It’s All About the Money

It’s All About the Money

It’s still January so you have some time to make (no more than one or two!) resolutions that may make your life at least a little bit easier and more satisfying. Let’s start with the hard one first – money issues (at least the ones you can control!). 

Bank Accounts

Life can be harder and more expensive than it should be without a bank account. Today, there are options for online bank accounts that are easy to sign up for and easy to use. For instance, Chime (https://www.chime.com/) is an online banking system that does not use the Chex system to qualify applicants. With a Chime account, you can do everything you would with a traditional bank account including receiving direct deposits form employers and government agencies. Check it out. 

Student Loans

 It can sometimes be a struggle trying to stay afloat financially while you are getting your degree. But you also want to graduate with the least amount of debt possible. And you want financial aid dollars to see you through that bachelor’s degree! So, while it may be tempting to take out the maximum student loan you can get, DON’T DO IT. Use it for necessary expenses, of course.  But if you can come out the other end with your degree and only a few thousand dollars of debt, you will feel so successful. With your degree, you are going to get a better, more satisfying job that pays you a good salary and you won’t have to use that great new salary, or raise, to pay off student loans. 

Budgets — a dirty word but a great idea!

You’ve probably heard this advice hundreds of times but life really is easier if you have a budget. The truth is, the lower your income, the more important a budget becomes. And it’s hard. We get it. But if you keep track of how you spend your money, you’ll probably see ways that you can better manage what you have coming in. Mint (https://mint.intuit.com/) is a free app that gives you insights about your spending, helps you create a custom budget, and tracks your spending. It links all of your bank accounts and credit cards and automatically puts each transaction in different categories. Review your transactions periodically and identify possible cuts to make. see what you can cut. Be Ruthless!

Recurring Transactions

You know those subscriptions with recurring monthly fees? Each one is such a “reasonable” amount of money…$5.99 here, $7.99 there, but they start to add up. And sometimes you might sign up for something, never use it, and completely forget about it. TRIM (https://www.asktrim.com/) to the rescue. Trim keeps track of those monthly transactions and tells you how much you spend on subscriptions each month. It will let you know if you have two subscriptions to the same service and will ask you each month if you want to cancel particular subscriptions. And the really good news? If you say “yes,” the app will take over and cancel the subscription for you — you don’t have to do a thing! 

Can We Talk About Credit Cards?

It’s so easy to get into trouble with credit cards. Sometimes we use them to make ends meet at the end of the month and make minimum monthly payments and then get slammed with high interest charges on the remaining balance. STOP THE MADNESS. 

This is another piece of advice you’ve heard at least a hundred times, but if you do it, you will have greater peace of mind. Pay down your debt with a method called “snowballing.” 

Snowballing means listing all of your debts in order from smallest to highest dollar amount and focus on paying off the smallest balance while only paying the minimums on the others. If you have a $5,000 student loan at 4% interest, a credit card balance of $6,000 with 17% interest, and a $10,000 car loan with 9% interest, you pay off the student loan first, followed by the credit card and finally the car. Once the smallest debt is paid, you move to the next smallest using the same strategy and include the amount you were paying on the first debt into your monthly payment on the next. You continue to do this until all of the debts are paid, the largest being the last one to go.

A big pro for this method is the psychological win it provides. It’s so satisfying to cross a debt off your list. That boost can also give you momentum; you killed that one, you can kill all of these debts! This kind of boost is no small thing.

Ok. Enough money management advice for now. If you only act on one or two of these suggestions, you’ll feel at least a little bit better about your financial situation. Promise. 

Meet Larry Carlton

Meet Larry Carlton

“I was laid off in 2013 after 24 years because I didn’t have a degree. Finding another job was hard.” It can’t get more real than that. After a year of unemployment, Larry started working at a grocery store, but wanted to find a job that was more meaningful to him. 

Larry’s sister graduated from Harcum in 2016 and was the driving force behind his choice to pursue his associate degree with the ACE program. “She encouraged me to enroll, and it was a challenge,” he says, but after taking the leap, he considers it the best decision he’s made in the last five years. Inspired by his grandfather’s return to learning, Larry’s 19 year old grandson also returned to night school to finish his high school diploma. 

