Solution to high college costs and writing advice to gifted 14 year old

A partial solution to the high cost of

Launching Writers Academy @ Pesta Penulis 2011

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college education

If you follow the news lately, higher education costs is in the spotlight. Young people are complaining about being thousands of dollars in debt.

Some schools I surveyed

Is this correct? Is higher education costly? To find out, I decided to call a few Illinois schools. I usually talked with someone in the admissions or register’s office:

  • University of Chicago – This is a top rated school. According to them, one undergraduate course costs $5883. Two courses cost $9908, while 3 or 4 courses cost $13951.
  • Northwestern University – This is another top rated school. The tuition is $4000 per course or $13280 per quarter.
  • University of Illinois at Chicago costs $7,482.00 per semester for 12 hours and up.
  • Northern Illinois University costs $525 per semester hour. The price per hour goes down the more courses you take.
  • Elmhurst College costs $854 per undergraduate course hour. Graduate costs are much less. As it example, it is $700 per semester hour for a business graduate degree. It costs about $15000 full-time for undergraduate semesters.
  •  Benedictine University costs $750 per semester hour.
  • Aurora University $570 per semester hour. Graduate degrees cost more. It’s $625 per MBA semester hour and $565 per semester hour for an MS or ED graduate degree.
  • Harper College (in-district) costs $102.50 per credit hour.
  • College of DuPage (in-district) costs $132 per credit hour.
  • Some colleges or universities seem to have a professional sales staff. As an example, I got screened by the University of Phoenix, which has an online program office in Naperville. I got some questions asked by the first receptionist. It’s one program I didn’t follow though for cost info.

Notice anything interesting about this list? One thing I notice is that Harper College and College of DuPage both have low tuition rates? Why? It’s because the tuition is for in-district students.

How is this useful?

I recently received some literature from the College of DuPage. It talked about students transferring to well rated schools like the University of Chicago or the University of Illinois at Chicago.

They showcased how someone from their integrated engineering program. He transferred to the electrical engineering program at the University of Illinois. He mentioned he was doing well academically there.

What is the takeaway? Save money by doing your first two years at the in-district junior college. But have a four-year school in mind to transfer to. See how I used this advice to a fourteen year old on Linkedin this week.

Linkedin question of the week

Writer Wordart

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Don’t let my age fool you, this 14-year-old can write! I do journalism, flash fiction and novels! The only problem is I need to find ways to get paying work. I want something for my time. What should I charge? Where can I find jobs? And what is the best way to get known? Thanks for all for your help!

My answer

I have been in creative writing classes at the College of DuPage over the years. I especially remember a high school youth taking a class with me. He was a gifted writer and science student.

One thing you can do is call the adult reference section of your local library. Go down to the library and ask to see the current edition of Writer’s Market. There is a good section called “What should I charge.” Photocopy it and keep it. There’s also markets for magazine editors, etc.,in this great reference resource.

The other thing is to ask them for your local in-district junior college and local writers groups. Talk to a counselor at the college about taking any creative writing classes they offer. Take the classes (i.e. if possible) and talk to the professors. Visit the local writers groups. Share work and talk with other writers. Local area book stores are also good sources for finding local area writers groups.

Sometimes libraries and book stores have professional writers speak – ask them about this. Go to their presentations. There’s usually a time to ask questions at the end.

long-term goals

But let’s look at your long-term goals. If I was 14 and a gifted writer, I would finish high school. At the same time, I would join a local area writers group (or groups) and share my work there. It’s a good way to get and give group feedback.

I would then attend my local in-district junior college after high school. The costs are very cheap. I would focus on taking any required courses to transfer to a 4 year writing program. While at the junior college, I would take as many English literature, journalism, philosophy and creative writing courses as I can. I would also try to become involved on their newspaper as a writer and/or editor.

Best creative writing programs

The Ghost Writers Logo

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I would transfer to a top school for writing. A good list is found in the article at The 10 best American colleges for writers. But if you want my opinion, I would focus on attending the University of Iowa. I’m not sure why it wasn’t included in the list. You can find out more at Creative Writing Track.

Let me just add this Tidbit. I once attended a talk by a business professional, who was a graduate of that program. He was also a published author and I asked him how he got published. The answer was due to the extensive connections of his professors there.

I guess I’m not losing my mind, after all. The previous list of top schools was compiled by USA Today. But another list compiled by Education-Portal at Best Creative Writing Schools in the U.S. does rank the University of Iowa as number one. It does raise a question on list compilation. What statistical data do they use to publish their results?

