Applying for financial aid can be a complicated task that requires significant time and effort for students and their families. According to recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics, although 65 percent of students who were high school freshmen in 2009 ultimately reported completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), 24 percent did not. Those who did not submit a FAFSA cited lack of awareness, lack of understanding of FAFSA requirements, and lack of time as barriers to completion.
On Sept. 17, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing titled “Time to Finish Fixing the FAFSA.” Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and ranking member Patty Murray (D-WA) have both sponsored FAFSA simplification legislation.
In times of great crisis, America has depended on higher education to help bring stability to the nation. The Morrill Act of 1862, which established land grant colleges, was enacted during the Civil War. Decades later, Congress passed the G.I. Bill to assist World War II servicemen.
A panel of US college presidents told attendees at this week’s 2020 NACAC Virtual Conference that universities can play a similar role amid the coronavirus crisis. But colleges must adapt, and state and federal dollars are necessary to reach all those in need of support.
“In every moment of great strife and challenge in our nation…America leaned back into educating its citizens and used higher education as a force for good and a force for change,” said Daniel G. Lugo, president of Queens University of Charlotte (NC). “It is important that we not cede ground on what is right about us because, if we do that, we’ll never ever, ever get state governments or the federal government to think of us as a place to make more equitable investments.”
“…We do need to improve, we do need to be more self-conscious and aware,” Lugo added during the discussion, which was moderated by education journalist and author Jeff Selingo. “But too often we cede ground on how good we actually are.”
The work of colleges and universities has never been more urgent, education leader Michael Sorrell told attendees Thursday at the 2020 NACAC Virtual Conference.
In these unprecedented times, higher education institutions have a duty to both students and democratic society, said Sorrell, president of Paul Quinn College (TX). History will judge the ways in which US colleges respond to the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s continued shameful treatment of Black people, and the actions of the current presidential administration, Sorrell said at the conference’s closing session.
He urged attendees to look at what their institution could do differently in this time crisis, which has hit minorities particularly hard.
“I am an advocate of higher education, but I’m also critical of it,” said Sorrell. “I don’t think we’ve done enough, and I don’t think we are who we need to be. If we are honest, we produced the people who produced this moment. We need to fix it.”
Want to make life better for students (and your institution) amid the pandemic?
Speakers featured during a panel discussion on politics, government, and higher education at this week’s 2020 NACAC Virtual Conference offered two suggestions.
Pick up the phone.
“These are very tough times we are living in,” Paul Mounds, chief of staff for the governor of Connecticut, told attendees. “…This is not the time to be shy about your financial situation. This is not the time to be shy about the situations facing your students…Government needs to hear directly from you.”
Funding formulas, testing policies, and recruitment and retention strategies are just some of the areas that must be addressed by schools, colleges, and communities seeking equity and access for all students, celebrated antiracist scholar Ibram X. Kendi told attendees Tuesday at the 2020 NACAC Virtual Conference.
Racism is embedded throughout American society, he said. Dismantling such systemic injustice will require persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination.
“You can’t declare one day: I am antiracist,” said Kendi, bestselling author of How to be an Antiracist and other books examining race in America. “But you can say, I’m striving to be. You can say, I’m going to go on that journey.”
If US higher education is to survive, it must refocus its efforts and prioritize students, NACAC CEO Angel B. Pérez said Tuesday in remarks at the 2020 NACAC Virtual Conference.
Like many sectors of the US economy, the admission profession has felt the effects of the coronavirus crisis on its institutional budgets, Pérez noted. But those concerns are secondary when compared to the larger crisis looming for higher ed, he said.
“While we all understandably worry about our schools and our institutions, we have to remember that without students, nothing else in the educational endeavor matters,” Pérez said in his first keynote address as the association’s chief executive officer. “…As we move away from enforcing a code of ethics, NACAC will act publicly and with determination when policy or practice threatens to cause harm to or perpetuate inequities among students.”
As a former high school counselor, I know the start of a new school year is exciting. The journey toward college and the future can, however, cause some apprehension under the best of circumstances. This year, with all the unknowns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, there is a heightened sense of anxiety among juniors and seniors especially. But if you and your family are healthy, there are things you can do to relieve some stress and still propel yourself toward your post-graduation goals.
COVID-19 has set back the financial situations of many college students and created a tough learning environment for everyone. There’s been a lot of media attention highlighting that students can request more aid if their financial circumstances change.
So what’s the deal? Yes, you can appeal your financial aid.
During this global crisis, many students already are facing significant economic hardships and challenges and need additional financial aid to stay in school. Let your college know how you’ve been affected by filing a “special circumstance appeal” to communicate a job loss or significant change in financial situation. You can also request support for dependent care, child care, or disability-related expenses.
How can college admission professionals help students who have a disability transition to college? How can students advocate for themselves to access the resources they need?
View a transcript of our most recent #NACACchat. Special guests included Jill Corbin, director of college and transition counseling at Denver Academy and NACAC Learning Differences Special Interest Group leader; Annie Tulkin, founder and director of Accessible College, where she provides college transition support for students with physical disabilities and health conditions nationally; and Elizabeth C. Hamblet, college learning disabilities specialist at LDadvisory, which provides advice on college topics for students with learning disabilities or ADHD.