Guidance Counselors Need Help

Published by Financial Aid Consulting on Sunday, 21st December 2014 - 9:34PM in Guidance Counselors

["Affording College"]

Guidance Counselors Need Help

by Howard Freedman

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“Out of adversity lies opportunity” Benjamin Franklin once quoted. Today many of these opportunities prevail to help needy students to pay for college.

America is a great country that offers a vast array of institutions of higher learning for students with different aptitudes, abilities, and interest in furthering their education. Yet with all that is offered, the doors have been closed to many students who are willing but not able or think that they are not able to afford a college education. Whether they are exposed to negative comments or simply told their family cannot afford it, anybody can further their education whether it be a one or two-year college or trade school,

Significant progress has been made by simplifying the FAFSA, to calculate how much a family “should be” able to contribute toward the annual costs of college. However, the FAFSA is only a small piece of a process that bases its calculations on averages not explainable variations to the norm. Such things as consumer debt, extraordinary costs related to healthcare, childcare, family abandonment, and incarceration and other exceptions are not factored into the formulas and treated as exceptions once the college is notified. On a more positive note, families that neglect to apply for financial aid may not realize that they may qualify for maximum federal aid when their annual combined income is $30,000 or below and certain other conditions are met.

High school guidance counselors are also faced with challenges regarding shrinking school budgets and a larger number of students to support. Consequently, many students are on their own. Parents are often skeptical or misinformed about sharing their personal information with the student or an outsider. They may also be embarrassed by their financial situation especially those collecting welfare, not having a social security number or having an incarcerated or abandoned parent that cannot provide this information. There are also language barriers and domestic problems at home that may require additional support or mentor to enable the student to move on. Sadly, some guidance counselors can be guarded about letting outsiders to fill the gaps regarding financial aid counseling. Yet they should be open-minded about using outsiders familiar with specific cultures and languages to help students and parents on-site support. This is in addition to providing the names of financial aid professionals to those interested in their services.

Without adequate support, students may go astray or lack the confidence to further their education. Oftentimes students that may apply to schools that accept all students, give them a so-called scholarship and leaves them with a loan balance that they are unlikely to pay.

Rather than meeting quotas, guidance counselors should be cautious in recommending these costly schools to encourage students to attend 2-year colleges that are both more affordable and able to ready the student to move on. They need to focus on helping the exceptions such as students with high financial need, parents that don’t speak English or Spanish and others that simply require more time. They also need to keep statistics about college success and dropout rates after the student’s freshman year, recruit outside resources as needed and find better ways to eliminate rework.

The challenges within financial aid offices are equally important, especially with the high stress and turnover. This is when students t and financial aid novices can provide erroneous information that negatively impacts a student’s financial aid award. Financial aid staffs often promote from within but do not provide the necessary supervisory training that can lead to violations in labor and wage and hour laws or coach them how to best communicate with their staff, As a result, well-trained managers should establish the course for setting employee expectations and monitoring their performance. This includes how to provide outstanding customer service and the intricacies of financial aid forms. Department managers should be encouraged to monitor paper flow and duplications of effort, maintain statistics about call wait times, how long it takes to process and reprocess a document and the types of problems and how they are resolved. Issues related to dealing with students from other countries may require translators or student volunteer if necessary. Financial aid counselors should be sensitive about slowing down and spending more time listening, giving them assurances and solutions about the privacy of their data and the actual costs of attending college. Dealing with the exceptions, showing empathy and instilling trust is just as important as awarding financial aid. This is when more experienced financial aid officers or outside counselors may be able to help. Once all is done it is most important to teach students how to manage their money and credit since it is about their future and not the mistakes that their parents made.

These are just a few of the many ways to meet the demands of needy students regardless of their ability to pay.

Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.

- George Washington Carver

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