Annual Meeting Insights: Financial Aid Issues

August 23, 2013
  • AACRAO Connect
  • International Admissions and Credential Evaluation

Financial Aid for Registrars and Admissions Officers

In a time when increasing numbers of students are turning toward financial aid to cover the cost of rising college tuition, understanding aid is more critical than ever.
Jennifer Hoege and Bill Dougherty, Director and Manager respectively for Madison Area Technical College, implored a large audience comprised of registrars and admissions officers to better understand the more technical aspects of aid in order to better serve their students.

The presenters began by familiarizing the audience with different types of financial aid and frequently-used acronyms: Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP), the Student Award Report (SAR), the award year policy, PELL, PERKINS, and many others. As the presentation progressed, it became apparent that nearly every student happening influences financial aid, and needs to be recorded and shared.
 
The session highlighted the need for registrars to record and share, among other things, student grades (and when they are due); the date of final attendance or the graduation date; and if transfer credits are present in the transcript. Admissions officers need to ensure new or changed programs are eligible for financial aid based on their credit requirements; if a program has been discontinued; and that the final high school transcript has been received.
 
The presentation ended with a look towards the future. As non-traditional classes and study abroad programs become more prevalent in student curricula, admissions and registrar teams will need to work closely with the financial aid department to maintain student satisfaction and accurate reporting disbursement.

Increasing Student Loan Debt: Learning from the Past and Present to Address the Future 

From the Indiana Commission on Higher Education down to local student activists, Indiana University (IU) has experienced pressure as of late to keep tuition flat or at a minimum. IU’s David Johnson, Vice Provost for Enrollment Management, and Roy Durnal, Director of the Student Services Center, helped finish the Annual Meeting in San Francisco with a thought-provoking and substantive study of how one school has responded to this pressure by developing actionable solutions to tackle the rising costs of higher education.
 
Current budgetary constraints make lowering or freezing tuition untenable at most institutions, and so student loans have become unavoidable. Understanding the consequences of taking those loans out, and how to effectively manage them, became a key point in IU policy. Personnel in relevant departments, such as in the Student Service Center, earned certificates in financial management and then created a multi-faceted financial literacy campaign.
 
The session discussed IU’s current and upcoming initiatives, such as their literacy website, student workshops, a required online tutorial, one-credit courses in finance offered by the business school, and peer-to-peer advising. To promote departmental collaboration, the Office of Enrollment Management also leveraged merit- and need-based aid, in addition to a new, carefully managed summer program, where students may take classes with a 25% tuition discount.

Live Like a Student Now: A Financial Aid Literacy Campaign Case Study
 
Julie Selander from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities opened her session on financial aid literacy at AACRAO’s Annual Meeting with sobering statistics on the modern student. An Inceptia survey noted that 70% of polled students said they have or will use loans to pay for school. A separate study by the Jump$tart Coalition demonstrated that between 1997 and 2008, there was a nearly 10 percent drop in financial aid literacy rates among incoming students. Thus stated, the argument for a campaign to inform these students is compelling.
 
In 2009, the University of Minnesota’s One stop Student Services and Office of Student Finance worked to develop a simple, consistent, and engaging message. The result was “Live Like a Student Now so You Don’t Have to Later,” or simply LLAS. The campaign is focused on building awareness of smart-money decisions in a typical student’s day-to-day life through traditional messaging, social media, and other platforms.
 
The LLAS campaign extends to events at the Freshmen Welcome Week and exit interviews for outgoing seniors. While the exit interviews were a longstanding and beneficial practice, the welcome week events have had lots of success; 70% of students polled after the literacy events agreed or strongly agreed that the information presented helped them think more critically about money.

By: AACRAO Connect