This is the transcript forEpisode 3 (September 14-21, 2017) of the “Title IV + More Podcast for Utah Counselors and Educators” from Katie Wornek, Jacob Newman, and Bryan Lee at StepUp to Higher Education Utah. To listen to this episode or any other episodes of the podcast, please visit this link.
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Bryan: “You’re listening to Title IV + More, StepUp Utah’s podcast for counselors and educators.”
Jacob: Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s edition of Title IV + More, the StepUp Utah counselor and educator podcast. I’m Jacob Newman and I’m a paying for college expert with StepUp Utah.
Bryan: Hey everyone, I’m Bryan. I am the social and digital media person at StepUp Utah and also a paying for college expert.
Katie: And I’m Katie Wornek. I’m also a paying for college expert with StepUp Utah. Thanks for joining us this week. I’m going to kick us off with some news headlines and some roundtable discussion about them. So, the first one I want to bring to our attention is a House of Representatives press release: “Democrats Introduce Bold Legislation to Broadly Expand Access to Higher Education.” So we’re going to have a link to this press release in the transcript of this podcast, but essentially what this is saying is that several House Democrats earlier in September introduced a bill called America’s College Promise Act of 2017 and this act proposes to make 2-year community college free across the country. And the way they propose doing that is by providing a 3-to-1 match, so for every dollar that a state government invests toward making the first two years of college free – that means waiving the college tuition and fees, so it wouldn’t cover all costs of attendance like housing and transportation, but just toward community college waivers – for every dollar that a state government puts toward that, the federal government is proposing to match that 3-to-1. So, the qualification is that students would have to demonstrate financial need as outlined by filling out the FAFSA, but I wanted to get your guys’ opinion on this bill that was introduced.
Jacob: It’s really interesting to see discussions about this college affordability issue. Last week I was actually at a conference in San Diego, which I know everyone is really jealous because it was beautiful weather, it was super nice. But I went to a session about tuition policies in various states here in the country and a lot of states are really looking to explore this idea of this promise program where the first two years of college or several years of college is guaranteed as free. I mean nothing in life is ever really free, right? We know that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. But I think it’s really great to see this more on a national scale. It’ll be really interesting to see what happens with this.
Katie: Yea, Jacob, can you go into detail about what conference was that?
Jacob: Oh, it was the National College Access Network, so it’s pretty much helping individuals, you know, matriculate into the university, whether there be financial barriers or educational barriers, we just want to make sure that everyone can access higher ed, so it was a really great conference, it was awesome.
Katie: Yea, NCAN does some great work. I’m glad you got to participate in that. I think that, this is something that Utah already does a really good job of. So, SLCC Promise at Salt Lake Community College aims to do this for anyone who is Pell-eligible and Dream Weber is a program up at Weber State University that’s very similar, just trying to cover the cost of those first two years to get students in the door. And if two years is enough for them, hey, we understand that a 2-year degree can go really far today. And if they want to continue on I think this just sets them up for financial success for that.
Bryan: Most definitely. And those who do qualify for the need-based financial aid and then need to supplement that with student loans can even stop them from completing just because the fear of borrowing is real.
Bryan: And anything to quell that fear is awesome.
