One of the questions we receive most often is: “Why didn’t I get more money for school?” It’s especially frustrating when you have no idea how a school decided on your aid offer. Hopefully, this information will shed some light on how schools calculate your financial aid.
It all starts when you submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. Once we (Federal Student Aid) process your application (it takes about three days if you submitted it online), we make your information available to all of the schools you listed on it. Each school then uses your FAFSA information to determine how much aid you are eligible to receive at that school. Each school has its own schedule for awarding financial aid. You must check with each school to find out when you can expect to receive an aid offer.
Schools determine financial aid offers based on three factors:1. Enrollment Status (full-time, half-time, less than half-time, etc.)
Your enrollment status will impact the amount and types of aid you qualify for. For example, Direct Loans are available only to students enrolled at least half-time, and Federal Pell Grant amounts are partially determined by your enrollment status.2. Cost of Attendance (COA)
Think of this as your school’s sticker price. Your COA is the estimated amount of money it will cost to go to a particular school. This figure is determined by your school and should be available on the school’s website. If your enrollment status is at least half-time, your COA estimate includes
- tuition and fees,
- room and board,
- books, supplies, living expenses, transportation, loan fees, and more.
Keep in mind that your COA will likely be different at each school, since some schools are more expensive than others.3. Expected Family Contribution (EFC)
The information you provide on the FAFSA is used to calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is not necessarily the amount of money your family will have to pay for college, nor is it the amount of federal student aid you will receive. It is a number used by your school to calculate how much financial aid you are eligible for at that school.
The EFC is calculated using a formula established by law. The formula can be difficult to understand; just know that many factors are taken into account—not just income. If you have questions about your EFC, contact the financial aid office at your school.
Schools then use this formula to determine your financial need:
Cost of Attendance (COA)
– Expected Family Contribution (EFC)
= Financial Need
Once each school has determined your financial need, you will receive aid offers from the schools you’ve been accepted to. Remember that all of your aid offers will be different. Each school has a different ability to meet your financial need—it all depends on the funds available at each school.The offers will include the types and amounts of financial aid you’re eligible to receive from federal, state, private, and school sources. If you need help comparing the offers you received from different schools, use the CFPB’s financial aid offer comparison tool.
Be sure you understand what each type of aid is and whether or not it needs to be paid back. If you have any questions about an offer, you should talk to a financial aid advisor at the school. No matter how much aid you’re offered, it is always up to you to decide how much of a student loan you want to accept. The rule of thumb is that you should only borrow as much money as you absolutely need to pay for the school year. You can always tell your school that you want to borrow less than what is offered.
You may also be interested in these 7 options to consider if you didn’t receive enough financial aid.
Nora Onley is a Management and Program Analyst for Federal Student Aid.
It is said that we count what we value.
It is also said that not everything that can be counted has value.
Can you help tell the difference when measuring distance education activities?
The U.S. Department of Education needs your help in discerning what data it should be collecting about distance education and hybrid/blended learning. In a call for comments, they seek advice from interested stakeholders on how they might improve the quality of data collections for its Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).
WCET is proud to partner with Babson Survey Research Group and e-Literate in examining the IPEDS distance education enrollment data under our joint Digital Learning Compass umbrella. But, today we would like to get your opinions. I will summarize some of the options that they are considering. You can choose to submit a comment on your own. Alternatively, you can send brief comments to me and we will compile them to submit. See details below on how to participate in either option. You don’t need to comment on every item.
The panel discussing proposed changes raised great questions. However, there are times when you can tell that the panel needed more experience on distance education issues. Here’s your chance to help.So What Has IPEDS Been Collecting To Date?
From the call for comments:
“Since 2012, the IPEDS data collection system collects data on distance education in three survey components: Institutional Characteristics (IC), Completions, and Fall Enrollment (EF). The purpose of these data is to provide useful and meaningful information on distance education offerings and enrollments for consumer, research, and transparency purposes.”
