This is the transcript for Episode 12 (February 8, 2018) 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.

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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: Welcome and thank you for listening to StepUp Utah’s Title IV + More Podcast for Counselors and Educators. This podcast is brought to you by StepUp to Higher Education Utah, helping Utah’s students and parents prepare and pay for college. Find more about us at StepUpUtah.com.

Katie: Welcome, listeners. My name is Katie Wornek and I am a paying for college expert with StepUp Utah.

Jacob: And I am Jacob Newman and I’m also a paying for college expert with StepUp Utah. I’m going to go ahead and get us started with some of our news headlines for this week. So, the first thing that we want to cover is Utah System of Higher Education legislative update. So, as everyone knows, the legislative session opened on January 22 and will run for a mere 45 days, which will go by really quickly. The Utah System of Higher Ed tracks developments within the legislative session and you can visit higheredutah.org for a weekly update. So far, some updates pertaining to education include some of the following: the higher education appropriations subcommittee, they have met with Commissioner Buhler and several college presidents and they have reviewed 2017 tuition and costs and student success metrics, so there’s that update. Another update is that on January 26, higher ed faculty, staff, students, and lawmakers met for Higher Education Day on the Hill. A big focus of this day in particular was student mental health services because that’s been in the news, especially here in Utah a lot lately. In terms of a bill to keep an eye on, there has been a proposed loan forgiveness for college graduates who enter high demand jobs in Utah, which is a really interesting development because we know that there are some employment gaps in Utah, there are some jobs that are not being filled, so definitely keep your eye on that potential bill that’s coming.

Katie: I think that one in particular, Jacob, will be interesting. If you want more details on it, all bills are published on the legislature’s website, which is le.utah.gov. We’ll put a link to that in the transcript. Also, by the way, the transcript is always available in the comment section of whatever platform you’re listening to the podcast on, and we post it on the blog at stepuputah.com if you’re looking to find that. But the reason I think this is interesting is we know that there are some forgiveness programs proposed being cut at the federal level, including the Public Service Loan Forgiveness. So it will be interesting to see if this can fill that void in terms of loan forgiveness for certain jobs if that ends up happening at the federal level.

Jacob: Yea, it will be interesting to see what kind of jobs they consider to be high demand, so definitely keep an eye on that. That’s also really good to see that coming from the state. That’s kind of a benefit that maybe, like Katie mentioned might go away at the federal level and it might also extend loan forgiveness to individuals who wouldn’t be eligible right now under the current laws. The other news item that is kind of interesting is that Dixie State approved its first ever masters degree. DSU moved from college to university status in 2013, so it’s a fairly new university and now it’s going to offer its first masters degree, which is going to be Master’s of Accountancy. If your students are interested in attending, hopefully this is an exciting trend that they can look forward to taking advantage of and usually, once they get their first masters degree, hopefully that means that in the future there might be some others coming down the pipeline. So those are our news updates for this week. We’re going to go ahead and take it over to Katie to talk about our event calendar.

Katie: Yea, so, first of all, I can’t believe it’s February already. Where has the time gone? One thing to keep in mind is February is Black History Month, and we have a blog up on stepuputah.com that talks a little bit about Black History Month for your students and also highlights some scholarship opportunities for African American and minority students. So, visit our website, stepuputah.com/blog to check that out. Now that it is February, there are only two FAFSA Nights left, which I can’t believe. SO, we have Westlake High School’s FAFSA Night on February 22, and Richfield High School will be hosting a FAFSA Night on February 28. So, now that we’re wrapping up the season, we are going to be asking for next year’s event requests starting in March. So, you will be hearing from us in March about availability for FAFSA Nights for the 2018-19 school year – that’s strange to say…I can’t believe it’s almost 2018-19 – and we’ll try to finalize the calendar by May. And I say “try” because we understand that things come up, and if you need to change your event after you’ve booked it, it’s not the end of the world. We will work with you. So, we can be flexible and try to make this as easy as possible so that we can get a lot of attendance at your school and help as many seniors as we can to complete the FAFSA.

