The New Normal for Financial Aid Workshops

PPY Blog HeaderBy Heather Boutell, director of financial aid at Bellarmine University

Summer is over. Things are pretty busy in my office, as classes started on August 25. Students are dropping and adding, and turning in verification paperwork that we’ve requested since February. Freshmen are scrambling to figure out what an MPN is and why their online checklists say they need this document. The phones are ringing, and loans are being certified left and right. Outside scholarship checks are rolling in.

If you’re a traditional college with an end of August start, perhaps you can relate. I’m totally exhausted. Except that today I’m a little more dressed up, and I have my name tag on; I don’t wear it every day, but I’m wearing it today. Tonight I have my first 2017-18 FAFSA Workshop. I usually do my workshops in December and early January. It’s super important my students file in the first month of filing, as my state grants run out quickly. It seems so weird to be holding a workshop this early – but off I go.

For the first time in 25 years in the business, I unload my car without wearing a coat. I have on my summer wardrobe, as today it hit 90 degrees in my city. And the parents pile in to hear my presentation about the ins and outs of financial aid and the FAFSA.

The parents are told they’re filing October 1, and no one really reacts much. I expected some surprises, but October 1 for current high senior parents is the new normal, and if they haven’t been paying attention, it’s not even new for them. I explain they’ll file and use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool if possible, and how that’s the easiest way to get the actual tax return information. I get a few questions about how the formula takes into account 529 plans, but that’s nothing new.

And about 90 minutes later, it’s over. My first 2017-18 FAFSA Workshop is in the books. It felt weird to do it in August. What did I learn and what would I do differently? I probably will push local high schools to have workshops after our drop/add registration period next year. I was exhausted before I did this workshop, and now meeting in the evening with parents made me even more tired. I also will update my presentation to be sure to mention that if students are selected for verification and didn’t file taxes, they will be expected to provide proof of non-filing.  

I will have some December evenings free now. That’s a bonus I suppose – and I’m eliminating the threat of snow day cancellations. September days will be busy finalizing the FISAP and doing workshops in the evenings. The new normal of a busier September preparing for 2017-18 ISIR files is here.

If you’ve done workshops and would like to share your experiences, please comment. As we all go through PPY together, it helps to hear from others. Happy workshop season, everyone!


Publication Date: 9/12/2016

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