This is the transcript for Episode 6 (October 26th, 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.

Please be advised that the FAFSA and federal student aid are subject to change. While we ensure all the information we share in each episode is accurate at the time of the episode’s release, our statements are not insulated from future changes. If you have questions, we encourage you to call us at 801-869-5701 or email us at outreach@utahsbr.edu


Bryan: “You’re listening to Title IV + More, StepUp Utah’s podcast for counselors and educators.”

Jacob: “Welcome, everyone, to Title IV + More, the StepUp Utah counselor and educator podcast. I’m Jacob Newman and I am a paying for college expert with StepUp Utah.”

Bryan: “Hi, everyone. I’m Bryan. I am the social and digital media guy for StepUp Utah.”

Katie: “And I’m Katie Wornek, also a paying for college expert with StepUp. I’m going to kick us off with our news headlines this week. We have two of them. First one is great news for the Utah System of Higher Education. Enrollment at Utah’s public colleges and universities is up by over 4,000 students for the second year in a row. So, USHE published this data about 2 weeks ago. For this fall semester of 2017, we saw an increase at all of our public colleges and universities of 4,869 students, almost 5,000 more students. That’s up 2.78% over the fall of 2016, so more and more students are taking advantage of the amazing college experience that we have here in Utah. In fact, 8 out of 10 high school graduates end up staying in-state, and if we combined all of the public colleges and universities within USHE, that would be over 180,000 students, which would be the second largest city in Utah, so, really interesting statistic. If you want to read more about that, higheredutah.org published that piece and we’ll have a link to it in the transcript of this podcast (https://higheredutah.org/enrollment-at-utahs-public-colleges-and-universities-up-by-over-4000-for-second-year-in-a-row/). And the second article I wanted to go over is also from the Utah System of Higher Education and data they obtained from NerdWallet. The title here is, “Over Half of Utah High School Seniors Miss Out On Possible Financial Aid Chances” (https://higheredutah.org/over-half-of-utah-high-school-seniors-miss-out-on-possible-financial-aid-chances/). So, with the FAFSA cycle for last year, the 2017-18 FAFSA cycle, the graduating class of 2017, those seniors, only 45% of them filed the FAFSA. It is one of the lowest percentages in the country, however, the year before we were at 34% I believe, so 45% of seniors filed in 2017 – that’s a significant increase. But I think we need to pay attention to the fact that, when 55% are not filing, this NerdWallet piece found that $36 million of Pell grant went unused in Utah alone last year.”

Bryan: “Just keep on increasing.”

Katie: “Yes, absolutely. So, nationally it’s estimated that over 1.2 million students didn’t complete the FAFSA their senior year last year, so that added up to about $2.3 billion of Pell gift aid being left on the table for that graduating class. What are your guys’ thoughts on this?”

Bryan: “I could use some of that.” [laughing]

Katie: “Just a small portion.” [laughing]

Bryan: “But I filed my FAFSA so, you know, I’m not really considered in that group. But I know there are a lot of people out there who could use that aid.”

Katie: “Absolutely.”

Bryan: “And think that, just, if a lot of people saw that number it might motivate them to fill out their FAFSA.”

Katie: “I certainly hope so and I plan on sharing that with students I see at FAFSA Nights because I’m currently in graduate school, as you two know, and graduate students only qualify for unsubsidized federal student loans, we don’t qualify for gift aid once we reach that level of education. You guys know that from your first-hand experience so, yes, if I could tell these students, these seniors that I see, ‘Hey, take advantage of this money because one day you’re going to be old like me and you can’t.’ I think that’s what I would tell them every time they walk through that door for FAFSA Night.”

Jacob: “I think another thing that’s important to remember is you never know what you’ll qualify for until you file. So, I have an example. I took a three day FAFSA Night trip last week. I was in Duchesne and Uintah counties as well as Wasatch County and there was a student and a parent who were talking to me like, ‘Ok, why should we file the FAFSA? I don’t think we’re really going to qualify for anything.’ And it’s kind of interesting as well because this parent was talking about how they had taught their daughter to save money and isn’t this kind of incentivizing her to not save money sort of in the end, which is kind of a myth that we have here in Utah. So, she filled it out anyway and at the end she was eligible for a full Pell Grant based on her circumstances. So, the mom was like, ‘Well, I’m really glad we filed because we wouldn’t have known we had been eligible for this unless we filed.’ So I’m saying, you have a lot of preconceptions in your mind maybe that we’re not going to qualify for anything, but again, just file. You’re not obligated to take that aid, but you never know what you’re going to qualify for.”

