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February 24
Improving the Process of Transfer for Students

​Earlier this month, NACAC staff traveled to Atlanta to participate in the annual conference of the National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students- an entity which strives to improve the lives of transfer students by supporting those who directly serve these students, as well as those who create transfer policy and conduct transfer-related research. 

To highlight just one of the insightful discussions, this post will focus on a panel where conference attendees heard from the latest recipients of the organization’s Bonita C. Jacobs Transfer Champion Award​. The award is given in recognition of an individual or individuals “who have demonstrated exceptional advocacy and leadership in the development and implementation of transfer-focused activities (e.g., programs, policies, research) which have made a significant contribution to the improvement of transfer student access, persistence, and success.” 

The 2014-2015 Awardees shared many insights in terms of best practices in working with transfer students based upon their experiences in the field. To give a sample of some of this rich discussion, below are brief highlights from responses to a couple of questions exploring transfer issues: 

Give us your idea about what advice you would give to improve transfer for community colleges preparing students for transfer?

  • ​Build relationships between feeder and receiving institutions.
  • Help transfer students be able to self-advise by teaching them how to navigate the tools and technology that are available to them, to help make decisions going forward. 
  • From a student perspective- get transcripts to receiving institutions quicker.

What advice would you give to Baccalaureate institutions receiving transfer students?

  • ​Offer some kind of sustained orientation effort that helps transfer students make the transition (and gives students an instant peer group).
  • Advise students to ask “How many courses do I need to complete my degree at your institution?” instead of asking, “How many credits will you give me for the courses I’ve already taken?”
  • Identify the top feeder schools of your transfer students. Look at the history and trends overtime to have a better understanding of the source of your transfer students and the kind of culture and institutional backgrounds from which these students come from. 
  • Make sure advisors have access to student transcripts as soon as possible. 

Visit NACAC’s Transfer Knowledge Hub​ to browse more best practices in guiding transfer students through transition and check back on the blog for upcoming additional highlights from this discussion.

The 2014-2015 Awardees of the NISTS' Bonita C. Jacobs Transfer Champion Award are:

  • ​Thomas J. Grites, Assistant Provost at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.
  • Rebecca McKay, Director of Technology at AZTransfer, Arizona’s transfer articulation system.
  • Robert T. Teranishi, Professor of Social Science and Comparative Education, Co-Director of the Institute for Immigration, Globalization, and Education, UCLA. 

February 06
Meet the #Essentials15 Presenter: Carlos Martinez

carlos-martinez.jpgCarlos Martinez II
Admissions Outreach Officer
The University of Texas at San Antonio
Assisting Undocumented Students with College Applications

How has your career path led you to become involved in college access?

I first became involved with secondary students and their search for college access during my time working for the TRiO Upward Bound Math and Science program as a lead retention specialist. I primarily worked with first-generation high school students from low socio-economic families whose exposure to higher education was limited. The goals and projects created for our students helped them expand their minds to the educational opportunities they had available. The time I spent with my students was rewarding and the experiences were fulfilling because I had the chance to develop relationships with families who now have children currently pursuing higher education. This sense of fulfillment continues now that I am an admissions outreach officer for The University of Texas at San Antonio. As the first-ever regional representative of UTSA for the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, I take great pride in connecting students with my institution. This is my second year working in admission and I am passionate about helping high school students pursue their goal of becoming future Roadrunners.

What makes the Essentials program unique?

The Essentials program encourages dialogue between various professionals within the educational field to discuss current topics. Without this kind of opportunity, secondary schools and institutions would mostly communicate on an “as need basis” but this program allows everyone to concurrently talk about the future of academics and how to best plan for student success. 

Why is building college access and success partnerships important?

These two items are essential elements in the admission process. You can’t have one without the other. Students who do not have college access are unaware of the educational opportunities available for them. Establishing a success partnership with your institution allows accessibility and information about the admission process thus better preparing applicants to successfully pursue higher education.

What steps can college counseling professionals take to continue to support college access and success?

Communication with your university admission representative is key. The rapport developed between the counselors and college representatives helps provide students with the tools they need to be admitted into the academic program of their choice. Helping them achieve their educational pursuits is best reached when we work together. Teamwork makes the dream work.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I would like to thank Kelly Ferrante and everyone at NACAC for this opportunity to be a presenter. I would also like to thank the entire undergraduate admission team at UTSA for allowing me to participate in this great event. Last but not least, I would like to thank my family for their unwavering support. Their struggles to achieve the American Dream have always been my source of inspiration to always do my best and to change this world for the better. I intentionally included a lot of information in my presentation because I want attendees to walk away with tangible information that can be referenced. If we are all well-informed about this process and do our best to bridge this educational gap, our efforts will help change the lives of many students for the better.

