In Sooner, Simpler, Smarter, the National College Access Network calls for simplifying federal financial aid, reports Clare McCann, a New America Foundation policy analyst, on Ed Central. Ideas include notifying families with young children about college aid eligibility and using tax returns, instead of FAFSA, to calculate Pell Grant eligibility.
“There is near unanimity on the fact that the financial aid ‘system’ is layered with inconsistencies, redundancies, and overlapping federal programs,” writes McCann. “Students find it confusing and un-navigable, so despite all the taxpayer investments in student aid, students often don’t know how to access them or which benefits to use.”
A Congressional Budget Office reports analyzes ideas for revamping Pell Grants. Replacing FAFSA with federal tax returns would raise costs by about $10 billion over 10 years, the CBO estimates.
. . . the Department of Education would issue about 2 percent more grants averaging $1,500 – some to newly eligible students who wouldn’t have to report that income now, and some to new would-be students who otherwise wouldn’t have applied because the application was too complex. Additionally, about 20 percent of the grants that are already awarded would be larger under the new formula, by about $350 on average.
Another option is to tie Pell Grant eligibility to the federal poverty level replacing the complicated formula now used. That would make it easy for families to predict college costs and aid. students know early where they stand.
Taxpayers would save $1.4 billion over 10 years if the maximum Pell Grant was reserved for families at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level (about $35,000 for a family of 4), with smaller grants for families between 150 and 250 percent (almost $59,000 for a family of 4).
California Latinos are completing high school and enrolling in college in record numbers, but college graduation rates remain low, according to a new report, The State of Latinos in Higher Education in California.
Expectations are high: 83 percent of Latino parents want their children to earn at least a bachelor’s degree. But only 11 percent of Latino adults have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to 39 percent of whites.
Latinos are expected to reach majority status in California by 2050, notes the Campaign for College Opportunity, which produced the report. “The math is clear,” said Michele Siqueiros, executive director of the Campaign. “If the California economy is to have the college-educated workforce it needs, we must find ways to significantly improve college completion rates among Latinos.”
“The good news is that this report confirms the incredible willingness and desire among Latino youth to go to college,” said Siqueiros. “Enrollment is high and growing. But too few Latino college students are completing a certificate or college degree. We are falling into a pattern of improved college access, without success.”
Compared to their white and Asian-American classmates, Latinos are less likely to enroll in a selective college or four-year university. They’re also less likely to enroll full-time and much less likely to earn a credential.
Seventy percent of first-time Latino college-goers in the state enrolled at a community college in 2012. Of degree-seeking Latinos who complete six units and attempt an English or math course, 40 percent earn a certificate or associate degree or transfer within six years, estimates a scorecard created by the California Community Colleges. That includes nearly 65 percent of “prepared” Latinos and 35 percent of “unprepared” Latinos. However, only 20 percent Latinos earned a credential or transferred, according to the Campaign’s 2010 study. Researchers looked at students who’d earned six units, regardless of math or English attempts.
To close the college gap, the Campaign for College Opportunity recommends creating a statewide higher education plan with benchmarks for increasing Latino enrollment and completion rates, and for decreasing time spent in remedial education. “We’ve looked at Texas, which is very aggressive at articulating goals, college by college,” said Siqueiros in an online press conference.
Fund colleges for both enrollment and success — Establish a new funding mechanism that creates incentives for increasing graduation and completion rates.
Get everyone on the same page — Improve coordination between high schools and colleges on college preparation and assessment.
Invest in services students need to succeed — Prioritize resources that support student success and completion, including orientation, counseling and services to close information gaps for low-income, first-generation Latino students.
Strengthen financial support options for students — Ensure that all eligible students apply and receive federal and California student aid for which they qualify.
“Access is not enough,” said Siqueiros.
Ohio’s community college students are “second-class citizens” when it comes to Ohio College Opportunity Grants, editorializes the Toledo Blade.
Community college tuitions average $3,800 a year — about one-third that of those at four-year schools — in Ohio.