Jacob: Yea, and just be aware that we, you know, coordinate all these events but there’s just the two of us here in the paying for college side of our outreach initiative under StepUp Utah, so we won’t be able to attend the event personally necessarily, but we work really closely with financial aid offices and with college access groups and we want your event to be a success. So, if you have any questions or concerns feel free to reach out to us.

Katie: Thanks for putting that in, Jacob. As far as holidays are concerned this month, don’t forget that February 19 is President’s Day, so please don’t come to school that day. Enjoy your time off of work. And then, in terms of conferences, there’s quite a few coming up, two in particular that I want to talk about. The Utah State Office of Education has its Student Advocacy Services Division and they’re putting on an Equity Conference that will be held at the Salt Lake Community College Taylorsville campus on Friday, February 23. So the goal of this is to promote equity and sustainable access for every student to higher education, regardless of their background or their needs or their experience. This is a really great professional development opportunity for administrators, teachers, counselors, district personnel. So far, the cap is at 300 and they are there for their attendance cap, but they do have a waiting list on the USOE website, so we will link to that in the transcript if you’re interested in getting on the waiting list. StepUp will have a breakout session at this conference, so we will be seeing you there. Jacob and myself will be giving a presentation. Once again, you can visit the USOE website. We will have a link to that and their Eventbrite page for their waiting list in the transcript of this podcast.

Jacob: It’s kind of interesting as well because I talked to the organizer of this conference and they’re kind of resurrecting this Equity Conference because it hasn’t been around for a couple of years, so they’re really excited about bringing it back to the table so they can talk about serving LGBT populations, people of color, English language learners, it’s really a great opportunity, so we hope to see you there.

Katie: Yes, definitely. And if you don’t get the opportunity to go to this one, Student Advocacy Services and the Utah Office of Education also host another conference in June specifically for counselors in K-12 populations, adult ed, anyone who’s in the prison system working as a counselor, so if you don’t make it to this one, there will be another opportunity in June. The other conference I want to bring a little bit of attention to is Latinos in Action. They do three conferences annually for 8th-12th grade students who are part of the LIA program. This year’s will be March 6 at Weber State University, March 16 at BYU, and April 26 at the University of Utah and Jacob and I will be there at all three to give presentations about paying for college to these students. So if you do have students who are involved with Latinos in Action at your school, I would encourage them now to talk to their LIA advisor about securing a spot at one of these conferences.

Jacob: Yea, it’s a really great opportunity for them to learn about some of the great opportunities available to them. We’ll be talking about kind of paying for college like Katie mentioned and hopefully sharing maybe some success stories about paying for college, especially from that Latin kind of lens hopefully, so we look forward to seeing you there!

Katie: Excellent. So, Jacob, with that I want to transition over to our FAFSA Tip of the Week and I know that you have it this episode.

Jacob: Perfect. So, this month, our tip of the month theme is financial data sections. Here’s our tip: We strongly, strongly, strongly, strongly encourage everyone to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, but have a copy of the 1040 and the W-2 handy. So, the IRS Data Retrieval Tool allows parents and students to transfer their tax return information directly from the IRS into the FAFSA. Financial aid offices have told us that they are far less likely to ask a student for follow-up verification documents if they use the tool, because they know that the data is coming directly from the IRS. It is more accurate and less subject to things like keystroke errors because it’s really easy to put “0” or mix up two numbers. Remember that a parent must have an FSA ID (or sometimes people will think of this as like a FAFSA username and password) to use this tool. To help confirm identity, the IRS DRT will ask users to type their address exactly as it appeared on their tax return, so sometimes if it’s “S” versus “South” or even if it’s incorrect on the tax return, you’re going to want to put it exactly as it appears on the tax return. So it’s helpful to have a hard copy of that 1040 on hand for reference because sometimes you might have put something wrong in there or you might have put “South”, you’d be surprised what you see on tax forms. Additionally, the IRS DRT will import the adjusted gross income from the tax return, but it will not separate the adjusted gross income into income earned by parent 1 and parent 2 and it’s also masked when you use the DRT, so you can’t see what the AGI is to break it up between parent 1 and parent 2, so it’s helpful to have a copy of each parent’s W-2 to determine what they’re earning from working and we have a lot of experience with the DRT over the past couple of months of FAFSA, so I think we’re going to open it up and talk about this a little bit.

