Considering a Career Change

By Michelle Tabler, Alaska Marketplace Development Manager

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the August issue of Torch Talk.


These days it’s common to consider going back to school in order to advance your career. Whether it’s for a bachelor’s or a graduate degree, the decision shouldn’t be made lightly. While motivations vary, many people choose to pursue higher education for potential increased earnings, to gain new skills, or to simply pursue a different career path.

Some companies offer tuition assistance for employees wishing to gain more education. This type of program is considered an investment that allows an employee to continue working while taking courses. In turn they promise to stick with their company and utilize their new found skills.

But there’s also the option of leaving the workforce to focus on school full-time. If your motivation is to increase your pay, it’s important to investigate the availability of jobs and the pay scales in the field you are considering. Generally, those with advanced degrees earn more, but that can vary depending on the type of degree and the career field. And keep in mind, some occupations won’t boost your income when compared to the cost of the degree.

Alaska Career College totes its most popular programs to be the Allied Health Programs. These include: medical assistant, phlebotomy tech, medical coding and billing and massage therapy. Jennifer Deitz, ACC owner said the courses offered at her college are designed to meet a specific need in Alaska. “Alaska Career College is attuned to the economy and the skills needed in this economy.” While the college offers additional programs in Business Administration and Human Resources, most students prefer the health industry courses.

“Because that’s where the good jobs are,” Deitz said.

The college has been BBB Accredited since 1995 and offers courses in Aircraft Dispatching, business, insurance coding and billing, medical assistant, phlebotomy technician and therapeutic massage. Going back to school can provide a unique experience that is intellectually stimulating and offers the opportunity to meet with people of different ages and backgrounds. It is a great networking opportunity for business contacts.

A friend with a BA in communications worked as a TV reporter and producer and then phased into working for nonprofits. After a while she decided to go to graduate school for a master’s degree so she could work as a consultant. She felt the graduate degree would give her more credibility and allow her to compete more successfully in the marketplace.

If you are thinking about going back to school, here are some tips to consider:

Pick the program 

What program would bring the best results. A four-year or two-year degree? You might only need a certificate program to give you that leg up.

Online or in class 

Will you be able to complete the course online or will you need to log in some classroom time? Either way, you might have to find a part– time job or leave work altogether in order to obtain your degree.

Weigh the cost 

In addition to tuition costs, also be sure to budget for books, computers, supplies for specialty classes and a laptop. Fill out the FAFSA form (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) if you plan to apply for financial aid and grants. There are often advantages to in-state tuition if the courses you plan to take are offered locally.

Going back to school can be highly rewarding. Just be sure to research your options carefully, take into considering the time and costs involved.


Beating Back to School Stress

Editor’s note: This article first ran in the August issue of Torch Talk

Mother Helping Daughter With Homework

The anxiety of returning to school usually hits when I walk into a grocery store and see the shelves lined with spiral notebooks, No. 2 pencils and backpacks. Even though I’ve been out of school for years I still can’t help getting a little stressed out at the thought of saying goodbye to summer. Fortunately, my daughter is only three and while she will be starting pre-school in the fall it won’t be as intense as when she’s going to school full-time. So how do working parents keep their sanity while balancing both their careers and their children’s school life?

To ensure your family starts off on the right foot I’ve compiled a few tips to ensure you keep your cool this school year.


If your family is run likes a sports team —with everyone playing a specific role —you are more likely to be efficient during those stressful times. You know, the ones that remind you of overtimes in the playoffs. So make sure everyone in the family knows what roles they play, from transporting kids to school and activities, to who’s checking homework and starting dinner. Older kids can help by getting themselves ready in the morning or by getting their younger siblings out the door on time. Even younger kids can help by clearing the table at night and feeding the family pets. *Needs some help around the house? Consider hiring a cleaning service to come through to keep your family on track. Check out accredited businesses like A + Sparkle & Shine Cleaning Service in Tacoma.