February 06
Meet the #Essentials15 Presenter: Tania Rachkoskie

​​tania-rachkoskie-small.jpgTania Rachkoskie (@TMJR731)
Director of Outreach
The Common Application (VA)
Essentials Breakout Session: Using the Common Application

How has your career path led you to become involved in college access?

My first position in higher education was in the admission office at my alma mater as a student of color recruiter. Since then, I have worked in college counseling from both sides of the desk—the high school side and the college side. Throughout my career, I have used the Common Application to explain the college application process as it is the best way to not only apply to college but to learn about the college application process and what colleges value in the process. As the director of outreach for the Common Application, I am able to continue working with students through their counselors as we move forward increasing the number of students who have access to four-year colleges.

What makes the Essentials program unique?

The Common Application is committed to increasing access to college for all students, especially those who are currently underserved. I believe working directly with the school counselors who are “on the ground” working with students can have a significant impact. NACAC is providing an invaluable day of service to school counselors who are taking time from their important work to learn new skills and techniques they will be able to immediately put into action.

Why is building college access and success partnerships important?

We have built strong partnerships with NACAC and other organizations over the last several years. By working together to create unique professional development opportunities for counselors that maximize their time, we believe that we can help improve the services provided to students.

What steps can college counseling professionals take to continue to support college access and success?

Creating and developing a college-going culture within the school can be a transformational step for every school. Building expectations and removing the barriers to success and access is crucial in helping counselors reach students and add to their options for the future.

NACAC and the state and regional affiliates provide conferences, workshops and programs like Essentials to support college counseling professionals in their daily work. These skills can be taken back to their schools and implemented with all of their students.

Common Application member colleges and universities are committed to access, equity and integrity in the college admission process and provide numerous support avenues for counselors and their students.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

The Common Application is committed to access and to assisting students in their college process. It is through the attainment of a college degree that people’s lives and the lives of their families are changed. The benefits of completing college are far reaching, it is more than financial—a college degree can serve as a lifeline and create systemic change within a home, a neighborhood and a community.

February 05
New IRS Resources on Higher Ed Tax Credits to Help Students, Parents, and Counselors
While actions may speak louder than words, NACAC/PCACAC member and NACAC Government Relations Committee member Jayne Fonash's words were plenty loud when she testified at a June 2014 Senate Committee on Finance hearing, "Less Student Debt from the Start: What Role Should the Tax System Play?" And now, her words have led to action: the IRS has unveiled two resources to help school counselors and students and parents understand and navigate tax credits for higher education.

New Treasury Higher Education Tax Credit Resources 

Ms. Fonash's insightful testimony helped incite the Department of the Treasury to create these one-page, easy-to-understand documents. School counselors are neither tax nor finance experts, but as college costs continue to weigh heavily on families' minds, counselors are increasingly serving as resources for students and parents as they attempt to figure out how pay for higher education. Tax credits alone, for many families, may not be enough to make college completely affordable: both the dollar amount able to be credited and the timing of tax credits makes them imperfect tools for eliminating student borrowing. Nonetheless, tax credits can serve as an important component of a family's financial planning, and, for some families, tax credits could make a measurable difference when it comes to affording college. If the families know about them, that is.

Even when school counselors are well-informed about college financing options, including tax credits, it is not always easy for them to share this information with students and parents. While this challenge is due in large part to unwieldy caseloads, it is also attributable to a dearth of accessible and concise resources. This has been especially true of information pertaining to tax benefits. Particularly for a topic as complex and sensitive as taxes, families and counselors need easily understood information that is vetted by a trusted source--and no one is more well-positioned to be that source than the Internal​ Revenue Service. When asked what one actionable step the federal government could take to improve awareness about higher education tax credits, Ms. Fonash urged the Treasury to create documents to fill this information void. The results are linked above.

NACAC has more information on higher education tax benefits, as well as links to other resources, on its page Missed Opportunities: Higher Education Savings Plans and Tax Benefits​.
January 26
Federal Regulations Protect Students, NACAC Survey Finds

The questions surrounding federal regulations of higher education are many: Should higher education be regulated? By whom? To what extent? Should all colleges face identical regulations, or should regulations vary by type of institution? Whom do regulations benefit -- if anyone at all? With the Higher Education Act up for reauthorization, these and related questions are on the minds of lawmakers. In the 113th Congress, four Senators established a task force to review federal regulations of higher education. The House of Representatives also voted to create an Advisory Committee with a similar charge (the Senate did not pass this bill).

