Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Bottom Line? Tell Colleges What You Need.

Many colleges reinstated May 1 as the deadline for newly admitted applicants to declare that they will enroll and submit deposits. But as that deadline has come and gone, students still have time to appeal to a college for more financial aid, if they need to.

It is not too late.  Trust me.

Last year, in the depths of pandemic uncertainty, many colleges extended their traditional deposit deadlines by a month or more to give students and families more time to assess their financial situation and consider options. This year, many colleges have reverted to May 1 (or in many cases, beyond) since the first of the month falls on a weekend — as “decision day."

If your decision depends on the financial aid offer, you can still ask for a review of your aid package, especially if your finances have changed. Often, schools can render decisions within a few days.  And some institutions may even extend your deposit deadline, if you ask.  
Colleges are keenly aware that families may require flexibility.

One big factor this year is that the Free Application for Federal Student Aid — the gateway to federal as well as state and much institutional financial help, known as FAFSA — required students to report financial information from 2019. So families that fell on hard times during the pandemic may find their aid offers don’t reflect their true situation.

If the pandemic has caused a significant decline in income, a job loss or added medical expenses, you should let the school know.  College financial aid officials have discretion to use “professional judgment” to increase aid if a student’s circumstances have changed. Many students are unaware that they can appeal aid offers, but it’s a rather common practice.


FormSwift, a digital document company, has created SwiftStudent, a free tool to help students file appeals. The foundation sought advice from colleges and financial aid professionals to design the tool.  It explains the appeals process and provides templates that students can use to write letters to submit to their colleges.  Its absolutely brilliant and I cannot recommend utilizing it if needed, enough.  
It allows and empowers students to advocate for themselves.

This year, it’s particularly important for students and parents to know they can file an appeal, and that it’s not an unusual step.

In a survey last fall, college financial aid counselors reported “notable” increases in requests for professional judgment reviews, according to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. The group will conduct another survey next month to update its findings.

Here are some questions and answers about financial aid:

I’m confused by my aid letters. How can I make sure I am correctly comparing offers?

Colleges are encouraged to use standard formats for aid letters and avoid jargon, but not all do. Be careful to distinguish between “gift” aid, like grants and scholarships, which doesn’t have to be repaid, and loans, which do. Subtract the gift aid from the college’s cost of attendance — the total cost of tuition, housing, meals, books and supplies — to get a net price. Do this for each school before considering how much of the cost you can cover from savings and earnings, and how much you would have to borrow to cover any shortfall.

A nonprofit group that works to help students afford college with less debt, uAspire, created a free online cost calculator to help applicants make “apples to apples” comparisons of aid offers. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also offers an online tool to compare offers, and the Institute for College Access & Success offers a tip sheet.

And remember: You aren’t obligated to borrow all, or any, of the loans that are included in your aid letter.  In fact, try to utilize as little loan funding as possible, opting for Federal over Private.  On the other hand, some colleges may not include the maximum amount of federal student loans for which you are eligible. So if you think you may need to borrow more, call the financial aid office to discuss your situation.

What documentation do I need when making a financial aid appeal?

Colleges vary in how they evaluate an appeal. But gather anything that shows reduced hours or wages, like letters from employers, pay stubs or unemployment records, as well as medical bills, to help make your case.

Can I make an enrollment deposit at more than one college?

Colleges frown on this practice since you ultimately can’t attend more than one college, and making two deposits means another student — one on the wait list, or a late applicant — won’t be offered a spot. It also works against less affluent applicants, who may be unable to afford more than one deposit. Generally, Admissions Representatives will try to discourage this.

While it was possible that a school could rescind an offer of admission for violating the terms of the deposit agreement, it might be difficult for the college to know that a student has submitted multiple deposits.

(It’s generally deemed reasonable if students are on a wait list for one college and make a deposit at a second college in case the first institution never accepts them.)

Students and their families may be torn, however, given the unusual circumstances of the pandemic.

However if students were unable to visit a campus because of Covid-19 restrictions and want to see it in person before committing, he said, they may decide to make two deposits to hold their spots before choosing.

The downside? Deposits, often as much as $500, are typically nonrefundable. Plus, according to the College Board, which administers the S.A.T. and other college tests, some colleges reserve the right to rescind an offer of admission if they discover that a student has made a double deposit.

Another option is to contact the college, explain your situation and request more time.  Students should be honest and direct and ask for what you need.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

New Community Partnerships

On behalf of A+ FC&L, I am extremely delighted to announce two major partnerships with two tremendous members of the Upstate South Carolina Community.


First, Shriners Hospital for Children in Greenville.  I have had the opportunity to partner with their Philanthropy and Volunteer Groups and have been asked to join their Financial Literacy Program for Families.  This I believe will allow me to broaden my counseling to include Medical bills, cost of care and balancing family budgets.  I am extremely excited about this new venture and am honored to be added to their team!

Secondly, I have agreed to a partnership with Concord Baptist Church in Anderson, SC.  As a member of their panel of Youth Athletics, they have looked to expand my role in offering Literacy Sessions for High School Juniors and Seniors and their families preparing for college. (Just as a quick side note, A+ FC&L has and remains to be a secular organization.  I do indeed have many strong partnerships with many wonderful churches and religious affiliated groups; however our relationships are strictly on a professional/service-based level.)


In this difficult year, I am so very excited to be able to make these announcements as although we have been shackled at times during the pandemic, the importance of good financial sense never really takes a back seat.

More to come as events are solidified!

Sunday, February 7, 2021

February Is Financial Aid Awareness Month...And I Am Back!!!

Where does one even start when describing the past year? Early February of 2020, COVID-19 was still a "China" problem with most reports and news coming out of Wuhan and surrounding areas. Little did most of us know that a month later, society as we knew it in America would for all intents and purposes be shut down.

Its a fairly safe assumption to say that close to, if not exactly 100%, of our nation's citizens have been affected in some capacity; some more so than others. Casualties not only include death tolls, but jobs lost, school days missed, mental health challenges, financial uncertainties …the list goes on. It has been so very difficult.

I cannot speak for anyone else, but A+ has been severely impacted by Covid; as the majority of my contacts and clients are originated through public gatherings in the community and at schools. Needless to say, both avenues have presented numerous roadblocks. However, I have continued to work with many families and students over the past 11 months, and have found that they have been more at ease and accommodating than I have. I believe it was this fear of being asymptomatic and passing it along to an unsuspecting client/family.

Fortunately this has not been the case and my personal face-to-face interaction has been extremely limited, opting for more virtual routes.


But, I am here to announce that at long last, just shy of one year, I will be holding THREE in-person Financial Aid Counseling sessions! I am so excited and absolutely terrified at the same time! Not so much of the virus, rather my ability to multitask the Aid process!


The come-and-go sessions will be held at The Powdersville Public Library located at 4 Civic Ct., Powdersville SC 29642. There is quick on/off access to both I-85 N and S.

