The Why Behind our Students’ Financial Dropouts

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Amy Glynn, Vice President of Student Financial Success at CampusLogic joined the podcast to discuss new research on the financial reasons students are actually dropping out of college, and how we can create award letters that make sure we’re communicating our financial offer as clearly as possible.

Twenty three percent of respondents reported thecost of attendance was unclear. This can be issues with understanding both what anitem is that many students reported that there was confusion, actually not on whatit was, but on how the amount was calculated. You're listening to enrollmentgrowth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaderslooking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for freshenrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the rightplace. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university,a proud member of the connect ETU podcast network. I'm Eric Olsen with HelixEducation and we're here today with Amy Glenn, Vice President of Student Financial Success atcampus logic. Amy, welcome to the show here. Thanks for havingme. Really excited to talk to you today about what the research says aboutthe financial reason students are actually dropping out of college for. But before wedive in, can you give the listeners a little bit of background on campuslogic and your role? They're sure so. Starting with me, I come fromthe financial layer to higher education world, so I've spent my entire career inhigher education and the first half of that was as a director of financialaid at small private colleges, and all of them will really focused on rebuildingfinancial read to create efficiency and provide a positive student experience, where we weremaking financially a differentiator and a positive differentiator in the student experience. Over thepast eight years they've been at campus logic, where I get to serve as anindustry voice and financially experts for all of our internal teams. But theeven greater part of that is I get the opportunity to talk and write aboutimproving the college financing journey for students with an aim at improving college enrollment,student completion and eliminating what I'm calling the greatest crime and higher education, whichis students who have some college, no...

...degree and are holding student deaths.A little bit about campus logic or development. We develop software as a service orstaff products that help to reduce friction in the college funding journey for thestudents who are shopping, from the kind of shopping to when they begin torepay college say, and so we're currently working with seven hundred and fifty fourcolleges that represent overse six million students actively enrolled in college. A product focuson simplifying the complex funding process for students and staff will creating highly personalized interactionsto help students deem access that every dollar available to pay for school. Andso the product claim up includes micro scholarship platform, a financially forms in theverificationsolution, scholarship management, in matching, a digital communications tool and even ofbooks advising solution and everything for offs drives back to a mission to help schoolschange the lives. So we feel like the buffed way to do this isby driving to solutions that will increase enrollment and retention and ultimately reduce the numberof students who drop out or fail to enroll in college. Do the finances. Yeah, I mean I think your first person experience in the financial aidoffices of colleges across this country can be so helpful. Your first part,you research that campus logic has recently released is going to be so helpless thisconversation. Perhaps to kick us off today, there are three million students dropping outof college every year due to financial reasons. What's your thought on what'sreally happening here? Did something change in their financial situations cause to drop outor did we not communicate our financial situation well enough? Yes, and yes. So some students definitely have financial changes and I'll be honest, this oneis top of mind for me right now, given everything that's going on in theworld. The fact that, uses financial information from two years ago,we know that in the last twelve months, forty eight percent of households have reportedof awesome income or unemployment. So...

...these are families that are they're facingmaking a decision about how to pay for college, whether there are new studentsare continuing, but their financial aid offer is based on old full finances lay. So so we have these students who have definitely had changes, but we'veand so we have to address that right and the American rescue plan requires collegesand universities to educate students on the financially the peels process, which allows schoolsto take into account more weeks center more accurate financial information to adjust their federalaid awards. But we also we're just not communicating clearly either. By wehad we had a problem before covid and it's just accelerating. It's accelerating thatproblem. And so we also, just, like I said, have a hardtime communicating affordability of college. Funding process and options can be can bea little much. Well, when you when you think about it, Iused to joke with students and stayers and I'm going to present all your optionsto you. But financially it's kind of like a buffet. You can takea little of this, you can take a little of that and take alot of this, a lot of that. And if you've ever been to abuffet and Vegas, it's a little overwhelming. You don't even know whereto start. And crab legs. Crab legs is the correct answer. Okay, that's probably a really it's just like it's grants for students, right,you always take the crab legs and you always take the grants. Always takethe good stuff, lots, but because of all of the options that thereare, it's just it's hard to communicate and to communicate affordability. Three outof four students who don't complete college they have segmented financially process affected their academicperformance and their ability to continue. So when you think about that, theboard offer, it's ground zero. Yeah, let's dig into the communication challenge specificallythat we are to blame for starting...

