Numbers, Numbers and more Numbers: Do we have the time and money for college? Maybe. (Colleges and Financial Aid in 2016.)

(Photo Credit:CBS News)

Disclaimer — I am learning the world of money and regulations as I make a difference in higher education.

Money and Time. Two items that dictate basically every action we do as humans in life. I realize being young and new to doing adult things like filing taxes can be difficult and stressful. I had a mini-freakout before writing this because of my remedial skills when it comes to my personal finances. Now, when it comes to furthering education in the United States the financial process equals the stress level of taxes for some and magnifies with the implication of enrolling a student in college, so they can pursue a dream. Many families who plan on sending their children to college often are in a time crunch because of the May 1 deadline and finding out how much aid they will be given by the federal government. Often times the aid given isn’t enough for families and their students will have to settle for less or go an alternate route for post-secondary endeavors. In this post I am going to delve into the state of financial aid as it relates to higher education in 2016.

Now that the calendar reads January, this is the time in the college enrollment process where most families will fill out a form called FAFSA, which stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which brings a lot of stress and anxiety as families pursue their children’s education and nurturing their life dreams. A new initiative is working its way through federal government called America’s College Promise.

So how do you go about being efficient with your money and time in 2016….

As mentioned above, the America’s College Promise proposal takes a universal approach to higher education pricing that eliminates means-testing and aims to increase public investments in public higher education so as to make college affordable. This initiative would focus on making community college better and to give opportunity to any student from any background. This proposal has a lot of promise and validates values the United States was founded on and will contribute to bettering our citizens. To learn more about this proposal click here.

President Obama passed a change to the FAFSA which will allow more time in the process.

  • As of October 1, 2016, United States families will be able to fill out the FAFSA three months earlier than before which will allow for more time to analyze costs and breakdown colleges sought by college-bound students. This change will be in effect for students applying for the 2017–2018 school year.

Changes to the Pell Grant could equal more money and less time.

What is the pell grant? How does one qualify for a pell grant?

Pell grants are for students who fill out the FAFSA and need financial aid. The money doesn’t have to be paid back. Criteria for Pell Grants:

  • Financial need
  • Total Cost of Attendance
  • Full-time or part-time student
  • Student’s plans to attend school for the full academic year or less.

Two new proposals that would expand the pell grants reach and accelerate time spent in college by the student.

  1. Pell for Accelerated Completion(allow for summer classes to be taken).
  2. On-Track Pell Bonus. $300 if taken 15 credits per semester in the academic year.

Additional Money Saving (PLEASE READ HERE). There are many online resources that are offering scholarships. To name a few of note, check out the organizations listed below.

  1. Raise.me — offers micro-scholarships through individual achievements throughout entire high school career.
  2. FastWeb — matches students with relevant scholarship opportunities.
  3. Unigo — provides cutting edge tools, compelling content and essential information, empowering students to make the best decisions about their college experience.
  4. Scholarships.com — premier cloud based student resource for finding college scholarships, grants and financial opportunities.
  5. Cappex— Free tools to help students discover their dream school and find a way to pay for it.

At this point in the post, you have probably contemplated one of the following….

What are the traditional four year universities doing to make college affordable?

When should I start preparing financially for my student’s college?

Do high schools need more counseling and strategic curriculums?

What can parents be doing to help in the college enrollment process to ensure affordability?

Have online education programs tainted traditional education programs?

Where do trade schools come into play?

Is college for me?

So where is the light at the end of tunnel, I think I have found a possible long-term solution.

The Possible Long-Term Solution. In comes Loyola University Chicago, they have embarked on an initiative to serve the low-income student by pioneering a brand new way of post-secondary education. All students who enroll will receive student aid and the expectation is that students will carry little to no debt after completion of the program.

Named after Pedro Arrupe, S.J., former superior general of the Society of Jesus and a man who called upon Jesuit schools to educate men and women to serve others, Arrupe College offers associate’s degrees in arts and humanities, business, or social and behavioral sciences. Upon successful completion of the program, students will be qualified to transfer to a public or private four year institution.

How the Arrupe College’s education model works:

  • Enhanced summer pre-enrollment orientation.
  • A strong cohort and holistic, integrated series of supports for students to optimize their chances for academic and social success.
  • Intensive one-on-one contact with specialized faculty
  • Significant increase in availability of faculty and staff due to small class sizes
  • A two-year associate’s degree that is fully transferable to state and private options throughout the state.
  • A financial strategy that permits low-income students to fully finance the cost of instruction with financial aid that does not include assuming debt.
  • Cristo Rey experience.

Arrupe College is just finishing it’s first year and looks to strengthen the program in the following years to come. I believe a model like this could revolutionize how traditional four year universities cater to the low-income student. Also, it fuses the America’s College Promise proposal and while having a high engagement by attending a college that is a part of a four year institution- ultimately preparing the students for a better future. For more information, check out their website at LUC.edu/arrupe

Money and time are integral items in the pursuit of a better life. Government processes are hopefully going to improve in the long-run. But until produced and executed it will be interesting to see how American families and students go about affording higher education. With the influx of new government proposals, technologies and college admissions resources it’s important to digest everything possible and do what’s best for your search and get the best value for your education. Do not get too invested in what peers and family members are doing for college. The college financial aid process is truly is a case-by-case practice. My advice for the process is to start early, ask intentional questions, consolidate options and be reasonable. A college education at a four-year institution is still a worthwhile investment because of the person you will become by being exposed to new experiences and ideas that transcend a lifetime. So be steadfast in your financial approach to college and know that the time and money spent will not be wasted no matter where you end up enrolling at. With resources listed above, I believe America is making progress in making education a right for all, not just a privilege for a few. Hopefully, I saved you a little time going forward on your educational investment.