The times and dates are follows:
  •    Tuesday February 23, 3pm-8pm.
  •    Thursday February 25, 3pm-8pm.
  •    Saturday, February 27, 10am- 3pm.


I have reached out to my contacts at most Upstate High Schools regarding the events. Anderson, Oconee, Pickens, Greenville and Spartanburg County students should also be receiving a follow up email. Please DO NOT contact the Library for information. Please reach me here or at (864) 593-0010.

Myself and two colleagues will be available to assist with submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and scholarship applications. Reservations are not required, and students should bring their (and parent if applicable) 2019 income tax information with them.

During the event, prospective students can apply for admission to ALL SOUTH CAROLINA TECHNICAL SCHOOLS discounted at $30, and get assistance with financial aid applications. Participants will receive a will be scheduled for a future advising appointment.

Health and safety guidelines will be followed, with face coverings and 6 feet of physical distancing required, room occupancy monitored, and rooms sanitized frequently. Admission will not be allowed without face masks per State and County guidelines.

We will be ordering pizza for the evening sessions so if mom and dad have to come straight from work we got you covered!

I am beyond thrilled to have this opportunity and thank the County of Anderson (SC) to once again have access to the Powdersville Public Library where I have had so many successful sessions over the years!

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

UPDATE: Second Coronavirus Relief Package NOT Extending Student Loan Forbearance


At long last, Monday, Congress approved a second coronavirus relief package that includes $600 stimulus checks for many individuals — but no additional student loan forbearance for borrowers.

Back in March, the CARES Act paused federal student loan payments and interest, giving many borrowers a break. Earlier this month, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos extended that forbearance through January 31, 2021.

The new stimulus deal doesn't offer any additional extensions on student loan forbearance, but the current expiration date leaves enough time for President-elect Joe Biden's team to take over in January 2021 and offer additional relief.

When will student loan payments restart?

As of now, student loan repayment is expected to restart after January 31, 2021, meaning no payments will be due and no interest will accrue until that date. For those on income-driven repayment plans, each month of forbearance counts towards the number of payments required for forgiveness.

This forbearance only applies to federal student loans, though some private student loan lenders have offered assistance to affected borrowers on a case-by-case basis. 

What's in the bill for borrowers?

While the new economic relief bill didn't extend forbearance, there are some provisions students and borrowers should be aware of.

The bill makes changes to the federal Pell Grant program for the 2021-2022 school year, allowing a maximum grant amount of $5,435 per student, per year which I will go into further a bit later. 

It also expands a lesser-known benefit of the CARES Act: a tax break for employers that help employees repay student loans up to $5,250 per year of educational assistance.

The CARES Act changed a section of tax code providing a tax break for employers that give educational assistance to employees, adding student loan repayment to that definition. The new stimulus deal extends eligibility for this program through January 1, 2026. Only 8% of employers offered this assistance in 2019, according to data from Society for Human Resource Management, but this extension could increase that figure, the group says.

Will the Biden administration extend student loan forbearance?

President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on January 21, 2021 could bring additional relief: Biden has discussed student loan forgiveness, and has recommended giving student loan borrowers $10,000 for coronavirus relief. However, it's unclear what the incoming administration will do once in office, and what Congress will agree to.  It is fairly safe to say at the very least, the forbearance will be pushed far past the current January 31 deadline.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Student Loan Relief Pushed out to January 31, Likely Longer


With little to no surprise, individuals with student loans will get another month of relief after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos extended the pause on student loan payments through January 31.

Borrowers haven't had to make payments since March, but the relief was set to expire on December 31. DeVos also extended the pause of interest accrual, as well as the suspension of collections on defaulted loans.

In an unprecedented move, President Donald Trump originally waived interest on student loans in March as large parts of the economy began to shut down in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

A broader version of student loan relief was included in the $2 trillion economic stimulus package signed into law two weeks later. Under the program, the US government automatically suspended payments and waived interest on federal student loans through September. Trump later moved the expiration date to the end of the year by executive action.

Congress has yet to approve more pandemic aid despite months-long negotiations over another broad stimulus package, but with the Christmas/ New Year Holiday Break looming, it appears that this will not happen before the end of the calendar year. 

A bipartisan proposal unveiled last week included a provision to continue the pause on student loan payments. However, negotiators still have quite a bit of work to do and the deadline is quickly approaching. It's likely that Congress will extend the relief past January 31. President-elect Joe Biden could also push back the deadline with an executive action, which almost seems a 100% certainty given his promises of eliminating student loan debt entirely.

The suspension and interest waiver applies only to federally held loans. That covers roughly 85% of all federal student loans, including those known as Direct federal loans and PLUS loans that parents can take out on behalf of their children.

It excludes some federal loans that are guaranteed by the government but not technically held by it. Generally, those were disbursed prior to 2010.

While borrowers won't have to make payments through January 31, they will continue to be able to do so and benefit from the 0% interest rate. If you have the means, this is an excellent time to keep paying on these loans.  Think of "0% financing on a new car," for example.

Those enrolled in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness payment plan will still receive credit toward the forgiveness program as if they had continued paying, as long as they are still working full time for qualifying employers.

More as this develops.  I hope you are all well.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Will President-Elect Biden Be Able To Deliver On His Student Loan Forgiveness Proposal?

On the campaign trail, President-elect Joe Biden was called "the most progressive nominee in history." One of his policies that led to that description was his call for student debt forgiveness.

Now that he's been elected, the 42 million Americans with education loans may be wondering: Will it really happen?

To begin, what Biden proposed was a scaled-down version of the debt forgiveness plans that his rivals to the left in the Democratic primary campaigned on. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., wanted to cancel up to $50,000 in student debt for individuals with household incomes under $100,000. Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., had said he'd erase all of the country's outstanding education debt.

Biden laid out a narrower plan, saying he would forgive $10,000 in student debt for all borrowers, and the rest of the debt for those who attended public colleges or historically Black colleges and universities and earn less than $125,000 a year.

In all, that would slash the country's $1.6 trillion outstanding student loan tab by about a third.

Despite campaign promises, education issues are usually not a top priority for new presidents, especially with the raging Covid pandemic. That might be different for Biden, though; his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, is an educator and the student vote helped elect him.


Student debt burdens Americans more than credit card or auto debt, and more than 1 in 4 borrowers are either in delinquency or default. More than half of Americans say student debt is "a major problem" for the country, according to a Politico/Morning Consult poll. And one survey found that 58% of registered voters are in support of student loan forgiveness.

Still, the chance of passing legislation that would lower or eliminate people's balances depends on the composition of the Senate, which is still in the balance.

However, if the Democrats win both run-off Senate races in Georgia, there's the possibility that Biden could use a so-called budget reconciliation bill, which aims to cut the federal deficit, to couple student loan forgiveness with tax cuts.

