Workshops help shed light on financial aid
Jan. 29, 2016
The process of applying for college financial aid can be stressful, and the mere mention of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid can strike terror in the hearts of many parents and their college-bound children.
But a completed FAFSA is necessary before a full financial aid award can be discussed, said Joseph Miller, Dean of Enrollment Management.
“The comprehensiveness of a financial aid package is based on the FAFSA,” he said. “And that means there is a great level of value placed on the FAFSA because so much of a student’s financial aid award is riding on it.”
In an effort to help relieve some of that worry, Miller has developed Financial Aid 101, a workshop designed to help parents and students understand the process, and to help them begin the actual procedure of filling out the necessary forms.
“We host two different versions,” he said. “We go into area high schools, and we also offer the workshops on campus. We want to provide as many convenient opportunities as possible for families to attend.”
Almost a third of LaGrange’s students are the first in their families to go to college, Miller said.
“Another 40 percent qualify for federal Pell grants, which means the expected family contribution to a student’s costs is approximately less than $5,000 a year,” he said.
Almost 20 percent of those students have no expected family contribution. That means that we have many families who need help figuring out the financial aid process.”
Miller said the goals of the workshops are simple.
“First, we want to educate the families about the procedures, and to help reduce their anxiety and build their confidence,” he said. “It also gives us a chance to talk about the costs of higher education, about the differences between direct costs and indirect costs and how they come together to build the total cost of attending LaGrange College. It peels back the curtain so they understand our processes and procedures, and, we hope, starts to build a clearer and more transparent picture of how financial aid works.”
Some of the topics discussed include the hidden pitfalls in the college financial aid process, how to get the maximum amount available, if the new Federal Student Load rules can hurt chances, what happens if a FAFSA isn’t completed and if there is a penalty for completing the process completely online.
The three-hour seminars begin with an explanation of the basics of financial aid, followed by a question-and-answer session. Computers are provided and members of the financial aid team spend the rest of the time working one-on-one with participants as they begin the process of filling out the FAFSA online.
“We want to relieve the anxiety for our students and parents,” Miller said. “Our goal is to help families feel more comfortable about the process, and for them to know that we are here to help them.”
Everybody who attends the workshops receives Financial Aid Insider, an eight-week series of tips that look at certain features, such as what is financial aid, what are direct loans, parent loans, what are borrowing limits, how to avoid scams, and information on HOPE and Pell grants.
Miller said he hopes the seminars will help debunk a common myth that private higher education is inaccessible and unaffordable.
“Findings from the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators show that, based on the expected family contribution and the cost of attendance at an institution, you will probably pay about the same out of pocket for a private four-year institution as you would at a public four-year institution,” he said. “When we demonstrate that to families, we can shift the focus of the conversation away from a selection based on cost to one solely centered on the best higher education choice for the student.”
But most importantly, Miller wants families to feel comfortable about discussing financial aid with the professionals at LaGrange College.
“We have the best in the business with customer service, knowledge and expertise,” he said. “Our people care, are patient and don’t talk ‘insider baseball.’ We make sure families understand every part of the process, and that they know we care.”
The next sessions of Financial Aid 101 will be at 1 p.m. Feb. 20 and Feb. 27 in Corn Auditorium at Lewis Library.
For more information or to speak to a financial aid counselor, email firstname.lastname@example.org>, call 706-880-8000 or visit http://www.lagrange.edu/admission/finaid/index.html>.