Guest post by Kristan Venegas
Your students may need some help navigating their financial aid options. Kristan Venegas is a professor of clinical education and research associate at the Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California. She served as a panelist during the NHS webinar, “The FAFSA: What You Need to Know Now,” which focused on key parts of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process. Her post below provides some insight to pass to your students about the importance of considering different types of financial aid and calculating all costs associated with going to a school of their choice.
All school leaders not only want to see their students excel academically, but they also want to ensure their students become knowledgeable about their options in financing their aspirations so they can take their education to the next level. As a panelist during a National Honor Society webinar on the FAFSA, I’d like to share some insights that might be helpful for you to pass along to your students.
Evaluating Individual Needs
What does inclusivity mean in terms of financial aid? After working and researching in this area for over 15 years, I have learned that a truly inclusive financial aid presentation takes into account the many different variations of individual needs within the audience. Admittedly, this is not an easy thing to do, but experienced colleagues are thoughtful about balancing information that includes individual and general concerns.
Because of my own research and practice interests, I am especially mindful of the needs of low-income students and families, as well as the needs of undocumented students, students who are in the foster care system, and students whose parents are incarcerated. At the same time, I try to be mindful of all of those middle and upper income students and families that might be in any audience.
What are their needs and how can they be addressed—what information is most important to this group? Typically, a student or family member will ask a question about options for financial aid believing that they only have a few options. However, they typically have more than they realize.
Discovering the Options
During the webinar, I presented a number of options, including grants, scholarships, loans, savings, tax credits, and work-study. It’s relatively easy to learn about these financial aid options by visiting FAFSA.ed.gov or CollegeBoard.com, which are both reliable resources.
And while understanding these options is crucially important, an even more important element relates to the conversations that I encourage students and their families to have as they prepare to make financial aid choices.
I recommend that students’ and their families think about three key questions:
- What are the real costs of college for the school that the student hopes to attend?
It’s important to understand the costs of attendance versus just tuition. In other words, the cost of books, food, transportation, and other cost-of-living expenses need to be considered.
- Who will pay for those costs and when?
Will you pay as you go? Take out student loans? Parent loans? Will a family member borrow with the expectation that the student pays those loans? Is the student expected to work to help pay for expenses? If so, which ones?
- What kind of aid is OK?
Will the family rely on tax credits to help pay for school? Are loans acceptable to the family? Does a family expect the student to receive scholarships? If so, how might that happen?
Having these conversations now, before those financial aid offers come rolling in will help clarify students’ options for college and their financial future after college.
The NHS/NJHS webinar “The FAFSA: What You Need to Know Now” can be viewed on demand by student members of NHS and NJHS and their parents. Faculty and counselors of NHS- and NJHS-affiliated schools may also view the webinar. To facilitate participation, viewers should get the school’s NHS affiliation number before logging on. Visit www.nhs.us/webinars or www.njhs.us/webinars to access the recording.