A split Congress will make it more difficult to make the forgiveness a reality, as Republicans generally oppose the idea. Even if Democrats secure a majority, Republicans may use the filibuster to block bills.

Can a president forgive student debt without Congress?

There's a growing argument among the left that he or she can, and on the campaign trail Warren said she'd do just that

Biden, however, hasn't signaled whether or not he would pursue that route.  Undoubtedly frustrating of course, as this appears to be more lip service provided by a politician catering to his support base.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

How To Maximize Your Financial Aid Package During The Pandemic


Now that the majority of Fall starts have gone official, whether in person or virtual; please keep in mind it is NOT too late to appeal your Financial Aid Award. You will want to check in with your individual institution's Financial Aid Office(s) for exact procedures.

In the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, many American families are under severe financial strain. Meanwhile, others are also facing a $40,000 college tuition bill. Nearly 40% of parents who didn't plan to apply for federal aid, now are as a result of the pandemic, according to a recent survey by Discover Student Loans.

Roughly half of parents lost income as a result of the pandemic and 44% said they can't afford to pay for as much of their child's education as they had originally planned, the survey found.

At the same time, college costs are skyrocketing.

Tuition and fees plus room and board for a four-year private college averaged $49,870 in the 2019-20 school year; at four-year, in-state public colleges, it was $21,950, according to the College Board.
For the first time in five years, the majority of college-bound seniors plan to take out a loan. This percentage had been declining steadily before spiking in 2020, according to a separate survey by college comparison site Niche.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, serves as the gateway to all federal money, including loans, work-study, and grants, which are the most desirable kind of assistance. For the 2021-2022 school year, the FAFSA filing season opened October 1 — and, for the most part, the sooner you file, the better.

Some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, or from programs with limited funds. The earlier families fill out the FAFSA, the better the chance to be in line for that aid.  Given the weight of this year's uncertainties, it's critical that families apply as early as possible when the application becomes available.

Some careful financial planning may improve your overall standing.

For starters, families might be able to boost their chances by considering how their assets will be measured in aid calculations.

For example, if you have credit card debt and cash in the bank, it is better to pay down the debt and show less cash on hand. (Most types of debt, including credit-card debt, car loans and the mortgage on your primary residence, are not reported on FAFSA and as a result don't reduce your family's net worth in aid calculations.)  You want to apply when you demonstrate the most need.

In addition, keep in mind that financial aid is calculated based on a family's income from two years earlier. So, if you're filling out the FAFSA for the 2021-2022 academic year this October, it's your income in 2019 that's considered.

Those figures could be significantly larger than the reality many people are facing today due to the pandemic.

Families who have experienced a financial shock due to Covid-19 should reach out to the college financial aid office and ask for a "special circumstances" form to account for any changes in 2020, such as a job loss or furlough.  (I also have a very helpful guide to Special Circumstance Award Requests which is available by request via PowerPoint.)

In previous "ordinary" years, high school graduates miss out on billions in federal grants because they don't fill out the FAFSA. Many families mistakenly assume they won't qualify for financial aid and don't even bother to apply.

This year, schools have increased their aid budgets and there are many people previously might not have qualified in the past that could still get aid.

In other words, 2020 is a buyer's market.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Students and Financial Literacy with Annuity.org

Occasionally my partners will reach out with a new article, or post, or blog entry with relevant information to the A+ program.  The good folks over at Annuity.org presented me with an absolutely exceptional piece authored by Catherine J. Byerly, one of their talented Staff Writers.

Much of the information may look familiar from topics I have discussed here or in person, but I always welcome relevant articles from different sources as they may offer some tips, calculators, charts, etc. that I may have not covered.

Please feel free to give it a read, there could very well be something in there that answers some questions you may have had about Financial Aid Literacy.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Financial Aid 101: "Boot Camp" Sessions

It would be amiss for me to sit here and write that the beginning of the 2020-2021 may be the strangest in a century.  Over the last 7 or so months, students, families, faculty and administration have absolutely scrambled from Kindergarten to Doctoral Programs, from Maine to Arizona, in the wake of COVID-19.  And all of you are to be commended.  There really is no precedent for this, and I believe when most schools closed Mid-March, it was the right thing to do with the information deans, principals and municipalities had at the time.

I know many of you are back today in person, many of you are virtual, many hybrid, and sadly a handful already sent home.


For my High School audience, I will soon be contacting my companion schools and districts as each has their own policies currently regarding gatherings and outside visitors.  In my opinion, nothing tops actual in-person counseling.  However, given the circumstances, I may look to set up a Virtual-style "Boot Camp" counseling session.  I cant believe it but the 2021-2022 FAFSA is set to go live in three weeks!  (More on that to come...)  Needless to say there is more confusion than ever and many Financial Aid staff have been furloughed across the country; so I am aiming for an outlet to make my services available.

I have recently spoken to a Superintendent of a District near my residence in Anderson County, SC with whom I am friendly, and he informed me that the only constant right now is change, and I completely acknowledge that.

Hopefully within the next 30 days I will begin to piece together a Virtual Counseling Session, and even more hopefully as the academic year progresses, revert back to my in-person module.

Again, welcome back and stay safe!

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Latest Updates on CARES Act- Extended to December 31, 2020.


On March 20, 2020, the Secretary of Education directed the office of Federal Student Aid to provide the following relief on Federal Direct student loans:

  • suspend loan payments

  • stop collections on defaulted loans

  • set interest rates to 0% for a period of 60 days

On March 27, 2020, Congress passed, and the president signed into law, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which provides for the above relief measures through September 30, 2020. 

On Aug. 8, 2020, President Trump directed the Secretary to continue to suspend loan payments, stop collections, and waive interest on ED-held student loans until Dec. 31, 2020.

As you all know, things quite literally are changing by the day.  What was in place last month may not be next month.  Please, if you have any loans in deferment or forbearance and you're unsure how to proceed, please contact me.  If you feel comfortable communicating with your lender, by all means, I encourage correspondence with them.

Also, The Department of Education has a very helpful Q&A page where you may be able to find exactly what it is you are looking for HERE.

Please do not sleep on this!  This has been a great reprieve for many, but failure to ensure your Federal Loans are in good standing going forward could prove costly. It is your responsibility to follow up! 

I hope everyone is well and please continue to stay safe!

Monday, July 27, 2020

How To Build Credit As A College Student- Bankrate.com


Hello all!  My friends over at BankRate.com recently published a really helpful article discussing the importance of building to build a strong credit foundation (outside of student loans) while you are in college.  I have discussed this here on the site previously, and is a huge piece of my Dollar Camp Program; but they offer some additional insight such as: Opening a Student-Level credit card, not applying for too many at one time, looking to obtain a co-signer and a bunch of great responsibility tips.

