The New Normal: NYSACAC REGIONAL FORUM

On March 11, 2009, admissions1 consultants attended the New York State Association for College Admissions Counseling (NYSACAC) forum “The Economy and College Admissions: This Year’s Financial Picture for Students and Families.”    The program was held at Sage College’s Albany Campus. The informative session updated the audience on proposed and revamped federal and state financial aid methodology. Not surprisingly, a lot of the discussion was couched in the background of ‘the new normal’ –the changes brought about by and the impact of the economic downturn. Jim Vallee of the Sage College Financial Aid Office gave a very interesting presentation on financial aid changes for the upcoming academic year. He touched on proposed and permanent changes to the federal and state guidelines and how they may impact families. The changes he discussed included five new questions concerning a student’s independent status. Jim pointed out that these changes potentially create more questions than answers. Jim also addressed Governor Paterson’s proposed budget cuts which will have an impact on the NYS Tuition Assistance Program (TAP). The proposal includes changing how students become TAP-eligible based on the number of enrolled credits hours. If passed, the changes to TAP would include allowing students to be TAP-eligible based on number of credits attempted (up to 120 as the maximum) instead of based on the traditional eight semesters. Jim suggested that while the proposed budget cuts would save the state 65 million dollars the changes could adversely affect students who may be full-time but only taking 12 credits. Financial aid and Admissions administrators have lobbied state legislators to vote against these proposed changes. The outcome is still to be determined. Attendees from high schools, colleges, and independent counselors participated actively in the discussion. The attendees addressed recent changes in consumer spending habits and how this will play out for admissions and financial aid at colleges. Jim anticipates more students and families will be lining up at the financial aid office to discuss issues such as recent layoffs and changes in income and assets. It was also discussed that schools are making more of an effort to increase their financial aid budgets to assist the growing number of families in need. Sage College has committed to funding full need (based on the results of the FAFSA) for those students who receive aid. So while the news of dramatic decreases in many school’s endowments seem grave, it is...
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It is time to complete the FAFSA (the free application for federal student aid)

Completing the FAFSA is not a lot of fun.  Don’t let anyone say that it is.  It is, however,  a great task to check off your ‘to-do’ list in January.  Remember: filing the form determines your eligibility for federal financial aid programs.  There is no other way to become eligible for these programs. Students can file for ALL federal financial aid programs including grants, subsidized loans, and work-study by completing the FAFSA.  Students interested in state programs may also be able to link to their state’s financial aid website during the FAFSA completion process —  this is true of NY state’s TAP program (state grant program). Technologically speaking, the FAFSA website (www.fafsa.ed.gov) does a great job working families through the form.  There are many parts to the process that have been streamlined to reduce redundancy.  For example, a returning student does not have to re-enter basic unchanged information each year, instead the student can just update changed information.  Additionally, the program works by family so parents of more than one college-bound student do not have to re-enter their data more than once. Students and families can complete the 2009-2010 FAFSA starting on January 1st.  You can complete the form even if you (and your parents) have not yet completed your 2008 tax returns.  This is especially important for students who are currently applying for colleges.  Completing the FAFSA and checking with each school’s website (financial aid AND admissions pages) will ensure that you complete all requirements for all potential financial aid at the school in a timely manner.  The early filer often stands a better chance at scholarship and grant opportunities.  Remember to file early and speak with the financial aid office to make sure all documentation has been received.  In addition to the FAFSA, some schools require students to complete the CSS Profile or a school-based financial aid supplement.  Also, depending on your personal and family circumstances (divorce or independent student status), you may have additional documents to file with the financial aid office.  Again, school websites will have additional information on how to apply for need- and merit-based aid available through the school. One note to remember–the first ‘F’ in FAFSA stands for free.  It is free for families to file a FAFSA and you can do this at www.fafsa.ed.gov.  Preparers can charge you to complete the FAFSA but you do not have to pay anyone to file a...
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