Last Fall, NACAC conducted a survey of its postsecondary membership to find out how admission professionals view federal regulations of higher education. We have shared the survey results with key members of Congress as well as other stakeholders. We hope the results will help lawmakers identify the strengths and weaknesses of federal regulations as they pertain to enrollment management, and give them insight into how these regulations may be improved in any upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

Among the takeaways from the survey results​ is the strongly-held belief that federal regulations are an important source of consumer protection. 76% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that federal regulations protect students and taxpayers from waste, fraud, and abuse. Overall, respondents indicated that federal regulations have little to moderate impact on their day-to-day work; only 16.5% reported that federal regulations have a significant impact on daily workflow. One of the specific regulations discussed in the survey is the Net Price Calculator, which colleges are required to make available on their websites. Reviews of Net Price Calculators were generally critical, with many respondents commenting that that the calculators are not widely used by prospective students and that the results often fail to provide an accurate picture for those students and families who do use the tool. Better visibility and enhanced support to make calculators as accurate as possible were among the suggestions respondents offered to improve the usefulness of Net Price Calculators.

You may read a summary of the survey results here​. If you have any questions about the survey, please contact NACAC's Public Policy & Government Relations staff by e-mailing We will update membership about any developments related to the Higher Education Act reauthorization process, which may begin later this Spring.

January 09
President Obama Proposes Free Community College

​Leading up to his January 20, 2015, State of the Union address, President Obama announced ​on Thursday a major proposal to make the first two years of community college free for qualifying students - a savings of up to $3,800 annually for a full-time student, according to the White House. The plan, dubbed America's College Promise, is inspired by The Tennessee Promise​, a popular program championed by the state's Republican Governor Bill Haslam, though the two "Promises" differ in some key ways. Obama is expected to speak more about the proposal today at Pellis​sippi State Community College, where he will be appearing with Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

America's College Promise is envisioned as matching grant program, and is designed to ensure states do not use federal funding to replace state support for higher education. The basics of the proposal are as follows:

The Funding

Federal Commitment: Federal funding will cover 75% of the average cost (tuition & fees) of community college

State Commitment: States will provide the remaining 25% of funding

The Qualifications

Student Qualification: Students must enroll at least half-time and maintain a 2.5 average GPA while making "steady progress" toward completion.

Community College Qualification: Community colleges must offer either: (a) academic programs that are fully transferable to a local public four-year state college or university; or (b) high-performing occupational/vocational training degrees or certificates. Community colleges will also have to adopt evidence-based approaches to foster student success.

The White House blog and fact sheet provide some more details on the proposal, but until legislative language has been drafted, NACAC will be unable to offer a substantive assessment. We will closely follow the proposal and keep membership updated on any developments. In general, NACAC is supportive efforts to keep postsecondary education affordable and accessible, and initiatives to simplify the transfer process between institutions, especially those between community colleges and four-year institutions. Our Transfer Knowledge Hub​ has resources and research on transfer-related issues to help students, counseling and admission professionals.

January 07
Report: Tuition Revenue Surpasses State Support at Public Colleges
A father stands at the table, flipping through a brochure. He lets out a soft whistle as he turns to the page on tuition and fees. "Back in my day," he says, "this college cost half the amount. When did you get so expensive?"

That scene is likely familiar to admission officers, particularly those who work at public institutions. Alumni/ae, now parents of prospective students, are revisiting their alma maters and discovering that the cost of attendance has risen sharply from when they were enrolled. And while it is true that the cost of college has risen, another shift has compounded the challenge of expense: state appropriations for public higher education are down, placing a heavier burden on tuition and fees as a revenue source. Put another way: If the funding needed for financing a degree at a public college were visualized as sacks of flour dispersed on a raft, keeping it dry, then today's sacks of flour are significantly heavier than they were before -- and more of them are being placed in the corner belonging to tuition (i.e., family expenses) than the corner belonging to state support (i.e., state appropriations). Other sacks are elsewhere on the raft (local and federal support, private donations, endowments, sales, hospital or athletic revenue, etc.). The question is, how many more sacks can be shifted to tuition without upsetting the raft? More provocatively: How much of a degree from a state university should be funded by the state? At what point are public colleges no longer public?

