services firm also offers its workers financial counseling and educational tools to utilize throughout their career.

3. Abbott LaboratoriesAbbott gives employees who are contributing 2% of their eligible pay toward student loans the equivalent of 5% of their qualifying pay deposited into their 401(k)s — without workers having to contribute to the retirement account. Since the medical devices manufacturer rolled out the program in August 2018, 1,000 employees have signed up.

4. New York Life Insurance CompanyThe company offers a student-loan repayment program providing up to $10,200 over five years for eligible employees, or $170 per month.

5. Rise Interactive: The digital marketing firm’s program offers a repayment contribution of $50 per month.

6. CommonBond and 7. LendEdu: Both financial services organizations, which offer student loan products, have pledged to pay off any employee’s entire student loan balance — CommonBond pays $100 per month and LendEDU pays $200 per month until the debt is at $0.

8. American Bankers Association: The ABA offers employees up to $1,200 per year toward student loans.

9. UnumStarting in 2020, workers at the employee benefits provider will be able to trade five days of vacation time for student loan repayment. (Better than it sounds, given that Unum employees average 28 days per year.)

10. Schuyler Hospital. A small critical access and skilled nursing facility in Montour Falls, NY, Schuyler Hospital offers registered nurses up to $10,400 in student loan reimbursement. “There is no contract to sign,” says Kim Nagle, Executive Director of Human Resources. “We believe we have a great place to work. We want our nurses (and all staff) to work at Schuyler because they WANT to, not because they are contractually obligated to do so.”


student loan debt

While student loan reimbursement programs are an attractive benefit, solving the larger crisis will require systemic change. A few potential options include:

  • Reducing the student loan interest rates to 1% or below. Charging 5%, 6%, 10% or 15% interest rates on student loan debt is completely unnecessary and exorbitant.
  • Offering additional opportunities for percentage reductions in interest: direct debit, consistent repayment history reduction, social media and financial wellness competitions, etc.
  • Expanding the six-month repayment window to a 12-month program, with a balloon style system for payments in the first year. Start the borrower off with a reduced amount of payment owed and slowly build increased amounts throughout the first twelve months.
  • Allowing company credit unions buy the debt. Organizations (if the government allows it) could offer to refinance the student loans, while offering lower interest rates to the borrower. This is another option that can set organizations apart from competitors.
  • Expanding forgiveness options and bankruptcy programs. Currently, the rule in place provides very little opportunity for any person with student loan debt to file for bankruptcy. The courts need to reevaluate opportunities for debt holders to discharge student loan debt, if the likelihood of repayment is nonexistent.  I am not a proponent of mass student loan forgiveness, but in extenuating situations, we need to review.


Does your employer offer a student loan reimbursement program? We want to hear from you. Share your story in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

Matthew W. Burr, SHRM-SCP, owner of Burr Consulting, LLC, is an HR consultant, an assistant professor at Elmira College, and an on-call mediator and fact-finder for the New York State Public Employment Relations Board. He holds master’s degrees in business administration and in human resources & industrial relations, and a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt.Tags: BenefitsPerksStudent Loan ReimbursementStudent Loan Reimbursement ProgramsStudent Loans

Some College Students Facing Homelessness, Hunger Around the Holidays

This month, home for the holidays will be a much-anticipated destination for many college students as they wrap up finals, look forward to family celebrations and their long winter break. But as the semester grinds to a close and the holiday break nears, for some students, their only concern is…

Source: Some College Students Facing Homelessness, Hunger Around the Holidays

Join me on-air and for bell ringing during the season of giving — 9 a.m., Thurs., Dec. 12 and 10 a.m., Friday, Dec. 13, 2019!

There’s nothing like the “present” to help our community

Photo by Giftpundits.com on Pexels.com

I will be an on-air host for the WFSU Radio Year-End Membership Drive and I need your help to reach my goal!

Among the great offerings via WSFU Public Media are the internships provided to my students. Also, there are three FAMU Journalism grads on staff at the station. It’s a great way to say “thanks” for great programming and investing in top personnel.

Tune in to 88.9 FM on Thursday, December 12, 2019 at 9:00 AM to hear me on-air.

(or 96.7 in Apalachicola, or 97.1 in Carrabelle)

If you are out of the area you can listen live on http://wfsu.org/listen/

or through the WFSU iTunes Radio station, or the WFSU iPhone/Android app.

Donate during my shift by calling 850-644-WFSU (9378) or toll free at 1-877-999-WFSU


DONATE NOW through this link: http://bit.ly/1NFwqpa

(Please enter my name in the field under your contact information so your contribution will count toward my goal.)

Feel free to share this info anywhere to help WFSU continue to provide great programs! Thank you!

WFSU Public Media
1600 Red Barber Plaza
Tallahassee, FL 32310

WFSU Public Media

And on Friday …

Join me at 10 a.m. – 11 a.m.. Friday, Dec. 13, 2019, at the Sam’s Wholesale Club in Tallahassee, FL for the annual Salvation Army Bell Ringing Day. My Rotary buddy Nancy Stepina and I are on the Rotary Club of Tallahassee’s #TeamKP.

The work of creative students on a scavenger hunt as part of a class assignment — Part 2

They are strong because this trio worked together and mapped their shots.

The second section of my Newswriting & Reporting II course included some powerful work along the route of the scavenger hunt. The students are posting their findings on social media. I grabbed a few to show off how well they completed their assignment.

The assignment is related to the first steps of becoming a field producer. Those qualities are, but not limited to, keen observation, sharp logistics, visual site selection, adherence to deadlines, understanding site significance, editing, writing great synopsis with descriptive language.

Students' work ... works!