I met Joe Teske, business owner in the financial advising and career strategy arena, at a networking event this past March. I was taken by his passion and purpose around coaching others to be their best. He is a unique guide to those looking for answers and ideas about careers, money, college for kids or grandkids, or looking for insight and action in an unpredictable economy.
Joe has been providing college planning and financial strategies for families for over 15 years. Prior to this, he was an executive in aerospace, hiring/managing over 250 people. He has a deep understanding of college planning and job acquisition skills students need to succeed and he is a certified College Planning Relief specialist. His early years and continued expertise in financial planning helps him see the interconnectedness of financial and career in order to help families set direction and minimize costs.
Sherry Benjamins: How do you work with students before they are considering college?
Joe Teske: Abraham Lincoln said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” I learned that there are numerous ways to make the college journey more efficient and effective. In our firm, Reliant College Planning Solutions (Reliant CPS), we work with students and their families to educate them on career, cost and college, in that order.
Up to 40% of students entering college undeclared (without knowing their major), will not graduate. I believe student’s and family’s focus should be primarily on the “40-year career” and not necessarily the 4-year college. We have tools to help students identify a best-fit career and major in which they will enjoy their work and be productive. Isn’t this the hope of every parent – a child in an occupation they love?
The other element of this work is helping families characterize the affordability of college. Oftentimes families don’t truly consider the total cost of attending college. Graduation rates in 4 years at public colleges averages 34%. Most students can take 5 or more years to graduate. When you consider this for each child in the family, and with the costs of college growing each year, it’s clear that laying out a multi-year budget is critical to understanding how a family will afford a college education.
SB: What do you learn from students in this process?
JT: Each student has unique wiring. While the education system is structured around a relatively standard set of coursework through the first 14 years of education, each student can find a path that supports their specific interests. Helping families themselves find the distinctive profession where their child will love the work they do is an extremely rewarding process.
When you look at the education system outside the U.S., many adolescents are choosing their occupational direction by the 8th or 10th grade. It could be a trade, a technical path or academic. There are very few teachers bringing an assessment process to 10th graders. I believe that is a big loss. Why not introduce the potential careers to students much earlier? When that is accomplished, there is a real sense of relief and hope as they are able to address their most pressing question, “What am I going to be/do?” With a career narrowed-down, students choose classes in line with their future profession. I also see that often their GPA improves as they’re taking classes that match their wiring. Life has just gotten much simpler – and easier for them.
SB: What are the stresses from their vantage point?
JT: The pressures placed on students today far exceed what we’ve seen, even ten years ago. The competition now for each seat in college is international! And with an admission process that evaluates leadership, volunteering, extra-curricular activities, writing ability, and demonstrated interest, along with their GPA and aptitude test scores, our adolescents are facing more demands than ever before. The mental health of these students is strained to the limit. They are trying to please everyone – parents, teachers, coaches, friends, and even the yet-to-be determined college admissions office. Focusing your student on a direction matters, even if it changes over the process. Earlier is better.
SB: What is your perspective on the future of education?
JT: I am a parent of children in this age group and I see first-hand visibility of the demands placed on my children and others. In addition, with my background in financial advising, I understand the economics of the education system. Families are doing whatever they can to get in and get the degree. This has led to a national college debt level at $1.5 trillion- growing at $100 billion each year. This far exceeds credit card debt. College has become the new credit crisis.
I believe that going to college and finding your way – does not work any longer. Knowing your career path first is critical. It is too costly to be left to chance, and not knowing often leads to five or more years to get a degree. Families are exploring alternatives to this heavy cost burden. Many are sending their students to a 2-year college and then transferring to a 4-year university. Some colleges offer co-operative programs where the students alternate academic and work semesters to gain experience and pay during their education process. Students are taking online coursework as well. One change I anticipate that will grow in the future is companies/industries working collaboratively to customize job structure and learning for their future employees. This has already started in the healthcare and information technology industries with certification programs. Entry- to mid-level position qualifications are met through specified course content without needing a 4-year degree. The amount of money spent on education will draw more creative solutions like this in the near future.
SB: What is your advice to parents?
JT: Building a network is not just for the experienced working professional or parent. It is the right thing to do as a high schooler as well. Imagine having a LinkedIn profile and networking strategy starting in high school. This is now the new 21st century life skill.
We will see creative solutions to these education challenges. We are learning from recent generation Z research, those children born into the digital everything, smart phone era, after millennials about how they learn and where they want to learn. They do not remember a time before social media. Stay tuned for what education will need to look like for this next smart, start-up mentality talent of the future.
If you have interest in learning more about the college and money challenges and solutions, please reach out to Joe Teske, Reliant College Planning Solutions at www.reliantcps.com.