Nominations & Election

A few years ago my phone rang and on the other end of the line was Lisa Hopper, who at the time was SWASFAA’s past-president.   To my surprise she asked if I was interested in throwing my hat in the ring to run for SWASFAA’s president-elect.  Surely, I did not hear her correctly.  “Oh, boy, how could I be qualified?”    Way out of my comfort zone, like way out-in-left-field.   I took a huge leap of faith and said, “yes”

Looking back, I’m glad that I took the leap.  Having the opportunity to meet our SWASFAA members was definitely the highlight of 2016.  There is a reason why SWASFAA is a great organization, our members.  As president, I received tremendous support from past presidents, prior board members, and of course current board members.  Everyone “had my back”. Taking that leap of faith in spring of 2014 provided me not only tremendous professional growth, but a lifetime of wonderful memories.

If you’ve thought about becoming involved with the SWASFAA board,  please consider throwing your hat in the ring for one of the following positions:

  • President-Elect (Three year commitment)
  • Secretary (Two year commitment)
  • Oklahoma Delegate-At-Large (Two year commitment)
  • Texas Delegate-At-Large (Two year commitment)

The on-line Officer Nomination Form is available at the SWASFAA’s home page.  If you know a member who is interested in serving, but is shy about nominating herself/himself, please nominate her/him.  Of course, it would be a good idea to confirm with the member of her/his willingness to be nominated 🙂

If you have any questions about the commitment requirements for the open positions, please do not hesitate to contact me or any prior board member.   I have no doubt that current and prior board members will gladly share their experience.

Deadline for submission of nominations is June 30, 2017.

 

 

 

 

Three Institutional Factors Impacting Student Attrition

Submitted by Memory Keller of Student Connections

In addition to the primary research we conduct, such as through our work with students and academic experts on our Advisory Boards, Student Connections regularly reviews findings from around the industry. Recently, we examined factors impacting student retention at colleges and universities in the United States.

Financial aid and resources available
It’s no surprise that students most commonly abandon their pursuit of higher education because of money.  In fact, ACT identifies the amount of financial aid available to students as the number one factor contributing to student attrition rates for all types of colleges and universities. (Wesley R. Habley and Randy McClanahan, “What Works in Student Retention?” ACT, 2004, p. 10). Financial aid services is also listed among the top factors.  Further, Ruffalo Noel Levitz reports that the high cost of schooling, an obligation to obtain full-time employment because of financial need, personal emergencies and uncertainty about the return on investment from a college education all contribute to student attrition (“2016 National Report:  Freshman Motivations to Complete College,” Ruffalo Noel Levitz, 2016, p. 4).

Choosing the right school and program
In addition to finances, uninformed decisions regarding which institution to attend and a poor understanding of the matriculation process appear to be major factors in student attrition.  The Institute for Higher Education Policy reports that choosing which institution to attend is a complicated and confusing process, especially for first-generation and non-traditional students (Tiffane Cochran and Ann Coles, “Maximizing the College Choice Process to Increase Fit & Match for Underserved Students,” Institute For Higher Education Policy, 2011, p. 3). These students often do not have the background or access to tools that will help them fully consider the different pathways to the achievement of their educational goals. Once they do select an institution, they are often challenged by admission and financial aid processes.  These factors often lead to students not selecting the institution that would best meet their individual needs and subsequently dropping out before they achieve their educational goals.

Lack of involvement and engagement
The third institutional factor impacting student attrition is lack of student involvement in campus life.  According to the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), the more involved students are with their institutions, the more invested they are in their education.  NSSE also has identified a correlation between student involvement and higher grades and completion rates.  It makes sense that feelings of safety and belonging can go a long way toward keeping students engaged and working toward their educational goals.

The good news in these variables lies in what they share in common: They are under institutional influence. There are steps you can take today at your school to improve student engagement, understanding of enrollment requirements and campus culture, and financial literacy. In fact, the more you consider these seemingly disparate areas, the more apparent it becomes that they are integrated aspects of one unifying goal: student success. You may find you have little control over one area. However, by seizing opportunities to make a positive difference in others, you can shape the common outcome they produce.

Come Together Right Now!

In the ever changing world of Financial Aid, we look to each other to help wade through the mud and the muck.  SWASFAA is here to give you an outlet to network, training, and best practices.  So, what does SWASFAA have for me?  That is a great question.  This year we have some very exciting things to talk about.  The political climate is unsure.  The Department is uneasy as to what happens next.  We are faced with many uncertainties.  So, what do we do…. “Come together right now!”

Please join us this year for training…We have webinars that will be throughout the year with best practices.  We have Mid-Level training with NASFAA credentials.  We have Boot Camp for beginners.  We have Leadership training with more NASFAA credentials.  We have conference at Great Wolf Lodge in Grapeville TX (DFW area)

Renew or Join with SWASFAA membership on our website.  It is as easy as 123 or ABC.

http://www.swasfaa.org/docs/forms/memApp.html

 

We are looking forward to a great year at SWASFAA.

