This is the transcript for Episode 16 (April 24, 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

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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’m also a paying for college expert with StepUp Utah. And I’m going to start us out today with some education news headlines. We have some really interesting ones today that we’re excited to talk about. The first one comes from Higher Ed Utah and it is “Utah students saved over $8 million through WICHE out of-state tuition discount program in 2017-2018.” So, WICHE is the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education and they run several tuition discount programs. There are a few programs for graduate and medical students but their largest program is the Western Undergraduate Exchange or WUE. This allow residents of 17 WICHE member states, mostly in the Western United States, to pay no more than 150% of in-state tuition if they attend a college in a WICHE member state. 1,049 Utah residents participated in WICHE programs in the 2017-2018 school year and they saved a collective of $8.1 million as a result. Throughout all the WUE states, over 40,000 students participated and saved a collective $365.4 million this school year alone. Yea, that’s quite the large number there. Yea, this is a really great opportunity for students if they decide that they do want to go out-of-state to be able to save some dough on tuition because tuition out-of-state can be really quite expensive.

Katie: Yea, I mean obviously working for the Utah System of Higher Ed, we tend to favor our in-state institutions of higher education and I think that’s perfectly fair. We have a lot of great colleges here. But for a lot of students, going out of state is the right fit for them. And we would never want the financial barriers to be the thing that prevents them from doing so if it’s something they really want to pursue. It’s nice to know that they have a lot of options, they have 17 different states and areas to choose from – I think one of them is Puerto Rico if I recall, I’d have to double check on that, but I know some of them are not in the continental US. If your students do want to go out of state, this is just proof that they can definitely take advantage of some cost savings out there

Jacob: And it’s just really great to know that they should read the requirements really carefully because they do need to apply for this and there are some other requirements and stipulations that go along with it, so it’s just to make sure they’re checking out all their possibilities. We know that sometimes high school students are not thinking about the financial cost of things, so it’s just always good to make sure that they’re on the same page. Awesome, and then the next headline is about tuition increases. And this is from the Deseret News. So the Board of Regents approved a 1.5% tuition increase for Utah colleges and universities. This has to go through a public notice and a public hearing before it can actually take effect. But Commissioner Buhler said that it reflects the funding that we received from the legislature. And this is actually the smallest tuition increase in eight years, which is a good thing to hear because we know that the cost of tuition can often be a barrier for higher education

Katie: Yea, and I think that it’s inevitable, you know, tuition goes up with the cost of living, everything gets more expensive as the years go on, but we know that Utah is the third lowest in-state tuition in the nation and I don’t know where this increase will put us, but I’m sure it’s right around that same category. We’re relatively affordable when it comes to our in-state institutions. And it’s not all bad because we also know that with the most recent tax bill, the maximum Pell award increased for next year to – do you recall Jacob?

Jacob: It’s a little over $6,000. I think it’s about a $175 increase over the previous year if I remember right.

Katie: Yes, so they originally said it (the maximum Pell award) would be $5,920 per student next year and now it’s just a little over $6,000 per student is the maximum that they can get if I recall correctly. So, while tuition may be going up, they’re offsetting that cost from a federal standpoint too and helping student out there. And of course there’s always the option to apply for scholarships. There are multiple options out there for students to help offset the cost of attending college.

Jacob: And I think this just speaks kind of to our mission here at UHEAA in particular to improve FAFSA completion throughout the state. As tuition goes up, that cost of attendance is going to go up and a lot of students are just neglecting to do the FAFSA and they don’t know what they’re eligible for. So, as always, we encourage students to apply for FAFSA, even if you’re only eligible for loans, students will at least have that option if they decide they need to take out those federal loans which, we know, have several benefits of course. And then we’re going to transition to our events that we have going on. This is an interesting time of year because we’ve finished most of our FAFSA completion programming, but we have some other stuff that’s going on as well. We are continuing our #WhyCollege campaign. And these are blogs and social media giveaways from our colleges here in Utah. A new school is featured every week. Here are some of our upcoming contests that we have. From April 30-May 4 is Weber State week. From May 7-May 11 is Salt Lake Community College week. And May 14-May18 is Utah Valley University week.

Katie: Can I add just a little note there? This has been a really fun campaign. Each of the admissions offices has given us a blog to post on our website every Monday just kind of explaining what their school has to offer. And the way we’re running the social media campaign is we’re asking seniors  – who are right at the end of their senior year, they’re ready to go off to college, they’ve likely already made the decision of where they’re going to go – we’re asking them to respond on social media and say why they’re excited to go to Snow College or Dixie or wherever they might be going. And it’s been so fun to see this really overwhelming response from seniors who are competing for those swag items but also sharing their ideas of why they’re excited about their particular institution.