Check it out.  There's some really great literacy in the piece.  I know that some of you I have spoken with will be taking a hiatus this Fall, but as a side note please remember to be mindful of any outstanding loans as they will go into repayment 6 months after your LDA (Last Date of Attendence.)  So for instance if your last day was May 15, you're looking at mid- November.  Please contact your lender regarding deferment and forbearance options!

Stay safe!

Sunday, July 19, 2020

2020 George M. and Margaret E. Bullinger Memorial Scholarship Award Winner Announced

It is with tremendous humility and honor that I have selected a recipient for this year's George M. and Margaret E. Bullinger Memorial Scholarship to Ms. Tamika Henry of D.W. Daniel High School (Central, SC.).

Tamika was Highest Honors in her 2020 Graduating Class and will be attending Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC. this Fall. Ms. Henry was a standout student in academic achievement, extracurricular and community awareness and participation. She also was a participant in Varsity Cross Country and Track and Field.

Tamika was one of  my early clients this year before COVID-19 began to upend things. She presented me with an essay on the debate of distance learning versus on-campus during the pandemic which was incredibly poignant.

Congratulations, Tamika!  We wish you all the best at Winthrop and it was my pleasure working with you and your Family! Things may be a bit upside-down at first, but I promise you, and others like you, will lead the way through it!

The George M. and Margaret E. Bullinger Memorial Scholarship was presented to my group 3 years ago as a single $1000 annual award which students can apply to the cost of education-related expenses as they deem fit.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Covid-19 Related Decline in FAFSA Completion = Lower Fall Attendance?


When many High School Juniors started applying to college last fall, they're not sure how they are going to pay for it. The first step? Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). In many Districts it is a requirement not only to get money for college but also to earn their high school diploma.

Three years ago, Val Verde Unified (California), became the first to make completion of a financial aid application — either the FAFSA or California Dream Act Application — a graduation requirement. In the first year of implementation, the district’s financial aid completion rate rose significantly, from 69 percent to 83 percent. College enrollment rates went up too, from 56 percent in 2017 to 61 percent in 2018.

Val Verde isn’t alone. Across the country, a growing number of districts and states are considering similar mandates due to the strong correlation between completing the FAFSA and starting college immediately after high school.

Traditionally, students don’t fill out financial aid forms for a number of reasons: because they believe they’re ineligible, they find the application confusing, they don’t have support at school or at home or, for undocumented students, they are worried about sharing personal information for fear of deportation. But nationally, students who complete financial aid applications are 82 percent more likely to go straight on to higher education than their peers who don’t finish the forms. That number jumps to 127 percent for students from the lowest-income backgrounds, according to the National College Attainment Network.

In the first year after Louisiana mandated FAFSA completion — the first state to do so — its overall rate topped 77 percent, compared with less than 70 percent nationally. In both 2018 and 2019, Louisiana had the highest FAFSA completion rate in the United States, and a record number of high school seniors went to college immediately after high school in 2018 — almost 1,600 more than the year before.

Integrating financial aid applications into high school really normalizes the experience of application completion for students so that it becomes a standard rather than an afterthought.

However, the coronavirus is undermining those efforts. Since schools nationwide shut down in mid-March, there has been a 3.3 percent decline in FAFSA completion among high school seniors compared with the same time last year.

This means fewer members of the Class of 2020 will likely go to college next fall because of the pandemic. This isn’t just a numbers game. Every one of those FAFSA completions that doesn’t get done by the end of this cycle represents a student potentially leaving money on the table that would help them finance postsecondary education.

The same thing is happening among those currently enrolled in college. Compared with last year, some 250,000 fewer low-income college students have renewed their FAFSA, and overall renewals have declined about 5 percent, representing more than 350,000 students. Between March 15 and April 30, nearly 17 percent fewer returning Pell-eligible students filed FAFSA renewals compared with the same time last year. The number was down almost 20 percent among students with incomes of less than $25,000.

More Numbers

As of May 8, more than 66,000 fewer high school seniors had completed the application than the year before, leaving approximately $105 million in unallocated Pell Grants unclaimed. In Louisiana, about 2,900 fewer students have completed the FAFSA than last year — a more than 8 percent drop. At a time when students aren’t even sure they’ll be able to finish their senior year classes, Louisiana has waived the FAFSA graduation requirement for the Class of 2020.

Administrators know how strongly associated FAFSA completion is with immediate postsecondary enrollment after graduation. So where there are declines in FAFSA completion, one would also anticipate seeing plans change for the fall.

Even students who have completed the FAFSA may not enroll, given the uncertainty about what college will look like in the fall. A recent survey predicted a 20 percent decline in fall enrollment. Another study found that more than half of students were concerned that college enrollment might be delayed due to the coronavirus.

FAFSA completion rates have dropped even more steeply for students who attend high schools where at least 40 percent of students come from low-income families, and for those in rural areas.

It’s students at those schools who most often benefit from completing their FAFSA because it opens them up to things like the Pell Grant and other forms of federal and state aid.

FAFSA completion rates are down because students lack access to the internet at home to complete the process; because school counselors, who would normally help out, have lost touch with seniors or have trouble reaching them; and because, with the economic downturn, some families now need their children to contribute to the household income.

Many students need to work to help their families catch up on bills and assist their parents with providing basic needs, so not enrolling into a college for a year is their only option. The college process is already stressful for first-generation college students, and what they are experiencing now only continues to add to their list of fears and reasons not to attend. As a counselor myself, I along with my peers are attempting to balance supporting their basic and emotional needs while trying to inspire them so they don’t give up on the college dream they have worked so hard to achieve.

Low-Income Students Most Affected

The decline in FAFSA completion is most likely hitting these students harder than their higher-income peers. Community colleges have later deadlines, and research shows that students from the lowest-income backgrounds, likely bound for two-year schools, file later than those who are wealthier and plan on attending four-year colleges.

In Texas and California, two of only a handful of states where FAFSA completion rates are up — though all those gains were made prior to mid-March — educators are struggling to guide students through the process from afar. Filing the FAFSA is challenging by itself, they say, and now nearly impossible with schools closed due to the coronavirus.

One estimate out of Dallas, Texas showed that 30 percent of 3,000 seniors have been asked to complete a FAFSA verification process that requires students to submit documentation to confirm the accuracy of their information. The vast majority of them are low-income.

It’s not the family that has a two W-2’s and can use the IRS data retrieval tool, for instance...the cookie-cutter clean easy verifications; rather it's families that have complicated situations or have their own businesses where they show a very low Adjusted Gross Income.

FAFSA completion is particularly burdensome for undocumented students or those whose families have mixed immigration status. According to the Pew Research Center, 13.4 percent of students in Texas and 12.3 percent of students in California have at least one parent who is undocumented.

Parents who don’t have a Social Security number cannot sign their children’s FAFSA application electronically because it is required to get a PIN number.

They instead have to print out a signature page, sign it and mail it to the Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid. Many students struggle with just having technology and Wi-Fi at home, let alone a printer.