The results of a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) raise these questions with new urgency. The December 2014 report, "Higher Education: State Funding Trends and Policies on Affordability," reveals that, in 2012, tuition accounted for a larger portion of revenue at public colleges than did state appropriations -- a tipping point. The study examined years 2003-2012. In 2003, tuition comprised 17% of revenue and state funding 32%. In 2012, tuition made up 25% while state funding made up 23%. A chart showing the changes over time is on page 9 of the GAO report. Another important finding in the report is that, while state funding has declined by 12% from 2003-2012, this impact of this decline is more acute when adjusted for enrollment levels. Enrollment at public colleges increased by 20% from 2003-2012, resulting in a state decline in spending per full time equivalent (FTE) of 24% (p. 8).

Not only has the amount of state aid been shrinking, its composition has been changing, too. More and more, states are distributing financial aid through merit-based, as opposed to need-based, grants. In 2003-04, 71% of state financial aid was need-based and 29% was merit-based. In 2011-12, 64% was need-based and 36% was merit-based (p. 13). A common criticism of state-administered merit-based aid is that it does not effectively reach the students who most need the financial support to afford college. The GAO found that, over the years studied, the ratio of net tuition to annual income has increased 1.5x, but the hardest-hit are those in the lowest income quartile: their ratio was approximately 4x greater than the ratio of those in the highest income quartile (p. 13).

As the 114th Congress and state legislatures convene, federal and state support for higher education will be hotly-contested topics. The GAO report is important not only for the facts it presents, but also for the questions it encourages about the very nature, and future, of public higher education.
December 01
An Updated Look at the Landscape of State Common Core, SAT, and ACT Assessments

​With the emanating roll out of Common Core-aligned assessments this spring, many people are wondering how the tests will interact with the traditional college admissions tests, ACT and SAT. Although both Smarter Balanced and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) have made statements that the 11th grade summative test was not designed to be used in college admission decisions, the question remains as to whether or not it will eventually be considered by admission offices- and this question may remain unanswered for several years. According to a Smarter Balanced representative who presented at NACAC’s annual conference this past September, “to the extent that we see changes, it will be an evolution [not a revolution] as things progress.” 

So where are states now? Several states administer the ACT or SAT to all public school 11th graders statewide, whereas some have district-optional policies, or no mandate at all. So far the implementation of PARCC and Smarter Balanced common-core aligned tests does not seem to have had any negative effect on the number of students taking the ACT or SAT, in fact, those numbers continue to increase. Recent articles have spoken to increasing numbers of students taking the ACT college admission test, due to more states adopting it statewide (Nevada and Missouri most recently), as well as, the increasing number of students in states that already administer the tests statewide. In addition, Missouri also made the decision to use ACT as its 11th grade college- and career readiness measure rather than the new Smarter Balanced assessment, which the state will use in other grades (Education Week). 

While the SAT is currently redesigning its test, with a “continued emphasis on reasoning alongside a clearer, stronger focus on the knowledge, skills, and understandings most important for college and career readiness and success,” the ACT has no such plans. In 2014, 1.85 million students (the most ever) took the ACT and 1.67 million took the SAT. 

For more information, see NACAC’s common core webpage​, as well as:

November 17
Two New Reports on Student Aid... and Student Debt
Fall application season is in full-swing, and students and families are carefully considering college costs and how to best finance a degree. Meanwhile, May 2014 graduates have, generally, passed the end of student loan grace periods and are entering repayment. So as graduates look back at the debt they have accrued and future students look ahead and the debt they may accrue, it is timely that two new reports have been issued on student aid and debt. College Board's 2014 Trends in Student Aid report examines, panoramically, the landscape of student aid. The Project on Student Debt, which is supported by the Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS), report Student Debt and the Class of 2013 provides a narrower snapshot (press release).

The Project on Student Debt did not examine for-profit institutions due to severe shortages in available data. Among the private non-profit and public institutions studied, great levels of variation were found at both the state and institution level. Overall, the report finds that average debt ($28,400) for the Class of 2013 increased by 2% from the average for the Class of 2012.  Additionally, approximately 1/5 of the debt is private, non-federal student loan debt -- a distinction that bears consideration, since private student loans do not provide borrowers with the same protections and interest rates as federal loans. Drilling down into state-level data, the Project on Student Debt calculated average student indebtedness to range from $18,656 (New Mexico) to $32,795 (New Hampshire). The ten states with the highest average student debt were NH, DE, PA, RI, MN, CT, ME, MI, IA, and SC. The states with the lowest average student debt were NM, CA, NE, DC, OK, AZ, UT, HI, WY, and LA. Not all of the institutions with the highest or lowest average debt are located in these states, underscoring the fact that institutional aid practices differ greatly. To see state-specific and individual college data, visit the Project's interactive map​.