They also include the insightful footnote:
“Although the IPEDS distance education data collection is relatively new, the postsecondary landscape is constantly changing due to advanced and improved technologies.”Discussion Item #1: Defining Distance Education
Distance education courses.
IPEDS currently has no definition for a hybrid or blended course. The IPEDS definition of a “Distance Education Course” focuses on almost all of the activity in the course taking place “exclusively via distance education.” The definition is:
“A course in which the instructional content is delivered exclusively via distance education. Requirements for coming to campus for orientation, testing, or academic support services do not exclude a course from being classified as distance education.”
The preliminary recommendation from the panel considering changes is:
“IPEDS should retain its current definitions of exclusively online coursework to maintain longitudinal comparisons with past data collections and should emphasize in the instructions that hybrid courses are not considered by IPEDS as distance education.”
What do you think? How would you improve this definition?
Distance education programs.
The IPEDS definition of a “Distance Education Program” builds on the course definition, seemingly, to focus on exclusively at a distance, as well. The definition is:
“A program for which all the required coursework for program completion is able to be completed via distance education courses.”
The preliminary recommendation from the panel considering changes is:
“Panelists…pointed out that distance education programs are generally approved by accreditors and suggested adding language to the question to clarify that all programs are designed to be completed via distance education. This would eliminate confusion between distance education indicating course-taking practices versus distance education describing the program being offered. They also suggested that NCES review the definitions of distance education programs used by accrediting agencies and consider adopting similar language.”
They are struggling with this one. What would you suggest? Would you include SARA and states in the conversation?Discussion Item #2: Collecting Distance Education Data in the IPEDS Institutional Characteristics Survey
Distance education levels.
The panel suggests that institutions report their offerings according to the follow table with the newest column on the far right in red:
How would you improve this chart?
Exclusively distance education programs.
See page four of the call for comments for this one. The summary completely confused me. Perhaps you will have better luck. It leads me to the question: I can think of “completely distance education” institutions (those that offer all their courses at a distance), but can you think of an institution that either:
- Offers all its courses at a distance at the undergraduate level, but not the graduate level?
- Offers all its courses at a distance at the graduate level, but not the undergraduate level?
Panelists discussed whether to collect data on the types of technology used in distance education. Their preliminary recommendation is:
“In general, they agreed there was no compelling reason to begin collecting detail on telecommunication systems.”
Do you agree?
Panelists discussed whether to collect data on synchronous, asynchronous, or mixed modes of instruction. Their preliminary recommendation is:
“…they pointed out that the mode of delivery varies by course section and collecting this information at the institution level would not be feasible.”
Do you agree?Discussion Item #3: Collecting Distance Education Data in the IPEDS Completions Survey
Here’s a description of the problem they identified:
“The IPEDS Completions component collects whether the institution offers the full program (as defined by the Classification of Instructional Programs [CIP] code system) and award level through distance education. If more than one program is offered under a CIP code by award level, institutions are instructed to check “yes” to the distance education question if any of the programs are offered as a distance education program. Panelists noted that a constraint of the current format is the inability to identify the number of programs offered as distance education programs if more than one program is offered under a CIP code. They considered several options for categorizing exclusively distance education programs in ways that are better aligned with how institutions organize their programs.”
The options considered:
- Collect data for each program reported under a CIPE code and award level.
- Collect data on whether programs are offered in traditional (in-person), online, or hybrid/blended settings.
- Collect data on the number of programs that are available via distance education.
The preliminary recommendation of the panel is:
“After weighing the burden of collecting the additional data with the benefit it would provide to the public, panelists did not strongly favor modifying the Completions component question about programs offered via distance education.”
Would you like to see completions data or is it too burdensome? If you would like to add it, how would it help you?Discussion Item #4: Collecting Distance Education in IPEDS Enrollment Surveys
The preliminary recommendation of the panel is:
“Panelists suggested relabeling the category for “enrolled in some but not all distance education courses” to “enrolled in at least one but not all distance education courses” to reduce misunderstandings about “some” distance education coursework on the EF component to mean hybrid courses.”
