Here is why President Trump may be right about changing Federal Work Study

Don’t throw stones at me.  

In this March 17, 2017 article on Inside Higher Education it lays the problem in the current work study allocation formula on the table.

Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, found that the 322 most selective private colleges in the country receive 4 percent of Pell Grant funds, which would indicate they enroll a low number of low-income students. Those institutions received 22 percent of Federal Work-Study funds, Kelchen found. 

Federal Work-Study has been criticized for disproportionately sending money to elite campuses and middle-class students instead of institutions that serve low-income students, they noted.  

This article in the Atlantic from 2014 shows the top 10 colleges using work study.

My school (SUNY) gets about $350,000 per year. We asked for an increase in part for the minimum wage increase and did not get it for 17-18.

Work study allocations top 10 2014:

  1. CUNY $8,401,359
  2. NYU $7,581,933
  3. Columbia $6,195,596
  4. USC $5,201,646
  5. Penn State $5,142,373
  6. DeVry $5,103,454
  7. ITT $4,627,648
  8. U Michigan $4,337,798
  9. International American University of Puerto Rico $4,245,722
  10. Cornell $4,074,986

The formula allocation for work study has become skewed and as much as I hate to say this President Trump is right. I do not say this every day. We need to support a re-thought of how work study is allocated.

Mistakes (on the FAFSA)

At the 2016 NASFAA conference they discussed double digit “mistakes” in FAFSA applications where it was indicated a tax return was not filed while it really was.

I found “mistakes” coming from a different aspect of the FAFSA.

I have in the town next to mine a Financial Aid Consultant. I call him Z. His company has a web site and he goes on a “local seminar tour.” This consists of a local library tour where he offers a free 1 hour lecture on how to beat the high cost of college. Some high schools use him for their college night.

His company charges $1,195 for new clients and $495 for returning clients. For the FAFSA and CSS he charges $1,495. He charges $495 for loan consultations including loan forgiveness, disability, entrance counseling, etc.

At a USA funds meeting I noted that he had at least two other employees so business is booming.

Company Z has said in it’s brochure that they specialize in separated and divorced parents.

They cater to upper middle class parents.

I have written to Department of Education Inspector General. They told me unless I have proof of something they are unable to pursue it.

We have at my school very limited institutional funds. I had a slew of students who were eligible were divorced and or separated.

I added a requirement that said we require both parents income even if they are divorced and or separated.

First I began to find tax returns of (Divorced and separated parents) filed separate with the same address. I would get a standard separation agreement you can get on the internet notarized. I found the income of the parent not filed on the FAFSA or CSS was six figures and up in many cases. I would get tax returns with P.O. Boxes as address. I would ask for utility bills and one parent could not do it in many cases.

I was not heartless and if it was clear cut the parents were not together I used just one income. I would find parents of middle and lower incomes would be truthful in most cases. I found some of the upper middle class parents would often be questionable.

So I gather the consultant in the town next to mine does a nice business for the upper middle class parents.

I ask for both incomes ONLY for our limited institutional aid. I try and keep an open mind but let a committee make decisions. I sometimes tell the parents when I get them on the phone that by filling separate tax returns they are placed on a higher tax rate and pay often thousands more in taxes then they would have filling a married tax return.

I am not the FBI but want my limited funds to go to the right group of students and not just the parents that hire a consultant to manipulate their data to get more aid. This seems like another area where “mistakes” can occur.

What is old is new.

In 2002 the then attorney general Spitzer worked to get a court order to bar a Lynbrook company from using a “fake” marketing scheme where the company sent schools a survey to complete by children to collect personal information and then used/sold that information to target sales pitches to children for items such as magazines, music videos, credit cards, clothes, cosmetics and student loans.

What is old is new.

We are now getting inundated with solicitations to place a “scholarship(s)” online or to notify our students about scholarships that our students cannot afford to not know about.  These are a scheme to collect personal information to market and sell that data. Often the entity will give away the $1,000 at random to stay legit.  The survey for a potential scholarship is used to collect extensive data and is then resold. The $1,000 is small change for the profits the marketing firm makes. They often present themselves as any number of names or companies.

When we as financial aid professionals, in our urge to assist our students, place these phony scholarships on our web sites or notify our students, we unwittingly help the marketing firms gather data and resell this data at extensive profits. The fake scholarship gimmick has become big business. At my school we must get at least 3-5 e-mails a week from various so called scholarships. If you try to locate information online about these awards you never find them.

What is old is new.

Maybe it is time for the current Attorney General to start looking into these marketing firms posing as scholarships? You would think our job would get easier?

Standardized Financial Aid Award Letters 2016?

