Link financial aid advisors to retention

Financial aid counselors should “rethink their role in student retention” to help first-generation students, writes Sara Goldrick-Rab on Education Optimists. Helping students succeed should be a “cross-campus effort.”

“Students who have overcome enormous challenges” to get to college often struggle academically, she writes. They must make Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) — usually a C average — to retain financial aid.

However, many first-generation students don’t know how to raise their grades and “are ill-equipped to sort out good advice from bad advice,” writes Goldrick-Rab.

They have little external support, experience more family crises, work longer hours, and are often more averse to taking on loans. While they might want to seek out help from others, that help is often offered only during daytime hours when their schedules are packed.  In addition, when told they they should take on loans, they feel alienated and misunderstood.

Financial aid officers, often the first to know a student is in trouble, should sound an early warning. This would trigger proactive efforts to offer comprehensive advising that “integrates academic, financial, and family support.”

El Camino College (California) publishes a report on students who lose aid due to failure to make SAP. More colleges should be “open and honest” about the challenges, Goldrick-Rab concludes.