It Takes More Than a Village: Need-Based Aid to Diversity Students Needs More Than Lip Service; It Needs Outreach

By Grayson, Kathy | University Business, November 2003 | Go to article overview

It Takes More Than a Village: Need-Based Aid to Diversity Students Needs More Than Lip Service; It Needs Outreach


Grayson, Kathy, University Business


THREE YEARS AGO, IF MY SON HAD TO FILL OUT ALL OF THE financial forms needed for financial aid consideration, that aid simply would not have happened. No grant, no federal subsidized and unsubsidized loans, no nothin'. If he had been responsible merely for tracking the deadlines on the school financial aid applications and the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), it would not have happened. If he had been solely responsible for finding out what was needed, in order to apply for aid to each school, the state, and the federal government, it most likely would not have happened. If it had been up to him to hunt for state, federal, local, private, and corporate scholarships, it probably wouldn't have happened. If he alone had to track down all of the paperwork--tax returns, pay stubs, mortgage information, etc., it would not have happened. The same can be said of my daughter, when she was applying to schools a Few years earlier. Sure, she scrounged for local scholarships, and introduced me to the FAFSA. But at 17, she, too, was not capable of scaling the financial aid mount on her own.

As it turned out, it took all of us, each and every family member--not to mention high school, college, and Financial aid counselors; extended family members and friends who had already been through the ordeal with their own children; and an occasional morning talk-show host or evening news reporter--to find out about, research, apply, and meet deadlines for financial aid.

And we had the benefit of aggressive college marketing to both children, who had attended a public feeder school. And our family was riddled with upper-middle-class, white, college-educated professionals and executives. And the mother in this scenario (me) keeps detailed financial, legal, and household expense records for decades, all neatly filed in clearly marked month-by-month, year-by-year accordion file folders.

Yet still, we screwed up some deadlines and had to file the FAFSA twice before we got it right. So here's my question:

How is the diversity student (now professed by IHEs to be so desired) supposed to effectively apply for those need-based dollars? What if she attends a high school that does not attract aggressive college marketing? What if she is the first in her family, or one of the first, to set her sights on a postsecondary education? What if her family members are not financially savvy? What if they are daunted enough by a 1040, let alone a FAFSA? What if they've never filed a 1040? What if they are not English speaking? What if there is no one to explain that there is higher education money available? Or that the local technical school is not their only option?

It certainly was not surprising that a Lumina Foundation report ("Unequal Opportunity") released last year pointed to the alarming deficiencies in this area. …

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