Last week, the Department of Education wrapped up its four-day virtual Federal Student Aid (FSA) Training Conference. The conference mainly serves as an annual training for financial aid professionals who disburse federal aid to students on campus.
COVID-19 has created a great deal of uncertainty among students and families, as well as admission and financial aid professionals. Foremost among these uncertainties is the fact that there has been a 15 percent decline in FAFSA submissions from high school seniors nationwide compared with the same time last year.
Now, more than ever, students and families need information and support to complete the financial aid process.
I always opt for the window seat. Where else do you get the chance to expand your view of the world, only as the roads, trees, and buildings become smaller? When I fly, that time looking out the window is often when I reflect. It’s also when a song on my playlist might make me cry. Seems to happen more often miles above the earth. Not sure if it’s the cabin air, or the fact that this vantage point allows me time to really listen and hear. These moments of reflection often bring about new ideas.
This pandemic has been a time to reflect as well. It has been hard, and at first, I found myself struggling to manage it all. The emails tripled, the online meetings quadrupled, and the workday seemed longer. Work-life balance was, well…out of balance. I have since found a rhythm and cadence to my days. The space and time allowed me to see the work from a different perspective.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) recently released new transfer guides for student-athletes currently attending a two- or four-year institution and planning to transfer to a four-year NCAA school.
Nov. 1…For some, it’s just another day, but for those of us in college admission, it marks the anniversary of our “first date”—the day when Early Decision and Early Action applications have typically been due and that our work with seniors coalesces.
We recall preaching to them during the spring of their junior year about the importance of starting early and working on their college applications throughout the summer. We replay the melodious songs we sang to our faculty and colleagues about the impact of their letters of recommendation. We also experience pardonable pride as we lead our school community to a date on the calendar that at one time seemed so very far away. We think about the students and families we’ve counseled, the admission colleagues we’ve conversed with, and the floorboards we’ve confessed our frustrations to. And historically, we feel a range of emotions, from excitement to fear to anxiety to relief to sheer exhaustion.
Yet this year, with a global pandemic and the demand for racial equity and justice looming over our anniversary celebration, many of my colleagues and I experienced another emotion on Nov. 1—rage. And as COVID-19 and Racism 2020 tear through our world, they also pervade our profession, prompting a cascading list of uncomfortable yet unavoidable questions.
When I started my career in 2003, I would have been hard-pressed to think that bias existed in the enrollment management profession. After all, doesn’t every college talk about how much they want to diversify their student body? Or how they want to be a more inclusive and accepting community? Campuses seek out students from a spectrum of backgrounds—low socioeconomic status, full-pay, LGBTQ, rural, urban, suburban, international, athletes, residents of certain states…the list is quite exhaustive. And it stands to reason that hiring practices within the profession would follow the same philosophy, right?
Unfortunately, since my last position on a college campus, which ended April 2019, I have witnessed a deep and disturbing pattern whereby hiring managers rarely view the marketing, recruiting, enrollment, and retention skills cultivated by individuals in the community college sector as on par with skills cultivated at four-year institutions.
I view this as an incidence of classism in higher education. Ultimately, it hurts qualified candidates and harms institutions that could benefit from the skills, experiences, and unique perspectives that community college professionals bring to the table.
By: Amber M. Briggs with Maria Guadalupe Romo-González and Will Walker
Author’s Note:The student perspectives shared below are representative of their unique experiences in higher education. We acknowledge there may be experiences that are missing from this conversation and encourage higher education leaders to continually seek out their own students’ perspectives and thoughtfully engage them in their decision-making process.
Unfortunately, the coronavirus crisis prompted NACAC to cancel the in-person event and instead move the conference online,
Although our panel was unable to participate in the virtual event, we know the topics of inclusion and diversity are more important than ever given the racial injustices and challenges of COVID-19 that students are facing. And with the help of two LEDA Scholars, we hope to begin that conversation on NACAC’s Admitted blog.
By: Shelley Arakawa, Amy Crutchfield, Robin Mamlet, and Lisa Meyer
What leader doesn’t feel unsure of their abilities during 2020? There certainly is no historic data to draw on when making decisions, and every decision seems crucial to the health of one’s team and the institution.
To help admission professionals navigate these unprecedented times, WittKieffer, a global search firm and NACAC member, was honored to partner with some of the country’s leading enrollment and higher education experts through our Summer Speaker Series, a course of four webinars focused on enrollment leadership.
One takeaway? Strong leadership matters, now more than ever.
Applying for financial aid can be a complicated task that requires significant time and effort for students and their families. According to recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics, although 65 percent of students who were high school freshmen in 2009 ultimately reported completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), 24 percent did not. Those who did not submit a FAFSA cited lack of awareness, lack of understanding of FAFSA requirements, and lack of time as barriers to completion.
On Sept. 17, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing titled “Time to Finish Fixing the FAFSA.” Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and ranking member Patty Murray (D-WA) have both sponsored FAFSA simplification legislation.