You’ve probably already seen your child off to college. But have you covered all the financial bases? If not, Michelle V. Rafter offers some great tips for new college parents.

-- Talk to your child about buying used textbooks. -  Your kid is probably excited about college and looking forward to that new book smell and feel. But there are a lot of sites that can save you and your child a lot on textbooks. The Student PIRGs (Public Interest Research Groups) provides some links for buying or renting textbooks.

-- Health centers won't bill your medical insurance company. On-campus medical clinics pick up the cost of routine visits and procedures, but charge for extras such as X-rays. Such costs often are added to a student's school bill. If they're covered by your medical insurance, it's the student’s responsibility — or yours — to bill the insurance company to be reimbursed, writes Rafter.

-- Get their bills. Unless added as a designated payer on your child’s account, you won’t receive a copy of their bills. If you want copies of bills, ask your son or daughter to add you as a designated payer on their account, which they can do by signing a form online or at the campus finance office. 

-- Get their grades. You may be paying the bills, but you don’t have a right to see their grades. So rectify this situation by having your child authorize the school to provide access to their grades. Some school administrators don’t like this idea, Rafter reports. “Putting students in charge of telling their parents about grades is one more step toward becoming responsible adults, they say.”

I don’t agree. In my opinion, they are full adults when they are paying all their expenses. If I’m paying, I should be privy to all the information about their bills and grades.

Here’s this week’s Color of Money Question: Do you think that parents who are paying for their child’s college expenses should have access to their bills and grades? Send your responses to Be sure to include your full name, city and state. Put “College Checklist” in the subject line.

Text and Video Chat Today

If you can’t join me live me at 11:45 a.m. for my live video chat and my text chat at noon ET. I hope you watch the chat or read the archives later.

State Mortgage Assistance

In a recent online chat and an earlier e-letter, I mentioned Maryland’s Emergency Mortgage Assistance (EMA) program. To assist financially struggling homeowners, the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development received funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through their Emergency Homeowner Loan Program.

The program was launched in conjunction with NeighborWorks America in June. It was designed to help homeowners who are at risk of foreclosure in 27 states across the country and Puerto Rico. The deadline to apply for fund through this program has passed. However, residents of Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Maryland or Pennsylvania may still be able to get help. You’ll find information about this program at HUD’s website.

A reader (thanks, Stephanie!) pointed out that many other states have similar programs to help homeowners.

Last year, the Obama Administration launched the Hardest Hit Fund to help homeowners avoid foreclosure in the areas most affected by steep home price declines and unemployment. Through the program, participating housing finance agencies in 18 states and the District of Columbia are implementing initiatives to help homeowners struggling with their mortgage payments.

The program varies state to state, but may include mortgage payment assistance for unemployed or underemployed homeowners, principal reduction to help homeowners get into more affordable mortgages, funding to eliminate homeowners’ second lien loans and help for homeowners who are transitioning out of their homes and into more affordable places of residence.

The states participating in the Hardest Hit Fund include Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina Tennessee and the District of Columbia.

Here’s a link to find out the details of the participating state programs. For more information about a specific plan, you have to contact the state housing agency directly.

Debt Supercommittee Responses

For last week’s Color of Money question, I asked: “Do you think the debt panel needs more diversity?”

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, the debt panel's official title, has until Thanksgiving to propose $1.5 trillion in budget savings over 10 years. The debt panel has 12 members, including one African American, one Hispanic and one woman. Some have argued the committee doesn’t have enough diversity.

Here are some of your comments about the makeup of the committee:

“Absolutely the committee should reflect the diversity of the U.S.,” writes Larry Ahlgrim of Norfolk, Va. “Everyone has a stake in the results and everyone should have a voice on the committee.  Of course the fact that most of Congress is wealthy means they're really not in touch, regardless of whatever their background is. That's why the future of the country is so dim - power is bought and sold among the wealthy and the laws, priorities, and policies are made to benefit and protect them.”  

Katherine Williams of San Francisco, Calif. wrote: “Although I think the committee should be more representative of the demographics of the country, I am actually more concerned that someone on the committee has some real, relevant financial experience to actually create a sound plan. It would be nice if some of them could actually read a balance sheet and understand it. Also it is important that the long term impact of the decisions be considered not just the short immediate impact.”


“As a white man, I have become fed up with the patronizing arrogance we see in Congress,” said Barry Hottle of Livermore, Calif. “My fellow citizens have a variety of ethnic backgrounds. Why is Congress so monochromatic?  Your column addresses the paucity of women in that institution, and I can only agree.  Both senators from my state are female, as are my state senator and assembly representative.  Granted, they are white, but at least they are not men. The point is that we are a wonderfully diverse nation, and I want the voices of that diversity heard. Thus, I most assuredly disagree with the composition of the supercommittee. There are more points of view in America than that of white men alone, and excluding them simply limits the perspective from which we operate.  That is wrong, and it is selfish.  More than that, it is prejudiced.”

Oh Barry, you get a big “amen” to that!

Comments for Shared Sacrifice


Investor and Berkshire Hathaway chairman Warren Buffett penned an editorial in the New York Times arguing that the very wealthy should pay more taxes than middle or lower income Americans.

So was Buffett right? Here are some of your responses.

 “Kudos to him and other wealthy Americans who are willing to go above and beyond in finances as others sacrifice in military service and other endeavors,” wrote Mark Speer of Jacksonville, Fla. “I agree with his directive and believe most wealthy individuals would give as well if given a small push from Washington.”

A reader from Tacoma, Wash. also agrees with Buffett.  “My brother is a millionaire but does not give anything to charity out of principle,” she wrote. “‘I give jobs,’ he says, not adding that it is those workers who allow him to have his million-dollar yacht and his 17,000 square foot house.”

“If Warren Buffett is feeling so guilty from making so much money then he is certainly free to write additional checks to the government as high as he pleases,” states Raymond Long of Fairfield, Conn.

Long’s got a point.

Debt Defeater

I’m still looking to and fro for people who have beaten that debt monkey off their back.

So if you have paid off a lot of debt recently, tell me about it. Include the amount of debt you got rid of, how you paid it off, how long it took to be debt-free and how it feels to Put “Debt Defeater” in the subject line.

I may read your story during my live video chat.

Upcoming Events

--I’ll be speaking at the Women’s and Girls Fund of the Mid-shore fundraising event on Sept.15 at 7 p.m. at the Avalon Theater in Easton, Md. This event raises money to provide grants to non-profit organizations that provide a number of services to women and girls in several counties in Maryland. For example a grant to a Cambridge youth center is funding mentoring, tutoring, and after school programs for mothers and children from the low-income neighborhood it serves.

For ticket information, call 410-770-8347 or pay online

--On Thursday, October 6th, I will be honored with the Bridge Builder Award at The Training Source Inc. 18th anniversary dinner and auction. This is a fundraising event for the Training Source, which is a great nonprofit organization in Prince George's County that among other services provides training and employment placement assistance, leadership training for at-risk youth, and free professional clothing for job candidate.

The event will be held at Newton White Mansion at 2708 Enterprise Rd., Mitchellville, Md., 20721 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. For more information about the event go to

Tia Lewis contributed to this e-letter.

 You are welcome to e-mail comments and questions to . Please include your name and hometown; your comments may be used in a future column or newsletter unless otherwise requested.