2018 February

Archive for February, 2018

Veri-what?

On January 24th, the Compact held its January community partner meeting at the NewBridge Center for Arts and Technology. This meeting featured guest speakers Angela Johnson, Vice President of Access and Completion at Cuyahoga Community College, Andrea Caputo, ‎Program Manager, Quality Assurance & Compliance at Cuyahoga Community College and Heather Beasley, Site Director for Programs and Services at College Now. The trio presented on the topic of verification and how community partners can support students who are going through the process.

Verification occurs when students who submit the FAFSA are asked to submit additional documents to the college’s financial aid office to support the information entered on the financial aid form. The FAFSA is linked to billions of dollars in federal and state aid and verification is intended to reduce fraud and ensure the integrity of these distributions. Once selected for verification, financial aid cannot be dispersed until the process is complete.

While verification is rooted in good governance, the process itself is cumbersome to students. Furthermore, low-income students are more likely to be selected for verification because students who enter a “zero” expected family contribution (EFC) in their FAFSA – simply meaning their household income is less than $25,000 – have a higher chance of being selected for verification than their wealthier peers.

The current verification selection algorithm also means that if you’re selected for verification at one institution you are likely to be selected at multiple institutions. Complicating the practice, each college has its own verification process usually requiring students to submit a combination of tax returns, W-2 statements, and 1099 forms.

According to Heather, getting verified has a different impact on different students. Some students begin the process immediately, submitting the required documents to each school. Others, may ignore the emails or letters, thinking the problem will just go away. Regardless of the approach, feelings of anxiety, frustration, and irritation are common during the verification process. Sadly, for some students, a complicated verification process may drive them to give up on their postsecondary goals.

Despite this less than rosy picture, there are ways that community partners can help students. Angela suggests that partners “get to know a financial aid administrator. That way when your student hits a roadblock, the answer is just a phone call away. She also noted that schools like Tri-C have walk-in hours when any student with a financial aid related question from any college or university, can receive guidance.

Heather’s advice to community members is to read any and all correspondence provided by the government or institutions. By carefully reading the information sent to students – you’ll be ahead.

Washington Post: Colleges puzzled by surge in FAFSA verification requests

The Chronicle of Higher Education: The Verification Trap

Trending Ahead in FAFSA Completion

The Higher Education Compact tracks indicators that can determine whether a student is ready for college, will likely enroll, and is on track to graduate. A key access indicator – that is an indicator that is predictive of whether a student will actually enroll in college – is whether a student completes the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  The FAFSA opens the door to numerous federal grants and subsidized loans, state need-based aid, institutional aid and private scholarships. Without the resources unlocked by the FAFSA, most students are unable to afford college.

Since the FAFSA’s release on October 1, 2017, FAFSA completion at CMSD has trended ahead of last school year’s completion rates by 2.5 percentage points. As of January 19th (the most recently available data from the U.S. Department of Education), 812 students (35%) completed the FAFSA compared to 727 students (32.5%) in 2017.

The Compact is proud of this progress as it seeks to shift culture across Cleveland.  The Compact will continue to engage with school administrators, school counselors, and College Now advisors on the topic of FAFSA completion. The Compact will also continue to provide FAFSA-related communication materials to students and families.

You can track CMSD’s FAFSA completion progress here.

NCAN College Access Grant

Ohio is the 45th most expensive state to attend college.  This is due to declining federal financial aid, the state’s historic disinvestment in higher education, and higher than average tuition costs. With the ever-widening attainment gap between high- and low-income individuals, we need to address the issue of college affordability if we are to make progress toward the state’s 65% attainment goal by 2025.

In January, the Higher Education Compact, in partnership with College Now, was awarded a $40,000, two-year state policy advocacy grant from the National College Access Network (NCAN). Only 17 organizations nationally were awarded one of these advocacy grants.

This grant allows the Higher Education Compact to expand its state-wide affordability work which began with a report published in June 2016. Since the 2016 report, the Compact has worked with its partners across the state to advocate for increases in OCOG – the Ohio College Opportunity Grant. This effort led to an increase of $12.9 million (6.9%) in the 2018-19 Biennium Budget. The Compact will use these NCAN funds to bring more students, community members, and stakeholders into the conversation while focusing on making college affordability an issue in the Ohio gubernatorial elections.

What to learn more about this initiative? Email Margie Glick, manager of partnerships and programs.

Ensuring Ohio Can Compete: Meeting Ohio’s Attainment Goal 2025

On January 31st, the Higher Education Compact in partnership with a dozen of Ohio’s cradle-to-career initiatives, hosted an interactive event at the Ohio Statehouse, Ensuring Ohio Can Compete: Meeting Ohio’s Attainment Goal 2025. This event showcased educational data from across the P-16 pipeline and a panel discussion that included State Sen. Peggy Lehner, Chair of the Ohio Senate Education Committee, Jim Tressel, President, Youngstown State University and Eric Hanushek, Stanford University economist. Following the panel, Sen. Lehner chaired a Senate Education Committee Hearing, “Connecting the Dots from Cradle to Career.”

The data shared at the data walk highlighted state-wide information and local information. Specifically, the charts included the percent of children who have access to high quality early childhood education, rates of kindergarten readiness, third grade reading rates, 8th grade math rates, high school graduation rates and college graduation rates. The charts also disaggregated data to show how certain subgroups fare on these same indicators.

An overarching message from the panel discussion was that it’s an economic imperative that more individuals have a postsecondary degree or credential – and that to meet employers growing demand students must be put on a path to postsecondary success starting in preschool.

The Hannah Report: Ohio’s Future Prosperity Tied to Educational Attainment, Experts Say

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