According to the College Board's report, student borrowing is gradually slowing. The past decade has seen a sharp uptick in student borrowing, due in part to increased enrollment in college during the recession; there was a 43% increase in Stafford loan borrowers between 2003-04 and 2013-14. But these numbers are beginning to drop off again: between 2010-11 and 2013-14, students took out 13% less in student loans, with total federal loan borrowing dropping by 18%. While those figures look promising, they are by no means is the whole story. The College Board finds that average debt has increased 19% over the past ten years, and 13% over the past five. Tuition pricing and state aid continues to play an important role in the costs students bear in financing their degrees. Total grant aid per full time equivalent (FTE) student increased rapidly by 39% from 2007-08 through 2010-11. The increase dropped off sharply, to 8%, over the following three years. State grant aid increased at a lower rate, 10%, between 2007-08 and 2010-11, and declined by 5% from 2010-11 to 2013-14, with a 3% decline just in the 2013-14 year. Average grant aid per FTE student varies state-by-state, from under $200 to over $1,000. The percent of state grant aid that is need-based has increased from the low 70s% in the mid-200s to 75% in 2012-13, the broad trend is a significant decrease in percent of need-based grant aid: in 1982-83, 91% of state grant aid was need-based.

Finally, the College Board reports (and TICAS notes) that 32% of student borrowers entering repayment in 2010-11 attended for-profit colleges, and 44% of students in default by October 1, 2013, were for-profit students, despite accounting for only 10% of FTE undergraduate students enrolled in 2010-11. NACAC has resources​ to educate students, family members, and counselors on for-profit colleges. In addition, NACAC staff is engaged in efforts to promote greater transparency and accountability in the sector, which is known for frequently aggressive and misleading recruitment practices and substandard educational and employment outcomes.
November 14
NACAC to be Represented at White House Sponsored Event at San Diego State University

On November 17-18, NACAC will be represented in a convening of recognized educational leaders committed to supporting the school counseling profession’s critical role in increasing college access and success. San Diego State University’s (SDSU) Center for Excellence in School Counseling and Leadership (CESCaL) is hosting the event in partnership with the White House’s College Opportunity Agenda and the First Lady’s Reach Higher Initiative. The group of invited experts will focus on strategies to strengthen the school counseling profession through enhanced preparation in college and career readiness.

The SDSU-hosted convening, which will be available to the public through a live webcast, will focus specifically on advancing systematic change in several key areas:

  • Modifying requirements for graduate programs in school counseling to include non-negotiable preparation standards for college and career readiness 
  • Creating sustainable and effective partnerships between university training programs and K-12 school districts in order to ensure productive field training related to college and career readiness for prospective school counselors
  • Enhancing district-level professional development in college and career readiness for experienced school counselors 
  • Aligning hiring policies and procedures for school counselors with the goal of enhancing knowledge about college and career readiness within the profession, and 
  • Creating strategic partnerships with donors who are interested in supporting students’ college and career goals through change in school counselor training and practice.​

The SDSU-hosted event is designed as a goal-oriented working meeting which aims to conclude with 20 or more active university/K-12/community partnerships that are well on their way to meeting these systematic change goals. The group also will create mechanisms to support the establishment of additional partnerships and to assist all partnerships in meeting the systematic changes, thereby allowing the work to continue long after the meeting has concluded. 

The event follows a series of historic milestones that have occurred over the last year. In a January 2014 White House sponsored summit, President Obama called for “an ambitious new agenda aimed at improving college value, removing barriers to innovation and completion, and ensuring that student debt remains affordable.” Following the summit, senior White House staff arranged a listening and learning session on school counseling which examined challenges that counselors encounter while supporting students’ college aspirations. In late July, Harvard University hosted a White House convening​ on counselor’s influence on college enrollment. This meeting encouraged attendees to inventory existing partnerships and establish collaborative relationships with school districts, higher education institutions, college access groups, and non-profit institutions. NACAC will continue to represent the valuable experience and expertise of the membership in these national efforts to enhance the role of the school counseling profession.

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