Fiction writers must embrace content marketing

One last comment here. Justine Musk is a writer who has an interesting blog. Recently she wrote an interesting 2 part piece, where she argues that fiction writers need to be familiar with content marketing. The piece can be found at are fiction writers screwed? and are fiction writers screwed? part 2.

While the University of Iowa is the target of choice, any school on either the USA Today or Education-portal would be a great target. An in-district junior college gives you time to dabble at a cheap cost. It gives you a chance to dabble in journalism, English Literature and philosophy. In case anyone doubts the last discipline, just look at authors like Ayn Rand, Friedrich Nietzsche, Franz Kafka, Albert Camus, or Jean-Paul Sartre.

Best graduate schools in creative writing

Front view of the Alma Mater statue

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If you can afford to wait and money weren’t an object, you might want to target degrees through the MFA (Masters of Fine Arts) in creative writing. The Atlantic recently came out with this online article entitled “The Best of the Best – A guide to graduate programs in creative writing” at The Best of the Best. What I like is that it gives the top five in various categories.

King and Rowling

One last take on King. He is a good horror fiction writer and his book On Writing is great. But I still prefer the classic horror writers like Edgar Allan Poe or H.P. Lovecraft.

Always try to see visiting writers at libraries, local book stores, etc. I personally know that Anderson’s in Naperville had J. K. Rowling visit, before she was even known. I end with a great article at Where Great Writers are Made. Perhaps you want to find a program that is well-funded, gives free tuition and pays the students to attend the MFA program (i.e. after the junior college prep and 4 year degree in creative writing – see article).


SCORE and Small Business Development Center Q and A

It’s time to share another forum conversation about SCORE and SBA


Illinois Institute of Technology

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I found the resources at SBA and SCORE to be wildly unhelpful when I was working on the transition from employee to business owner. But obviously it depends on what kind of business you’re starting. If I had looked to open a retail store or a light manufacturing business, it would have been more helpful.’


Much depends on shopping around. In SCORE, for example, I have been disappointed with my consultations in person. However:

1. I have found good advice from SCORE, if I use their online service. This way I can check their qualifications and pick someone to answer a question by email.

2. they have brought in some good local resources to teach seminars – most were free.

Many small business development centers are run out of universities. Some are out of community colleges. I would say to put in your zip code and see what happens. For example, in my area:

  1. The person heading the Harper College branch is a marketing expert and has her own Internet business. I consult with her about marketing direction.
  2. The person heading the College of DuPage branch used to be a geologist, then became a business consultant for many years. He’s good at business plans.
  3. The person heading the Elgin Community College branch is a CPA. He’s good at tax and legal issues.
  4. The person heading the Walbonsee Community College branch is good at e-commerce.
  5. The Jewish Vocational Service (Jewish Vocational Service) is an excellent resource for those in the city of Chicago. They also teach a free entrepreneur course, based upon Core Four. I’ve also heard the same is true for the University of Illinois.

Shop Around!!!


I’ve had interactions with many of the local, government-sponsored entrepreneurship help organizations, ranging from business planning to entrepreneurship training, and have been uniformly disappointed. Even though there are people at the organizations that sometimes have useful ability, the bureaucracy makes it so that you aren’t likely to get enough of their time to get more than generic advice anyway. I realize that this varies from place to place, but I’d warn prospective entrepreneurs about expecting too much from this sort of organization.

My Response:

Illinois Institute of Technology

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You need to learn to “move in the shadows.” This means learning how to navigate the system. If I decide to get advice, some allow me to just schedule an appointment and call them. Then I can ask the questions I want. Others insist I see them in person. I learn the idiosyncrasies of each office and use it to my advantage.

On another front, an entrepreneur I call Jerry will be teaching some entrepreneur bootstrapping courses free, at the local Illinois Institute of Technology campus. I’ve signed up. But I know that 20 years ago, Jerry was making $150 K as a General Electric sales rep – before he became a successful entrepreneur. I also know he has connections with different government officials around the world. So I’m not only going there to take the course, but to get to know Jerry and duplicate his success.


SCORE is a well-kept secret for those seeking to learn small business from experts. In my experience, the people who teach in SCORE are retired business owners who have “learned the ropes” and are very willing to share what they know – at little or no cost, I might add. To find a local SCORE near you, point your browser to and enter your zip code. One of the best uses of tax dollars that I have seen!