What’s your Plan B? You should always have a backup plan in place should someone be unable to fulfill their role. If you suddenly have an early morning meeting scheduled there should be someone available to help out. Having a babysitter on-call is a great way to guarantee everyone is taken care of and you are able to concentrate on your job. *Looking for before and after-school help? There are a number of child care facilities who offer assistance for working families. Look for accredited businesses like Harvard Park Children’s Learning Center North in Spokane. 


Imagine how you feel at the end of a long day of work. By the time 6 p.m. rolls around you’re ready to prop up your feet and settle down with a glass of wine and a little Netflix. Just because kids have more energy than adults, doesn’t mean they don’t require their own time to unwind. When kids are overscheduled with school, tutoring, sports, dance classes and play dates it can cause them to get grouchy. My mother used the term “recharge your batteries” when she would send us to our rooms for a little quiet time. While activities are important for a child make sure they aren’t out of the house too often. Stick with one activity per season so you still have time for studying and some much needed family time. *Want your kid to find fulfillment outside of the classroom? Consider putting them in extra-curricular activities like ballet or karate.  Find accredited businesses like Spectrum II Art and Dance Studio in Idaho.


At the end of the day if you aren’t making time for your own sanity, no one in your home is going to be happy. So don’t feel guilty about penciling in some “you” time once a month. *Find relaxation by getting a massage or hitting the links! Look for accredited businesses like Milwaukee Massage Therapy and Broadmoor Golf Course in Oregon, both designed to help you fight those back to school blues

Beware of Certain Online Schools

Written by Veronica Craker, Managing Editor & Writer

Person studying and learning - Knowledge concept

Convenience is just one perk to attending school online. There’s also the ability to attend a school offering the degree you’re interested in —which might not be available at your local university. And you can’t forget that it is often more affordable to take courses online. That’s because you won’t be shelling out for gas if you’re commuting, lodging if you have to relocate or maybe even childcare if you’re lucky. Chances are you can even keep your full-time job.

Today, more institutions are offering distance learning courses and more students are enrolling. A survey released by the Online Learning Consortium shows a 3.9 percent rise in the number of higher education students taking at least one distance learning course. But it’s not all rainbows and kittens for online institutions, especially for for-profit colleges. In the report it details a disparity among private, nonprofit colleges and private for-profit schools. While enrollment for private nonprofit institutions increased by 11.3 percent, it decreased 2.8 percent for private for-profit institutions.

Trouble for online intuitions has been mounting for some time. Last month the Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against DeVry University claiming the schools advertisements deceived students about the probability they would find jobs in their field of study and would earn more money than those graduating with degrees from other institutions.

On Feb. 8 University of Phoenix owner, Apollo Education Group, announced it will be bought for $1.1 billion by a private equity firm. The university has been party to federal investigations in the past, with allegations ranging from deceptive advertising to questionable financial aid practices.

Unfortunately, these types of risks are not uncommon. As the number of online schools rise, so will the failure rate of these for-profit schools.

I spoke with Alaska resident Megan James last month after hearing about problems she’s faced with her online college. James attended a well-known for-profit institution in 2005 and claimed the school offered her subpar classes and did little to help her find a more financially responsible way for paying her tuition.

“I am a first generation college student so I had no idea what I was getting into,” she said.

After taking what she calls “inferior” courses she ended up with $30,000 in student loan debt.

“I pay $1,000 dollars a month on my loan,” James said. “My house payment is only $1,200.”

When James transferred to the University of Alaska Fairbanks she discovered many of her credits would not be accepted.

“They didn’t’ meet the criteria of their curriculum,” James said. “Which implied to me that they were inferior classes.”

What types of classes was James taking exactly?

“One was a math class, one was strategic management class, another was an ethics class,” James said. “After I took a couple for classes at UAF I quickly realized ‘oh yeah this is way harder.’”

She says if she could do it all over again she would make an appointment to meet a financial aid officer who has her best interests in mind.

“I would want to talk to a financial aid person that works at a nonprofit or somewhere else that doesn’t have anything to gain,” she said.

