U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said that the country’s higher education system is in “crisis” thanks in part to a “government takeover of the student lending system” put in place by the Obama administration. But her contention was quickly fact-checked by a former GOP Senate staffer and other higher education experts.
“Our higher ed system is the envy of the world, but if we, as a country, do not make important policy changes in the way we distribute, administer, and manage federal student loans, the program on which so many students rely will be in serious jeopardy,” DeVos told the Federal Student Aid Training Conference in Atlanta in prepared remarks on Tuesday “Students are taking out tens of thousands of dollars in debt but many are misinformed or uninformed as to the implications of taking on that debt and their responsibilities to pay it back.”
Student debt, she said, is now 10 percent of national debt. “The student loan program is not only burying students in debt, it is also burying taxpayers and it’s stealing from future generations,” she said.
DeVos offered solutions for ballooning student debt, including giving students the opportunity to pursue the postsecondary path that’s right for them, even if that’s not a four-year college degree. She also called for boosting “innovation.” And she appeared to take a swipe at the free-college movement, whose champions include Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate.
“Nothing is free,” DeVos said. “Someone, somewhere ultimately pays the bills.”
Read full article click here, may require ED Week subscription.
Concordia student, Dominick Snow Pierce, says filing the FAFSA helped him follow his dreams. (Photo by Ana Martinez-Ortiz)
As surprising as it may seem, applying to universities and trade schools may be the easiest step when it comes to continuing education. The second step, often viewed as the most daunting one, is filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid better known as FAFSA.
Over the years, FAFSA has gained a bad rep, although it’s working hard to change that. Recently, the FAFSA application process, which once began in April, changed to October. In other words, people can begin submitting their FAFSA applications as early as Oct. 1.
“FAFSA is the tool that opens the door to education,” said Mayor Tom Barrett.
According to Interim Milwaukee Public School Superintendent, Dr. Keith Posey, in 2016 the FAFSA completion rate in MPS hit 49.9 percent. This year’s goal is 80 percent. To help achieve this goal, all the high schools will be participating in the Wisconsin Goes to College Campaign, Posey said.
Additionally, to encourage more students to apply to college and FAFSA, 20 new college career centers were established in MPS high schools. M3, which consists of UW-Milwaukee, MATC and MPS, are continuing their joint efforts to ensure that every student continues their education.
Dr. Keith Posey, interim superintendent, says the college and FAFSA application processes are community efforts. (Photo by Ana Martinez-Ortiz)
Posey said FAFSA is a community effort. It’s not just the schools and the students, he said.
“[The students are] going to need your commitment and your support,” Posey said to parents.
Shannon Snow, the mother of Dominick Snow Pierce who graduated from MacDowell and now attends Concordia University, said the College Career Program helped Dominic with his applications.
As a mother, Snow said she always emphasized to her children that school was the top priority. MacDowell’s college advisors matched her commitment by following through with Dominick and making sure he filled out not only his college application, but FAFSA too. He’s eternally grateful his support system pushed him to do both, said Dominick.
“FAFSA is the best thing in life,” he said.
As a parent himself, Barrett said he knows how intimidating the FAFSA application can be. The name alone sounds scary he said. The first questions many people have is ‘What is FAFSA?’ followed by ‘How do I do FAFSA?’. Once the application process begins, it quickly becomes understandable, he said.
“We filled out the FAFSA,” he said. “[It was] one of the smartest economic decisions of my life.”
FAFSA helps the students and their parents establish a plan for their college years. Barrett called it a blueprint of do-ability that can help ease the discomfort of financial uncertainty. He said, as mayor, he speaks on behalf of the city. Milwaukee needs more kids to go to college, he said.
The job vacancies are there, but the applicants may not have the skills to even apply for the jobs, he said. Companies may decide to export the jobs if they can’t find employees in Milwaukee. This would be a huge blow to the city’s economic status. Wealth can be built in these neighborhoods, he said, and it can be built through education.
“The plus side is so huge, I think it’s worth it,” Barrett said.
Andrea Atkins, a single mother of seven MPS students, testified to how helpful FAFSA is. Of her children, four have attended college, so far, and three of them have graduated. Parents can support their child’s dream of attending college with FAFSA, she said.
“Our children are the future and we must invest in their education and success,” she said.
Working as a Financial Aid Counselor, families often ask me how they can pay for college. More often than not this conversation takes place during the student’s senior year in high school. As a first-generation college student, there are things I wish my family and I had known to help us save on our college bill. These are a few things that families can do to help cut the cost of college:
1. Community colleges can be great options
Community college offers the most affordable education out there. At community college you can complete the general education classes that every school requires, and then transfer to a 4-year school where you can take classes specific to your major. Also, community college is a great place to gain technical skills and earn a short-term certificate to get you started in the workforce.
2. Buy used textbooks or rent them
Buy used books or check to see if you can rent textbooks at your school or online. After the class is over, sell your books back online, to the bookstore, or to someone else.
If you do an internet search for textbooks you may find a better deal from an online retailer than from the school bookstore, or you may be able to download a less expensive electronic version.
3. Explore all of your aid options
Apply for financial aid using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). There are several types of aid such as grants, scholarships, work-study and loans. Apply for financial aid every year you are in school and start looking for scholarships early.
Also check with your school’s Financial Aid Office to see if merit-based aid is available. To qualify for merit-based aid, you may need to meet certain criteria, such as specific academic areas or certain sports.
4. Borrow responsibly
Student loans are not free. You must pay back your student loans with interest.
If you have student loan money left over after you pay your school expenses, you do not have to accept that money. It is not free! The less money you borrow now, the less money you will have to repay after graduation.
If you pay the interest while you are in school, you will pay less money in the long run.
5. Avoid dropping classes and focus on graduating on time
Decide what you want to major in early in your college career and decide which career path is right for you. By thinking about this ahead of time, you will avoid paying for classes that don’t end up contributing toward your degree.
Dropping classes will extend your time to completion. The longer you are in school the more you will pay for college. Postponing joining the workforce also means you will be losing out on potential earnings.
These are only some of the things I wish I had known when preparing to pay for my college education. All of the tips mentioned involve planning ahead.
A great way to handle your finances and practice planning is to develop a spending plan. A spending plan can help you manage your financial aid and finances, while helping you figure out your expenses over the number of years that it will take you complete your degree, but that’s a topic for another blog.
Robert Weinert Jr. is a Financial Aid Adviser and is pursuing his Masters in Higher Education Administration Enrollment Management at Bay Path University. He is a 2017-18 virtual intern with the Office of Federal Student Aid, U.S. Department of Education.