Low-Income Students Can Miss Out on Opportunities

When perception equals reality, low-income students can miss out on opportunities
By Memory Keeler – Student Connections, a USA Funds company

Over the past few months, I’ve been speaking with many colleagues about the nonacademic barriers to student success, and I often reference the 2016 FAFSA completion data. Of particular interest is the fact that the national FAFSA completion rate for high school seniors fell from 40.9 percent to 39.6 percent and that only five states – Oregon, West Virginia, Utah, North Carolina and Texas saw an increase in completion.

Low-income students’ misconceptions about financial aid
In October 2016, the National College Access Network (NCAN) released a report that examined the mindset of low-income students about their financial aid eligibility. It identifies some of the reasons that rate may be low, particularly for this population of students. The report begins by noting a 2011-12 National Postsecondary Student Aid Survey. The survey asked students to indicate why they hadn’t applied for aid, and 44.7 percent said it was because they did not believe they were eligible. But what is this belief based on?

The report goes on to explore current attitudes and behaviors toward financial aid among low-income students. It concludes that the belief that they are ineligible for aid often masks a troubling reality: they do not know whether or not they are eligible. These students are less likely to pursue aid opportunities. Because these findings have major implications for students and schools, they should help schools shape outreach strategies.

Getting resources to the students who need them
This is confirmed elsewhere in the study, where data show that, despite an abundance of information about student aid, the knowledge is not reaching the students who most need it. For example, 64 percent of the students who did not apply for aid reported they had no information about aid or had mistaken notions about it (for example, believing food stamps were a type of financial aid). Think about that: More than half of those who don’t apply for aid don’t understand what it is. Whether or not they are eligible becomes unfortunately irrelevant until we address that knowledge gap.

Further findings in the report identified a stark contrast in awareness of important issues between students who apply for aid and those who don’t. For example, 55 percent of students who didn’t apply believed that grants must be repaid, while only 12 percent of those who did apply held that belief. 32 percent of students who didn’t apply believed government loans were the same as private loans, whereas only 13 percent of students who applied believed that.

But what I found most telling among these statistics relates to this statement: “There are plenty of people I can ask about financial aid at my school.” 73 percent of students who applied for aid agreed with it, compared to only 34 percent of those who did not pursue aid. This is a staggering split between the two groups, and it underscores the importance of institutions raising awareness about financial literacy and other student engagement resources.

Although the sample size was small, this study does shed some light on why students may feel they are not eligible and do not apply. Particularly with the low national completion rate for all students, we need to focus more on getting the message out to those who need it. Students feel overwhelmed about the process to the point they are not connecting with the information that is out there. Institutions can address this with thoughtful engagement with students throughout the matriculation process and through college completion.

Guiding First Generation Students to Success

Guiding first-generation students to success

Posted on Behalf of Memory Keeler – Student Connections, a division of USA Funds

 There has been much research conducted lately on first-generation college students. It’s important to understand the unique struggles faced by this group of students to determine the best way to support them as they pursue success in school and beyond.

First-generation college students, by the numbers

Let’s start out by understanding more about this group of students through some statistics:

  • Data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that 30 percent of enrolled college students are the first in their family to pursue a higher education degree.
  • That data also shows that 24 percent of students are both first-generation and low-income students.
  • Overall, 25 percent of first-generation students go on to earn a bachelor degree within six years, as compared to 68 percent of non-first-generation students. However, for students that are low-income and first-generation, that number plummets to just 11 percent.
  • According to 2012 U.S. Department of Education data, while about 25 percent of white and Asian American students are first-generation college students, 41 percent of black students and 61 percent of Hispanics fall into that category.
  • National Center for Education Statistics data shows that only 11 percent of low-income, first-generation students graduate within six years of starting.

Unique barriers to overcome
Transitioning to college can be a challenge for any student, but this is especially difficult for first-generation students without an experienced relative to go to for help. These students often miss out on insider knowledge of campus resources, non-academic skills and tips that could help them in their first year in college. In some cases, they may also need to overcome a lack of support from family members who don’t see the value in a college education.

There are further considerations when it comes to first-generation students who are also from low-income households. Often working more than 20 hours a week, these students may be dealing with worrying about meeting their everyday needs in addition to the pressures of pursuing a higher education. Many low-income, first-generation students feel like it is pointless to think about the future. They also may be dealing with low self-esteem, a lack of a successful role model and a fear of authority.

How higher education professionals can help

The good news is that there are things you as higher education professionals can do to help these students succeed. Like many aspects of making students successful, it requires educating them early and checking in with them periodically. Here are some ideas:

  • Become a regular presence in area high schools. Getting first-generation students thinking about college early is important.
  • Hold workshops to educate parents of potential first-generation students on what their child may experience in the transition from high school and college and some tips to help them support the student through that time.
  • Form a committee at your institution to work on ways of supporting first-generation students. This will get various departments involved and engaged.
  • Train your academic advisors on the challenges faced by first-generation students. This will help them to better serve the unique needs of those students.
  • Some institutions offer summer “bridge” programs for incoming first-generation students to provide them with a little advanced knowledge of what to expect in college. During this program, students can learn about support services available through the school, meet faculty and interact with other first-generation students.
  • Encourage first-generation students to take advantage of support services by assuring them that using these services is normal and asking for help is a sign of strength.
  • Work one-on-one with first-generation students during freshman orientation.