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Archive for July, 2008

Carol Larson

Our latest edition of Secrets from the Inside features Carol D. Larson, Financial Aid Director at Piedmont Virginia Community College.

What do you think is the most exciting or attractive feature of your institution?
Our location, on top of a hill close to Monticello.

What is the single most important piece of financial aid information you think students should know?
File your FAFSA even if you think you don’t qualify for anything.

What is the most common financial aid mistake you see, and how can students and their families keep from falling into that trap?
Not filing in a timely manner or not filing at all.  File early so you know how much aid you may receive.

What is your favorite cartoon character and why?
Winnie the Pooh because he is kid friendly, kind, timeless, and loveable.

Are you interested in featuring a member of your financial aid staff on this blog? Contact us and let us know.

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In our second installment of Secrets from the Inside, we spoke with Brad Barnett, Senior Associate Director in the Office of Financial Aid & Scholarships at James Madison University.

Briefly, what do you think is the most exciting or attractive feature of your institution?
JMU is a beautiful campus located in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley. Outside of the sheer beauty of the campus, I think one of the most exciting features of JMU is that we have kept that “small campus” feel even though we have grown to around 17,000 students. Our low student to professor ratio and average class size of less than 30 students are a true testament to the JMU efforts.

What is the single most important piece of financial aid information you think students should know?

Follow the prescribed deadlines and rules, and have patience. Going through the financial aid process can be time-consuming, but students who pay attention to the details will successfully navigate this process. Remember, financial aid officers are here to help.

Secondly, learn to budget. Too many students are starting college without any idea of how to manage their own money, even a task as basic as balancing a checkbook. Having these skills intact will truly help a student be more successful in college, as well as after graduation.

What is the most common financial aid mistake you see, and how can students and their families keep from falling into that trap?

The financial aid process can be a little overwhelming, especially for first time students. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form is not the most user-friendly document, but it is the one we are required to use for federal and state aid at public colleges in Virginia. Paying attention to the details ensures deadlines are met, questions are answered completely and accurately, and students do not miss out on maximizing their aid potential. Understand that applying for financial aid requires a time commitment and organization and you will minimize the risk of losing out on aid by missing the details.

What is the most creative cost-saving method you’ve heard about from students?

I have been teaching financial literacy on a college campus for about the past decade. In all that time, the most creative cost-saving method I’ve heard of is donating plasma. It seems like donating plasma has become a way for students to earn some spending money with minimal work, while providing a much-needed service to others.

What is your favorite cartoon character and why?

I consider myself nothing more than a big kid when it comes to cartoons, and Bugs Bunny and Wyle E. Coyote are two of my favorites. Bugs is creative, always finding a way to outwit his opponents. However, when it comes to perseverance, Wyle E. Coyote takes the cake. This character never reaches his goal of catching the Road Runner, but that doesn’t stop him.

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With all the challenges and headaches of the application process, ever wonder if it’s really worth it to go to college? Recent data shows that getting a degree really does help your chances of succeeding in the job market and beyond.

In an article entitled, Does Education Really Mean More Pay, Nan Mooney says your parents are right if they are pushing you to go to college. She points to a study from the National Center for Education Statistics that reveals workers with bachelor’s degrees earned 28 percent more than those with associate’s degrees, 50 percent more than those with high school degrees, and 98 percent more than those who did not earn a high school diploma.

Still worried about finding a good job in today’s economic environment? The US Department of Labor just released the 2008-09 edition of its Occupational Outlook Handbook, a nationally recognized source of career information. The Handbook lists hundreds of different types of jobs and provides information about the training and education needed, earnings, and expected job prospects in each field.

Post a comment here and let us know what you are planning to do with your degree.

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Last week, President Bush signed the updated GI Bill into law with support from Virginia Senators Jim Webb (D-Va.) and John Warner (R-Va.). Starting in August 2009, the new bill promises veterans full in-state tuition and fees at public colleges and universities, as well as a monthly housing stipend and $1,000 per year for books. The bill also allows veterans to transfer benefits to their spouses and children. In order to qualify, active members, reservists, and veterans must have served at least 90 consecutive days on active duty since 9/11/01.

To find out more about the benefits of the new bill, which is known as the Post- 9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Act of 2008 or the Webb-Hagel GI Bill, check out the brochure on the Veterans Affairs Department web site at www.gibill.va.gov. You can also call their toll free number, 1-888-GIBILL1, with follow-up questions.

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The summer months on most college campuses are busy with orientation and many financial aid sessions for students and parents. To complement these goings-on, SCHEV has asked professionals from institutions around the state to comment on five simple questions about their school and financial aid. Much like James Lipton’s questions at the end of The Actor’s Studio, we hope these quick interviews will shed some light on the people that serve in the field of financial aid. To kick off our new series, Secrets from the Inside, we asked our questions of Karen Schinabeck, Director of Financial Aid at Longwood University.

Briefly, what do you think is the most exciting or attractive feature of your institution?

Aside from having one of the most beautiful campuses in Virginia, I think we do a great job of preparing students for the real world after college—on both a personal and professional level. Longwood is one of the few universities in the nation that requires some form of “hands-on” experiential learning (internship, research project, directed study) of every student before graduation. When they leave Longwood, they are good to go in every way.

What is the single most important piece of financial aid information you think students should know?

There IS money available for college! But, you need to apply to be considered. So, file the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) each year at www.fafsa.ed.gov

What is the most common financial aid mistake you see, and how can students and their families keep from falling into that trap?

Lack of timely response can be a costly financial aid mistake. Due to the nature of financial aid, a lot of information is disseminated to students and their families, which requires action to be taken on their part. Thoroughly read each piece of information you receive and follow instructions by the stated deadlines.

What is the most creative cost-saving method you’ve heard about from students?

Commuter students sometimes supplement their on-campus classes with on-line classes, which enables them to only drive to campus two or three days a week, thereby saving transportation expenses.

What is your favorite cartoon character and why?

Foghorn-Leghorn, because he is a great teacher and mentor to the little chicken hawk!

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