Interested in attending an online school?

There’s no need to be against enrolling in an online school, but it is important to do your homework before applying. Here are some things to remember when researching your school:

Start with accreditation. Look for accredited universities by visiting Accredited Schools Online. Be sure to research the school’s past to ensure it is a trusted institution.

Beware of diploma mills. These types of schools offer “degrees” to students in a short amount of time for a flat fee. These types of diplomas are not valid, and end up costing the student more than just money.

Review graduation statistics. Ask to see statistics on graduation and drop-out rates from your chosen school. Be skeptical of institutions that are unable to provide the information or if the drop-out rate is high.

Find A+ institutions. To find a trusted online school visit BBB’s Online Education Accredited Business Directory to read their ratings, complaint histories and contact details.

Back to School Preparation Tips for Parents

Back to School Preparation Tips for Parents

Preparing children for the end of summer vacation and the start of the school year is something all parents look forward to yet dread at the same time. After three months of unfettered freedom, children are no longer in “school” mode, i.e., going to bed early, getting up early, completing homework, and often experience a rough transition period when abruptly faced with these changes. Fortunately, there are many ideas and activities that can help parents make the switch from the lazy days of summer to the more structured regimen of school less stressful and more enjoyable for parents and kids.

5 “Must-Do” Back to School Preparation Tips for Parents and Kids

  1. Get kids back on a school sleep schedule two weeks before the first day of school. Put them to bed by 9:00 pm and gradually get them used to getting up early. For example, let them sleep as late as they want the first couple of days, then start getting them up 15 minutes earlier each day. By the time school starts, their brains and bodies will be used to the schedule and you won’t have to deal with grumpy children in the morning.
  2. Take your child to your family physician for a check-up and your eye doctor for a vision examination. Treating any health or vision problems before school starts will greatly improve your child’s ability to succeed academically and may help prevent unnecessary absences.
  3. Establish a quiet study area in your home or in your child’s bedroom where they can do their homework without being distracted. Include your child in picking out a desk, desk lamp and other accessories to show you are truly interested in your child’s education.
  4. Some younger, more introverted children may worry about whether their new teacher is “nice” or “mean” but rarely talk about this fear with their parents. You can help calm your child’s fears about a new teacher by taking him to visit his teacher a day or two before school. If your child is going to attend a new school, this would also be a great time to familiarize him with the school by showing him the layout of the school (location of his room, the cafeteria, restrooms, etc.) and where the bus will pick him up and drop him off.
  5. Let your child take an active role in picking out his school supplies, bookbag and school clothes. Splurging on a few, nonessential items while ensuring she has the necessary supplies will make any child feel better about going back to school.

Quick and Easy Back to School Preparation Tips

  • Start organizing carpools or other transportation arrangements several weeks before school starts. Have “just-in-case” back-up plans ready to streamline last-minute disruptions
  • Read through school conduct rules and regulations with your children. Make sure they understand them and advise them there are serious consequences for violating them.
  • If your child is walking to school for the first time, take him along the route he is supposed to follow several times. If possible, scout out neighbors who live along that route and let your child know they can stop at certain houses while walking to school if they need help for any reason.
  • Encourage children to be self-sufficient as they can be, according to their abilities. For example, all school-age children can lay out their school clothes the night before a school day or have their backpacks ready before going to bed. Anything you can think of that can be done at night will help streamline the morning routine.
  • Remember to make sure your child either has lunch money or a packed lunch to take to school. Pack lunches the night before so you don’t have to spend time packing them in the morning or have your child pack his own lunch before going to bed.

And the Best Back to School Tip for Parents?

Get as much done as possible before school starts. Waiting until the last minute to buy new clothes, gather school supplies, develop a transportation plan or prepare your child’s brain and body for the rigors of school life only places needless stress on you and your child. A stressed child naturally feels less motivated to do well academically since all their energy is directed towards coping with the powerfully decentralizing force of anxiety.

