This is the transcript for Season 2, Episode 7 (January 17th, 2019) 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.


Katie: 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 to Title IV + More, StepUp Utah’s Counselor and educator podcast. I am Jacob Newman and I am a paying for college expert with StepUp Utah.

Katie: And I am Katie Wornek, also a paying for college expert with StepUp. I am going to get our episode started with some news headlines for the week and, at this point, we are just going to be talking about the partial government shutdown. So, we’ve read through some information and synthesized how this will, or will not affect your students, their FAFSA, and their financial aid in general. So, as you know, the partial government shutdown is in effect as of the time we are recording this podcast anyway and we do record in advance. So if the shutdown is over by the time you are listening to this podcast we still think it is valuable for you to have this information, just in case you have any follow up questions from students or are feeling any ripple effects. One thing to note is that the Department of Education does have funding for fiscal 2019, so they have not been closed, they have been open during the partial shutdown and continue to be open. That means that the FAFSA Website, all related tools such as the FSA Id, which is that FAFSA username and password, and the IRS retrieval tool, which is used to retrieve information directly from the IRS’s database and import it into the FAFSA, all those tools are functional. Your students still can complete the FAFSA during the partial government shutdown. AN important thing to note as well is that the Federal Student Aid hotline is fully operational too in case you students need to call and ask any questions, that number is 800- 433- 3243. Now one thing that is affecting FAFSA’s is colleges and university financial aid offices are experiencing some issues linking to federal databases that they need to use to finish processing some FAFSA information. One in particular that we have seen is the selective service registration, they cannot check that database automatically for males 18-26, but this is more of a bureaucratic or systematic issue affecting the financial aid offices and their work. So your students shouldn’t be directly impacted, the financial aid offices are working through this and the Department of Education has also announced that they are going to reprocess any of these affected FAFSA’s after the partial government shutdown has ended. So again, your students shouldn’t be feeling the pain from that. One thing to note is that the IRS is affected by the partial government shutdown, so they are not processing requests for IRS tax return transcripts or letters of non-filing. So if your student has submitted their FAFSA and their college or university is asking for verification documents that includes the IRS Transcripts or the Letter of Non-filing please have them work directly with their university to discuss their next steps. However, and I am going to throw it over to Jacob on this one, we got some good news from the Department of Ed on January 9th, about this problem.

Jacob: So this is actually really great news for a lot of students because we know that a lot of students struggle with the verification process. There is something called verification mail where students will be selected for verification and they won’t follow up with the steps and they won’t receive their Federal Financial Aid so they won’t actually be able to attend higher education! So, this new guidance came out from the Department of Education on January 9th, and basically what they have decided is that if a student has been selected for verification, and they typically would be required to provide an IRS Tax Return Transcript, they will be able to now provide signed copies of tax returns which will be much easier to find for students and parents. Each college and university will kind of have their own process for this, but they will be allowed to accept those and if you have questions we are encouraging you to reach out to your college or university to ask any additional questions and make sure they are going to be following this as well. This is really great news for a lot of students and parents because getting an IRS Tax Return Transcript can often be a difficult process and can be a barrier to that verification process as well.

Katie: Excellent! So, in summary, during the partial government shutdown still have your students complete the FAFSA it shouldn’t negatively affect them and if you do have any additional questions you can reach out to us our email is outreach@utahsbr.edu. Now we will move on to upcoming events. So one exciting thing to note is FAFSA nights are over, we want to thank the 116 high schools that participated in FAFSA Events this year and keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming email because we are going to set up event requests for next school years FAFSA events, starting in March. So be on the look out for that email from us announcing that we will be accepting event requests! Some other deadlines to note, the Regents Scholarship Application deadline is February 1st for your students who are planning to apply for that. If you have any questions about the Regents Scholarship Application or deadlines you can go ahead and call their team with any questions you might have, their number is 801-321-7159. And, as a final reminder, Martin Luther King Day is January 21st, two Mondays from now so make sure not to come to school that day.

Jacob: Awesome! I am now going to move on to our next segment, which is FAFSA Tips. For the past several weeks we have been covering some tips and tricks to encourage your students to be able to finish the FAFSA. What we are going to talk about this week is parental outreach. Especially this time of year we really need to make sure we are targeting the parents because this is when things really start to heat up. Students realize they are going to graduate from high school, so we are going to give you some tips on how to reach parents which will in turn reach students to get them to complete the FAFSA. And these are best practices across the country! So, first Ohio, what they would do is they would have consultations with parents about financial aid, they would reach out at parent teacher conferences, athletic and music events and they also worked closely to reach populations that were not likely to file. Particularly in the community in question they would reach out to immigrants and the large refugee population that they had, they reached out to parents, educated them about Federal Financial Aid and encouraged them to work with their students to file the FAFSA. In Arizona they reached parents by using bilingual electronic diaries, bilingual emails, and bilingual mail to reach students with Spanish speaking parents. So if you have a large population of Spanish speakers in your high school it’s a great idea to reach parents where they are by providing information that’s in their native language. We know that can often be a barrier for students and parents if the parents are unaware of the information because they are unable to comprehend it in their own language. In California, this is something really interesting that I think would work really well her in Utah as well, they partnered with local businesses, in this case they partnered with the Apple Store, to get students to get students and parents to file the FAFSA on a new Apple Device. So this is a great way to use business partnerships because they like the free advertising obviously, but by also getting students excited about the FAFSA process because they get to try it on a fancy new device. And, with these FAFSA Tips we also want to just provide a shout out to Utah, because we really have seen a great improvement in FAFSA completion this past year. There’s been a lot of factors I think that have gone into that but we continue to see really great year over year improvement and we want to thank our counselors and educators for all that they do to help us with FAFSA Completion and college access in general. Anything you want to add about any of those Katie?

Katie: No, I think I just want to echo your sentiment that I’ve seen a lot of improvement with FAFSA completion this year and I know that its due to the hear work of counselors and educators like yourselves so thank you!

Jacob: Alright, and with that we will sign off for the week and next week we will cover any upcoming events, any news, as well as some tips about FAFSA! We will see you next time.

Katie: StepUp to Higher Education is an outreach initiative of the state of Utah that empowers 8th-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 1-year certificate, a 2-year degree, a 4-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 access and outreach materials, or request a StepUp Utah event at your school at StepUpUtah.com. And last but not least, 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 follow 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.