Bryan: “ You’re not obligated to take it, but if you find out you get $5500 you weren’t going to get before, you’re probably going to take it.”

Jacob: “You’re probably going to take it, yea.”

Katie: “Exactly. And then that student, if she does still have the incentive to save, she can at least use that for graduate school like we just mentioned, if she decides to go that route. I actually read a piece the other day from the National College Access Network. They did a research study for October 2017. They found that last year, students were 63% more likely to enroll in college if they filled out the FAFSA, if they applied for financial aid. So just knowing that that safety net is there is the incentive that they need often times to actually get a foot in the door at an institution.”

Bryan: “Peace of mind maybe that they won’t start then not be able to afford it hallway through or anything like that. Not just figuring out that you can pay for a few semesters, but it is a long term safety net and something that students can really depend on if they need to. A lot of people don’t know that.”

Katie: “Yea, well, one more thing that we use to promote FAFSA completion through our organization is, obviously we have FAFSA Nights at many of your schools, but we offer the FAFSA Scholarship for students who attend that event and get help filling out the FAFSA. So if they fill out a survey at the end of the event, even if they weren’t able to complete the FAFSA that night, as long as they complete it eventually within the school year, we draw three of those surveys in April and each one of those winners, each one of those three winners, receives a $1,000 scholarship. And we also reward counselors for promoting this through our FAFSA Cup competition. So, keep that in mind if you’re implementing creative strategies at your school to try to get students to understand the importance of financial aid and the FAFSA, apply for that FAFSA Cup because you could win, not only a fabulous trophy, but a $750 professional development grant and lunch with the StepUp team.”

Jacob: “And we’re really good company, so you should apply.”

Katie: “Yes, we had a lot of fun last year with our winners. Excellent. Thank you, boys, for contributing to that conversation. And I’m going to pass it over to Bryan now to review our event calendar.”

Bryan: “Alright, well thank you Katie.”

Katie: “Yea.”

Bryan: “So, we have lots of FAFSA Nights coming up given that it’s October going into November right now and a few conferences and then also a training. So, starting out with our FAFSA Nights, for the end of the month starting on the 30th, Monday the 30th, we’ll be at Blue Peak High School. And then on Wednesday, November 1st we’ll be at Salem Hills High and Riverton High. On Thursday the 2nd of November we’ll be at American International School, Skyridge High School, Ridgeline High School, Bingham High School, and Gunnison Valley High School. And then on Monday the 6th, we’ll be at Salt Lake School for the Performing Arts, Wayne High School, and Freedom Prep. On Tuesday the 7th of November we’ll be at Pleasant Grove High School. Then on Wednesday the 8th we’ll be at Parowan High, Water Canyon High, Cyprus High, Payson High, and Weber Innovation High. And the last of this report on FAFSA Nights will be Thursday the 9th. We’ll be at Hillcrest High, North Sanpete High, Maple Mountain High, Fremont High, Jordan High, and West Jordan High. So, if you or any of your students need your FAFSA or help getting your FAFSA completed, there are many, many events going on over the next few weeks. If you need to pick out any of those schools that I named in that list, just go to StepUpUtah.com/Events and you can see all of our FAFSA Nights there. And then the conferences we have coming up, on Saturday the 28th we’ll be at the Expect the Great Conference at Westminster College. You can learn more about that conference at ExpectTheGreatUtah.com. And then on Thursday the 9th of November we’ll be at JumpStart Financial Literacy Fair. You can learn more about that at UtahJumpStart.org. And then the last of our upcoming events for this podcast will be our FAFSA Boot Camp, which is our FAFSA training for counselors and educators and access groups. That will be Thursday, November the 2nd for Granite School District. And that is all the events we have coming up. So, with that, we will transition to our FAFSA Tip of the Month with Jacob.”

