SMU Student-Athletes: What Happens When Summer Comes

April 14, 2011 by · Comments Off 

SMU student-athletes

By Logan May
ljmay@smu.edu

TJ Nelson, 19-year-old SMU soccer player, is on a full scholarship and receives a stipend every month throughout the school year to meet his financial needs.

He never worries about the cost of groceries, running out of gas money, or having to turn down an offer to go out to dinner on a Friday night.

The monthly “allowance” is a big advantage of being a student athlete on a full scholarship. The stipends are distributed before the first of every month from August to May for $1,415. But what happens when the summer months come and there is no stipend?

Student athletes come to a crossroads when the summer months arrive, and they, in turn, must look for alternatives to make up for the income that they no longer receive.

“You need a game plan for your money,” said Raymond Durham, former CFO of CellStar Company. Durham also recommends saving at least 10 percent of each month’s stipend as well as applying for a summer job to cover necessities and extra expenses.

So, let’s say an athlete lives at the Carlyle Apartments off University. Rent costs about $650 if you live with a roommate in a two-bedroom apartment. Utilities usually range from $60 to $100. If you need groceries weekly, that may cost another $300 for the month, and gas money may cost you $100 per month depending on how much you drive. This totals about $1,130 just for one month.

If an athlete saves $200 per month for September to May, that would equal $1800. This is a good start for the summer, but may not suffice.

Here are some potential choices for summer income:

Work camps:

The SMU soccer program hosts a number of summer camps throughout June and July. The coaches hire current SMU women and men soccer players to work the camps. A typical income for a week of camp is about $500, just enough to pay a month’s rent. With about 3 camps per month, this is a wise investment.

“Working camps is the best way to make money because I’m getting paid to play soccer all day,” says Nelson.

Save Your Money:

Another avenue to take is to save a bit of each stipend to put back for the summer. Junior football player, Taylor Thompson, puts $200 away each month in order to pay rent in June and July.

“I don’t necessarily want to get a job, so I make sure I am smart throughout the school year,” says Thompson.

Summer School:

There is one more beneficial choice, summer school. This allows student-athletes on full scholarship to receive a stipend throughout the summer. This should not be the one and only choice for summer income since not all athletes are guaranteed a spot for summer classes.

So if you are a student-athlete weary of the long summer with no financial support, it is wise to start looking now for a summer job or alternative to meeting your financial needs.

Rent-A-Center; Are You Really Saving?

March 31, 2011 by · Comments Off 

By Logan May
ljmay@smu.edu

Walk into any apartment or home and stop to look at the furnishing. There are couches, tables, desks, and coffee tables. Are there TVs? Most likely there is a washer and dryer as well. The cost of living is not cheap, especially in this economy, and for many people it is difficult to pay in full for the things in their home. Enter Rent-A-Center.

Rent-A-Center, based in Plano, is the number one rent-to-own business. The business promises no down payments or long-term obligations on furniture, electronics, and appliances. It also offers services to customers with little to no credit. It currently operates about 3,000 stores throughout North America and Puerto Rico.

Rent-A-Center offers name-brand furniture, electronics, appliances and computers with flexible rental purchase agreements, according to its website. Rent-A-Center’s customers, who typically lack traditional credit, rent the products for fixed periods. If they make all the payments on time, they end up owning the piece at the end of the contract.

Sales were slightly down for all of 2010, yet Rent-A-Center seems to be doing a better job at controlling expenses. The cost of merchandise sold is down 13 percent from 2009 and cost of rental and fees are down 2 percent. Excluding one-time charges, the company earned $194 million in 2010, compared to $168 million in 2009.

“They are currently implementing new systems to automate and keep better track of their financial transactions, store performance, and inventory,” says Michael Fontana, Enkitec Technical Consultant. Enkitec is a technology company that provides the designated software for companies like Rent-A-Center.

Noe Flores, a manager at the Rent-A-Center store, has worked for the company for eight years and says the company stands out because it offers a wide variety of payment plans.

But are these payment plans the best option for customers? At this particular location, a Toshiba LCD TV goes for $39.99 per week for 100 payments, or $173.27 per month for 23 payments. This may seem like a great deal for someone unwilling to pay full price for a TV, but it ends up costing $3,999 at the end of the rental plan. At a store like Best Buy, this same LCD TV goes for $749.99. You are saving $3,249 by paying one payment at Best Buy.