Katie: Yea, one thing that we definitely need to touch on is the idea that last year, so the 2017-18 FAFSA, the DRT went down in March for some security reasons. The IRS and the Department of Ed worked together to resolve those security concerns and they got the tool back up and running for this current 2018-19 FAFSA. But if you have a student who – I ran into this the other day at one of my FAFSA Nights – I had a student who is going to be starting college in the summer. And at their school, that’s considered the 2017-18 school year still, it’s the last semester. So she had to fill out two FAFSAs. She had to fill out 17-18 FAFSA and 18-19. It was a weird experience for her because she could use the DRT, IRS Data Retrieval Tool, on her 18-19 FAFSA, but for the 17-18 one, that’s not a tool that is available. They never brought it back, so you still have to manually input if you do have any students who, for one reason or another, are filling out last year’s FAFSA or the older FAFSA.

Jacob: Another really good point to know is that I’d say with the DRT there are some circumstances where it just won’t work and it’s unclear why. You’ll put in the address exactly as it appears and it still won’t allow you to import that tax information. I’ve never really been able to determine what causes that. Another thing to keep in mind is there is a lag time for when you file your taxes to when you can use the DRT. That especially happens if you have a small business and you filed an extension. But again, sometimes there are instances when we just don’t know why it doesn’t work. It’s just kind of bizarre.

Katie: Yea, one thing that I had heard from a representative at Federal Student Aid is that if the IRS has on record that this person, based on their Social Security Number, has ever been the victim of identity theft or a fraudulent tax return or something like that, they block their ability to use the DRT for their own safety. I never know if that’s the case or not with a family member, but I would say, if you type the address exactly, they don’t know of any situations where they’ve been the victim of identity theft, don’t dwell on it too much. That’s really all the troubleshooting you can do and if it doesn’t work at that point, it doesn’t work. And it’s a pretty (in my experience) small percentage of the time, but you can just move on and manually enter the tax data if you need to at that point.

Jacob: Yea, the other thing to keep in mind about the DRT is that since we now use, for the 2018-2019 FAFSA, since they’re using the 2016 tax returns, 2016 was a little while ago, so there are definitely going to be maybe some changes in the family situation. So, for example, if parents in 2016 were married and they were married filing jointly, and then in 2017-2018 now they’re divorced or separated, that’s going to obviously reflect in the FAFSA. The DRT is not going to be able to be used for those individuals. So they will have to answer the tax information manually, which can be a little tricky sometimes, especially if both parents are working and they have to break out their taxes. So, if you ever have a situation like that and need some additional clarification, feel free to reach out to us. We have a lot of experience with dealing with some of these more tricky situations. Anything else you have to add, Katie?