Jacob: “So, as you remember, this month our theme is FAFSA Fears, Myths, and Urban Legends. Wooooo spooky! So this is a very common belief and fear that people have. So the kind of myth that we have here is if you fill out the FAFSA and if you file, it means that you’re obligated to take the federal student loan offer. So, a lot of people say, ‘Well, I’m not going to file the FAFSA because we’ll probably only be eligible for student loans and we don’t want to take out student loans because student loans are a big, scary monster. So, if a student’s really concerned about taking on debt, it’s important to remind students that the FAFSA is only an application. They’re not obligated to take any of the aid that they’re offered. So if they only qualify for those unsubsidized loans they do not have to take that. But I will say that it is a good option for them to have that option of taking them if they need to take them. So, for example, let’s say that they run into some financial difficulties before they matriculate into university, or something happens in their family and they need to take out a student loan, it’s always best to take out federal student loans first because the interest rates are fixed for the life of the loan and interest rates are lower than private student loans would be. If you want to hear more about any more FAFSA fears, you can check out our FAFSA Fears blog on StepUpUtah.com/Blog. And, as always, if you have other FAFSA fears or myths that you’re encountering, feel free to reach out to us to let us know if there’s something we’re not covering or something that you’d really like us to address. And now we’re going to go ahead and interview our special guests that we have this week. We have two of our colleagues here at the Utah System of Higher Education. We have Megan Brown. Welcome, Megan.”

Megan: “Thank you, Jacob.”

Jacob: “And we have Cyd Grua. Welcome, Cyd.”

Cyd: “Thanks for having us.”

Jacob: “Yea, we’re happy to have you hear. So their main role here at the Utah System of Higher Education is to oversee the concurrent enrollment program. And they’re joining us today to tell us a little more about that. So I’m just going to ask you a few questions so we can get some background on concurrent enrollment. So, can you tell us a bit about the concurrent enrollment program here in Utah?”

Megan: “Yes. So, the concurrent enrollment program is a program where high school students can earn both high school and college credit and we have concurrent enrollment classes in over 150 high schools in Utah. And all 8 of our USHE institutions participate in the program. So, concurrent enrollment classes include general education classes (so subjects like writing, math, art, science) and also career and technical education classes from aviation to business to welding, and a majority of the classes are taught by high school teachers who have earned the academic qualifications to teach college courses.”

Jacob: “Awesome. What are some of the successes we’ve seen through the concurrent enrollment program?”

Cyd: “Well, first you need to know that about 1/3 of all juniors and seniors in the state of Utah take at least one concurrent enrollment class. That meant that last year over 30,000 students took concurrent enrollment and they earned over 230,000 college semester credit hours. It’s a pretty cool accomplishment. There’s a lot of different benefits to students and their families. First and foremost, students pay $5 per credit for the class. If you look at the entire state, they’re saving about $35 million. A college course could cost $300-$400 and you’re paying $15 for it. Second, to take the class, you gain some college knowledge because you have to apply for admission to an institution, you have to meet the institution’s deadlines, you have to register for classes online. So you’re kind of learning what it’s going to be to be a student when you show up on campus in a year or so. Students get to experience what it’s like to take a college course because they are taking, they are reading a college textbook, they are taking college exams, they’re following the syllabus of a college course. And one of the really cool things I suppose is that you earn credit toward high school graduating while earning credit for college at the same time.”

Jacob: “Wow! I really love that it costs $5 per credit.”

Cyd: “That is in great part the support from our legistlature. The program is 30 years old and they provide funding to make the program successful.”

Jacob: “Yea, if you can take a three credit college course, a general, for $15, that’s going to save you so much money in the long run when you’re going to actually matriculate into the university. If you can pay $15 for a course that would have cost $300 or $400 that’s really going to be a huge savings to the students.”

Cyd: “And at the same time, you know you can be successful because you’ve taken a college course and passed it.”

Jacob: “Exactly. So, what is one thing that you would tell our wonderful guidance counselors about concurrent enrollment?”