Even though Larry had been out of school for forty years, all the assumptions he had made about himself and education — that he couldn’t pick up concepts quickly as an adult, or that he wasn’t an “intelligent” person — were replaced by the realization that he could do anything. “ACE has made me realize that there are no limits to me. When I walk, I hold my head up higher, and when I ask for a raise at work I know that I deserve it.”

Some Good News About Money; New (better) Pell Rules

Some Good News About Money; New (better) Pell Rules

Along with the $600 stimulus payment that was approved in December, Congress also made some welcome changes to Pell grants and SNAP, and allocated money to offer assistance to help low-income people get internet service. The new benefits should be available in September. Here’s what we know so far —


  • A 15% increase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit amount for all recipients.  
  • Expansion of eligiblity to students who are eligible to participate in a federal or state work-study program. You don’t have to actually be working in a work-study program to receive SNAP benefits.
  • Students with an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of $0 based on their FAFSA for the academic year will be eligible for SNAP.

Financial Aid Improvements 

  • Students from families who earn up to 175 percent of the federal poverty line, or up to 225 percent for single parents, will automatically qualify for a maximum grant. What this means: If you are a single parent with a household of 4, you can earn up to $59,000 and still get the full PELL grant of $6,345.
  • Those who make up to 275 percent of the poverty line, or 325 percent for single parents, are guaranteed at least the minimum award.
  • The concept known as an expected family contribution will be replaced with a student aid index. This index can be negative, but cannot go below -$1,500. Restoration of the Second Chance Pell Grant for individuals pursuing postsecondary education while or after being incarcerated. If you know someone who has been incarcerated and who wants to go to college, tell them to reach out to us.  
  • The ban on people getting PELL for prior drug convictions has been removed. 
  • The selective service requirement has been eliminated. 


  • Low income families can get up to $50 a month for their internet bill. Eligible households include households having individuals or children that qualify for free and reduced lunch program, Pell grant recipients, recently laid off or furloughed workers, individuals who qualify for the Lifeline program, and  individuals who qualify for an existing discount program offered by internet service providers. Payments will go directly to your internet service provider. Directions for how to apply are not yet available, but we will let you know as soon the process is open. 


Be Inspired by Krystal Jackson

Be Inspired by Krystal Jackson

Sometimes you may feel like just another college student whose dreams and concerns matter only to you. Krystal Jackson was doubtful that any college program would treat her as an individual and take the time to understand who she was and what she wanted in life. Until she encountered the ACE program. The recruiter at Congresso, Carlos, was persistent and encouraging.  He took the time to listen closely to Krystal’s concerns about time commitments and childcare. This attention and care made Krystal feel confident with her decision to return to school.

Krystal was interested in pursuing a career as a medical social worker, and wanted to earn the necessary academic credentials, but she found that attending collegehelped her to improve in more ways. “ACE has helped me interact with other people with more confidence, and I have become more professional. My communication skills have improved. I understand my family and friends more, and my relationships with them have gotten better.”

Krystal is currently applying for medical coordinator jobs, and has her sights set on earning a bachelor’s degree. She won’t stop there, though, and plans to write a book and become a motivational speaker. 

Her words of advice? “If you are driven to go far, the ACE program is definitely where you want to start.”

Know anyone who might be interested in the ACE program? Tell us their name and how to contact them! 877-428-8092 or [email protected] or http://achieve-college-education.org/

That Time of the Year, Again

That Time of the Year, Again

Yup. It’s a new year and time for the annual ritual of making — and usually, soon after, breaking — new year resolutions. So, how do you stick to your resolutions? First, make one big goal and then break it down into small steps. For instance, if you want to do well academically this year and make the President’s List, create a series of steps that will help you get there. These small steps could include things like — 