Collect distance education enrollment in the 12-month Enrollment survey (in addition to the Fall Enrollment survey).
Since some distance education institutions enroll students continuously throughout the year, the current Fall Enrollment report might disadvantage them. The 12-month Enrollment survey might better reflect total institutional enrollments. The preliminary recommendation of the panel is:
“Panelists did not reach agreement on the value of collecting distance education instructional activity or calculating distance education FTE estimates, given the high burden and questions about who would benefit from these data. Panelists suggested that NCES review information on instructional activity required by accreditors to further assess the burden and feasibility of collecting data on distance education instructional activity.”
It would be great to hear from institutions with non-traditional calendars. How would this option help you? For those with traditional calendars, is this a help or a burden?Discussion Item #5: Collecting Data on Hybrid/Blended Courses
Collection of hybrid/blended enrollments or activities would be new for IPEDS. It is obvious this discussion could have been aided by someone with more experience with technology-mediated instruction. The preliminary definition and recommendations of the panel are:
“In general, panelists voiced opposition against attempting to use percentage thresholds to define what a hybrid course is and instead suggested using the following definition as a framework for the discussion: hybrid courses are courses that can be taken through some distance education technology that replaces in-classroom seat time. Panelists suggested collecting the number of students enrolled exclusively in hybrid courses, in at least one but not all hybrid courses, or not enrolled in any hybrid courses, by student level and undergraduate degree-seeking status, to mirror the “all, some, or none” format for collecting enrollment in distance education courses.
A panelist also noted that the concept of seat time is not applicable to competency-based education courses, in which the outcome rather than the seat time is the focus, and discussed implementing an exception, or specific instructions, to guide institutions on how institutions should report competency-based education courses.
In general, panelists supported collecting hybrid enrollment in both the EF and E12 components, but RTI encourages additional comments on this topic, particularly with respect to burden on affected institutions.”
What is your recommendation regarding hybrid/blended courses…both in how they are defined and on the value of having such data?Discussion Item #6: Collecting Additional Distance Education Data
The panel considered:
“The panel was asked to weigh the possibility of adding a new, optional survey component to IPEDS for collecting and reporting consumer-focused distance education information. For example, the panel considered an approach that would focus on attributes related to each CIP code and award level to collect the data for search tools for prospective students.”
The panelists suggested that, if this options is pursued, that consumer focus groups be used to identify useful data items. Additionally, date would be provided in an application provider interface (API) for use by outside organizations.Now It’s Your Turn: How to Respond
Again, you can respond to any or all the items. You have two options:
- You can respond directly. Send your comments to Janice Kelly-Reid, IPEDS Project Director, at ipedsTRPcomment@rti.org by September 9, 2017. Write a letter citing who you are, your experience with distance education and/or hybrid/blended education, the items on which you wish to comment, and your recommendations on those items.
- You can send me comments. I will collect comments and put them into a single response. Send your comments to me at email@example.com by August 31, 2017. In your comment let me know who you are, your institution/organization, your experience with distance education and/or hybrid/blended education, the items on which you wish to comment, and your recommendations on those items. Please write in complete sentences. I will share this official comment publicly.
Let’s make sure that whatever we count, that it makes sense and is useful. Your input will help assure that outcome.
On July 18, the Department hosted Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) to celebrate the opening of “The World Through My Eyes,” a collection of student achievement in the visual arts. Ninety FCPS students grades one through 12 at 28 schools contributed to the exhibit; the diversity of their chosen mediums—from photography to painting, illustration, printmaking, mixed media, and film—exemplifies the myriad perspectives and concerns of today’s youths.