Jacob: Yea, it’s a great opportunity to get excited about college because it’s hard to believe the time for school to end is almost around the corner. The other announcements that we wanted to make you aware of is that on April 17, that was the deadline for our new 8th-11th grade scholarship contest and since that application did require an essay, we’re taking a bit more time to review and we’ll notify the winners by mid-May. And mid-May is also when we will notify you about finalized FAFSA Completion Open House scheduling. As of today, I think we have 96 events scheduled, which is quite a few. That is about 20 more than we had around this time last year, so that’s exciting but that also means there’s going to be a lot more work involved in terms of making sure that things are ironed out. And the scholarship review, that’s going to take quite a while too because we have quite a few applicants, but it’s been a really great opportunity to see what these students have to say. We’ve gotten a lot of applications from different students from different backgrounds, so that’s really awesome. Anything you wanted to add on that, Katie?

Katie: No, it’s just we hit the ground running yesterday reading those essays that they submitted in their applications and it’s going to take a while, but we’re excited to see what they have to say.

Jacob: Awesome. We also want to remind everyone about the Access and Completion Retreat, which is a free retreat sponsored by the Utah System of Higher Education in coordination with the College Access Network of Utah. And that will be Friday, May 11 at The Leonardo. We’re super excited to be able to attend that and learn from each other and get an opportunity for some professional development. Also, kind of two more school-based events we want to make you aware of. Cyprus High School will be having an AVID Night and there will be a discussion about paying for college and that’s Monday, May 7 from 5-6:30pm. And Roy Jr. High will be having a College Carnival and we’ll be talking about all things StepUp. That will be Thursday, May 10 from 5-7. And I think that’s all we have in terms of events for this week, so I’ll turn the time over to Katie.

Katie: Great! I have the FAFSA Tip of the Week. And, as a reminder, our theme for these tips for the last two months has been verification because it can be such a complicated process, but it’s really vital to making sure that students actually get the aid that they’ve applied for. This is our fourth and final tip about verification. When you’re in doubt, contact the financial aid office. That is our mantra for today. When in doubt, contact financial aid. Verification looks really different at each college and each college’s financial aid office has a lot of freedom to set their own verification policies, which means the criteria for how they select people for verification and their requirements they set for documentation can vary greatly. If we ever give you the answer, “Call financial aid,” please know that it’s not a cop-out for us, we just really don’t know all of their policies because they’re so different. So, if your students do need any assistance completing the verification process and following up with their financial aid office to get their FAFSA taken care of, have them call or visit the office at their college. We know from first-hand experience at conferences and from working with these individuals at FAFSA Nights, or just through our day-to-day work, we know that the financial aid staff are really professional, they’re knowledgeable, and they’re sincerely focused on helping students access college, stay enrolled, and finish their degree. So they really have your student’s best interests at heart. With that, I will throw it back over to you, Jacob, for our Counselor Spotlight for the month of April.

Jacob: Awesome. We have closed our applications for the FAFSA Cup for this year. And it has been super exciting to be reviewing some of these applications. We have been hard at work reviewing them and using our rubric that we established to review some of these. And we just want to give a shout-out to the applications that we received this year. We have received several, so I’m going to go ahead and give a shout-out to those and name the schools that have submitted. We received applications from Ben Lomond High School, Copper Hills High School, Cottonwood High School, Fremont High School, Hunter High School, Jordan High School, Pine View High School, and Rockwell Charter High School, so a grand total of 8. And we’re in the process of reviewing those and it has been really interesting to see some of the unique things and intervention strategies that have been used by some of our high schools and it has been really great to see some of these more holistic FAFSA completion strategies that people have been employing in their high schools. A lot of times I think there’s kind of this tendency to think that, “Oh, we have a StepUp event and then everyone will come at the school level and then we’re kind of done with FAFSA completion.” But the thing that’s really great to see is that FAFSA completion is more than just an event, it’s kind of a year-round process, especially with FAFSA now opening on October 1. It has been really great to see some of the great work and see some of these best practices that we’ll be able to share with counselors around the state. It has been really awesome.

Katie: Yea, I’m excited to find out who our winner is going to be and take you guys out to lunch, whoever that might be.

Jacob: We’re super excited. And with that, I think we’ll turn it back over to Katie.

Katie: Thanks for joining us this week. In our next episode, you can expect a new FAFSA tip of the month, we’ll of course have news highlights and events, and as always, we encourage your feedback, questions, and any Counselor Spotlight nominations you might have. Thanks for joining us.

Jacob: Thanks. 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 16 (April 24, 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.