I want to suggest a new moniker for Austin, currently known as the Live Music Capital of the World. I propose Networking Capital of the Universe!
Today I attended my third meet-and-greet of the week and I'm a rank amateur at this networking business. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for making new friends and business contacts. That's a crucial element of any business, especially small ones that depend heavily on personal references to drum up new clients. But the intensity and dedication that Austinites show to networking is outstanding, and I know networking, having spent almost 20 years in Washington, D.C.
Since moving here in May, I've settled on three groups that are a good fit, personally and professionally, for me. Today I added a fourth: the local Texas Tech alumni chapter, smack dab in the hostile (at least during NCAA athletic seasons) University of Texas burnt orange landscape. Loyal readers of the blog know I sometimes poke mild fun at my alma mater, but, as the saying goes, I joke because I care.
C'mon. If I wasn't proud, I wouldn't have mentioned my Tech affiliation in previous posts, especially those recounting the Red Raiders upcoming appearance in the Cotton Bowl and my subsequent friendly wager with my 'Bama buddy. It was great today to be among a whole group of Techsans, people familiar with the institution and town for which I have a lot of good memories. I even met a guy who knows a guy (really!) who now lives in my tiny West Texas hometown. I didn't know anybody was moving back there these days!
One of the alumni group's goals is to recruit students and there was some discussion of upcoming efforts in this area. From a personal standpoint (which doesn't count for much when you also have to consider logistic and financial standpoints) I'd love to see the event held at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, which I've mentioned previously. It's a fabulous facility, both architecturally and in terms of exhibits. Even better, its namesake, the late Lt. Gov. Bullock, was a Texas Tech grad.
I was lucky when I went to Tech. While it cost a fair amount even back then (no specific dates, please; I feel old enough!) to go to university, there sure seemed to be a lot more scholarship and grant programs available. Thanks to such programs, summer jobs and parental spare change when I really needed it, I made it through four years without incurring any student loan debt.
That's not the case with today’s students. The blog College Costs quotes Hechinger Institute director Richard Colvin on the financial situation facing today's scholars:
"Tuition and fees have risen at an annual rate of 5 percent to 7 percent, depending on the type of institution, over the past decade. Given current trends, materials presented at the meeting in Washington, D.C., reported that by 2010 4.4 million students will be unable to afford to attend a four-year college."
Some students and their parents might be able to find some financial help via the tax code. A couple of credits, Hope Scholarship and Lifetime Learning, can save eligible taxpayers $1,500 or $2,000, respectively. There also are tax-favored saving accounts (Coverdell, prepaid tuition and 529 plans), as well as a potential $4,000 deduction (that's waiting for Congress to continue its existence beyond Dec. 31, 2005) for tuition and fees. And if you have to take out a loan, you still can at least deduct the interest on the debt.
While school is on holiday break, it wouldn't hurt for you and your student (or you and your parents if you're a college kid reading this ... why is a college kid reading a tax blog?) to take some time to examine the various tax breaks that could help pay for that sheepskin. Once classes start up again, you're all going to have a lot of other things on your minds.