Among the exhibit’s many outstanding pieces is “Sisters,” a reimagining of Roselle Hellenberg Osk’s famous 20th-century etching of the same name. Jamie Lambkin and Tiana Espinoza recreated the etching’s mien through photography; flanking their photos are two short, inner-monologue prose pieces by Shiva Zarean and Maxmine Ayompe-Mody, both Oakton High School theater students. Espinoza said her aim was to bring Osk’s themes of racial and cultural diversity into the 21st century along with the notion of religious diversity into the work. “Sisters” stands as a testament to the kind of creativity and artistic capacity that Fairfax County seeks to cultivate in its students.
The opening was not content to honor merely the visual arts, however—it showcased the county’s talented and multifarious performing artists as well. Young musicians shared the stage with vocalists, dancers, and even aspiring directors; interspersed between their outstanding performances were cogent and inspiring remarks by students, county officials, and Department staff. In a particularly powerful moment, FCPS School Board member Karen Corbett Sanders highlighted the fundamental importance of arts education by invoking the father of our country:“George Washington believed that the arts should be in the foundation of an enlightened nation. In 1781, he wrote to a friend: ‘The arts and sciences are essential to the prosperity of the state, and to the ornament and happiness of human life.’”
Epitomizing this sense of joie de vivre was the Lake Braddock Orchestra, led by Troops to Teachers educator Clayton Allen. The concert program juxtaposed Scandinavian romanticism with the English musical avant-garde of the early 20th century—the sonorous, arcing melodies of Sibelius took on a new, profound beauty in the context of Holst and Warlock’s robust harmonies. Many in attendance seemed especially impressed by the students’ rendition of Grieg’s seminal Holberg Suite, which delineates (and perhaps rejuvenates) the principal stylistic and compositional forms of the 18th century. The maturity and composure of these young performers were impressive indeed.
Ally Johnson, student president of the Lake Braddock Orchestra, noted that her time in Fairfax programs illustrates “the extreme importance of arts education . . . [in that it] engenders an otherwise unattainable sense of community between musicians, as well as between musicians and the school community at large.” What explains Lake Braddock’s success? “We owe a lot to our awesome directors,” noted Joshua Cheng. Many musicians also cited their experience in Fourth-Grade Strings as an essential, even transcendental aspect of their education.
A similar example of artistic excellence featured at the opening was “Buzzcut Season,” a short film by four female students from Rachel Carson Middle School; the film illustrates the cathartic power of friendship and relays a significant message concerning the negative impact of bullying in schools.
Other highlights included Sophia Welch’s rendition of “Defying Gravity” from the musical Wicked; a performance of Arcangelo Corelli’s Suite for Strings by the Spring Hill Elementary School Chamber Orchestra; “Art Makes a Difference,” an ardent, heartfelt speech by Deer Park Elementary sixth-grader Purnima Vasistha; and “I am a Photographer,” a presentation depicting recent graduate Matthew Cohen’s maturation as both artiste and entrepreneur. The program concluded with a climactic song-and-dance performance of “Holding Out For a Hero” by a consortium of theater and drama students from six Fairfax high schools. The dramatic acrobatic maneuvers of this riveting number left many in the audience especially awestruck.
By the event’s conclusion, the astounding capabilities of today’s young artists were manifest; also evident were the critical role of schools in their successes, as well as the vital importance of artistic expression at all levels of the educational experience.
Watch the opening in full here on the Department’s Facebook page. The exhibit will remain at ED through Aug. 24.
Andrew Smith is an intern from Middlebury College in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.
Photo at the top: Everyone’s all smiles at the ribbon-cutting ceremony that culminated the opening of the Fairfax County Public Schools art exhibit.
All photos are by U.S. Department of Education photographer Paul Wood.
The Department’s Student Art Exhibit Program provides students and teachers an opportunity to display creative work from the classroom in a highly public space that honors their work as an effective path to learning and knowledge for all. To visit the exhibits or for information about exhibiting, contact Jackye Zimmermann at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://www.ed.gov/student-art-exhibit
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