Districts are having students upload a PDF signature page to a secure portal, printing it out for them, and then mailing the signature page along with a stamped envelope back to students so their parents can sign and mail it in. A process that should just take a few minutes is now at least two weeks for the lowest-income families nationwide. I worry for the students who do not have a counselor that can provide this type of support.

Next year, Illinois and Texas will follow in Louisiana’s footsteps, requiring all graduating seniors to complete the FAFSA, or the state equivalent, starting in 2020-21. California, Michigan, Washington, D.C., and Indiana have been considering similar requirements. Several California districts have followed Val Verde’s lead and require it at the local level. Other states, including Tennessee (currently No. 1 in FAFSA completion), haven’t mandated it for graduation but do require it to access state aid programs.

Better-Informed Families

I believe the concept of the financial aid requirement is that it has raised awareness of college affordability. There are certainly a lot more conversations and presentations about financial aid with families, whereas previously the turnout would be a lot lower because it wasn’t required. Now, parents and students are far more informed about how to pay for college.

The financial aid requirement has been most helpful for students who plan to attend two-year schools. I personally have seen an increase in the number who enroll directly in community college without taking significant time off after high school. The students that would have gone to four-year schools would have typically done the FAFSA anyway.

For many students it is actually exciting. College is very expensive, and knowing that filling out the FAFSA helps to create a pathway for to afford college. Having resources from administrators really does help students out in most instances, especially first-generation students.

Critics of the mandate are concerned it might prevent students from graduating, but advocates point to an opt-out process for families who can’t or don’t want to provide financial information.

When you do it, you’re going to spend a lot of time chasing a metric that’s going to take time away from students who need access to quality college advising. There is a lot of focus on pressing ‘submit’ and no focus whatsoever on what happens once you press it.

And as someone who is responsible for guiding students through that process and knowing the amount of time that it takes, I am concerned about the allocation of further resources and significant professional development for people who are responsible for this.

School leaders who have experience with the mandate say support for counselors is essential, as are other efforts to promote college readiness. Many Directors and Lead Administrators say they involve administrators, teachers, student government leaders and community partners to make sure the initiative is successful and doesn’t overwhelm counselors. They also bring in an immigration attorney to speak with families concerned about implications for their status.

Education leaders are also experimenting with other initiatives in light of the nationwide decline. For example, former U.S. education secretary Arne Duncan has teamed up with the nonprofit Chiefs for Change and the data management firm Data Insight Partners to launch a competition, challenging 20 school districts to boost FAFSA completion rates. School and district progress will be tracked on a digital platform.

In some states, legislation requiring FAFSA for graduation stalled earlier this year, but advocates are still hopeful they will eventually pass. Students and parents will need this support and assistance more than ever to help make postsecondary education attainable. We are already hearing warnings from the nation’s financial aid administrators that coronavirus could severely impact applications — the impact on our undocumented/mixed-status families will be even greater — so this proposal is even more necessary.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Remote Counseling

Hello all!  I am hoping everyone is well and hanging in there.  My heart goes out to so many of
the Graduating Seniors I have worked with this year!!! I know it must be difficult as sports, proms and other events were cancelled.

I promise you though, so many great times lie ahead of you, and I know I always tell that you have youth on your side, and I wholeheartedly mean that!  Also, Freshman and Sophomores I have worked with previously with the vast amount of uncertainty with refunds from the Spring Term, and uncertainty for Summer and possibly Fall.

First, I definitely suggest maintaining a strong communication bridge with your school's Financial Aid Office.  Many of them are working remotely, but I ensure that they continue to service their students.  As for calls I have gotten, I am certainly still here for you.  Call, email, text, Zoom, FaceTime, Skype and Join.Me.  I have utilized all of these outlets and am able to accomplish pretty much everything short of shaking your hand (can we even do that anymore?)!

So reach out, let me know how I can help.  Otherwise, stay safe, mind both your physical and emotional well-being and know we are going to get through this!!

Friday, March 27, 2020

$2 Trillion Stimulus Package and Delayed Student Loan Payments

In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, millions of Americans are also worrying about how they’ll pay the bills. This week, the federal government is taking steps to relieve some of the pressure with a sweeping stimulus package that offers some relief with expanded unemployment benefits, stimulus checks and an opportunity to pause federal student loan payments.

While the House of Representatives still needs to vote on the bill, if it passes, federal student loan borrowers could get a break from their monthly payments through Sept. 30, 2020. Any interest accrued during the suspension would also be waived.

But what does all this mean for your credit score? We have good news and bad news.

Below, is some information about what postponing student loan payments could mean for your credit score.



The difference between deferment and forbearance.


Deferment and forbearance are two ways to temporarily suspend your student loan payments. Both options protect your account from falling into delinquency, so if you anticipate trouble making your minimum payments you should inquire about both. If you don’t take these steps, you could lose your chance to qualify for income-based repayment plans and other forms of assistance down the line.

Under normal circumstances, these two federal loan postponement options look like this:

Deferment: You might qualify for this if you meet certain requirements, such as you went back to school, joined the PeaceCorps or lost full-time work. While a loan is in deferment, you aren’t required to make monthly payments but the interest on your loan will continue to accrue (with the exception of some subsidized loans). The amount of time you can defer a loan depends on the type of deferment you apply for, but borrowers who are in deferment because of financial hardship or unemployment can only defer federal student loans for a maximum of three years.

Forbearance: This is a second option to postpone your student loan payments, and it’s reserved for when you don’t qualify for deferment. Borrowers must be approved for a forbearance by their lender or servicer, and they typically limit your time in forbearance to 12 months. While a loan is in forbearance, you aren’t required to make monthly payments but the interest on your loan will continue to accrue (regardless of the loan type). Though you can request a forbearance on your loan as many times as you want, it’s not recommended to do so often. Lenders and servicers may limit how many times you are approved.


How do student loan deferment and forbearance affect your credit score?


Neither deferment nor forbearance on your student loan has a direct impact on your credit score. But putting off your payments increases the chances that you’ll eventually miss one and ding your score by mistake. If the coronavirus stimulus package is passed and borrowers receive six months of no payments, it could be easy to forget once your payments resume.

Borrowers should also take into consideration that if they were late or overdue on their student loan payments prior to them going into deferment or forbearance, this will still result in a negative entry on their credit reports.


How long does student loan debt stay on your credit report?


It depends. If you make all of your payments on time, student loan debt does not necessarily cause harm to your credit score.

But if you end up falling behind on payments or defaulting on your student loan, the negative account information will likely appear on your credit file for seven years from the original date that the account was first reported as past due.

If you can currently afford to make your monthly student loan payments, it may be a better idea not to prolong your debt by taking advantage of this potential six-month postponement period. That way, you remain on top of your payments and lower your risk of falling into delinquency. 