In hopes to attract more customers, Rent-A-Center has been expanding its financial services. In 2010, it acquired The Rental Store, which operates almost 150 kiosks. The company expects to add approximately 100 domestic Rent-A-Center Acceptance kiosks in 2011.

But not all customers are happy with the current payment system as seen on websites like pissedconsumer.com. Many of the customers on the site complain about the endless number of calls received if a payment is late. One upset customer wrote, “they would call me off the hook if my payment was even close to being due,” and another wrote, “Rent-A-Center is trying to take my computer back because I called them and told them that I would be two days late with the payment.”

Yet, Rent-A-Center continues to do well and 2011 numbers look bright. It still stands as the number one rent-to-own business regardless of they way some consumers feel about it.

Facebook Facts: How Social Networking is Taking Over

February 27, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

By Logan May
ljmay@smu.edu

As college students sit in class, most of them can be seen checking their friends’ statuses, looking at new pictures from the weekend, or responding to an event invitation.

Facebook is everywhere – on laptops, cell phones, and it even made its premier as a feature film movie in The Social Network. As the social networking site becomes more popular, people everywhere are quickly making it their homepage and go-to site for information.

“Sometimes I get on Facebook and two hours later I forgot what I logged on for,” SMU graduate student Neely Stoller says.

Facebook currently has over 500 million active users who spend a total of 700 billion minutes per month on the networking site. America currently leads the number of users list with almost 150 million users, followed by Indonesia with roughly 35 million users.

The average Facebook user may spend more time on the networking site than they think. On average, users spend more than 55 minutes a day browsing the site. Some more Facebook averages: 130 friends per user, 8 friend requests per month, and 25 comments on Facebook content each month.

Although Facebook was initially intended to target college students, more than 1.5 million local businesses have active pages. Summer Burke, Web Presence Professional, uses Facebook on behalf of businesses to promote fan interaction within companies. At the end of 2010, Google changed the way they rank pages on their results page. Instead of just looking at keywords, they are looking at social interaction and business’ reputations.

“Facebook is a great place to publicize upcoming events and to let fans get a more personal look inside a business,” Burke says.

Barbara Morganfield, SMU Education Senior Lecturer, has developed a Facebook group for her students to use throughout the semester.

“I wanted students to have a way to go beyond what was assigned in class and begin to look for issues that were of interest to them and to have a place to share that information,” Morganfield says.

Facebook provides students the opportunity to put down the pencil and paper and interact with their peers. Morganfield adds that the site allows quick feedback on homework, discussions, and lectures.

Within the last year, Facebook has rapidly expanded. Between 2010 and 2011, total users has jumped 42.4 percent from 103 million to 146 million. Female users make up 55 percent of the site, with males trailing at 43.4 percent.

The 18 to 24-year-old demographic has made a huge jump in active users since 2010 with a 74.1 percent increase. So why is the site expanding at such a rapid rate? The desire to keep in touch is what attracts people, along with the “need to connect and socialize,” says Morganfield. Even the 55 and older demographic have increased by almost 59 percent from 2010. Grandparents are now joining the site to see pictures of their grandchildren who may live in a different state. What used to take days to send, now takes a click of the mouse.

“Now, with a lot of my friends getting married, it’s really easy to create groups to exchange addresses and make event invitations really quickly, and for free,” Burke says.

Facebook is everywhere; and with smart phones, Facebook mobile users are twice as active as non-mobile users. There are over 200 mobile operators in 60 countries promoting the use of Facebook. With numbers like that, it is no wonder people are constantly using their phones.

While there are many benefits to using Facebook, such as networking, sharing ideas, and staying connected, there are some downfalls to the site. If more and more college students are using the site, that could mean less time spent on academics. People may be checking Facebook on their phones while driving and could cause an accident. Children could be playing outside with their friends, but instead they are sitting at the computer for hours at a time.

A Facebook fact that many parents may fear: Drugs are the highest rated public interest on the site. In 2010, a mere 28,000 users exchanged drug- related posts. Now, over 355,000 users are talking drugs. Sex and Rock and Roll trail drugs for the next top interests.

Technology is a powerful tool that is a huge part of day-to-day life. Facebook continues to expand every day with more and more online opportunities for its users. It is no wonder millions of Americans are addicted to the social networking site.