This is the transcript for Episode 17 (May 10, 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 my  name is Katie Wornek. I am also a Paying for College Expert with StepUp. Our first article this week is from NPR. There’s a link to it in the transcript if you’d like to take a look at it. And the headline is “High Paying Trade Jobs Sit Empty While High School Grads Line Up For University.” So this came from a new study from the Washington state auditor who found that jobs in skilled trades go unfulfilled because student are almost universally steered toward bachelor’s degrees. And his recommendation was to start career guidance as early as seventh grade. On a national level, this article kind of exposed that 70% of construction companies across the nation are having a hard time finding qualified workers, and that came from a study from the Associated General Contractors of America. Finally, a study from Georgetown University claims that there are 30 million jobs that pay an average salary of $55,000 a year without requiring a bachelor’s degree. We wanted to share this because we talk a lot at the Utah System of Higher Ed about what college means for students and counselors know that it’s not just a bachelor’s degree. They can talk to their students about multiple options after high school, including maybe technical colleges. I wanted to open this up to a discussion and kind of see what we can glean from this information.

Jacob: One thing that’s really interesting to think about is that a lot of students when they hear the word “college” – and I’ve heard this again and again and again – they’re like, “I’m not sure college is for me.” And they always think that it’s a four-year degree. But here in Utah we have a really great Utah System of Technical Colleges that offer really, really affordable options for those kind of short-term programs where students can get some sort of higher education but then go out and get a high-paying job. And I mean these are so affordable. They are so inexpensive that Pell Grants, in a lot of cases, can cover the cost of attendance.

Katie: That’s a great point. And then that recommendation from the auditor in Washington state about starting career guidance in the seventh grade – I think we do a great job of that in Utah. I know counselors are starting the CCRs around that age and I think one of the resources, if you’re not already using it, that can help you in those discussions is Utah Futures because it’s great for helping identify potential careers, finding internships and apprenticeships, degree or certificate planning. It’s a really fun and interactive tool to use in those discussions with junior high schoolers and high schoolers about their career planning.

Jacob: Yea, because a lot of kids decide- you know, even at that age in seventh grade – they’re kind of like, they know what trajectory they’re going to be on. And sometimes they say, you know, “College is not for me.” But I think kind of changing the discussion about what college is for them – maybe if they’re a more hands-on person – maybe those technical schools are something they should really look into pursuing. I think it’s a really good option for some people out there.

Katie: I agree. So, with that, we’ll move over to our event calendar. We’re wrapping up the end of the school year here, so there’s actually not too many to report. One of the exciting ones is Decision Day. This is – it was started by the Reach Higher campaign, which was Michelle Obama’s kind of college and career readiness outreach program. And they operate under this philosophy that all students, regardless of if they’re going into college athletics or not, should be celebrated for what decision they make on where to go to school. So this is a celebration that high schools host to let seniors just kind of get the word out and have a fun day where they get to chat about where they’re going to be going to school. And Decision Day is officially May 1, but kind of like with Utah College Application Week, it’s not just that one day or that one week, Decision Day gets celebrated throughout the month of May. So, if you are interested in starting a Decision Day celebration at your school, you can visit ReachHigher.org for details on how to host your own event. And then the Utah State Office of Education Summer Conference, as you probably all know, is coming up. That is going to be June 12-13 at Wasatch High School in Heber. It’s hard to believe it’s almost June already! And the whole StepUp team is actually going to be present at this conference. We’re giving joint breakout sessions where all of us are presenting and we are discussing all things USHE, so all the updates that you need for the next school year from the Utah System of Higher Education and from StepUp. And then, finally, I wanted to call out that the USHE counselor conference is going to be September 14 this year, but registration is open now if you’d like to attend that conference in the fall. You can find the link to the registration on our website – just search “2018 USHE Conference” in the search bar on StepUpUtah.com. And with that, Jacob, I’m going to hand it over to you for our FAFSA Tip of the Week.