To learn more about preparing you and your child for another school year, visit these helpful resources:

The Importance of Giving Back

Reposted from my column in the Portland Business Tribune.

Your customers—especially the younger generation—want to know what your business is doing to make the world a better place. According to a 2013 study by Cone Communications and Echo Research, 82 percent of consumers take corporate social responsibility into account when deciding where to shop and which products and services to purchase.

Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington is the most outward-thinking place I’ve ever worked. From free ID theft prevention events to educational webinars to volunteer work, BBB and its staff serve as a great reminder of the value of giving back to the community.

BBB also awards college scholarships to local high school seniors each year. This year was a little different than years past: BBB held a video contest for the first time, and the jackpot was bigger than ever. This year’s $10,000 scholarship was recently awarded to a talented, bright young man from Alaska who plans to attend Brigham Young.

“We are impressed by the creativity and effort put into all the videos,” BBB CEO Tyler Andrew said. “When we launched the scholarship, we wanted to increase awareness among teens on the importance of marketplace trust.”

This scholarship—this one act of generosity—actually triggers a cycle:

  1. givingbackBy offering a scholarship, BBB is promoting its name and mission to the youngest generation. This ensures kids will know where to look for trust when they become adults and enter the marketplace as consumers and business owners. The scholarship also reminds parents about BBB’s services to the public.
  2. These consumers will then look to BBB for trustworthy information on local businesses. And as stated in a Roper survey, 74 percent of consumers prefer to do business with a BBB Accredited Business.
  3. Accredited Businesses pay annual dues to BBB. They will continue to renew their Accreditation each year as long as they see a return on their investment: more customers.
  4. BBB uses these annual dues to fund its day-to-day operations and its services to the public—including the scholarship.

Corporate social responsibility can help your business gain customers, but it can also help you retain and attract talented employees.

Allowing your employees to be involved in volunteer activities can help them feel more fulfilled and enriched. Reports show that when employees have the opportunity to give back to the community, they have a renewed appreciation for their contributions to your company.

If you’d like to become more involved in your community, there are some simple things you can do to get started. If you have a storefront, keep a collection jar for your favorite local charity at your front desk. Employees and customers alike will effect real change just by dropping off their spare change. You could also organize an employee volunteer day. A group activity such as cooking for a homeless shelter or painting an elderly neighbor’s house can have the added bonus of boosting camaraderie among your staff.

Not only is giving back good for business, but it’s the right thing to do. It builds relationships, it makes your employees feel more engaged and satisfied, and it reminds you just how lucky you are.

#BBBinRipCity: Why the Trail Blazers/BBB Partnership Works

bbb_trailblazers_sponsor_headerIt’s game time! As the Portland Trail Blazers enter the NBA playoffs as a No. 4 seed, capping off what has been an exhilarating 2015 season, many wonder just how far they will go. But for Better Business Bureau, who is a proud sponsor of the Blazers, it can’t get much better than this.

BBB and the Blazers entered into a partnership last year sharing a common interest in educating, community support and consumer protection. And with the help of BBB’s Accredited Businesses, the Blazer/BBB partnership has come to fruition.

So, was it worth it?

You better believe it.

Spencer Mitton with his $10,000 scholarship check from BBB Foundation.
Spencer Mitton with his $10,000 scholarship check from BBB Foundation in March 2015.

I was in awe last month when I watched 18-year-old Spencer Mitton of Anchorage, Alaska, accept a $10,000 scholarship check from BBB CEO Tyler Andrew in front of 20,000 cheering fans during the Portland Trail Blazers halftime show. It was a huge moment for this young man, BBB and the Blazers because it reinforced the commitment that both organizations made to improve the lives of young consumers.

Like the Blazers, BBB strives to stay relevant—which has been increasingly difficult in today’s digital world. A partnership with the Blazers put BBB back into the mix.