How can student loan debt on your credit report affect your credit score?


Student loans are considered installment loans, which impact your credit score differently than credit card debt does. Sometimes, carrying a student loan balance can actually help your “credit mix” by adding variety to the kind of loan products you have. But the small positive effect it may have on your credit score is not in itself worth delaying your loan payments.

The biggest key factor, making up about 35% of your score, is on-time payments. This applies to all revolving and non-revolving lines of credit, including your student loans. No matter the size of your loan debt, if you’re having trouble making your student loan payments each month, you’ll see this reflected in your credit score.  Any delinquent account that appears on your credit report can have a noticeable and negative impact on your score.

Last, having high student loan payments each month can make it harder to pay off your credit card balance. If you carry a balance from month to month, it will increase your credit utilization rate, the second-largest factor in calculating your credit score.

Which to pay off first: Student loan debt or credit card debt?


Paying off student loan debt and credit card debt should both be priorities, but there are options available to help you decide how to do it.

There are several affordable repayment options for federal student loans, which makes it helpful in situations where payments have to be prioritized based on most urgent needs.

I recommends finding an affordable repayment option through your federal student loan servicer, or perhaps refinancing if your loans are private. Then, work with a nonprofit credit counselor to keep your credit cards on track.  That way it’s not a choice of one over the other.

But you should be aware that paying down credit card debt first may help your budget since credit cards typically have higher interest rates than student loans. Paying down credit card debt will also lower your credit utilization rate, which boosts your credit score.

If you choose to prioritize paying your student loans first, you can transfer an existing credit card balance to a 0% APR card to save on interest.  The best balance transfer cards are usually reserved for those with good or excellent credit, but there are options available for fair credit as well.


What to do if your student loans are postponed.


Before you assume that your loans will automatically be granted deferment or forbearance because of coronavirus, carefully read over the stimulus bill when it passes, then check with your servicer to see what the new policies are.

Several servicers  provide that students have to actually request the forbearance rather than just assume they’ve been placed in a forbearance program.

But every servicer differs. For example, the federal student loan servicer Great Lakes announced that it will automatically grant a no-interest forbearance period for borrowers, but only those who are (or become) 30 days behind on their payments. In this case, you would risk falling behind on your payments and defaulting before you could qualify for assistance, and it may not be worth the potential damage to your credit score.

Bottom line: It’s important to determine what kind of assistance will apply to your specific situation and ask detailed questions if necessary.

Friday, March 13, 2020

A Brief Note on COVID-19 and My Current Business Model

Hello!!! I hope everyone is well!  I know right now with the sudden onset of the COVID-19 virus, many of you have had your lives turned upside down.  Whether it be a move to all online courses or an extended Spring Break; sadly there are very few of us who haven't been affected in one capacity or another.  I could write a 3 page post about this virus; its impact globally, economically, health-wise, societal, and so forth, but I trust you are currently being hammered in all directions at this point from Social Media to family members to the Cable News Networks.

Please stay calm, educate yourself, visit only trusted sources of information (CDC, WHO, NIH, etc) and limit your intake.  I think you all already have this covered.  We're all in this together, so stay strong and resilient! This too shall pass!

The original intent of this post was that I am guessing you may have noticed I have not been posting as frequently as normal or notices holding my information sessions.

After 3 great years, I decided (when the opportunity was presented) to shift the way A+ was going to be structured, an experiment of sorts.  In November I was asked to come on board with a group of Career Colleges in the Southeast to present my Financial Literacy Program to their first term incoming students.  These schools started a new enrolled class every 5 weeks, so it seemed as soon as I completed one course, the next group rolled in.

This was a wonderful opportunity.  I was providing the Financial Literacy which I have been for over 3 years now, but in an entirely structured, regimented setting.  This had turned into a true Full-Time endeavor.  I had the pleasure of working with 4 incredibly dynamic incoming classes.  I have since left this organization as they wanted to transition my role, but it was a success.  I feel like I grew so much in those 3 months.  I know know I can "manipulate" or "contort" my Program based as the need or opportunity may present itself.

However, I have decided to pick back up where I left off in November.  Now with the current climate of the COVID-19, the majority of large gatherings in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee have been halted.  So clearly, my normal presentation modules will not be held, but as time goes on and things turn around, I will fire up my Dollar Camp sessions, which may in fact be the best part of my job.

Be strong, be smart.

~Andy


Friday, February 28, 2020

Growing Gap Between Aid and Cost Since The Great Recession



Complaints about rising college tuition are nothing new. But talk to high school counselors, undergraduates or their parents, and you’ll hear a refrain repeated often: As tuition rises and incomes stagnate, filling the gap between the two is becoming increasingly difficult.

That’s one reason former client Lydia Muse is living at home in Fort Collins, Colo., instead of finishing her sophomore year at the Rhode Island School of Design. She’s taking a year off to work a part-time retail job and perform mission work with her church, as her mother, Brandy Muse, figures out how to pay for a second year.

For her daughter’s first year, Ms. Muse scrambled to pay the tuition. RISD, as the school is known, gave Lydia a financial-aid package totaling some $52,000.

But that still left a shortfall of about $18,000 — even though the federal financial-aid formula determined the Muse family wouldn’t need to contribute anything.

Ms. Muse is a widow who works two part-time jobs. She sold her 2014 Subaru Outback for $15,000 to pay the first-year bill. Savings and money from her mother made up the rest.

“It was overwhelming,” Ms. Muse said. “And to think we just got through one year.”

What happened to the Muse family — where a financial-aid formula says one thing about what a student can afford but a package of grants and loans provides only a fraction of what is needed — is prevalent at American colleges and universities. It’s called “gapping” by financial-aid insiders, and Generation Z aka Millennial students (loosely, people born from 1995 to 2010) will increasingly be feeling its effects.

A little background: How much families should pay for college starts with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as FAFSA. It generates what is called the expected family contribution, a number that shocks most families the first time they see it because it’s often higher than they expect.

But it’s not the only number that colleges use to figure out what families should pay. Hundreds of colleges — mostly selective private schools — also require prospective students to complete a CSS Profile to determine what the institution will give them in aid. The expected family contribution calculated by the CSS is typically higher than FAFSA because it captures the equity in a home and the net worth of family businesses, unlike the federal formula.

Either way, no matter what number the formula spits out, many families end up paying even more out of pocket. Until the early 1990s, the ethics code for the national association that represents college admissions officers required schools to not only admit students without regard to financial need but also pledge to meet a student’s full financial need.

But when those promises grew too expensive for many schools to maintain, the association changed its code. The outcome fractured the admissions and financial-aid process, mostly between the haves and have-nots among colleges.

Today, fewer than 60 colleges still claim to both be need-blind in admissions and meet full need.  That means those schools — mostly the wealthiest and most selective institutions — make their admissions decisions without looking at a family’s ability to pay and promise to meet their full financial need.