Katie: Yea, I think that’s a good point, Bryan, too that if somebody is delaying going to school so that they can save up money, how much harder is it to get back into the swing of things as a student if you’ve taken a few years off from graduating high school before you go back to school? So the sooner we can get these students in the door, the better I think. Alright, the second story is from Deseret News. Really interesting piece from last week: “Why Finishing College Matters for Every Utah Woman.” So, there’s an interesting statistic in this article that nearly one in three women in Utah who are age 25 and older have attended some college but have not attained a degree. And, to put that into context nationally, men and women on a national level are statistically similar in their college completion status, so Utah’s a little bit behind in that. This article discusses both the financial impacts of college completion and how getting a degree can help people financially, but it also talks about the educational benefits and then some of those more intangible social benefits that people can get when they complete college. This article goes into detail about how some Utah schools are inspiring young girls, even in elementary school, to pursue and finish their college degree. And they specifically call out some of the outreach programming that J.R. Smith Elementary School in Heber is doing. So, if you want to read that article, I would definitely recommend it. There will be a link in the transcript. But I think this is a really important story because we know at the Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority and StepUp Utah, we understand that this rhetoric around the student loan debt crisis is something that’s really prevalent and a lot of people have heard of it. It’s a hot topic for discussion, but there are study after study out there that indicate that the reason the student loan debt crisis is where it is is because borrowers are borrowing money for school, and then not attaining a college degree to help them secure the jobs that will ultimately help them pay off that debt.
Jacob: Yea, I also, to kind of take this in a different direction, one thing that I really liked about this story is that it actually reminded me of my own mom. So, shout out to my mom, because when I was very young, she went back to get her college degree because she had kids, she got married when she was pretty young, and she actually ended up walking from BYU with my two oldest sisters at the same time, so they all got their degrees together, but that was really such a great example to all of us and now we all have college degrees. So I think that here in Utah we can work to encourage that kind of college-going culture by making sure we can bridge that gap for women that we’re seeing.
Bryan: Most definitely. And I have a similar experience to yours in that, when I was about ready to start going into college, my mom was finishing her degree after stopping and then going back and it was inspiring for me.
Katie: Wonderful. Thanks, you guys. So now I’m going to pass it over to Jacob and he will talk about the event calendar for the next couple of weeks.
Jacob: So we are super excited because it almost October 1st and, if you’ve listened to our podcast, you know that means it’s going to be FAFSA season, which is going to be super exciting. We have some other exciting events that are going to happen as well, though. So, on Friday the 29th of September we’re going to have the annual USHE Counselor Conference. Registration is closed, it’s pretty full, but if you are planning on attending, we’re really excited to see you. Bryan’s actually going to be presenting and Katie and I are going to be presenting as well, so be on the lookout for us. We’d love to have you in our sessions where we’re talking about using digital media (in terms of Bryan, that’s what he’s going to be talking about) and we’re going to be talking about the FAFSA and some of the good things we have going on here in Utah. So we’re really excited for that. We also have some FAFSA training coming up. On the 5th of October, we’re going to have what we call our FAFSA Boot Camp for the Utah State University GEAR UP program here in Salt Lake. They have an office at the Granite School District. So, for those of you who aren’t familiar with our FAFSA Boot Camp, this is a really great opportunity for counselors and educators, mentors to get hands-on experience with the FAFSA. It’s about a four hour training, we feed people at the end because we know that FAFSA can be exhausting. We go through things like am I independent or am I a dependent on the FAFSA, what do I need to report on the FAFSA, how can I help students complete the FAFSA. It’s really great. We also have online training for that as well. And if that’s something that you think that you would be interested in in the future, feel free to reach out to us about that. We’re happy to work with you on that. We love giving these trainings. Katie and I actually just did one yesterday.
Jacob: Oh my gosh, and it was a great time.
Katie: It’s been a busy week. It feels like it was forever ago, but yea, it was yesterday at Utah Valley University GEAR UP and they were a really engaged audience. We love doing those trainings.
