This is the transcript for Episode 13 (February 22, 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.

Jacob: Welcome, listeners. I’m Jacob Newman and I’m a paying for college expert with StepUp Utah.

Katie: And I am Katie Wornek, also a paying for college expert. I’m going to get us started this week with some news headlines. So, this is just a reminder that Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) issues a legislative update every Wednesday, so you can sign up at ushe.edu if you want that update. And a couple of highlights from this week’s legislative update, this was for week 2 of the legislative session, this edition highlighted budget projections for next year for the system of higher ed and legislation of interest. So it’s a lot of legislation that we talked about in our last episode, one in particular being a proposed bill that will offer loan forgiveness – student loan forgiveness – for students who enter certain professions in the state of Utah. So, once again, you can sign up for the legislative update at ushe.edu. Then we have another article this week from Inside Higher Ed that demonstrates a decline in student loan borrowing. So this examined the year 2015-16 and they found that borrowing rates went down 4% since 2011, which is really good news –there are fewer loans going out. This is interesting, however, because the sum of students’ borrowing increased by 16%. So in other words, fewer students are borrowing, but it’s larger sums of money. So keep that in mind, we’re going to have a round table discussion about that in a minute. There’s one other major finding from this article and that’s that Pell Grants given out in that 2011-2016 range fell, which is interesting. However the amount of each Pell award increased by an average of $300 per student. So, again, that’s kind of complicated, but to recap, fewer students were getting Pell in this time period, but they were getting more money per student. So, what this tells me and why I think it’s relevant to our group specifically and to counselors and educators is that more students need to be filling out the FAFSA. So, if they’re missing out on Pell money, I think that is an explanation why certain students were actually borrowing more money.

Jacob: Yea, that’s really interesting. I was thinking about that and I think it’s kind of a mixed combination because we know between that time period of 2011 to 2015 there were a couple of years where FAFSA completion rates went down, which is really sad to think that students are leaving that money on the table. Part of me also wonders if it’s related to the economy, but at the same time, like Katie mentioned, the recipients of Pell are getting those higher amounts, so it seems like a really interesting, complicated landscape that we’re looking at.

Katie: Yea, and I’d have to double check this article, but I believe when they were referring to student loan borrowing it was both federal and private student loan borrowing. I don’t want students to have to resort to that if they haven’t exhausted all of their federal or state or scholarship options first.

Jacob: Yea, I mean I think it’s sad when a lot of students just don’t even bother to file because they have this assumption maybe that, “I’m’ not going to qualify” or “It’s not something I’m going to do.” But, if it only takes a half hour, go ahead and do it. You might be the recipient of a Pell grant, even if that Pell grant is a couple hundred dollars, there’s something to be said for that. That could pay for part of your tuition or your books or something else that you might need to buy for school. Just apply, that’s the simple message.

Katie: Exactly. Why leave free resources on the table? So that is our final news headline for the week. I’ll pass it over to you, Jacob, for our event calendar.

Jacob: Awesome. We only have two FAFSA Nights left for the year, which is hard to believe. We have one on February 22 at Westlake High School and one at Richfield High School on the 28th of February. It’s getting kind of toward the end of the FAFSA season, just a reminder, if you ever have FAFSA questions or anything, you can feel free to reach out to us at outreach@utahsbr.edu because we know that students sometimes at this time of year are finally like, “Oh my gosh, it’s almost time to graduate from high school and I haven’t done my FAFSA” or they have other questions about it. So feel free to reach out obviously if you have any questions or concerns. We will start asking for next year’s event requests for FAFSA Completion Open Houses starting in March. Then we’re going to try to finalize it by May. Sometimes we know that things happen or there’s changes that need to be made, but we ask that you make your event request early just so that we can get an idea and we can start planning and coordinating with us and the financial aid offices we work with to make sure we can get adequate coverage for the events that we’ll be having. So if you need to change your event after May because I know a lot of times school calendars will change things – for example, maybe the time you had your FAFSA Night they’re also going to have the school play or something like that. It’s not the end of the world. We’ll try to work with you. But with over 100 events this last year, sometimes it’s a little difficult, so just keep that in mind. But we’re super excited for that. It’s hard to believe it’s that time again. In terms of other upcoming events, we have some conferences coming up. The Utah State Office of Education Student Advocacy Services is putting on its Equity Conference. That will be held at the Salt Lake Community College Taylorsville campus on February 23rd, which is a Friday. The goal of this conference is to promote equitable and sustainable success for every student regardless of their background, needs, or experience. Particular populations they’re talking about are parental engagement for K-12, students’ college access, working with people of color, LGBT students, it’s really going to be a really great conference. Unfortunately, spots are full already. But we look forward to seeing you there. It’s a really great professional development opportunity. There has been a waiting list, like I mentioned, but I think it’s likely closed at this point because it was such a popular conference. And if you are attending, we at StepUp will have a breakout session talking about financial aid and FAFSA completion and some of the initiatives we have here at StepUp to encourage college access from a financial perspective, so we’d be really happy to see you there and happy to answer any questions you have about FAFSA and financial aid and paying for college, especially with these populations of first generation college students, people of color, other things like that. Another series of events that we’ll have going on is the Latinos in Action conferences. There’s going to be one at Weber State University on March 6, there’s going to be one at BYU on March 16, and one at The University of Utah on April 26. We’ll be presenting about paying for college at all three of these events. If you have LIA at your school, encourage those LIA students to talk to their LIA advisor now about securing a spot for one of those conferences because I think it’s a really great opportunity for Latino students to get engaged in college preparation and leadership development. We look forward to seeing you there. And I’m also going to give you the FAFSA tip of the week. Remember that our tip of the month theme was financial data sections on the FAFSA. A common question we get is determining the total value of assets. The FAFSA asks for total balances of cash, savings, and checking, as well as the value of real estate and owning a business. There are some important nuances to these questions and I’ve worked with a lot of students and parents who sometimes assume something about their assets rather than reading carefully, so this is something really good to keep in mind. Students and parents should not include the value of their retirement plans (like 401[k], or pensions, annuities, and non-education IRAs) the home they live in, the vehicles they use for everyday transportation, a farm that they live on and operate, or a family business with 99 or fewer full-time employees. So, this leads to the question – what is included in the assets? So this is things like, rental or income properties, trust funds, money market funds, mutual funds, CDs, individual brokerage accounts, 529s as well. So if you need clarification on exactly what is included, you can check the help and hints box on the right hand side of the FAFSA. The other thing to keep in mind that is that often times it will calculate these amounts for you automatically. So it will say, “Does your balance of cash, savings, and checking exceed this amount?” If it does exceed that amount, including the things that I mentioned, then you’ll be asked to break it down into those three sections. Anything else you want to add about that, Katie?

