This is the transcript for Season 2, Episode 14 (April 25th, 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.

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

Jacob: And I’m Jacob Newman, and I’m also a paying for college expert with StepUp Utah. I’m going to kick off this episode with some news headlines. So, there are two exciting new developments about degree options here in Utah. First, the Board of Regents approved a new doctorate program at Weber State University. You can read more about this at higheredutah.org and we’ll have a link in the transcript. But this is really great for your students who are interested in the medical field, Weber State University will now offer a Doctorate of Nursing Practice. And students can choose from two emphases – the Family Nurse Practitioner emphasis or the Leadership emphasis. And this is actually the first doctorate program at Weber State, so that is very exciting. The second one is a very interesting development at Southern Utah University. They are planning to launch a three-year bachelor’s degree pilot program in January 2020.  So you can read more about this in the Deseret News, we will also have the link in the transcript. So, Southern Utah University is accomplishing this by keeping students “fully engaged in summer sessions” for their freshman and sophomore years, which leads them to a three-year plan for graduation. So let’s talk a little bit about this as a group for a second. Let’s talk about some of the benefits of this. So what do you think, Katie? What would be some of the benefits of this three year program?

Katie: Yea, so I actually finished my own bachelor’s in three years, and that was by choice. And it was a financial choice. So I think that there are some options here for students when it comes to lowering costs for college. And if you have a student that can manage doing a four-year program faster than the four years allotted, that is one way to save costs. So what I’m seeing here, the benefits I derived and the benefits that a student would derive by doing this – one, a lot of institutions offer plateaued tuition, where they’re charging the same amount of money whether you’re taking 12 credit hours or 18 credit hours, so you’re essentially getting classes for free. In addition, we know that tuition tends to rise every year, so the faster a student can get done, the less they’re going to be charged. And in addition, the faster a student can get done with their degree, the quicker they’re going to be entering the workforce and starting to make back their money.

Jacob: Yea, those are some really great points. I think another really good point to note is that summer slide is a real thing, even for students who are in college, it’s a thing for adults as well. So this is a really great way to have that knowledge retention and to maintain motivation while students are working on their degrees. And beyond that, I think if they’re able to see that they can finish in three years, this also speaks to persistence. Sometimes in Utah we have issues with students, you know, who have some college but no degree. We’re one of the highest states in the nation for that. So this will be a really great way for students to see, “Ok, I can get it done in year three years if I do x, y, and z. And then I can finish my degree and move into the workforce.” So, hopefully this will help with persistence. I’ll be really interested to see what comes of that. Alright, and with that, we’ll move on to some upcoming events that we have. Just to make people aware, we’re going to be at the PTA Convention from May 16-17 at the Utah Valley Convention Center and we will have a booth with information about our programming, so we’re excited to be there. Also, do not forget that May is College Decision Month, so we’re hoping that you will host a College Decision Day celebration. If you need any advice or college readiness publications to hand out, please contact us at outreach@utahsbr.edu. Another plug for this – it’s still not too late for students who are planning to attend college after high school to complete their FAFSA, their Free Application for Federal Student Aid. So as you are having these College Decision Days, it’s a really great plug to encourage students to fill out an application so that they can have a plan to pay for college, because sometimes that reality doesn’t set in until they step foot on the college campus. And we want to make sure that they have access to educated professionals who are able to help them complete the FAFSA accurately, such as yourselves. And with that, we’ll move on to Katie’s FAFSA tip for this week.

Katie: Yes, so as Jacob said, it is certainly not too late for students to file the FAFSA if they’re planning to attend college next year. But we know that many of your students have already completed the FAFSA and this is the time of year when you’re going to be encountering verification more frequently. So, when students are selected for verification, it means that their college or university needs follow-up information to verify the information they provided on their FAFSA. So we wanted to make counselors and educators aware that we have a short series of videos that we produced to try to help students navigate some common FAFSA verification scenarios. So, if your students need help or you want to brush up on these topics, you can check out our videos at YouTube.com/StepUpUtah. So today we’re going to highlight video #2, and that’s how to verify dependency status. So, as a reminder, just kind of a quick refresher about what dependency status means, there are 11 very specific questions on the FAFSA that determine if a student is dependent and has to provide their parents’ information, or if they’re independent from their parents. I’m not going to read them all in their entirety, but here are the basic 11. First, was the student born before January 1, 1996? And that’s the question for this current FAFSA for the 19-20 FAFSA. The 19-20 school year. So that’s roughly 24 years old is the age of independence. Second, is the student married? Is the student working on a graduate degree, so anything post-bachelor’s. Is the student on active duty in the military, or is the student a veteran of the military? Does the student have biological children that are more than 50% financially dependent on that student? And kind of on the converse of that, does the student have any other dependents that they care for – not their own child – that are more than 50% dependent financially on the student? Number eight, since turning 13, has the student’s parents died, has the student been in foster care, or has the student been a ward of the court? Nine, does the student have a legal guardian who is not their parent or stepparent? Number ten, is the student an emancipated minor? And then the final dependency question pertains to if the student is an unaccompanied youth and is homeless or if the student is self-supporting and at risk of homelessness. Now, that was a mouthful, but it’s all to say that if a student answers “no” to all 11 of those questions, the FAFSA defines them as a dependent student and they must provide parental information. If there is truly an extreme circumstance, such as if parents have been deported and the student no longer has contact with them, they wouldn’t fit into any of those 11 questions, however, there’s a process by which they can appeal dependency through the college’s financial aid office. But, remember, at that point, it’s at the discretion of that office to decide if they’re going to make an exception or not and to override the student into being independent. So, for this segment, we’re actually going to focus specifically on the students who are independent by the FAFSA’s definition – aka, if they answered truthfully “yes” to any one of those 11 questions that we covered. In those circumstances, the student is independent and they only have to provide their own information – that means not their parents’ or their guardian for that matter – and if they’re married, they have to provide their spouse’s information. But, again, this is pretty infrequent when it comes to high school seniors. These students might be selected for verification by their college or university. In other words, they might be asked for some sort of documentation to prove their independence. So, the most common ones that we encounter are the ones that we cover in this video. So, for high schoolers, the first most common one – if they answered “yes” to the question about foster care, being an emancipated minor, or being a ward of the court. In those circumstances, the verification process might involve turning in a copy of their court order to the college, or giving a written statement from an employee of a state or county welfare agency, or a written statement from their attorney or their court-appointed advocate that was involved in that process. The second situation we might see with high school students is if they answered yes to the guardianship question. So again, if somebody other than their parent or stepparent has legal guardianship of them, they would be considered independent – they don’t have to provide the guardian’s information. However, they might have to provide a copy of the court paperwork assigning that person legal guardianship to prove that they’re an independent student. Finally, if the student answered “yes” to the question pertaining to homelessness, they might have to provide one of the following documents. That could be a written statement from their school or district McKinney-Vento or homeless liaison, or a written statement from the director of an emergency shelter or transition housing program, or in some circumstances, a school might accept a written statement from a member of the clergy who testifies to the fact that the student is homeless or at risk of being homeless. So, remember, the verification process looks different at each school. So if your student has specific questions, it’s best to have them call their college or university to follow up. And with that, we will sign off for this episode. We appreciate you tuning in, and we welcome your feedback, your comments, your questions. You can always reach out to us with your FAFSA-related questions or any other questions at outreach@utahsbr.edu.

Jacob: Thank you.

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.