Hispanic College Students: Knowing the challenges and learning how to overcome them

Ed note: The debt associated with higher education has been getting more and more attention. We know there are many ways to fund your education but wanted to dig into some of the unique and specific resources available to Latinos. Leer en español.

A recent study by the PEW Hispanic Research Center shows that Hispanic students are the largest minority group enrolled in college. Yet challenges remain for Hispanic students from receiving financial aid, choosing the right college and getting accustomed to college lifestyle.

Selecting the right collegeHispanicEnteringCollege

If a student is a first generation student and lives near a community college, they will most likely attend the local community college because it is closer to home.

Hispanic students may not be aware of the state and private institutions that can provide scholarships, whether it is for academics or athletics. College recruiters reach out to the Hispanic community through recruiting trips to high schools to get students into the doors of four-year institutions. But overall, the challenge still stands with students not being aware of the choices they have for college.

Financial Aid

When it comes to financial aid, Hispanic students have a number of national organizations that offer scholarships in different disciplines. A few leading examples include:

  • The Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF) – based in Los Angeles, HSF offers millions of dollars in scholarships to students who are either in community college, undergraduate or graduate institution.
  • United States Hispanic Leadership Institute (USHLI) – a non-profit organization based in Chicago, USHLI helps educate students on the importance of a higher education degree. It hosts regional conferences (Midwest, Southwest, West Coast, South and Northeast) and a national conference. The conferences educate students on resume writing, scholarships, business etiquette and civic engagement.
  • The Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities (HACU) – a non-profit organization based in San Antonio, HACU holds an annual conference where students have a chance to network with potential employers and graduate school representatives, as well as learn about professionalism in the workplace. The organization also offers scholarships and student internship opportunities in Washington DC.

Campus Support

Campus groups, such as Hispanic student organizations and the Office of Diversity Affairs, can offer support. They may also help Hispanic students acclimate into a college setting by connecting them with other Hispanic students, who may have gone through similar struggles and adjustments.

Career Support

In addition to financial aid, national organizations such as the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) are geared toward helping Hispanic students, who study engineering, graduate and enter their field. Other resources include research symposiums, scholarships, collegiate chapters and national conferences. Similar national organizations exist for other majors, but it depends on the institution.

Hispanic students are entering college at a time where financial scholarships, professional organizations and student organizations are readily available. There is no better time for a Hispanic student to enter college.

Taking (and Baking) Sales Taxes

Ed note: One of my favorite quick-dinner fixes is to pick up one of those prepared pizzas that you bake at home. Somehow I trick myself into believing it’s healthier. Another added bonus of the purchase might be that – in some places – it also escapes sales tax that comes with delivery or other fast food. Our colleagues at the Tax Institute explore this anomaly.

You know that taxes are everywhere – your paycheck, your favorite retailer and even at the drive thru window. However, there is an odd little anomaly when it comes to a family-favorite dinner.

Fast Food Facts

When you purchase a $2.99 double cheeseburger in the drive thru, three singles are not going to cut it. You’ll need to rummage through your loose change to make up the difference.

This increase occurs because states, counties and/or municipalities frequently require sales taxes to be paid on items you purchase within their borders. Sales taxes can make up a large part of the revenue for these state and local coffers.

As with any tax, there are laws and regulations detailing how it will be enforced and what types of transactions are subject to sales taxes.

Cutting (Pizza) Corners

PizzaHowever, there are still situations where the application of the sales tax laws is not clear. One example of this ambiguity has recently come up with “take-and-bake” pizzas. Take-and-bake pizzerias sell uncooked pizzas to customers who can then go home, put it in their oven, heat it up and enjoy.

In some states, different sales tax rules apply to “prepared food” – think of a meal you eat in a restaurant – as opposed to other types of foods, such as the single food items – i.e., corn, strawberries or milk – you would typically purchase at a grocery store. States, therefore, must decide whether a “take-and-bake” pizza is “prepared food” subject to sales tax.