In 2009, the General Assembly cut the OCOG budget from roughly $395 million to $171 million. Making matters worse, it also forced low-income students to use federal Pell grants to cover tuition expenses at community colleges before tapping state grants. Those changes made nearly all community college students ineligible for OCOG.
Unlike Pell grants, state grants cover tuition only. And because tuition is low at community colleges, Pell grants typically cover students’ tuition.
Before the changes, 20,000 community college students in Ohio received state grants.
Ohio needs legislation that would permit community college students to, first, use OCOG to cover tuition costs, thereby enabling them to tap federal Pell grants for other college-related expenses. That change also would call for setting aside another $20 million a year to cover the more than 20,000 newly eligible community college students.
Last year, as Ohio began to refund OCOG, money was set aside to fund for-profit college students but not community college students, reports Inside Higher Ed.
When she saw Andy go off to college in Toy Story 3, four-year-old Alexa Mosley starting thinking about her college future, reports the Quincy Herald-Whig in Illinois.
She’s already toured John Wood Community College, where she met with the college’s president, John Letts.
“I want to be a ballerina teacher,” Alexa told Letts during their meeting.
“The big picture is very important, pre-planning is very important,” Letts told Alexa’s parents and grandmother. “She’s a smart little girl and let’s hope we can keep her interested for the next 14 years.”
Inspired by Alexa’s interest, JWCC will host a series of “Kids on Campus” events for elementary students and their parents.
Children will be able to tour the campus with their parents, meet Letts and learn about future careers . . . Students will be able to get inside a fire truck, police car, honk the horn of a semi-truck and learn how to take blood pressure with the help of JWCC faculty and students.
Parents will learn about scholarships, financial aid and saving for college.
When Virginia Hughes earned an associate degree at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tennessee, she invited her “success coach” to the ceremony, writes Jon Marcus on the Hechinger Report. Laura Harill, a retired hospital administrator, helped the first-generation college student fill out forms, apply for financial aid and choose courses.
The privately funded tnAchieves—or “Tennessee Achieves”— recruits volunteers to help students enroll in college and persist.
Coaching appears to lower college dropout rates.
“If you’re low-income, if you’re first-generation, if no one in your neighborhood has ever gone to college, it can be very scary,” said Krissy DeAlejandro, executive director of tnAchieves. Students “might have questions we all take for granted, such as, what is a semester? What does that word mean? And just when you think you’re finished, it’s, oh, no, we still need this filled out. It all becomes very arduous and frustrating for the students.”
Personalized coaching doesn’t have to be face to face. College students who were coached by phone, email, and text messages were 15 percent more likely to stay in school, a Stanford study found.
At Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, Ala., 87 percent of students coached in the fall enroll in the spring, about eight percentage points higher than the rate for uncoached students.
In Tennessee, 75 percent of students coached by tnAchieves make it to their second year of college, compared to the state average of 59 percent. Twenty-six percent get associate’s degrees within three years, compared to 11 percent for other Tennessee students.li
Late enrollment sets students up to fail, writes an anonymous community college administrator in Inside Higher Ed.
In the name of access, many community colleges set no deadlines to enroll or apply for financial aid, Anonymous writes. Students can self-select into the classes they want, even if they’ve failed the placement test. They can start a week late, missing two or three classes.
We worry over our rising student loan default numbers. We struggle to improve our retention and completion rates and yet we have created a system that makes it OK for college to be a last-minute decision, where our most at-risk students start out behind and many never catch up. We force our professors to take students who will be seriously behind on their first day in class, and who will either sidetrack the instructor or fall more behind. Instructors, especially in our core classes, must balance trying to meet the course objectives while also providing in-class remediation for underprepared students.
Late enrollment often leads to academic failure, the administrator writes. Dropouts often have student loans that they won’t be able to pay.
Application and enrollment deadlines that ensure a student has enough time to get financial aid and payment plans in place before the semester begins. We need to have deadlines in place so a student knows that being successful requires planning and some time getting his or her life organized to be a student. A student who misses the deadline for enrollment isn’t told “no,” they are told “next semester.”
Mandatory orientation for all new students. We have a moral obligation to ensure that students have been informed of the institutions’ expectations, policies and practices before students try to begin navigating our increasingly large bureaucracies.