I had a few thoughts and questions about part of the e-mail HESC sent out. HESC had indicated all schools in NY will be required to use this as yet to be created award letter in 2016-17. This created a few questions:

1) Is New York within their legal rights to dictate to Private higher education schools which award letter they use to offer Federal Aid? I kind of thought NYS overstepped in this.

2) The actual Bill that was passed does not say schools are required to use this as yet to be created award letter. It is a bit vague about that is actual bill that was passed.  So does a school have option to use this as yet to be made award letter?

3) It looks like from the timetable a school that starts processing early (like Feb 2016) may or may not have this award letter in place. This would mean this award letter would need to be adopted to each and every software a school uses to send award letters out. I guess someone will ask PeopleSoft, Banner,  PowerFaids, etc. Seems like NYS is doing something that could be much more complicated then they considered?


Standardized Financial Aid Award Letters

The Enacted State Budget requires that New York State colleges and universities use a standard financial aid award letter, beginning in 2016-17, and provide data regarding institutional performance in the areas of student access, degree completion and post-graduation success, including transfer. The Budget tasks the New York State Department of Financial Services with developing a standardized financial aid award letter, in consultation with HESC, that would allow students and their families to know their total cost of an education, how much of their aid would need to be repaid, and how well other students have done once they graduated from the college they are considering.


The actual Bill says:

Part F – Standardize college financial aid award letters


This bill would standardize the financial aid letters provided to students who attend college and vocational institutions in New York State.

Summary of Provisions and Statement in Support:

This bill would amend the Banking Law to authorize the Superintendent of Financial Services, in consultation with the President of the Higher Education Service Corporation, to develop a standard financial aid award letter by December 31, 2015 for colleges and vocational institutions to use in responding to financial aid applicants for the 2016-2017 academic year and thereafter.

As the rising cost of college and sub-optimal student outcomes make college choice more critical than ever, prospective students and their parents need a tool to have the information needed to make wise decisions. The standardized financial aid award letter authorized under this bill would provide information to prospective students on the total costs of an education, how much aid they will receive and how much needs to be repaid. The letter would also include data regarding institutional performance in the areas of student access, degree completion and post-graduation success.

Budget Implications:

Enactment of this bill is necessary to implement the 2015-16 Executive Budget.

Effective Date:

This bill would take effect after April 1, 2015.


Magic Bullet

Magic Bullet

I have worked in financial aid for over 25 years, at various public, private, not for profit schools. On my backpack I have “DAD” sowed into my backpack and maybe that is how I identify myself now more then ever.

As I carry out my role as Dad brining my kids to activities and school events more then ever I find a difficult and subtle tendency taking place.

Parents today more then ever are looking for a magic bullet to have their kids successful and not hard work.

I use the Boy Scouts as my first example. I was a Boy Scout and my son was also. I researched and from the time I was part of the Boy Scouts to today the enrollment is about half what it was back in my day.

My son loved the camping and activities. But from the troop leader all the way down, there was a thought frame that considered making the rank of Eagle Scout the ticket to get into college and future success.

There are many great attributes in gaining the rank of Eagle Scout that live with you for the rest of your life. But the troop put pressure on the scouts to this end. The parents really believed this was the magic bullet.

Having worked in many colleges I realized school (solid grades and a solid SAT) was foremost the ticket to a good college, with the scouts a great second as a valuable activity. Unfortunately many parents and scouts focused more of their energies on scouting. Every Eagle Scout went to a lower tier college during my timeframe with the scouts. Those scouts were out every weekend working on scouting projects and Eagle advancement instead of working on school.

Scouting is a great supplement and activity. It does not take the place of hard work in school.

There is no magic bullet to hard work and determination in High School to getting into a good college.

I have found this with other of my kids activities including soccer and golf. This summer I met a mom that questioned why I did not have my son play golf 3-4 times a week as a primer for getting into a good golf college.

I sat waiting for the kid’s golf lessons and heard one of the young interns who was a junior applying for college. He too had focused much of his energy on golf rather then school. He was lamenting how a college golf coach that had liked his game but was not offering anything including admissions to their selective university.

Being in financial aid and during that time I was part of a school that had a division I athletic program I grew to understand the limited supply of athletic scholarships available.

The new state testing and learning in Math & English are places that have many controversies. My school district is no different. Many parents have seemingly over scarred their kids and have opted out of test taking. My wife and I take this as a challenge with our kids and have worked hard to make sure they are ready. They have scored high and the district moved them to advanced classes.

My point which is lost among a new generation of parents, is there is no substitution for hard work in school in creating a good future for our children. We create a myth(s) that one activity or another will bring our kids success but there is no magic bullet!