My Response:

SCORE usually works with the Small Business Development Centers. The Fox Valley chapter in Illinois has offices in the Small Business Development Centers of the College of DuPage and Walbonsee Community College. The Small Business Development Center website is Small Business Development Center and Score is SCORE.

Joan As Police Woman

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Perhaps there is some concern by commentators that if people use the free services of these groups, there is no need for paid services. This is NOT true! In fact, at the Walbonsee center is a volunteer who services business clients.

1. If you come into the Walbonsee center and meet with her, she will discuss a business plan with you – but you do the work.

2. If you want her to do the work, she can meet with you via her private consulting business – for a fee.

The other is to digger deeper into offerings. The JVS (Jewish Vocational Services) in Chicago might first appear to be ONLY for Jewish people – this is not true. Their services are free for both Jewish and gentile alike.


You don’t need to have a formal business plan.

My Response:

Not everyone would agree with that. Let’s take the writing business. . If I go to Amazon and type in writing business, you will find books by Lucy Parker and Peter Bowerman – among others. Lucy believes in writing a business plan but Peter doesn’t.

For those interested in good writers about breaking into the writing or copywriting business, look for books by Peter Bowerman, Bob Bly, Steve Slaunwhite, Kelly James-Enger and Lucy Parker.

Second responder:

There are great ways to build your business plan online and most of them are actually free. The ones that I’ve seen so far are the following:

Biz Gym – great place to do business plans, elevator pitches, and financial models for free. Comprehensive enough for VC-chasing startups, but simple enough for entrepreneur moms and kids.

Plan Cruncher – simplifies your business plan into a one-page pdf. Needs a bit more polishing in my opinion.

Funding Road Map – very comprehensive business plan app. I’m probably not its target market, but it’s too much of an overkill for my needs.


Marketing America – is it an oasis for a down and out economy?

Public Domain Image of Mary Baker Eddy

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Time for a change

It’s time for a change. But will Marketing America (Marketing America) really do it for me?

Why do I need a change?

Perhaps I’m been persuaded from reading metaphysical philosophers, like Mary Baker Eddy, Emmet Fox, Joel Goldsmith and Joseph Murphy.

Or maybe it’s from watching and reading health and prosperity messages from Joel Osteen, Larry Ollison (Larry Ollison) and the recent copywriter/marketing convert – Ray Edwards.

Off to learn Entrepreneur bootstrapping

Then I’m off to take this free entrepreneur bootstrapping course, held at a local technology campus. Now I’ve had entrepreneur and business courses from SCORE and various small business development centers.

Not everyone agrees with bootstrapping. Take Bonita, for example. She’s an MBA who heads the Harper College small business development center. She has her own Internet and coaching business and recently wrote an article entitled Bootstrapping is for beginners.

There’s also a Wiki article on bootstrapping at Wiki on Bootstrapping. It defines it as, “Bootstrapping in business is to start a business without external help/capital. Start-ups that bootstrap their business fund development of their company through internal cash flow and are cautious with their expenses.”  So perhaps Bonita and Fred just differ in their definitions of bootstrapping. After all, isn’t Fred acting as a coach by teaching this free course?

Enter Fred and Ethel Mertz

But this course is different. I’ll call this person Fred and his wife Ethel. We will call their last name Mertz. But their real identities will remain hidden. Don’t get the wrong impression here!  I like Fred and Ethel and still consider them good friends – although the oriental wife impresses me more.

Fred is a multimillionaire, who succeeded in starting many successful companies. It kind of reminds me of Michael Masterson (Michael Masterson), the multimillionaire business person and copywriter, who started AWAI.


Image via Wikipedia

Makes sense to take a free course with Fred. But neither Fred nor Michael impresses me with their money. If I saw signs of them emulating Bill Gates or Warren Buffet, I’ll have more respect for their charitable aspirations. Maybe I just don’t know.

White Background

But Fred tried to sell me on this Marketing America stuff. At first, I’m throw back to the past, when a neighbor takes me to an Amway meeting. The hosts put on this song and dance about making all this money.

Yet later, I noticed this neighbor buying Amway products. Guess what? It’s a way to make a quota.

So Fred and Ethel give me a sales pitch, trying to invite me to a meeting. Fred mentions he’s just helping his wife with residual income, if he dies.

Caring for family comes first

Sounds well and good. But I have an elderly mom I care for. If something can’t be treated by a regular physician, I look for a homeopathic, Bach flower, or Chinese herbal solution. I’ve had years of experience with classical homeopathic medicine.