Katie: No ,I just sure that there are countless students who miss out on Pell money because they’re over reporting assets that just don’t need to be included on the FAFSA. I know it’s a common misconception that, yea, we have to count the value of our house, the value of our car, the value of our retirement plan. But you really don’t. And the federal government wants you to secure housing and plan for retirement, so that’s why it doesn’t ask to include those assets that the family owns.

Jacob: Most families that I’ve encountered – there are exceptions, obviously – most families, what that ends up being honestly is cash, saving, and checking because a lot of people don’t own stocks and bonds outside their 401(k). So yea, just make sure you’re careful in reporting that. Like Katie said, you could be missing out on some of that money. So next month’s theme will be about verification. This is really the time of year when that happens a lot with the students. They’ll come to their counselor or they’ll come to their GEAR UP advisor and be like, “Oh, I got a letter from the financial aid office that says I’ve been selected for verification, what does that mean?” And we will definitely be talking about that in-depth, so you’ll have some knowledge to use with your students. And with that, we will go ahead and transition to our special guest interview this week with Jami Gardner from Utah Futures.

Katie: This week we have a special guest – Jami Gardner who is a trainer for Utah Futures. Welcome, Jami.

Jami: Hi. Thank you. Thanks for having me

Katie: No problem. Tell us a little bit about your role at Utah Futures.

Jami: I am the Utah Futures trainer, which basically means I help educators and administrators across the state – a lot of counselors mostly – use Utah Futures in their classrooms. So I answer all of their questions and provide conference sessions and trainings at their schools to help them become more knowledgeable with Utah Futures to be able to use it with theirs students.

Katie: Yea, I personally attended one of your sessions last year at USOE for their Student Advocacy Services conference and I felt a lot more comfortable with the website after that session. What is your favorite feature of Utah Futures for educators specifically?

Jami: Utah Futures has grown a ton over the last few years under UEN and just this last fall, we were able to purchase a new set of career exploration tools that I really really like. They’re very similar to the tools that are on Utah Futures, but what makes them different is that they’re a little more interactive for students. There’s a set of assessments where students can answer questions and it will help direct them toward which careers they may be interested in based on what their interests are and what they like. But they also get to interject their opinion. So as the careers start to be populated, they can say, “No, I’m really not interested in that,” because answering a set of questions only tells part of the story of a student. And they know themselves a little bit better sometimes. So they can interject their opinion and that provides more information to the system to be able to return careers that are more in line with what they like. On the website it’s called Explore Careers and it’s under the “careers” tab right now. We are updating our website soon, so that is going to be a little bit different navigation. But I really love that. I also really like Learning Express Library. Learning Express Library is not a new tool to Utah Futures, it’s been around for a while. But it seems like not as many people are familiar with it and the offerings that it has. So, Learning Express Library is a set of e-books and practice exams and tutorials to help students prepare for college and career and there’s SAT test prep and ACT prep, there’s AP prep exams. If you are maybe going to Salt Lake Community College and you need to take the AcuPlacer, there’s a prep test for that. Just lots of really great, free tools that I don’t think students are aware of.

