The Growing Need for Financial Aid Resources: North Shore Community College and Salem State University Officials Talk Need-Based Scholarship Programs
In March 2017, TechCrunch published an article on return on education investment. The article said that “college is likely the second-largest expense for a person (after buying a home).”
Filing The FAFSA author Mark Kantrowitz writes that average student financial aid debt at graduation has tripled in the past two decades, making it exceed credit card and auto loan debt. With the ongoing reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, higher ed affordability, financial aid resources, and student loan debt are topics that need attention.
Here at EdTech Times, we’ve started a podcast series called Challenges and Solutions for Student Financial Aid and Debt as a result of the growing need for the student loan crisis to be covered.
Last week, Hester Tinti-Kane sat down with Stephen Creamer of North Shore Community College and Bonnie Galinski of Salem State University to talk about the financial aid resources available to students at both institutions. Here is an excerpt of the interview, about a special partnership between the two schools. Stay tuned for the full interview!
Hester Tinti-Kane: This is Hester Tinti-Kane with EdTech Times.
[Series Intro:] This episode is part of an EdTech Times Series called Challenges and Solutions for Student Financial Aid and Debt.
In March 2017, Techcrunch published an article on return on education investment. The article posited that “college is likely the second-largest expense for a person (after buying a home)”. Filing The FAFSA author Mark Kantrowitz writes that average student financial aid debt at graduation has tripled in the past two decades, (exceeding credit card and auto loan debt). With the ongoing reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the topic of higher ed affordability and student financial aid is being highlighted as one area for innovation.
[Episode Intro:] Today, we are speaking with Stephen Creamer of North Shore Community College and Bonnie Galinski of Salem State University about student financial aid and debt. Stephen, could you start by introducing yourself?
Hester: When a student is able to take advantage of the choices that are around them — like here on the north of Boston, there is North Shore Community College and Salem State University — what sort of pathways are you able to develop together? I would love to hear more about certain programs, and I know that you’ve recently made some announcements; I’ve been hearing about the North Shore Promise Award, and I’ve been hearing about the Commonwealth Commitment. So if you could talk to me about those programs and how students can develop a very affordable pathway from the community college into the state university, that would be great.
Stephen Creamer: Okay, this is Stephen, and I’m talking about the North Shore Promise Award. We’re offering that to students who have an estimated family contribution on their FAFSA of $3,800 to $5,320, which is a specific group that we chose to focus on in part because we felt that those students may see college as not quite affordable for them and that this was an opportunity to try to help them see it as affordable by doing what’s called “a gap.” So we were, in essence, saying that if they apply and complete their FAFSA by May 1, that we would honor the difference between their financial aid and the cost to take 15 credits in the fall semester. And then, while they aren’t required to take 15 credits thereafter, they are required to complete the program in two and a half years or else the funding would end at that point.
The high school GPA requirements for that are more flexible than the Commonwealth Commitment — they can range from 2.0 and above. The students, while in school, will need to maintain satisfactory academic progress, which is another term that’s used in the college system. It just means that they’re staying on track to graduate on time.
Hester: So now, Bonnie, if you could tell us a little bit about the Commonwealth Commitment and about incoming students from the community college into the state university.
Bonnie Galinski: Sure. So the Commonwealth Commitment Program is a state program that started this fall. It started actually at the community college level, and students who are entering certain majors are able to lock into tuition and fee rates for — when there are certain requirements within the program. A student needs to have a 3.0, they need to register for 15 credits, they need to be taking the classes consecutively in semesters; so it will help to reduce the cost of education if they’re able to go from the community college to the four-year school by using the Commonwealth Commitment Program. So it’s a great option for students that allows them to lock into the tuition, keeps them on track to graduate in four years so that they’re spending less on their education.
Hester: That sounds great. And anything final that you want to say about the partnership that you have between the two institutions?
Stephen: Well under the perfect circumstances, a student could obtain a bachelor’s degree from Salem and a two-year degree from North Shore for less than $10,000. Now that does require them to file their FAFSA annually, meet the terms and conditions of the Commonwealth Commitment, and take advantage of the North Shore Promise. So it would have to be the best of all circumstances to take advantage of that, but I think what we’re trying to say to students is education at North Shore and Salem State can be affordable. It’s obtainable and it’s affordable, and that’s really what we’re trying to get across I think to our student populations.
Bonnie: And there’s options. So, many times, students think they’re going to stop at the associate’s degree, and it’s so important to let them see the options that are available — that they can attain and reach that bachelor’s degree for not much more and for not that much more time. And that there are people here, folks ready to assist them and help them through the process.
Stephen: And I think, if I could just say a final word on that: That we are realizing the need to tell them that early. Not wait until they graduate, but tell them now: Look, you should be looking at your next move now, while you’re completing your first move. And I think in part that helps them to see the importance of completing the first step of getting that associate’s degree and then moving on to Salem and getting that in their eyes earlier than at the point of graduation.
Hester: Well you both have a very thoughtful approach to supporting students as they come in and as they’re persisting in the institution and as they’re on their way to graduating, which is going to be happening in just a couple of weeks here at both of your institutions. Thank you very much, and I wish you very happy celebrations for your graduations this spring. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you both.
Bonnie: Thank you so much.
Stephen: Thank you.
Elizabeth hails from New Jersey and studies journalism at Emerson College, where she works for two publications: a lifestyle magazine and a music magazine. In addition to education, she also enjoys writing about health and fitness and pop culture.