Now I like to study a bit more. I know Marketing American probably passes tests from the Better Business Bureau, Web of Trust, Hoover’s, Dun and Bradstreet, etc. So there’s no sense in looking there.

Joel Osteen at Lakewood Church, Houston, Texas

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Nor do I look at negative reports. More often than not, they’re just trying to sell you their product instead.

Third party Marketing America Reviews

What I look for is third-party, independent reviews. Let’s check a few:

You can read these articles for yourself. Or you can Google them by typing “Marketing America Reviews.”   Market America Reviews – READ THIS NOW! says, “The marketing model for Market America, also referred to as the unfranchise business model, is entirely based on word of mouth or person to person selling.”

Let’s also look at what Market America Reviews says:

  • People have reportedly complained about too much socialization and that too often without need, just for the need of business promotion. Many people have complained that relatives and friends often feel burdened, if they have to reject the request to join this business. This is definitely against the growth of this business model and so it can saturate after some time.
  • People who’re not too much into socialization, may end up failing in this business.
  • Every month, one has to buy products worth some BV. In case, an individual fails to sell them, he may end up losing money.
  • After friends and relatives, people find it not very easy to approach to others and the business halts.
  • Many have complained that people at top are only able to make money.

Keep this is mind as we also look at one entitled “A 3rd Party Review Of Market America From Someone Who Didn’t Join”. Here’s a note I sent to Fred.

What I said to Fred

“I will be asking ‘informed’ questions to you. In an article at A 3rd Party Review Of Market America From Someone Who Didn’t Join , it say’s this:”

“At the end of the day, your success will depend on what you do, your ability to sponsor new people, sell products and build a productive organization. And to do all that, you need to be able to generate leads every day. If you can’t generate leads, there is no way you will be able to build a sizable business. So, if you want to succeed with your Market America business, it’s critical that you learn how to become a professional marketer so you can generate 25-50+ leads a day for your business.”

“I would like your commentary on this sentence: ‘So, if you want to succeed with your Market America business, it’s critical that you learn how to become a professional marketer so you can generate 25-50+ leads a day for your business.'”

What Clayton Makepeace and Joe Sugarman said

I shared this email to a client in London, who is a good Internet marketer. Here’s what he said: “It’s basically lead generation.”

One thing I have learned from marketer and copywriter Clayton Makepeace, is that you need to handle objections up front, in your sales copy. Multimillionaire, copywriter, marketer and entrepreneur Joe Sugarman (Joe Sugarman) also said that.

I was hoping to have a dialogue on objections with Fred. Looks like he’s not up to it. I’ll still attend the monthly bootstrapping meetings. But I definitely have second thoughts about Marketing America. Will he really help me, if it’s not in his best interest? And he started out as a sales rep for a big computer company – became #1.

Perhaps Fred wants prospects to just pay the $1200 “admission fee”… have no idea what lies “beyond the veil” – like I do?

Now Fred could have said something like this: “Yes, it’s true you need to generate leads each day.  But not the number given in the article.  And we train and help you by…”.  He could have said something like this – but he didn’t.

Another thing missing is the use of current marketing methods, as the article Marketing America Reviews – get your questions answered.  It says, “it seems to be a recurring theme that most companies in the network marketing industry are very much behind the eight ball when it comes to being able to equip their independent business owners and distributors with the most progressive marketing and training strategies that exist today. Things like pay-per-click marketing, search engine optimization, social media, direct response marketing, personal branding, etc.”

See what’s happening here?  Fred is an expert in person-to-person selling –  he will do well.  I’m knowledgeable about SEO, social media, direct response marketing, etc. – but I can’t use this knowledge.  Of course, Fred will always come out ahead.

Parting question for Fred

Let me leave Fred with a parting question. I like Fred and Ethel – they’re nice people.  They also believe in nutrition and holistic health.  Now here’s my question:

Suppose someone you know has cancer.  Suppose there existed what others considered saints or holy people, who could cure the cancer.  Suppose they belonged to various religious traditions.  What would you rather have?

  • Access to doctors and hospitals, who for a large amount of money, will tell you your disease is incurable?
  • Or access to how you might really be cured?

What’s more important at that time – large sums of money or spiritual knowledge? And if spiritual knowledge can heal “incurable” diseases, can’t it also address other issues (i.e. financial problems)?

The language these saints would use is silence.  Silence is also the language of God.  Silence is also the language I normally reserve on this topic (i.e. if such things exist).  Their help is not for sale – they don’t respond to money.