The remaining schools typically fall into one of two camps — need-aware schools and need-blind schools.

Need-aware schools consider an applicant’s finances at some point in the admissions process. Those colleges sometimes, but not always, provide financial aid that satisfies a student’s requirements. They think it’s fairer to reject a student rather than accept them along with, say, a $20,000 bill they can’t really pay.

Need-blind schools don’t consider ability to pay in admissions, but as a result they can give students only a portion of the money a financial-aid formula determines they need to afford college.

The financial void families must fill between the price of college and the aid they receive has steadily widened in recent years. The average gap amount is roughly $11,000 at public colleges, up 72 percent since 2008; and $16,000 at private colleges, an increase of 43 percent since 2008.  The gap in financial aid is growing because family incomes remain largely stagnant even as college prices continue to rise.

For colleges, financial aid isn’t a charity, but often a strategy to fulfill a variety of institutional objectives — to reel in high-achieving students, for example, or more engineering majors, or more teenagers from five states away. Most of all, colleges tailor their financial-aid packages to fill classroom seats and meet budget targets.

Ms. Muse in Colorado is trying to piece together how she will pay for Lydia’s next three years at RISD, and is considering selling her house to do so. But that’s likely only to get her through two years with financial aid. Ms. Muse said her daughter considered less expensive in-state options, but a specialized art school “is more congruent with her interests in animation and illustration.”

While families may manage to fill the gap in financial aid the first year of college, tuition prices are set one year at a time, limiting the ability to plan ahead. That’s what Jean and Janece Roch face.

Their daughter, Katie, is a sophomore at the College of William & Mary in Virginia, which charges more than $60,000 to out-of-state students. The Rock’s expected family contribution was about half that, and William & Mary’s aid package fell about $5,000 short the first two years, which the couple paid for by drawing from their savings.

Now, to plan for the next two, they may tap into their home equity, take out a loan through a state program or borrow from retirement savings. The decision was made more difficult by a recent surprise: Their expected contribution for junior year jumped by $10,000 because of John’s overtime pay in the year covered by FAFSA.

How exactly that change will impact their aid remains unclear. After the first year, aid packages typically arrive just weeks before the first tuition bill comes due.

“It’s nerve-racking to wait for,” Ms.Rock said. “It doesn’t give you any time to plan.”

The University of Rhode Island, however, has eliminated that uncertainty: It lays out to all incoming students what four years of expenses and aid look like.

“We are in the business of a degree, not educating students one year at a time,” said Jason Rathenburg, the university’s vice president for strategic enrollment management.

Since the program was put in place in 2013, URI’s six-year graduation rate has inched up from 79 percent to 82 percent. A smaller share of students are borrowing, and when they do, they’re taking on smaller loans. Retention has increased as well. Mr. Rathenburg credits the four-year pricing strategy for the improvements.

“It gives parents a clear understanding of all four years and opens up conversations about options if it’s not financially feasible,” he said.

Even so, like most colleges, Rhode Island can’t meet the full financial need of every student. And when showing parents a four-year financial-aid package, the gap at there could surpass $100,000 at the far end.

One money-saving option URI offers to the quarter of its students who live within 100 miles of the campus is to start next door at The Community College of Rhode Island. Students have access to many of the same facilities and benefits as a URI undergraduate and then seamlessly transfer to the university after earning a two-year degree. About 150 of URI’s 2,000 incoming students now start this way.

Nonetheless, what Mr. Rathenburg and other admissions and financial-aid officials often encounter are parents who feel intense pressure to allow their children to attend their dream college, even if they face a large gap between what they’re expected to pay and what aid the college offers.
“We tell families that the fit in a college is more than just academic and social,” Jason said. “It’s also financial.”


Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Maximizing Financial Aid Awards with the FAFSA and CSS

Clearly, the majority of the parents of my clients would love to send their children to a highly selective college. Far fewer are happy to pay the tuition, of course, which can climb above $70,000 a year.

Still, they might be heartened to learn that  72% of U.S. college students get financial aid. With some careful planning, I help make sure they are among them. In this venture, two documents will loom large. Families’ eligibility for need-based college financial aid is determined by one or more of two applications: the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and the College Scholarship Service Profile.

Most U.S. colleges and universities, including state schools, use the FAFSA to determine need. About 400 schools — typically the more selective and therefore more expensive options — use the CSS. A group of 25 to 35 schools, called the 568 Presidents' Group, use a combination of the two applications to determine each student’s expected family contribution.

The gap between a school’s sticker price and the expected family contribution is the amount of need-based aid a student is eligible to receive. That help might come in the form of government grants, school-supplied grants, work-study jobs or loans.

Both the FAFSA and CSS look at how much income and assets the student and the student’s family have. They consider those assets differently.  The CSS Profile is more in-depth and looks at more assets.  Generally speaking, your expected family contribution will come out higher with the CSS.

CSS results are also more open to an individual school’s interpretation than those of FAFSA.  Families fill out both applications during the year before their child starts college, then repeat the application each subsequent year until the child’s education is complete. Each application considers financial information from the previous year. If a student will begin school in the autumn of 2021, the family will fill out aid applications in 2020 using the 2019 tax return, as well as current levels of income, savings and assets. It’s therefore important to sort out the financial planning for aid during the student’s sophomore and junior years of high school.
To understand how families can maximize their eligibility for need-based financial aid, it’s important to understand how both the FAFSA and the CSS look at family income and assets to calculate the expected family contribution.

Student Income and Assets:

For the 2018-2019 school year, individual students could earn up to $6,570 before FAFSA expected them to contribute some portion of income to paying for college. To earn more than that, a kid would need to work for more than 17 hours a week, 52 weeks a year at $7.25 an hour. That’s not a bar most students would clear. More likely, a student could earn a few thousand dollars at an after-school or summer job, an amount that would not affect eligibility for need-based aid.

If a student does earn more than $6,570 annually, 50% goes toward the expected family contribution every year. There is no protected amount of student assets. The college aid calculators assume that families will spend between 20% and 25% of student assets annually on college tuition and fees.

The aid calculation takes a much smaller percentage of parents’ income and assets. Because college expenses take such a big bite of whatever a student has, children should have minimal or no assets in their own names. A very wise move would be to put the money in a retirement account. If the student is a saver and has money in a bank account, consider what they’ll need for school and spend money on those things: clothes, a computer or even an automobile.

The same is true of assets in any account held jointly by parent and child.  I generally tell my clients to make sure that all those savings accounts are spent or transferred out by end of High School Junior Year to take those funds out of the equation.



Parent income and assets:

Because parents have financial responsibilities that most dependent students do not, both aid applications protect more parental income and assets. The exact amount depends on a complicated calculation that considers the parents’ ages, number of children and other factors. Beyond that number, the FAFSA and CSS expect parents to put between 22% and 47% of adjusted gross income toward college expenses. It’s therefore helpful to minimize adjusted gross income, if possible.