During the 2014-15 season, the Blazers partnership connected BBB with 950,000 fans across the Northwest. With the support of our Accredited Business partners, BBB’s brand and mission was showcased in front of fans during every home game, in the community, at an exclusive watch party, during the first-ever Blazers/BBB Business Summit at the Moda Center and now in the playoffs.

This is a partnership that works—for everyone.

BBB staff with Jerome Kersey and Blaze the Trail Cat at BBB Secure Your ID Day in October 2014.
BBB staff with Jerome Kersey and Blaze the Trail Cat at BBB Secure Your ID Day in October 2014.

“We have already had the pleasure of working successfully with BBB,” said Steve Scott, Trail Blazers Vice President of Corporate Partnerships Marketing & Sales. “Based on our experience with BBB during Secure Your ID Day, we know this partnership will provide security to many deserving members of our community.”

Now with the NBA playoffs in motion, BBB and our participating Accredited Businesses have an even bigger opportunity to leave our mark. As thousands of fans pile into the Moda Center, they’ll see BBB’s seal on the LED board, hear about our mission over the radio and read about us in the Rip City Magazine. This connection drives trust and connects consumers with an added resource to help improve their lives.

Just ask Spencer Mitton, who created this 90-second video about BBB:

His video entry on how BBB protects people from identity theft earned him a scholarship to BYU so he could pursue a career in engineering.

So the next time you’re at a Blazers game, or when you’re watching them on TV during the playoffs, look for the seal and be reassured that the Blazers/BBB partnership is not only working, but making a difference to the people we serve.

Alaska Student Wins BBB Scholarship Contest

This year, Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington offered one $10,000 scholarship for a student (or up to three students on a team) in our three-state region. High school seniors applied for the scholarship by creating a 90-second video demonstrating how BBB helps people become smarter consumers. Judges evaluated the applications based on BBB branding, effort and creativity, content and total website views.

Spencer Mitton (center)
Spencer Mitton (center)

Spencer Mitton, a student at South Anchorage High School in Alaska, won this year’s contest from a pool of 16 finalists (individuals and teams). His video offers consumer tips on preventing identity fraud, garnering more than 2,000 views on YouTube.

Spencer grew up in Anchorage and plans to attend Brigham Young University this fall to study engineering. He has always been strong in math and science but found that he also enjoys creative projects. He has been studying graphic design on his own since middle school—a talent that is evident by his winning video. Spencer would eventually like to combine innovation with math and science in the technology industry.

Currently the captain of his high school cross-country running team, Spencer would like to continue competitive running while attending college. During the summer months, Spencer runs his own business mowing lawns and teaching piano for clientele that he has built over the past few years.

Spencer is also the winner of the Anchorage School District’s Spirit of Youth Award and has earned the Eagle Scout award for community service.

What You Need to Know about Scholarships and Financial Aid

Image courtesy of
Image courtesy of

Millions of students depend on grants and scholarships to pay for college, and applying for financial aid can be confusing.

Some companies claim they can help, but they often end up charging fees for information and assistance that students could have gotten for free elsewhere!

Before paying a company to find financial aid for college, do your research and listen for the following red flags:

  • “The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back.” No one can guarantee they will get you a grant or scholarship. Refund guarantees usually have so many conditions or strings attached that it is almost impossible for consumers to get their money back.
  • “You can’t get this information anywhere else.” Scholarship information is widely available in books, at libraries, at financial aid offices and on the Internet.
  • “We’ll do all the work.” Only students and parents can determine and provide the financial information needed to complete the forms.
  • “You’ve been selected by a national foundation to receive a scholarship.” If you have not entered a competition sponsored by the foundation, this claim is highly unlikely.
  • “May I have your credit card or bank account number to hold this scholarship?” This is never a requirement for a legitimate scholarship offer.
  • “The scholarship will cost some money.” Legitimate scholarship offers never require payment of any kind.

In 2015, your Better Business Bureau is offering a $10,000 scholarship to one lucky high school senior in Western Washington, Oregon or Alaska. It is 100% free to enter–all it takes is a little creativity! Click here for details.