Jacob: Awesome. It’s getting to be the end of the school year, so for a lot of student’s they’re starting to think about the fall already, which is really hard for me to believe. But this is a pretty common question that we get from counselors because we put a lot of push on FAFSA completion, but there’s some steps sometimes after the FAFSA in terms of getting their financial aid. Some counselors and educators and mentors will ask, “My student has completed a FAFSA. Now how do they actually receive their financial aid?” So there are a few steps that your students may or may not have already taken that they’ll need to take in order to be ready to enroll in the fall and receive that financial aid that they’ve already applied for. First of all, students must be admitted to a college that is eligible to distribute Title IV funds and they have to list that college on their FAFSA. So, after they’ve done that, they have to fill out and return the college’s financial aid award letter. This is the document in which the student lets the college know what aid they want to accept and what aid they want to decline. So, for example, if the student is offered federal student loans, and they don’t want to take the full loan amount, they would indicate that in the document. If they decide that they do want to take federal student loans and this is their first semester in college, they will have some additional steps, as well. Usually they’ll have to sign what’s called a Master Promissory Note in which they say, “Yes, I know I’m taking out loans and I will have to pay these loans back.” They’ll also have to do entrance counseling through Federal Student Aid, which will outline borrowing responsibly, and also kind of the terms and conditions of the federal student loans that they are taking out. The third step is kind of an obvious one, but it’s also very important – the student must enroll in classes in order to be able to receive their federal financial aid. Finally, what will happen is that the financial aid is deposited directly into the student’s account at school. After their cost of attendance is covered – so things like tuition – any money that is left over will be refunded directly to the student. So it’s usually that simple unless the student has been selected for verification, which we have talked about in other tips. And if your student has questions or concerns about their award, or they’re wondering what they should do, it’s best to call the financial aid office as early as possible so that they can have that money ready for them in the fall because they’re processing a lot of financial aid and so the earlier the student reaches out, the more likely they are to be ready for the fall in terms of that. And with that, I am going to have our monthly counselor spotlight in which we announce our FAFSA Cup winners and our runner up. We are super excited this year. We had some excellent applications and our actual winner for this year is Ben Lomond High School. They are the winner of the FAFSA Cup. And they did a really fabulous job on their application. I just want to point out a few things that they did that made it actually a very stellar application. The first thing that I want to point out is that Ben Lomond was very reflective of their past success and some things that they maybe could do better with. So they decided that they were really going to have a comprehensive strategy that would have six different evening events – kind of these large-scale school-wide events – and one Saturday event in order to accommodate as many students as possible. They also noticed that they really had a difficult time getting Spanish-speaking families out to these events, so they hosted two events that were geared specifically toward Spanish-speakers. So they kind of recognized a problem that they had and then they had a solution that they came up with in order to kind of address that problem, which I thought was really awesome. They also had goals for FAFSA completion, so they had a goal in mind. And they offered individual assistance as needed. Another thing that they do that I think is really awesome is that they announce the number of FAFSA completions and the number of pending FAFSA applications during morning announcements and in assemblies. Kind of providing that recognition for students so they have the FAFSA on their mind throughout the year. They also put up a FAFSA tree in their window showcasing the names of FAFSA completers, which I think is really great to kind of incentivize students to see, “Oh look, I’m being recognized for completing my FAFSA.” They also talk about some of the strategies they use to engage undocumented students because I know that, for some counselors and educators, when we talk about FAFSA completion, undocumented students or students who are not eligible for federal financial aid are kind of left out of the picture, but they talked about how kind of these discussions around the cost of college, they were able to circle back with undocumented students and talk about some of the options for them, as well. And we really appreciate all that they do and we loved hearing the stories of some of their successes that they had over this past year, so that was really awesome. Our runner-up for this year is Pine View High School in St. George. They also had some really fabulous things that they did. Some things that I wanted to mention – their Utah College Advising Corps staff advisor on staff is also their financial literacy teacher, which is a really interesting kind of thing that I haven’t heard of before. But she had her students use an online tool called Payback, which it’s actually a really fun game. Katie and I were playing around with it this morning.

Katie: Oh, yea! I’m addicted to it already. It’s really – that website is beautiful.

Jacob: Yea, so what it does is it basically talks about student debt and student life kind of holistically. It’s really great because you can kind of see how your choices will influence how much debt you might need to take out when you’re going to college. So, she assigned that as an assignment in her financial literacy class.

Katie: One thing I love about that, Jacob, if I can chime in is that website is designed to be kind of a “choose your own adventure” book where the student can say, “I want to do the best meal plan possible at my college and eat like a king!” and they can make these choices outside of the context of money and then kind of see at the bottom of the screen how that’s going to impact them financially in the future. It’s kind of a fun game for them. It’s really engaging.

Jacob: And I really like how they can kind of pick and choose. So maybe they’ll say, “I really do want to eat well while I’m in college, but I don’t want to party as much.” It kind of has, like Katie said, a “choose your own adventure”. And then she had her students write an essay based on the game and what they learned from it and that got them thinking about their paying for college plan. Another thing that they did that was really great is they were able to recognize students on Decision Day. They have a Decision Day celebration on May 2. So, they recognized students who completed the FAFSA and this is also a really great technique to raise awareness about FAFSA completion. So, even if students have decided what their post-high school plans are, they are still given that kind of nudge to maybe complete the FAFSA if they haven’t completed the FAFSA at that point. And we really had some great applicants this year. We really saw some excellent holistic strategies and that’s my suggestion for schools who are considering applying next year or for schools who are looking to improve their FAFSA completion percentage – just have a holistic approach rather than just focusing on one FAFSA completion event, but kind of how can we promote FAFSA completion and college-going culture throughout our school throughout the year? So, we look forward to having lots of applicants for this next year.

Katie: So, with that, that is the end of our episode. I appreciate you joining us today. On our next episode, which is our season 1 finale, we’re going to have an interview with My529, which is formerly Utah Educational Savings Plan. And they’ll be talking about how your students can take advantage of some of their college savings options. And because this is our second-to-last episode, I just want to say that we’re in the process of planning season 2 for next school year and we would definitely encourage or welcome your feedback or your suggestions. If there’s a topic that you want us to discuss or address or there’s a person that you think would be fun to interview, please let us know. You can reach us at outreach@utahsbr.edu. Thanks for joining us.

Jacob: ‘Til 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.


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.