As we explored earlier this week, the financial aid crisis in this country isn’t limited to just the complexity of the FAFSA® process. Students are confronting real financial calamity, even those who are already receiving federal student aid.
In order to fix the problem, the institutions involved in creating the problem need to care about finding a solution. That’s where the Lumina Foundation steps in.
They hosted a discussion on Tuesday in support of their “Beyond Financial Aid” initiative, calling upon both college faculty and students to tell their stories about the financial challenges facing students. The ensuing discussion brought a much needed spotlight to many of these issues.
So what does going “Beyond Financial Aid” mean?
We explain, using the tweets emanating from Tuesday’s widespread Twitter discussion:
#BeyondFinancialAid is intended to change the rules of engagement b/w institutions & their students – so they can better respond to the real barriers facing today’s student body.
— LindseyReichlinCruse (@lindseyreichlin) May 16, 2018
When we think about the financial aid discussions that regularly happen on college campuses, we tend to think about students filing their FAFSA®s, appealing for more aid, and coordinating disbursement. That’s not where the discussion should end.
What other resources can schools provide their students, particularly those facing hunger and homelessness? Practical solutions are required for students facing dire circumstances, and colleges need to be more willing to talk about the real world issues confronting their students.
BFA is an acknowledgment that there is a gap between institutional support and student success…institutions must accept that they can do more to improve outcomes for #todaysstudents! #BeyondFinancialAid @LuminaFound @UNCF @UNCFCPI
— Ed Smith-Lewis (@EdSLJr) May 16, 2018
If this were the common protest chant, this tweet is the answer to the “What do we want?” call and response. The issue isn’t students are slipping through the cracks at colleges across country. The issue is that colleges don’t have a safety net in place to catch any at-risk students.
Colleges should want to help their students who are struggling beyond the classroom. They may not be able to provide direct support, but by working with outside entities it’s possible they can lend the right guidance to students in need.
Thomas Major says #beyondfinancialaid means beyond the financial aid office. In order for this to make a meaningful difference everyone must own this work – faculty, staff, administrators, students themselves – everyone.
— Danette Howard (@DanetteHoward16) May 16, 2018
It’s up to the financial aid office to coordinate the details of a student’s financial aid package, but they shouldn’t be the only individuals concerned with the possibility of a student going hungry or homeless. Can schools educate professors and students to recognize the warning signs of an at-risk individual?
What it boils down to is this: as a school community with common interests and goals, do we care about one another or not? Are we all in this together? We should be.
4.8 million college students were parents in 2014. 43% of student parents were single moms. 89% of those single moms were low-income. #BeyondFinancialAid
— AE Duke-Benfield (@AEDukehighered) May 16, 2018
It’s not a secret that a significant share of college students are not on the “traditional” track — (commonly defined as going straight from high school to college and graduating within six years). But just because it’s not a secret doesn’t mean the changing face of college students is beingbeyond acknowledged in a meaningful way.
Per Lumina, students with additional financial, work and family obligations are more than twice as likely to drop out following their first year of college than freshmen just out of college. It’s going to take the entire community to develop a support system around those students.
“The average Pell grant today covers only 33% of the cost of attending a public 4-year college as compared to ~73% in 1980.” What is your institution doing to move #BeyondFinancialAid ? #firstgenforward #emergencyaid#basicneeds #studentsuccess #SAChat #SApros #communitycolleges
— NASPA (@NASPAtweets) May 16, 2018
This is a friendly reminder of just how limited and impotent financial aid packages have become in the face of rising tuition costs. Not only is FAFSA® not a blank check, the financial aid process in this country is built on the fundamental belief that students and their families are expected to contribute to the cost of an education.
The needs of low-income students don’t end once they’ve filed their FAFSA® and received their financial aid award letters.
The challenge runs much deeper.
Until we — collectively! — come to grips with that reality, we will never truly fix the financial aid problems plaguing both colleges and students.