I know rich people (i.e. yourself), people who know famous people (i.e. tour cook for Rolling Stones), smart people (world renown Harvard genetic modeling professor and researcher) – yet I prefer the company of spiritual (i.e. non-existent?) holy people and ordinary folks.

Problems with Small Business Development Centers and SCORE?

Here’s a dialogue I’ll share about Small Business Development Centers and S.C.O.R.E. It takes place on a Google and/or Yahoo group I belong to. The names will be changed to protect the incident.

Image representing SCORE as depicted in CrunchBase

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I have been working with a Small Business Development coach at our local college. He knows quite a bit about business, taxes, etc., but nothing about copywriting, design, or the printing industry.

I am trying to launch a small local service part-time for a bit of extra income.

Nothing major: real estate brochures, business cards and letterheads, press releases, menus, direct mail, and such. I’ve got 14 years of in-house experience in copywriting, graphic design, and catalog management — though I have never been out in the sales force.

This coach is insisting that consulting with clients about their needs will simply end up as a pile of stolen ideas. He seems to think that when I take a proof copy by, the client will run off with it to cut me out of the loop.

I explained that I wouldn’t be creating anything without a signed contract, but he seems to think that I need to create a custom piece for each client and THEN try to sell it to them. He also thinks I’d be better off selling printing services and not creative and that I shouldn’t share the names of the printing companies that I use because clients should have to call me for any reprints.

I’m not interested in babysitting these projects long-term. I simply want to offer a creative service to small business owners that normally would not have access to quality at a reasonable price.

My coach seems to disagree with me on several important points. Am I missing something? Time to look for a different coach?

My response

The actor Sean Astin giving a talk at the Univ...

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Here’s my advice about Small Business Development Centers and S.C.O.R.E. Go to Americas Small Business Development Center Network and type in you zip code. There’s usually more than one center, in your zip code area.

Also check out S.C.O.R.E. by zip code at Service Corps of Retired Executives

Here’s the thing. The SBDC and SCORE are great organizations. But I find some counselors and centers better than others. So shop around – especially since the advice is free and courses are low-cost.

Somewhere on my blog I talk about LLC advice I received from both organizations (and different counselors, so search for LLC). One director accused me of seeking legal advice, since I asked for an attorney volunteer on staff to answer my LLC question. I was just seeking the best qualified consultant for the job – which you should also.

Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.

Another response

I agree, but SCORE tends to have low standards for recruiting counselors, for the sake of maintaining a sufficient number of counselors and keeping the program going. I was a SCORE counselor at a time when, in retrospect, I lacked sufficient experience to be one. Often, I was asked for advice that I didn’t feel qualified to give, such as legal and tax structure matters.

SCORE has a tendency to fold within many small communities and the managers behind resurrecting a local chapter may get frustrated with trying to recruit the highest caliber. The most successful small business owners may not stick around during their retirement years. In XXX, the thought of resurrecting our chapter gets tossed around every few years, but always runs out of steam.

If you can find a great SCORE counselor with many years of experience, you just might have a gold mine. You can tell when you have a good counselor because of their in-depth curiosity about you and the inner workings of your business.

The quality of SBDC staff can vary drastically. The one in XXX has a high turnover rate and the people rarely know the answers to my questions, so I often call the XXX office. There’s a woman down there who’d rather give up her children than be unable to correctly answer my question.

Teachers, coaches, mentors, and counselors are people and no two are exactly alike and no one is right all the time. Keep looking until you find the resourceful folks you can depend on to move your business. They’re out there – they really are.

My response:

I do agree with XXX assessment of SCORE. The limited time I counseled with them in person was very unproductive. Having said that, they have brought in some good local resources to teach seminars – most were free.

I have found good advice from SCORE, if I use their online service. This way I can check their qualifications and pick someone to answer a question by email. I got excellent answers on my LLC questions.

I find diversity the best usage of Small Business Development Centers.

The person heading the Harper College branch is a marketing expert and has her own Internet business. I consult with her about marketing direction.

The person heading the College of DuPage branch used to be a geologist, then became a business consultant for many years. He’s good at business plans.

The person heading the Elgin Community College branch is a CPA. He’s good at tax and legal issues.

The Jewish Vocational Service is an excellent resource for those in the city of Chicago. They also teach a free entrepreneur course, based upon Core Four. I’ve also heard the same is true for the University of Illinois.

Shop around. It will be worth the effort.