What’s the (hold) back?


Students who go through the enrollment pipeline process, financial aid, and other related procedures will sometimes be faced with “holds,” specifically, administrative process holds.

Administrators typically place holds on a student’s online account to urge them to act on a variety of specific tasks (much of which is guided by a federal or an institutional policy). For example, students may need to complete their financial aid documents to pay for their courses on time, pay an outstanding balance, register for classes, or finalize their admission process.

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Swatch Watches & College Choices


It was the spring of 1985 and all I wanted was a Swatch watch. There wasn’t a specific one that I wanted; I just really wanted a Swatch. I had spent most of ‘84 ogling the bold plastic watches that I would see some of my lucky friend’s wear. In the mall we would walk past the glass display box in the department store on the way to the Naturalizer store for my mom’s beige work pumps. The loud colorful watches were screaming, “Look at me!” I always did. There were so many to choose from, too many. After what felt like years of asking and pleading for a Swatch, my mom finally agreed, but on one condition. 

“If you clean up the yard, I’ll take you to pick out a Swatch.” 

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Tax Filing: What You Should Know About Education Tax Credits


Two years after the world learned to use “quarantine,” “pivot,” “Zoom meetings,” and other words associated with adapting to the pandemic, some important terms that many students, families, and educators may not know much about — but have been around for a long time — are “tax credits” and, more specifically, “education tax credits.” Typically, words such as “taxes” and “IRS” are avoided unless speaking directly to a tax professional, but bringing awareness of the terms is crucial to helping families and educators learn about the benefits they offer.

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Character in Admission: Free Resources Available


“She’s quite a character.” “He’s a character actor.” “They are people of good character.”

We throw the word character around a lot, but what does it really mean? For the Character Collaborative—an organization of about 70 schools and colleges, as well as counselors, researchers, and associations committed to elevating attributes of character in the school and college admission process—character suggests features that distinguish an individual.

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Plan Ahead to Make College Affordable


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


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?


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


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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