  • Make a daily appointment with yourself to study and to prepare homework. Try to make your appointment for the same time, and the same amount of time, every day. Have kids? Schedule family study time so everybody’s doing the same thing and feeling part of a family routine. Win-win!
  • Write down the reasons why you want to do well academically. Put the list in a place where you’ll see it often. This will help you stay on track when life gets busy and messy!
  • Get support. If you find that you are having a problem getting homework done for a specific course because you don’t understand some of the material, reach out to the teacher and ask for help. Another strategy is to contact to arrange for tutoring. 
  • Find some study partners. Just as we often do better accomplishing certain goals, like exercising regularly, with friends, study groups can help you stay motivated and keep you accountable. 
  • Read a book about the most recent research on learning. You can learn several concrete learning strategies for retaining what you’ve studied. Make It Stick! by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. MacDaniel.
  • Reward yourself! During the first month of your new study routine, give yourself something special at the end of each week even if it’s small and simple like Sunday morning breakfast or a Friday evening glass of wine.

Know anyone who might be interested in the ACE program? Tell us their name and how to contact them! 877-428-8092 or [email protected] or http://achieve-college-education.org/

Get Motivated with These Podcasts

Get Motivated with These Podcasts

Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations


Working on becoming the best version you can be? Then you need to listen to Oprah’s podcast. In her shows, she interviews leading personalities in spirituality, health, and well-being to inspire you and point the way to your highest potential.

Mindvalley with Vishen Lakhiani


Vishen Lakhiani, the founder of Mindvalley, hosts the podcast. He brings in top teachers, visionaries, and experts to share insights into the areas of spiritual and mental growth. The topics most commonly discussed include the mind, relationships, health, and performance.

Minority Trailblazer Podcast

Every episode of Minority Trailblazer with Greg Hill features successful minorities in a variety of fields to educate, empower and inspire the current and future generations of leaders.

Your Money, Your Life

Your Money, Your Life covers money topics ranging from how to control your debt to our psychological relationships with our finances.

The Gifted Connection Podcast w/ Nathan McClinton


Nathan McClinton is a Millennial Inspirational Enthusiast committed to helping you shatter your untapped potential and live out your dreams! The Gifted Connection is your safe place to live, learn, grow, and BECOME your best self

Know anyone who might be interested in the ACE program? Tell us their name and how to contact them! 877-428-8092 or [email protected] or http://achieve-college-education.org/

Finals. You can do it!

Finals. You can do it!

You’re in the final stretch of the fall semester! Congrats for making it through and imagine how good it will feel when you have taken the last exam, submitted the final paper.

And if you need a little help getting to the finish line, there are tutoring and essay writing services available on the Harcum website. You can quickly sign up for an online 30 minute tutoring and academic coaching session by clicking on a preferred time slot here or request a different time if none listed fit with your schedule. You can also take advantage of the essay feedback service by following directions here. You’ll have to complete a draft of the assignment at least 3-5 days before the due date as it can take up to three days to receive feedback, but your effort will be rewarded by improvements in your writing skills and, most likely, a higher grade. 😉 

We know that group assignments can be headaches to accomplish online and you may prefer to work alone, but try to use the time together to support one another in your studies. Working in groups gives you the chance to bounce ideas off of each other for a particular assignment and for general study tips. For example, ask group members what study-at-home strategies they have found effective or consider being study buddies by taking turns reviewing and summarizing course concepts out loud. 

Ask your questions. Get clarity on the assignments. Reach out for support from your classmates and site coordinator. When in doubt, reach out! 

Meet Evelyn Rawls

Meet Evelyn Rawls

Ms. Evelyn Rawls earned her GED as an older adult but was not content to stop her educational journey there. She always had the goal of going to college but didn’t know where to start. Then she saw an ad on television for the ACE program and learned there was a path to college that would work for her. 

Like so many other students, the sense of community she found at her partnership site was foundational to her success. “We came together like family. People here make me feel very comfortable. They challenge me and I challenge them back.”

The encouraging way her teachers provided instruction helped Ms. Rawls break through a barrier to learning she had in her own mind – judging herself too harshly in the classroom. “I’m getting over that. I owe it all to the teachers. Now, I am a better speaker, speller, and writer.” Her mind freed from self-judgment, Ms. Rawls was open to and experienced academic success earning straight A’s throughout her degree program. She’s risen to the challenge and graduated, and is ready to pursue a bachelor’s degree. 