Katie: Free is a word we like to use with students a lot. If they can save any place on college costs or preparing for college, that’s something we want to promote. What are some of the resources you see students using most frequently on the Utah Futures website?

Jami: Students are generally going to the Occupation Search. That’s a hot topic with counselors and teachers trying to prepare kids for life after high school, so the Occupation Search gets used a ton. And within there, they can find out information about education requirements, if they need a bachelor’s degree or maybe a master’s degree for the career they’re interested in. They can also find salary information and job outlook. It’s really a great one-stop place for information on careers. Another highly used area would be the College Search. As a former high school teacher, I loved this feature. Because as I’m trying to help students decide where they want to go to college, I don’t have to know all of the different college websites, I can just go to Utah Futures and I can find information on every college.

Katie: That’s awesome. If people have questions about Utah Futures or if they want to receive training on the site, what should they do?

Jami: Utah Futures has a sister site called Utah Futures OnRamp and it’s linked from within Utah Futures under “additional resources”. Or you can just go directly to UtahFuturesOnRamp.org. And that is our site where we can take information for training sessions if you’re interested in a training session, you can email me there or fill out our form. There are also help guides and videos to help you use the site under the “training” tab, so that would be the best way to get in touch with me.

Katie: Ok, so you can actually request in-person training for a counseling team or a district then?

Jami: Yea, we love to come out and work with counseling teams. Usually if you have, I would say 6 or more people or you get together maybe with your junior high and your high school in the area, I’d love to come out and work with your counselors.

Katie: Sounds great. Anything else you’d like to add, Jami?

Jami: We just have some exciting things happening with Utah Futures. Fingers crossed – the website is actually getting updated tomorrow. So, we’re super excited about that. Tomorrow meaning February16. No 100% when this is going to be airing.

Katie: Tomorrow from when this is being recorded. It’ll be up and ready by the time this is out. That’s awesome.

Jami: Exactly. So the website is getting updated – just a fresh look and feel. A little more user friendly for students. We’re super excited about that.

Katie: That’s great. Thanks for joining us today.

Jami: Thank you.

Katie: We are so grateful to have had Jami in for that interview. And if you do have any more questions, as she said in her interview, you can reach out to her, you can request events, or ask questions about Utah Futures and how to navigate it. Now I’m going to transition over to our segment of the Counselor Spotlight. So, this month we want to discuss the winners of the Lynn Jensen Memorial Scholarship. If you haven’t heard about it before, it is such an awesome program. This is put on by the Utah School Counselors Association or USCA. And it gives students the opportunity – seniors specifically – to call out the good work that their counselors do and to spotlight a counselor who has made a significant positive impact in their life. The winners are selected, they receive a $1,000 scholarship I believe, and then during the awards ceremony, the students, their families, and the counselor that they featured in their essay are all invited to the Utah State Capitol building. They set up a little bit of a foyer in the rotunda with snacks and a podium and the students actually read their essay with their counselor by their side. And it’s really touching – Jacob and I had the opportunity to go and watch it this year. And I was so blown away with not only the quality and the professionalism of the essays, but just the love that these students have for their counselors. There were a couple of tear-jerker stories there. So we want to spotlight the winners and the runners-up of the Lynn Jensen Memorial Scholarship for 2018. First, the runners-up were Andrea Cazares Rosas from East High School and she was honoring her counselor Alisa Kearl. Elijah Clark from Karl G. Maeser Preparatory Academy honored his counselor Krystal Anderson. Madison Michaels from Jordan High honored her former counselor Jared Buhanan-Decker and I say former because he is now at Dixie High. And then Kamree Peterson from South Sevier Highhonored her counselor Dustin Shakespear. And then the winners of the $1,000 prize were Brynn Eardley from Dixie High again honoring counselor Jared Buhanan-Decker, so he was called out twice this year, which was really impressive. Alexandra Nestle from Ogden High honoring counselor Tami Larsen. Jose Organista from West High School who honored his counselor Ami Burton. And Shelbey Townsend from Parowan High who honored her counselor Ava Chamberlain. A big congratulations not only to those students who were selected as the winners, but to all the counselors who made a difference and all the counselors out there who were nominated.

Jacob: I just want to comment that some of these stories were really incredible to think that, you know, being a school counselor is kind of a thankless job I think a little bit. You do a lot of administrative duties, you wear a lot of different hats, but these students were really so appreciative of these counselors who were willing to take time for them. They felt like they had the opportunity to interact with their counselor on a very personal level and the counselors sounded like they helped with some very difficult challenges for these students. So we’re really grateful for all that school counselors do to help students. Alright, everyone. Thanks for joining us this week. On next episode, you can expect a FAFSA tip, and remember we’re going to be talking about verification. And also an update on news and events and, as always, we encourage your feedback and counselor spotlight nominations as well. We look forward to hearing from you and we’ll see you next time.

Katie: Thanks.

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 13 (February 22, 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.