Only a few states have directly addressed this issue, which is part of the reason why the rules are so confusing. While you can have your take-home pizza custom-made, it is still up to you to actually cook it (unless you are a fan of uncooked pizza). However, states still want their slice of the pie, and as a result they will attempt to fit these cold pizzas within their prepared food definition (sorry for that cheesy pun).

For example, South Dakota and Arkansas both recently published guidance saying take-and-bake pizza was prepared food because the seller mixed or combined two or more food ingredients to make a single product. The Compliance Review and Interpretations Committee of the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Governing Board agreed with this treatment of take-and-bake pizzas as prepared food using the same rationale. The Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement is a unified sales and use tax statute that has been adopted by many states. Wisconsin’s Department of Revenue also came up with an oddly comprehensive flow chart describing the tax rules applicable to prepared food as they interpreted them.

Despite these decisions in favor of treating the pizzas as prepared food, a recent amendment made to the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement suggests that states are free to decide on their own whether or not a take-and-bake pizza is prepared food. This freedom may only further complicate the issue going forward, and it’s something worth keeping in mind the next time you decide to stop and get some take-and-bake for the family on the way home.

Back-To-School Shopping: National Thrift Shop Day

Ed note: “I’ma take your grandpa’s style. No for real, ask your grandpa, can I have his hand-me-downs?” Sorry. It’s catchy.

As we transition kids back to school this fall, it’s a time of mixed jubilation and dread. While it will be great to be back on a regular schedule during the school year, planning around the growing expenses of actually getting kids back to school can be daunting.

ThriftingIt’s easy to let the back-to-school season put a major dent in your wallet, but the timing coincides with National Thrift Shop Day on August 17. While normally kids might grimace at the idea of getting their clothes secondhand, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis have made thrifting quite popular as a way to be on-trend without “getting tricked by a bizz-ness.”

Here are some money saving tips on alternative ways to stock the kids’ closets for back-to-school!

Shop New At Thrift.

Many big box stores now unload their overstock inventory at thrift stores. You can frequently find items with tags still on from your favorite retailers.

Check out this handy thrift store shopping guide if you’d like more pointers!

Be selective; search for quality.

If your kids squawk at the idea of wearing secondhand, be savvy – not all items show wear the same way.

Items like backpacks, shoes and shirts can show the most wear and tear, but staples like pants, skirts and sweaters are usually thrifted in better condition. For girls and tweens, jewelry is a steal at thrift. She can get excited about baubles and beads that show little wear and still make her feel spoiled!

Organize a Clothes Swap.

Befriending other parents in your area who have similarly aged children means you’ll have more families to swap clothes with. Coworkers, church-goers, neighbors and community members within organizations you volunteer with are great resources.

While you can also swap with family or neighbors, to vary the swapping pool a bit, invite people from all aspects of your life for a big swap party – then donate the rest!

Shop in Bulk.

If you haven’t reached out to other parents in your neighborhood, you might be able to score “lots” of clothes by browsing Craigslist and Ebay. Often, when kids outgrow seasonal attire, parents might box them up and sell a box of “Fall/Winter boys’ clothes for age 9-10.”

This works especially well for schools with strict dress codes – you can find deals on clothes like khakis, polos and knit sweaters for kids in certain age groups.

Give Back!

If organizing a swap isn’t your style, this time of year is ideal to clean out the closets (including mom and dads) to give back to the community. While you dig through last season’s clothes (don’t kids grow a mile a minute?) you can use this opportunity to get your kids involved.

You can both sell your clothes and donate the profits to a charity your children care about (like animal rescue or the local park they enjoyed in the summer). It’s a great time to teach your kids about finances, cleaning and of course, giving back! (Bonus: potentially a tax deduction, too!)

Thrift store shopping and swapping are great ways to save on back to school shopping for your kids. With some creativity and resourcefulness, you’ll have well-dressed kids and stock up on the essentials with a fat wallet to match; good luck!

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