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.

“Financial Aid All Stars, Hit It Out of the Park”

“Financial Aid All Stars, Hit It Out of the Park”, such an appropriate theme for the TASFAA  2016 Conference, held in Frisco.  Conveniently located by the Dr. Pepper Ballpark. Though the season was over for the Frisco RoughRiders, the park was lite up Wednesday night.   Awesome view from my hotel room.

Flipping through the conference agenda, it was difficult to decide which sessions to attend.  One of my favorites was a student panel.  Listening to students talk about what is important to them about the financial aid process.  Not a surprise, communication, and methods of communicating, being the topic of discussion.

During Thursday’s lunch, as I was chatting with Lisa Blazer, NASFAA Chair, it became obvious that SWASFAA is a great hands with Denise Welch as incoming President and Shannon Crossland incoming President-Elect.  TASFAA sure represents at the regional and national level.

I don’t think I walked past a TASFAA member without hearing “thank you for attending our conference.”  Talk about making one feel welcomed, wow!

Thank you, TASFAA, for inviting me to an awesome conference!  Had a great time and learned so much.  Every conference presents a learning opportunity.

Looking forward to “sharing” my experiences from the AASFAA and LASFAA conferences.  What a great organization we are all part of!!

 

 

 

.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Building Knowledge to Serve Students

Hello, friends!

I hope the beginning of October is treating you well. Has anyone’s office slowed down yet? I would assume not with PPY and the FAFSA opening on October 1st, but this opportunity allows us to help students take the steps in attaining their college dreams for an extended period of time. I love serving students and parents. Knowing you make a difference in the lives of others is such a wonderful gift we are given in our profession.

In order to be able to fully and efficiently serve students, it is crucial to have the knowledgebase in your field of expertise. If you need to build or refresh your financial aid knowledge, we have just the place for you! Boot Camp will allow you to build your financial aid knowledge one brick at a time. Boot Camp will be a jam-packed two and a half days, but you will walk away with invaluable information, connections from all over our region, and the opportunity to test for NASFAA Credentials (11 topics to be exact). Trust me, you do not want to miss out!

Our Boot Camp trainers have 57 years of combined financial aid experienced and are ready to help you build/refresh your knowledge or prepare you for the NASFAA credentials! In case you have not had the opportunity to read about us and our (AWESOME) fun facts, now is the time take a gander: http://swasfaa.org/docs/conferences/site/bootcamp.html. You can also view our agenda: http://swasfaa.org/docs/conferences/2016/2016SWASFAA_BootCampAgenda.pdf

Boot Camp will cost $275 which includes 4 meals provided and the ability to credential in 11 NASFAA topics. Hotel reservations must be made by this Friday, October 7th in order to get the $139 room rate. Late registration will begin on October 29th and the price will be $325.

**The SWASFAA Board recently made a policy change and we will now allow non-SWASFAA members to attend Boot Camp. Non-SWASFAA member price will be $375. If you are interested in attending Boot Camp as a non-SWASFAA member, please contact Mendy Schmerer directly via email, mendy-schmerer@ouhsc.edu, so you can be registered manually.**

If you have any questions about Boot Camp, please do not hesitate to contact Mendy Schmerer or myself. We hope to see you in a little over a month in OKC!

Best,

Sarah Webb
SWASFAA Boot Camp Co-Chair 2016
Sarah.Webb@utsa.edu

Mid-Level Workshop Provides 2 Credential Opportunities

Hello SWASFAA friends

There is a coolness in the air, along with the smell pumpkin spice everything, and sweaty athletes in our offices, I think that means it is officially Fall. What else comes with fall? That’s right, the best association conference in the country!

SWASFAA 2016 is just around the corner and I can’t wait to spend the better part of a week in beautiful Oklahoma City with all of my SWASFAA friends. I know the conference is coming together nicely, and the boot-camp trainers are working hard to impart their knowledge on our new folks, but what about the more seasoned financial aid folks? Well, that’s where the mid-level workshop comes in! We have a busy Wednesday morning planned this year with TWO NASFAA credential opportunities scheduled!

Shannon Crossland, our newly elected SWASFAA President-Elect will be presenting Consumer Information, and I will be presenting Cash Management this year. That is $200.00 worth of credentials for only $75.00!

Remember registration closes October 28th for the training, registration, hotel, and more information is available at the conference mini site, http://swasfaa.org/docs/conferences/site/index.html

I look forward to seeing you soon in Oklahoma City!

Brent Small