Unfortunately, like most, if one or both parents are working a standard 9-to-5 job and there are no bonuses or options, there may not be much you can do to lower income.

Parents/Clients with more complex employment situations have additional avenues. Stock options, if a client has them, shouldn’t be exercised during the year that the application will reflect. Get bonuses deferred, if possible. If you own a business, accelerate expenses and delay sending out invoices. All parents should pay off balances on credit cards, car loans and student loans. Pay for home repairs or improvements. Make an estimated tax payment or contribute early to a Roth IRA or other retirement fund. Maximize HSA contributions.  Just get rid of the income!

Charitable and medical deductions can also help, if they’re large enough. A family that is planning a large charitable contribution, but hasn’t yet selected a charity, could put money in a donor-advised fund.

What about paying down their mortgage?  I think that depends on whether the FAFSA or CSS is what you’re looking to maximize.  Its a very slippery slope however as families might pay off a home and then find that they need that cash after all.  They would have to refinance to get that money back.

Both the FAFSA and CSS assess the equity in vacation homes and investment properties. Paying down the mortgage on an investment property may make sense because the interest rate is typically higher than on a primary residence.

C
hoice still best:

Although it’s good to think strategically about financial aid, you don’t want to derail other financial planning goals, which many families do.  They have the best intentions and amazingly are doing anything they can to help their child, at the same time jeopardizing their own good financial standing. At the end of the day, it’s good if you have the means that can help pay for college, even if they don’t put families in a perfect position to receive financial aid.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Financial Aid 101: "Boot Camp" Session Thursday, December 5, 7-9pm

Students in Northern Georgia who are planning on attending Post-Secondary Education in the 2020-21 Academic Year can receive free, professional assistance completing the 2020-21 FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) at my Financial Aid 101: Boot Camp Sessions on Thursday, December 5 at Norcross High School 5300 Spaulding Drive, Norcross, GA 30092 from 7-9pm. I had the honor of attending a school-sponsored event this evening and will be returning on 12/5 for those who were not able to participate. Gorgeous campus and great group of people!

Anyone who is planning to pursue a post-secondary education in the 2020-21 academic year should complete the FAFSA. That includes high school seniors, continuing college students, transfer students and adults considering pursuing higher education. The FAFSA form must be submitted in order to be considered for federal and state financial aid, including grants and loans.

Dependent students are encouraged to bring their parents and independent students should bring 2018 records including their 2018 federal tax return and W2s, 2018 untaxed income records such as child support or veteran’s non-education benefits, information on savings, investments, business assets and farm assets (if applicable), driver’s license, Social Security number, alien registration card or permanent resident card (if not a U.S. citizen) and parent information such as date of birth, month and year of marriage, divorce or separation.

A list of what to bring and other information, as well as directions can be be obtained by reaching out to me at (864) 593-0010 or at andrew@aplusfinaid.org. Those who don’t have all of the information available should still attend to get a start on the application.

In addition to getting professional help competing the FAFSA, attendees also will be able to enter into a door prize raffle, and refreshments will be served. I have gotten some RSVPs, so please contact me if coming! See you on the then!

Saturday, October 26, 2019

For-Profit Colleges Losing Federal Funding?

For-profit colleges have been criticized for depriving their students of a quality education and burying them in debt. Now, some Democrats hope to cut the schools off from federal funding.

A bill introduced this month by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, dubbed the “Students Not Profits Act of 2019,” would ban the U.S. Department of Education from sending its federal grants and loans to for-profit colleges.

“It’s time for taxpayers to stop subsidizing the institutions that put hardworking students through this heartbreaking mess,” Jayapal said in a statement.

A number of consumer advocacy groups, including Americans for Financial Reform, the Debt Collective and the Project on Predatory Student Lending, have endorsed the legislation. The bill Democrats introduced recently to overhaul the Higher Education Act, which dictates the scope of federal aid for millions of students, would also crack down on for-profit colleges.

Democrats accuse Education Department Secretary Betsy DeVos of siding with for-profit colleges over the students they’ve harmed. Recent documents show the department sent more than $10 million to the Art Institute chain, even though the schools were not accredited and ineligible for the funds.

According to student loan expert Mark Kantrowitz, the for-profit college sector takes in around 15% of the government’s financial aid each year. And a third of the colleges — of which there are some 7,000 around the country — derive almost all of their revenue from federal sources. The research about for-profit schools has been damning. Their students go on to earn significantly less than public university students, despite the fact that for-profit colleges charge significantly more to attend. Half of student loan borrowers from for-profit schools prove unable to repay their loans, and tens of thousands of people have accused the colleges of fraud.

A ban on federal aid to for-profit schools would punish the one sector focused on career education, said Steve Gunderson, president and CEO of Career Education Colleges and Universities. “This is just the latest congressional proposal that threatens to deny access to students who seek career skills,” Gunderson said.
James Kvaal, president of the Institute for College Access & Success, said that while the problems at for-profit schools have understandably made people consider cutting off funding, a better solution would be strong regulation of the sector. “Our view is that under the appropriate accountability system, for-profit schools can generate value for students,” Kvaal said. However, the for-profit industry has a record of resisting rules, said Alexis Goldstein, a senior policy analyst at Americans for Financial Reform.

“This is just an industry that has refused accountability,” Goldstein said. “They should compete in the free market. “They should not be able to get 90% of their revenue from the federal government,” she added.

Brandon Schultz decided to pursue his dream of becoming a graphic designer in 2008. He enrolled in the online division at the Art Institute. “I wanted to get into a field I enjoyed,” Schultz, 38, said. “The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, it sounded fancy. ”

He was disappointed to discover how basic the classes were. “It was just a bunch of beginner lessons on how to use these programs,” Schultz said. “I never did any graphic design work.” He says communication with professors was sparse and his time with the school’s tutors was limited. “I could only talk to a tutor for so long until they cut me off,” he said. “A lot of them couldn’t really speak English.”

Schultz went on interviews for graphic design positions, but said he was unprepared for the common job tests such employers assign. Today, he strings a living together through odd jobs, including painting and landscaping, and he says there’s no way he can repay the $90,000 he owes for his time at the Art Institute.
He makes $20,000 a year.

As a veteran of many years in the For-Profit sector, I am torn by this legislation.  There has been proven awful abuse of Federal dollars, this I have seen first hand.  On the flip side however, there are institutions that offer career training to individuals not wanting or needing an otherwise "traditional" college experience.  It would be a shame to see these individuals miss out on an otherwise excellent opportunity.

Continued oversight and strict regulations on the For-Profit sector, I believe, are the best avenues for lawmakers to pursue.



Bottom Line? Tell Colleges What You Need.

Many colleges reinstated May 1 as the deadline for newly admitted applicants to declare that they will enroll and submit deposits. But as th...