...without a ward letter. Can yougive us a summary on your recent research on award letter confusion and the methodologyand instrument behind the study? Totally. So, in summer of two thousandand nineteen, we've partnered with AMI research solutions to survey a thousand students inseven hundred and fifty parents. In addition, we also surveyed and receipt responses fromtwo hundred and thirty financial aid experts. So we asked them to pinpoint terminologyand dollar amounts that they found confusing or unclear on the US Department ofEducations College Financing Plan Template, and so we use that one because it wasit was consistent. You know, every institution is using it if they findthe principles of excellence. But the most important part is we ask them forfeedback on why those items were unclear, and there's a nearly two thousand responsespaying a more nuanced picture of the struggle and challenges the students and parents spaceunderstanding the information intended to help them make one of the largest playing theancial commitmentsof their life in figuring out how they're going to pay for their college education. Yeah, I think that one of the most interesting findings, to meat least, was that even our good news in these award letters are oftengetting lost. High level. You've been on the inside of this. Whatcan we do to start making our award letters communicate better? Yeah, thatis a really, really great question. When we when we look at,you know, five actionable that's the better communicate. I think the first oneis we need to refocus on the purpose of the award letter. Award lettershave become or offer letter to become a bit of a catchall. In theAid Office. We know that there is a single communication, that a studentis going to read it from us and it's it's very offer. So we'vehad a tendency maybe to include information that...

...isn't key to the purpose of communicatingcost and available funding with next step, and so I think that people needto refocus. What's the purpose and they really need to go through their awardletter with a fine tooth. Does this belong here? We need to standardterms and calculations that are shown to the students. There shouldn't be. Thereshouldn't be this broad the phrase of that cost or out of pocket cost withoutshowing the student how we reached that calculation. So we need to demonstrate to themthe math that we're doing and we need to perform that mouth for them. We contenttion, we presented in a logical format, should be at thetop. All of the cost should be there, and then we should moveinto aid and again calculate out costs for students based on our our research.Personalized resources and next steps. Different students in different depth demographic groups get confusedby different things. They're really personalizing those resources and that steps are important.And lastly, I would say let's stop the students. For puld focus groups, there was a clear disparity between what aid administrators that would be confusing andwhat parents and students that would be confusing. So only one percent of aid administratorsthat there was nothing confusing about the deaths of temples, twenty one percentof students that there was nothing confusing, and twenty eight percent of parents.And so this just it shows you that there's a disconnect. So I thinkwe could I think we could learn some from maybe some of our marketing andour enrollment teams, using focus groups and getting feedback from students. And sothose are the five actionable steps that that I see needing to that would improvethe communication. Yeah, you think, and higher it, especially when we'retalking about financial aid, that we'd be used to this idea of not tryingto sell our internal language externally, when...

...students wanderer on campus asking what isa Bursar and where is that office? But let's let's stick into that vocabulary. Seventy percent of students claim that the language is unclear in these in theseoffer letters. What can we do to make sure that students and honestly,you mentioned that admins are unclear. Of course I know the difference between costof attendance versuson that costs. I really don't know. Want you to tellme. How can we educate both both internally so that we can better communicateto our students, as well as how do we make sure that the studentsreally understand the financial reality of these offers? Yeah, the word choice is hugeand we need to start with asking does the word for its data elementadds the purpose or value of the communication? So thirty percent of respondent said ESCor expected family contribution and that was unclear. This really this is reallysurprise anyone. It's an index, it's not a react it's not a realisticnumber that the family can actually contribute and we are re naming this in acouple of years. But the broader question is do we need to lift eOFC on an aid offer? This is a value that's you used to determinein federal methodology. What a the student guest does it belong on the awardbetter. Like part of the way we reduce confusion is eliminating the noise.That unnecessary. So, you know, I think we just have it onthere because of depend on there for so long and we really haven't gone backand tried to justify why it's there. Twenty three percent of respondence reported thatcosts of attendance was unclear. This can be can be issues with understanding bothwhat an item is that many students reported that they look at there was confusionactually not on what it was but on how the amount was calculated. So, you know, providing me be better transparency or or resources. It'd bereally great if we could just have a...