Required placement and advising prior to the first semester of enrollment. Students should start knowing what they’ll need to graduate, what classes they are truly ready for and what their academic plan will be.
Some community colleges have ended late enrollment to raise student success rates. In a 2002 study, 80 percent of on-time students made it to the next semester, compared to 35 percent of late registrants.
Changing financial aid to promote college completion could limit access, warns Do No Harm, a report by the U.S. Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance. Several proposals under discussion could make it harder for low-income students to attend college, the panel advises.
The report lists 10 financial aid “fallacies.”
For example, redirecting need-based grants to higher achievers and colleges with higher graduation rates would not improve completion, the report argues. The loss in access and completion for unfunded students will offset completion gains, it predicts.
To increase completion, financial aid proposals must address barriers for low-income students, the panel recommends. These include: high net prices for low-income students; excessive borrowing; decoupling of federal, state and institutional aid; complex forms and eligibility determination; inadequate early information and intervention, and insufficient in-college support services.
To increase access and completion, the panel proposes: Using federal aid to spur state and institutional aid; doubling the maximum Pell Grant; converting higher education tax credits to Pell Grants, and redesigning income-based loan repayment.
Better advising can get more low-income kids to college, writes Sophie Quinton in The Atlantic. The National College Advising Corps (NCAC) sends recent college graduates to high schools to help needy students understand their postsecondary options, get waivers for admissions test fees, write essays and apply for financial aid.
The college-applications process can be overwhelming for any high school student. But for low-income minority students like (Erica) Elder with no graduates in their families to guide them, it is often paralyzing. Many such students choose two-year schools by default, or they decide not to go to college at all.
. . . “The people who really got pummeled by this recession were people with a high-school degree or less,” says Nicole Farmer Hurd, founder and executive director of NCAC. Higher education continues to be a powerful weapon against inequality: Low-income students who earn a four-year degree, reports the Pew Economic Mobility Project, become nearly four times more likely to catapult into the top fifth of earners. Yet low-income students are 30 percent less likely to go directly to college than their wealthier peers, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
A $623,000 grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation in 2004 launched the advising corps. Now NCAC fields 334 advisers in 14 states, reaching 116,000 teenagers. Sixty percent of NCAC advisers are first-generation graduates, minorities or from low-income families. They receive a stipend and a $5,500 grant each year toward paying off their student loans or for graduate school.
Low-income, first-generation achievers often “undermatch” when they apply to college, writes Alexandria Walton Radford. College counseling is often impersonal, she writes.
. . . valedictorians learned mainly about the in-state, public colleges that their high school’s graduates most frequently attended. Valedictorians struggled to get a one-on-one meeting with their often overstretched counselors, and even in these meetings counselors did not refine the college options they discussed to take into account the glittering achievements and tremendous potential of the top student before them. Counselors rarely suggested that valedictorians consider out-of-state or private colleges—and hardly ever mentioned elite universities.
Elite colleges may offer generous scholarships to low-income achievers, writes Radford. Yet, “families eliminate good college options because they don’t understand the extent to which need-based aid can reduce their actual costs.”
Classes began today at Bellingham Technical College in Washington after a weeklong faculty strike. The faculty union and a second union representing support staff reached a tentative contract agreement Saturday.
Students couldn’t collect financial aid till classes started, reports the Bellingham Herald.
About 84 percent of the school’s students receive some form of financial aid. Many are nontraditional, older students, some with families. The average age of a BTC student was 28 during the 2011-12 school year.
Tami Reynolds, a 32-year-old single mother of three, is an accounting student at BTC. In addition to providing for her 7- and 10-year-old boys, she cares for her 2-year-old daughter, who has a severe immune system deficiency. Due to her daughter’s condition, Reynolds may not put her daughter in day care while she works.
“I rely fully on financial aid,” Reynolds said. “I’m doing online courses because I have to be home with her. I did the accounting program in the hopes I could get a job in bookkeeping from home.”
Other students complained they’d quit jobs or reduced work hours to make time for classes.
Faculty members were seeking pay raises and new rules on teaching workloads.
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.