Plan Ahead to Make College Affordable

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It took a lot of work to become a high-achieving high school senior.

You studied hard, got involved outside the classroom, and took pride in your accomplishments.

You are now in the middle of applying to numerous colleges and universities, completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and having staff at your school talk to you about scholarship opportunities. You are being congratulated and celebrated by family, teachers, and community members for your hard work and good grades—and you might have been told that a college is sure to award you a large or full-ride scholarship due to your GPA and achievements.

As a financial aid administrator for 26 years, this is when I get concerned. The false presumption among many students that their top-choice college will surely offer them an attractive financial aid package too often leads to students spending little or no time applying for local scholarships.

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 Enforcement Unit Reconstituted to Protect Student Aid Against Waste, Fraud, and Abuse

The Biden administration recently announced the reconstitution of an office designed to safeguard taxpayer-funded student aid dollars and protect students from predatory colleges. The previous administration had “deprioritized” the department tasked with enforcement of student protection regulations within the Office of Federal Student Aid in a move viewed by pro-student advocates as enabling problematic behavior on the part of predatory colleges.

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Update: What the Federal Student Loan Servicing Shake-Up Means for Borrowers

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In 2010, the federal government eliminated the bank-based student loan program (formerly the Federal Family Education Loan Program, or FFELP) in favor of originating loans directly from the Department of Education). The move saved the federal government more than $10 billion in payments to banks—funding that has since been used to increase student aid. While the department serves as the loan originator, the role of servicing student loans was left to external entities.

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Is a Financial Aid Refund Check Really ‘Extra’ Money?

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You completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and submitted all the needed paperwork.

Now you are enrolled in school and your friends are talking about getting a refund check. An email sent from your college says the funds will be available soon. Spring break is coming up and some of your friends are talking about going to the beach. Then you get another email from the campus housing office. They are asking you to save a few hundred dollars for the housing deposit for the upcoming fall semester.

Now you are curious. Is a refund going to be in your bank account? You may be wondering: “Is this extra money for me to spend?”

Let’s review how this works.

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Equity and AP

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Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from a Washington Monthly article examining AP courses and college racial inequities.

By Anne Kim

In a year when the coronavirus pandemic threw college admissions into chaos, 18-year-old Chloe Pressley of Prince William County, Virginia, succeeded beyond her wildest expectations. She got into multiple prestigious colleges, including Caltech, the University of Virginia, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The University of Richmond (VA) offered her a full ride. This fall, she’s headed to Yale.

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A Year Like No Other: Test-Free at the UC

By Gary Clark

Editor’s note: In August 2020, NACAC released a report urging colleges and universities to examine their policies and practices concerning standardized tests and their potential impact on equity and access. This column is the fifth in a series of articles reflecting on the report’s recommendations and offering insight into the current state of standardized admission testing.

I’m not sure I ever thought I’d see that day at the University of California (UC) or  the University of California—Los Angeles (UCLA), but here we are. On the heels of an admission cycle that mirrored the uncertainty and turmoil of the world around us, I’m being intentional about taking time to reflect on the year and lessons learned.

While the conversations regarding the continued use of standardized testing in UC admission began long before COVID, its onset certainly impacted the decision around test-optional versus test-free. Challenges regarding access to exams and accommodations needed by students were primary in discussions among our staff and faculty and, ultimately, the courts in California settled any lingering uncertainty. Each of the nine UC campuses moved to a test-free admission process and will continue this approach through the fall 2024 admission cycle.

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The Demise of the SAT Subject Tests and Essay: An International Perspective

By: Anne Richardson and Chemeli Kipkorir

Editor’s note: In August 2020, NACAC released a report urging colleges and universities to examine their policies and practices concerning standardized tests and their potential impact on equity and access. This column is the fourth in a series of articles reflecting on the report’s recommendations and offering insight into the current state of standardized admission testing.

Outside the US, submitting a transcript of classroom achievement is seldom required when applying to universities, which makes testing all the more important in the admission process. While the demise of SAT Subject Tests was welcomed and applauded, international counselors encountered some anxiety and questions from students and parents alike about the potential need to take additional exams such as TOEFL, IELTS, and Advanced Placement tests, especially if applying to non-US universities. This was especially true in regions where students routinely work with agents, and where test prep is an aggressive and big business.

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Supporting the 1 in 5 College Students Raising Children

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Did you know that one in five college students in the United States is a parent? They number nearly 4 million undergraduate students, yet few colleges and universities know how many parents they have on campus, or how these students are faring. Student-parents are highly motivated to attain a degree to provide a better life for themselves and their children, but they face unique barriers in accessing and completing their college education—student-parents are nearly twice as likely to leave college before graduating than students who are not parents.

As one of the first people that student-parents interact with on their educational journey, college admission counselors can play a key role in supporting the success of these students as they seek a higher degree.

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Rejoicings, Complications, and a Few Grey Hairs: Test-Optional Outside the US

By: Anne Richardson and Chemeli Kipkorir

Editor’s note: In August 2020, NACAC released a report urging colleges and universities to examine their policies and practices concerning standardized tests and their potential impact on equity and access. This column is the third in a series of articles reflecting on the report’s recommendations and offering insight into the current state of standardized admission testing.

Much has been written about the sudden, COVID-propelled test-optional movement inside of the US, and the blessings and complications that this movement has wrought for students, counselors, and admission offices there. Outside of the US, this same move to test-optional—plus the end of SAT Subject Tests and the SAT essay—has provoked mixed reactions: celebrations for students who are US-bound, but also concerns about potentially narrower options for students studying in a US curriculum who wish to travel abroad for university.

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NACAC Podcast Network Brings Together the Best of the Best

NACAC is an association that is learning, changing, and growing at the same incredible pace as the field of college admission.

Over the past year, we’ve invested in new education content and technology platforms to help college counselors and admission professionals be successful. At the heart of our work is the belief that responding to our members’ needs and providing value is what will make the association and our profession strong.

With more than 25,000 members now relying on NACAC to optimize their practices, our ambitions around providing the best education and content have only gotten bigger. That’s why we’re excited to announce the launch of the NACAC Podcast Network, a new audio destination that is home to eight great shows representing a wide range of perspectives. Together, this collection covers the scope of college admission from the student, family, counselor, and college perspective.

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Daily updates on NACAC and the world of college admission counseling. For more information about NACAC, visit nacacnet.org.