Not Another Scholarship Workshop
New York Times. Washington Post. We all know the story. Every year the articles are always the same. Predictable even. We all know that the cost of college is rising. We all know that for low-income/first-generation students the burden is overwhelmingly disproportionate.
What I’m about to say might be a bit unorthodox, especially since I too, at times have been guilty of giving in to the pressures from time to time but I didn’t name this blog “Financial Aid Revolution” because I wanted to keep things the status quo. Here it is- we’ve got to stop presenting 90-minute/2-hour workshops on scholarships and financial aid as the solution to the student loan debt and retention crises.
While I agree that workshops definitely plant a seed, particularly for disconnected youth that would not typically interact with financial aid advisors, given the fact that the average low-income student is taking out loans to fund their education is proof that it’s simply not enough. I’m stepping out on the limb to say that financial aid panel discussions won’t prevent students from going home for balances less than $1000. A 90-minute workshop won’t equip students with the appropriate tools to close the gaps in their financial aid packages. All the financial conferences in the world won’t have a measurable impact on the average student loan debt upon graduation, which is currently approaching $30,000.
Do I have the answer? I certainly believe a large portion of it revolves around strategic, ongoing supports to help families (note – I said families, because we can’t expect students to do it alone) to develop realistic college funding strategies. For me, this isn’t about promoting The Scholarship Academy’s curriculum or announcing our new Virtual Scholarship Center. It’s really about the calls our office is still receiving each day from students who owe $5000 or less, and are in danger of not being able to return to school next semester. Which workshop will enable them to maintain matriculation? Which news article will trumpet their cause?
I say, let’s do something radical. Let’s challenge colleges to re-evaluate their policies for declaring students financially ineligible to maintain matriculation. Let’s make sure families create 4-5 year college funding plans. Let’s do more than talk about websites and search engines. Think about it- what could YOU do to help students go to college without going into debt?