Moneythink is dismayed and deeply saddened by the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling. This June 24th decision drastically strips away constitutional rights to basic healthcare, including reproductive care, which has been a center point of US citizenship, economic power, and security for nearly fifty years. Since the Court’s ruling we have already seen a number of states enacting triggers banning abortions altogether. Sadly, we expect to see many more states taking similar actions. In the longer term, this ruling has severe, far-reaching consequences for a number of other communities, including LGBTQIA+.
We are forced, once again, to recognize and name that gender, generational poverty, access to quality education, access to quality healthcare, access to affordable housing, and intergenerational wealth are inextricably linked. Historically marginalized individuals and low-wealth communities shoulder the heaviest burdens in our country. Overall, these communities will experience the most disastrous impacts of this Court’s decision. While the myth of the unlikely connection between student debt and reproductive justice may exist, make no mistake that both student debt and abortion restrictions obstruct current and future generations’ chance at a financially secure future. For example, student loan debt and reproductive healthcare restrictions disproportionately harm young individuals of color, especially Black women. It’s well known that the national student debt crisis burdens Black women more than their white peers, limiting their ability to build generational wealth. Furthermore, the racialized gender wage gap forces Black women to carry student loan debt for longer periods of time, and the gap increases throughout their careers, making it harder to pay off student loans. Student loan debt continues to mount as individuals progress through their adulthood. As a consequence, those who are denied abortion care and forced to carry the pregnancy to term have greater odds of living below the Federal Poverty Level. The real burden of student debt and abortion restrictions can easily compound on each other – and facing the financial consequences of each is devastating. Individuals should have the basic freedom to make decisions about their futures, the freedom to decide if and when to parent, and the freedom to control their economic well-being. While it might be easier for us to see reproductive choice as separate from our mission, the reality is that basic healthcare is a social justice issue. We cannot have one without the other.
There’s nothing that we can say that eases the sting, nor is there a magic wand that we can wave to rewind several days. However, remaining silent or doing nothing are not options. SCOTUS’s ruling will have immediate and devastating implications for members of our team, our partner organizations, and our communities. As an organization committed to social justice for all, it’s our moral obligation and societal responsibility to stand firm in our position that all people have the right to bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom.
I am encouraging our team to take the time and space needed to process this profound shift. Likewise, in the coming weeks and months, we will assess what we can tangibly do to ensure that our team members have access to essential medical services, which is critical to ensuring the well-being of our organization.
Our vision is focused on financial freedom, social capital, and an inclusive economy for all. This is not exclusive to students. Rather, we aim for a world that affords all people the resources and dignity to live their healthiest, fullest lives.
If you are wondering what the new normal will look like, we’re all wondering the same thing. You had plans for the fall and you’re staying the course, you’ve changed your plans, or you’re in the throes of figuring out just how much those plans will change.
If you’re committed to starting college in the fall, expect others to join you! About 42% of students in a recent survey will not delay under any circumstances. Another survey from April shows that 17% of respondents are weighing a delayed enrollment to a four-year college until spring 2021. We’re also seeing that confidence to stay on track to college persists.
At Moneythink, we have your back. We want you to feel confident that, although the options may look different at least in the near future, there are still solid opportunities with the choice being yours to make. Here’s what you may be considering:
I’m still waiting to make a decision since other colleges have extended their deadlines. How do I make my choice?
OPTION #1. ACCEPT FOR FALL 2020 OR SPRING 2021 AND PREPARE FOR A POTENTIAL VIRTUAL OR HYBRID EXPERIENCE.
Whatever the new normal looks like, colleges are getting ready for you! According to a recent report, 70% of colleges set up COVID-19 student necessity/emergency funds for their students as they prepare for the coming fall semester. While some colleges know their plans for the fall, others are still coordinating. “The majority of colleges and universities have not made a decision on the mode of instruction for fall,” and we expect this because the nature of COVID-19 is evolving across the country.
According to a recent report, 70% of colleges set up COVID-19 student necessity/emergency funds for their students as they prepare for the coming fall semester.
If you’re thinking about taking a break for a semester or a year, “institutions are giving students the option to defer enrollment to later in the fall or to spring 2021.” Be sure to check with your intended college on their specific policy.
OPTION #2. DEFER FOR A YEAR — IF YOUR COLLEGE ALLOWS IT.