Jacob: So it’s a really great opportunity to learn everything you need to know about the FAFSA. So again, you can reach out to us if you have questions about that. And then, like we mentioned earlier, it’s going to be FAFSA season, so we have in the first two weeks of October, we have 14 events that are sponsored by StepUp Utah. So Katie and I are a two-person kind of team with this, and Bryan helps as well and our manager does, so you might not see a StepUp representative at all of these events, but we work closely with the colleges and universities here in Utah to make sure that there is coverage as well. Just to give you an idea of some of these events, on the 2nd of October we have our first event with Morgan High. The 3rd we have Venture Academy. On the 4th we have Delta High, Spanish Fork High, and Green Canyon High. Then on the 5th, which is Thursday, we have Woods Cross High and Skyline High. On the 9th we have Enterprise High. On the 10th we have Taylorsville High, NUAMES, and Union High. On the 11th we have Uintah High. On the 12th we have Wasatch High and Brighton High. And I’ll be at some of those, I think Katie will be at some of those. So we’re looking forward to this. We think it will be a great opportunity to engage in FAFSA completion and remember, if your students attend an event that is sponsored by StepUp and UHEAA, they are eligible to possibly win one of our $1,000 scholarships for completing the FAFSA. We select three winners at the end of the year. It’s a really great opportunity and we look forward to helping with FAFSA completion this year. Anything else you want to add about that, Katie?
Katie: That’s it. We’re excited to get out there and see you guys.
Jacob: And now we’re going to go ahead and transition to the FAFSA Tip of the Week with Bryan.
Bryan: Alright, so this podcast’s FAFSA Tip of the Week is about the FSA ID. An important thing to remember when creating the FSA ID is that you should use a permanent email address. Lots of students and even parents sometimes use some temporary email addresses like school email addresses or college email addresses or a junk email address or something like that. And, this is a very important piece of information that you have to use year after year, the FSA ID that is. And if you ever forget it and need to access it again, it’s really important that it’s connected to a permanent email address so you can retrieve that information and, you know, reset that password if you need to and still be able to access the FAFSA. And, next month, we’ll be talking about FAFSA fears and myths for the Tips of the Week, so stick around for that.
Katie: Thanks for that, Bryan. So, in this segment we’re going to be talking about our Counselor Spotlight. So if you remember or if you listened to our pilot episode, our goal here is not just to discuss relevant news and events or to give FAFSA tips. We really want this to be about recognizing the hard works that counseling teams to do to help students in Utah prepare for college. And, in doing that, we want to call out a counseling team once a month and give them the spotlight on this podcast so we can talk about the good work that they’re doing. And this month, our spotlight is Jordan High School. So, somebody at the Canyons School District who wished to remain anonymous because they are very humble, wanted to give a shout-out to Jordan High School specifically because of the good work that they’re doing around FAFSA completion. So, in addition to participating in Utah College Application Week and hosting a StepUp-sponsored FAFSA Night, Jordan High School does what is called “FAFSA Fridays”. And, throughout the spring, every Friday they book a computer lab and they invite students and their parents to come in during the lunch hour and they actually provide lunch for them. And they can sit down and get help from the counseling team when it comes to filling out the FAFSA. So I think that this is just a really unique and creative outreach approach. I’m glad that this individual called Jordan High School out for this, but not only is it beneficial for these students to feel supported, but we’re also seeing some tangible benefits from this. So between 2013 and 2016, over that three year period, Jordan High School saw an increase of 17% in their FAFSA completion. So this outreach effort is really paying off for them.
Jacob: That’s awesome. And, you know, I just wanted to kind of say something else about this is that doing that during school hours is actually something that is really valuable because we have parents a lot of times that have nontraditional schedules and also, you know, sometimes it’s just difficult to get students to come after school, and we know that after school, that’s worked well in a lot of cases, but it’s really great to see our counseling community using these creative strategies that are being used in other states as well. When I was in my conference last week, the NCAN conference, they were talking about how, for a lot of schools, these in-class events are really crucial in their FAFSA completion strategies. So, way to go Jordan! Good job.
Jacob: Alright. That is our podcast for the week. So, on the next episode, you can look forward to another FAFSA Tip, we’ll have some more news and events, and we’ll have a nice little recap of the USHE Counselor Conference. And, as always, we encourage your feedback or questions, and especially counselor spotlight nominations that you may have. You can reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org We look forward to seeing you next week.
Bryan: This has been the StepUp Utah Title IV + More podcast. Special thanks to Bensound for the royalty-free music. See you next time.