Cyd: “We absolutely appreciate that counselors share with every student they meet options to earn college credit while they’re still in high school. I think we’re also aware of the fact that some students already consider themselves college-bound, and they’re easy to sign up for a concurrent course. There are other populations, often times underserved pops and kids maybe whose parents didn’t go to college, and for them, the benefits of taking a concurrent course at $5 per credit may not be so intuitive, may not be so understood. And it takes more effort to talk to them and tell them they have what it takes. Every time we do that, we help a student get on to college. We have some data that suggests, for example, that a low income student participating in free or reduced lunch is 3-3.5 times more likely to go to college if he or she takes just one concurrent course than if they didn’t. So, do what you can to encourage students to take a look at concurrent enrollment, to take one class, and to explore their options to earn 1- 2- or 4- year degrees at our institutions.”

Jacob: “That’s a really amazing statistic if you think about it. I mean, that speaks to the fact that maybe they’re in this nurturing environment at high school, but maybe they’re getting that college knowledge at the same time, so maybe that makes it more likely for them to, you know, enroll in university or college. That’s a really great statistic. Megan, do you have anything you’d like to add about concurrent enrollment or anything you think we missed?”

Megan: “I think it’s all covered. It’s a wonderful program. I know I didn’t have this when I grew up in North Carolina in high school. So I just, I’m so impressed by what’s going on here in Utah.”

Jacob: “Awesome. Well, we really appreciate you coming on and sharing with us this wonderful program. Thank you for your time. “

Cyd and Megan: “Thank you.”

Katie: “So, thank you for that interview, Jacob. That was really exciting. We love having Cyd and Megan around because they’re so knowledgeable and great at promoting concurrent enrollment. It’s an excellent opportunity that students should be taking advantage of. So our last segment for this episode is our counselor spotlight. I’m actually really excited about this because I got to meet this person face-to-face the other day at a FAFSA Night at Copper Hills. So our counselor spotlight this week is Stacee Worthen, Copper Hills High School. She has a hilarious and informative video blog, or “vlog” as we like to call them. And we spotted, just kind of by happenstance, Jacob stumbled upon it on the internet, right Jacob?”

Jacob: “On Twitter.”

Katie: “On Twitter. We stumbled upon episode 5, which is about the FAFSA. And we know all too well that it is challenging to make the FAFSA fun and engaging for students because it is, you know, a 140 question federal form after all. But she does a great job of it, so I would encourage you to check her out on YouTube. We’ll have the link to her video blog in our transcript for this episode (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJQyqHICgh0) and I asked permission to share that, so…I did embarrass Stacee a little bit, I’m sure. But go and check it out and maybe find creative ways that you can engage with your students using technology like Stacee is. So, thank you for your hard work, Stacee. We appreciate it!”

Bryan: “Don’t be afraid to take a page out of Stacee’s book if it’s, you know, if it’s easier to record a quick video and share that with 100 of your students rather than meet with each and every one of them to tell them about the FAFSA, then definitely do it. It’s a creative and effective idea.”

Katie: “Yea, and I know students are entertained by it because at that FAFSA Night, it was on Tuesday that I was there, somebody had created a shortcut on the desktop to her video specifically and a parent accidentally clicked on it instead of Chrome to open up a browser, so we were watching it in the computer lab actually. Excellent. So, thanks for joining us this week. Next episode, you can expect a new FAFSA Tip of the Month theme, so we’ll kind of revise that for November and share some FAFSA tips with you. We’ll go over news and events. We will have, gosh you know what, sorry, I’m not on my queue today. [retake] Thanks again for joining us. In two weeks you can expect another new episode where we will cover a new FAFSA tip of the month theme, so be on the lookout for that for November. We’ll also discuss news and events. As always, we encourage your feedback, your questons, and more counselor spotlight nominations if you want to recognize the good work that somebody on your team or at another high school is doing, we would love to hear about that so that we can give them a shoutout on the podcast. Thanks, guys.”

Bryan: This has been the StepUp Utah Title IV + More podcast. Special thanks to Bensound for the royalty-free music. See you next time.


This is the transcript for Episode 6 (October 26th, 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.