Katie: No, but I will take an opportunity to introduce a new segment or a new talking point to the podcast now that we’re getting toward the end of the school year which, like I said, is unbelievable. I want to take a moment to talk about a promotion that we do at UHEAA and StepUp called the FAFSA Cup. So, a lot of counselors have probably already heard about this. Last year was our first year doing this. It is a competition that encourages counselors and rewards the good work that they do for promoting FAFSA completion in their schools. And the application is online at StepUpUtah.com – we’ll have the exact subpage in the transcript. The applications are available. You may want to hold off for a little while to apply, simply because we do accept applications through tax day – April 15. I believe that’s a Sunday, so I’ll have to double check on the exact deadline. I think we extended it to April 17. But this application asks you to tell us the narrative of what FAFSA completion looks like at your school. What are you doing to talk to students who are first generation? What are you doing to talk to students who are of a low-income status or a low socioeconomic status to encourage them to file the FAFSA so they can access the federal aid that’s designed for them to use? We want to know how you recognize students who file the FAFSA or reward them or incentivize them in any way. How do you follow up with students who have been selected for verification to help them kind of navigate that process? Maybe it’s getting an IRS tax return transcript or maybe it’s talking to the courts to get documents for legal guardianship. Essentially, we want to know from start to finish of the school year, what are you doing to help these students access the money that they need to pay for college? So, if you do apply, like I said, I would recommend kind of holding off so that if you have some success stories from the next couple months leading up to April, you can include those in there. Application is available now. When we select the winner, the winner receives the actual physical FAFSA Cup – it’s a really, really heavy trophy….surprisingly heavy – lunch with the StepUp team, and a $750 professional development grant. For our runner up, we do choose a second place winner, and they receive the FAFSA Runner Up Cup to proudly display in their counseling office. So, last year we had Utah County Academy of Sciences or UCAS win the FAFSA Cup and Jordan High was our runner up, so we encourage you to apply for this program. We want to see even more applications this year so that we can reward the good work that you do.

Jacob: You may be thinking, “Well, our FAFSA completion percentage…this is something that we’ve always really struggled with.” You know, we took a look at the rubric and we really wanted to incentivize schools to have a FAFSA completion culture, but we realize that there’s going to be circumstances where moving the needle on your FAFSA completion is going to be difficult. But we want to still recognize moving the needle on that FAFSA completion, but it’s not wholly based on FAFSA completion percentage, so just keep that in mind as you’re applying. This is really a great opportunity for you to think about college access in general because we know that financial barriers to higher ed are one of the biggest barriers for a lot of those diverse populations that you work with. So we really strongly encourage you to apply. I mean, $750 for a professional development grant, that can go a long way. It’s also really fun to have lunch with us. We talk about what you’re doing in your school, we get to know each other, and also you’ll be receiving the actual physical cup at the USHE Counselor Conference in the Fall. And that’s a great opportunity for you to get some, you know, close ups and good pictures and good press for you and your school.

Katie: Yea, Bryan, our digital media guy made a video last year of the award ceremony of the USHE Conference where we gave the cup to UCAS. You can find that on our YouTube channel. It’s actually really funny. He did a great job with that video. So, thanks for sharing that, Jacob and for clarifying. What you can expect next time for our episode is another FAFSA tip, more news and events, and we will also be doing a guest interview with Jami Gardner, who is a trainer for Utah Futures. She’ll be talking to us about some of the new and legacy features of the Utah Futures website, how to get trained on using those features, how to help your students get the most out of their Utah Futures account. So, we encourage any feedback or questions that you might have regarding this podcast or any other services that StepUp provides. And if you want to nominate a counseling team for the good work that they do, we do take counselor spotlight nominations, so you can email us at outreach@utahsbr.edu. Thanks for joining us.

Jacob: See you next time.

Bryan: StepUp to Higher Education is an outreach initiative of the State of Utah that empowers 8th through 12th grade students and their families to prepare for college. We believe every Utah student should pursue education after high school, whether that be a one-year certificate, a two-year degree, a four-year degree, or beyond that. We provide programs and resources to encourage college prep and success, as well as training and materials for school counselors like you. Thanks for listening to this episode of the Title IV + More Podcast for Counselors and Educators. You can find more about us, order outreach and access materials, or request a StepUp Utah event at your school at StepUpUtah.com. And lastly, be sure to follow us on social media. You can find us at Facebook.com/StepUpUtah, also on Instagram and Twitter by searching for @StepUpUtah. You can also find our Outreach Officers on social media, as well. Just search for @StepUpKatie and @StepUpJacob.


This is the transcript for Episode 12 (February 8, 2018) 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.

Listen to the “Title IV + More Podcast for Counselors and Educators” on iTunes

Listen to the “Title IV + More Podcast for Counselors and Educators” on SoundCloud

Listen to the “Title IV + More Podcast for Counselors and Educators” on Google Play

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