...single cost, you know, andpresent that and have some more transparency around costs of the towns that the realityis that the numbers kind of build on each other and so I think wecan do a lot to improve comprehension by both educating on what the words mean, but also by showing students simple calculation, right again, showing them that eachof each of the data elements comes together to equal the total cost ofattendance. Or we're getting to next cost. They taking the cost of attendance,the grant, scholarships and gifts aid, and that's giving us them that costand not just saying here's your net cost, but showing them actually howthat calculation is occurring, because I found when working with students they were theywere more overwhelmed by the idea of the process than the actual process itself whenwe sat down to explain to them what the next steps were. Right,and and we've kind of built it up in the media, right, likeeverybody should be so confused and and so and there's all these flashy had linesabout how difficult to financial aid processes and how complicated. So if I keeptelling you, like if I tell you you know or canute it down withamy and it is going to be the most dresful twenty minutes of your life. Might she is going to she's going to spin you in circles and you'regoing to hate every minute of it. You're going to come, you're goingto come with this expectation and it's not going to be the most pleasant experience. And I feel like we've done that a little bit with with some ofthe college admissions and financing processes. And, don't get me wrong, this cluehere the thing. Let's talk about the students that were losing on bothsides of this issue. Do you get...

...a you a feel for the volumeof students were losing up front because the offer actually looks worse than it actuallyis, or losing later on post enrollments because it looks better than they realizethey actually can't afford it, because we can spell it out well enough forthem. Yeah, so we know that thirty percent of students who do notin will to talk in college don't think they can afford it when there couldreally be affordable options for the student. So, I mean they think aboutthat. Thirty percent of students who don't enroll at every single college are makingthat decision due to finances, and so it could be that were not communicatingthe financial options appropriately. It could be that we're not educating well enough throughthe high school experience on UN timing. You can have students who are missingout on steak grants because of delayed Fausto completion or they're leaving money on thetable from an internal or an external scholarship search process just because of how complexand time centers the process could be. But even for those that make itinto school, it was approximately two million students each year due to financial reasons, and this could be as small as as a five hundred dollar balance orthe regency that's peaking them out of the college experience. On average students you'rerunning out of money several times a year and face borrowing from family members orover extending themselves, and so I think there's a lot that we can fixin the retention problem if we start to address better funding and sustainable funding forstudents from the beginning. And it's reporting us the number one reason that studentslead school is financial and it's not just it's not just paying the bill rightwith the impacts, the stress, the anxiety, the time the attention thatstudents end up spending on trying to overcome...

...financial barriers when they're in school makeit incredibly difficult for them to be academically successful. Amy Super, super helpfulstuff can you leave us with any next steps? Advice institutions listening to this, nodding their heads, going like I know, but I don't exactly knowwhat to do next. They want to better communicate their financial offer. Whereshould they start first? So the first step I would take is sitting down, having a discussion and setting some ground rules about this really being, youknow, an honest, open, safe space discussion. In general, we'veset up a management system for financial aid professionals. Is Pretty stunitive. RatNo one. No one really. Once in a while people come in andthey're like hey, financially, if you're doing great, thanks so much,we love everything about you. There's never a headburne like that, by theway. But the reality is because of the level of complexity in the regulatoryframework that's created and how schools are evaluated by the Department of Education through audits, we kind of communatives and the management system of our financially teams. Sowe need to level set with them that this is a safe place to havea conversation about what's broken in the way we're communicating with students with the goalof fixing it. That we got to this place. It was be intentionalbut we really need to look at our communication and again, after the fivewives, every time you're putting a piece of information on a communication, whyis it there? What's the purpose of this communication and is this content servingthe purpose of the communication? They also think that our financially teams, becauseof the way we focus for net regulatory standpoint, sometimes those of us thatare really great from a regulatory standpoint aren't necessarily the bestermost dynamic communicators, especiallywith the current college going generation. So leveraging communications experts that are already onthe college campus, whether it's in marketing,...

...the enrollment team student life, figuringout what it is that confuses students, like getting back to that student focusgroup. I think that's really important to get feedback. And lastly,I'll see not getting complacent. So I didn't fully appreciate the iterative or agileprocess until I work at its afful development company. But knowing that, thatyou should pick this butter back up, pick these communications up every once ina while and you should make them better based on the feedback you're receiving.So continuing continual improvement on these communications based on feedbacks and students is really important. Amy, thanks so much for your time today. What's the best placefor listeners to connect with you if they have any follow up questions? Yeah, I am available on Linkedin Unique Glenn. I am also available by email.It's in Dot Glenn at campus logiccom. The listeners can follow me on twitterif they choose UNIQUELYNN, fifty and any of those would be would begood ways to connect. She's a great follow friends. Thanks so much forjoining us today. Amy. Hey, you, this is great. Iappreciate your time. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helpingcolleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just publishedthe second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content onhow institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges, downloaded today for freeat Helix Educationcom. Slash playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth university fromHelix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to theshow in Itunes or your favorite podcast player.

Thank you so much for listening untilnext time.

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