Ms. Rawls has worked for the school district for over twenty years years as a teaching assistant, celebrates a 32-year marriage, four children and 20 grandchildren! To all of them, Evelyn is an advocate and role model for pursuing their education dreams. She is also encouraging other older adults to go to school by saying, “If I can do it, you can do it.”  

Zoom & MOVE!

Zoom & MOVE!

Suffering from Zoom meeting fatigue? Wondering how to get through these last hours of online learning for 2020? Engage your body. Movement stimulates circulation, and circulation carries necessary oxygen to your brain. So…movement = brain food! Repetitive movement can help improve focus by providing just enough stimulation to our brain to prevent it from wandering without distracting us from our main task. 

Here are some very simple yet effective movements you can do while seated in front of a computer screen and even when you are on a call. 

First, sit up straight, roll your shoulders up, back and down, and take a deep stomach breath by pushing out your belly button. 

While seated, keep your feet flat on the floor and your knees at a 90 degree angle. 

  • Do calf raises by raising and lowering one heel, doing the same on the other side, or raising both heels at the same time.
  • Try doing leg extensions by straightening out one leg, returning that foot to the floor and straightening out the other. With leg extended, you could also try flexing and unflexing your foot or rolling your ankle. 

If you’d like to try standing movement during a work meeting or a class:

  • Use the back of your chair for balance (without leaning on it) and do side leg lifts by shifting your weight to one foot and lifting the opposite leg out to the side with your foot flexed. Return your lifted foot to meet the other, shift your weight to the other foot, and lift that leg to the side. 
  • Try back leg lifts by putting your weight on one foot and pushing the opposite leg out behind you, raising it a short height from the floor while keeping your back straight and steady. Return your lifted foot to meet the other, shift your weight to the other foot, and repeat with the opposite leg. 

By performing these exercises slowly and controlled, no one but you has to know you are moving! And remember to breathe. Oxygen = brain food! (adapted from https://www.fitstylebyshana.com/blog/2020/6-exercises-zoom-call)

Thanksgiving…what 2 do?

Thanksgiving…what 2 do?

There is no way to perfectly simulate an in-person Thanksgiving in covid-surge virtual space. There just isn’t. We all long for a semblance of normalcy and may want to claim Thanksgiving as a marker. But, the risk is real. Covid is surging in the Greater Philadelphia region with an increasing number of new cases per day. Sadly, the best choice for our loved ones is to stay away this year so that we may all be around to celebrate next year – together. That said, there are some creative ideas out there to help you and your family members connect contact-free. 

  • Host Thanksgiving on Zoom, and everyone can see one another’s tables even if you’re not sitting in the same house! Connect more by distributing pre-packaged meals in advance so everyone is eating the same thing at the same time.  The standard dinner table side conversations can take place via zoom breakout rooms or the chat function. 
  • For relatives in close proximity but outside the immediate household, organize a drive-by Thanksgiving (similar to what has been done for graduations and birthdays). Schedule each household to drive to all other households at times throughout the day and issue greetings and gratitude from a safe social distance.  
  • Host a socially distanced potluck by assigning different dishes to each household and delivering to one another before the big meal. This way, everyone can share in the family’s specialties! 
  • To cultivate a sense of just being together, share a playlist and set up a live feed (or back to zoom) with all other microphones muted. 
  • Play an online board game. Scrabble, Clue, Scattergories and others have mobile apps so you can play together even if you’re not at the same table. 
  • Watch a movie together across households via various apps and/or watch a football game(s) together and share audio via a cell phone based conference call.  
  • Encourage each household to record a greeting for all family members and play the greetings your household receives from all others.
  • For the gamers…play a massive online video game with the whole family.
  • Engage family members virtually and spark meaningful sharing and catch-up by way of icebreaker cards (see photo above…) 

Enjoy one or several of these ideas and then share your experience with us!