There are many reasons you may wish to defer, from staying home to help family, to taking the time to rethink your educational goals and plans. When you defer (also called taking a gap year), you plan to enroll in the next academic year (2021) in a college you were accepted to this year. Here are some things to know about deferring admission at your college:
The college needs to accept deferment.
Colleges maintain different policies to grant deferrals.
Some colleges require you to describe how you will use your gap year.
Contact your college to learn more about their process to be sure that deferral is a real option for you. Global Citizen Year has useful information on gap years.
OPTION #3. DO NOT ACCEPT ANY COLLEGES THIS YEAR AND REAPPLY NEXT YEAR.
With this option, you’re not taking an official gap year. Instead, you are foregoing all of this year’s college acceptances and choosing to apply again for next year, fall 2021.
However, it gets harder to enroll in college the longer you wait, so be sure you have a plan. Choosing this option gives you a chance to reconsider and rebuild your list — and decide which colleges you will reapply to during your year off. To keep you organized, let us support you! Join our mailing list and we’ll tell you when our tool DecidED comes out. You can use DecidED to track your colleges, upload your financial aid award letters, and easily compare which colleges are affordable and the best fit for your needs!
Likewise, if you do choose to forego your college plans this year altogether, we highly suggest that you use your time wisely with work or volunteering, applying to scholarships, and focusing on activities that help you grow, enhance your skills, and extend your experiences and networks. Consider programs like City Year and Year Up who have rolling application deadlines and can give you hands-on training in real-world pathways, starting this fall.
Whichever of the three options you take now, keep in mind that there are trade offs that you’ll have to weigh. Remember that, in the end, going to college typically means increasing your earnings. College graduates, on average, will earn roughly $900,000 more than the typical high school graduate during the course of their working life, which is why going to college is a financially smart option. When you push college back a year, you are trading your post college earning potential for whatever you may earn during your year off. Whatever that tradeoff is to you, think critically, do your homework, and commit to your decision.
College graduates, on average, will earn roughly $900,000 more than the typical high school graduate during the course of their working life
To make smart financial decisions, consider affordability in your choice! Check out our Financial Aid Guide for steps on Using Awards to Calculate Cost of Attendance. For a visual tutorial, view a recording of our webinar below or download the full video here. Whatever your college decides and when they decide it, prepare to adapt to the situation, and commit to making the most of your college experience. You got this!
Things are changing in real time as colleges decide whether they will serve students on campus or virtually this coming fall. Likewise, students are considering a range of issues such as how far from home they can realistically go, if they need to work sooner than later, and if college expenses are even wise right now. As allies and college financial advisors, our intention is to ensure that all students have the tools and resources they need to make informed and affordable college decisions - ultimately helping them reach their college and career goals. As such, it’s important we know the circumstances students face if we are to strike the balance between giving expert guidance and affirmation as they make this important decision in their young lives.
According to the 2020 Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United States report, for every 100 low-income and first-generation dependent students entering college, only 26 will have earned a bachelor’s degree six years later compared with 69 of students who are not low-income and first-generation. While more low-income students are attending college, fewer students are graduating on time.
Enrolling in a college with sustainable financial planning is critical for student success — both in college and beyond. Deciding what college to attend, however, is rife with financial risk. Colleges may offer a student dramatically different financial packages, but full cost information can be difficult to obtain, hard to compare, and challenging to interpret.
Unmet Need – the amount that is left to be paid after financial aid is awarded (not including loans).
A Sense of Ownership – students who view themselves as responsible for their financial situation have an internal sense of ownership over their financial situation.
Unmet need is rarely clear. Award letters are difficult for students, families, and academic counselors to interpret. Because of this:
The nation’s $1.6 trillion in student debt is fueled by opaque pricing in higher education.
Only 1-5% of 4-year colleges are considered affordable for first-generation and low-income freshmen, each year.
70% of college dropouts leave school due to pressing financial concerns.
Pell grant recipients, most of whom have family incomes under $40,000, are 5x more likely to end up in default as their higher income peers.
First-generation students are more likely to end up in default than students whose parents had attended college.
African-American students are more likely to default on their loans than students of other races and ethnicities.
And, while 60% of white students borrow money, 87% of minorities borrow to attend college.
This issue is not a partisan one. According to Senator Lamar Alexander on NPR, “We consistently hear from students, parents, and administrators that students looking for federal financial aid to go to college need a much simpler system for the $30 billion in grants, roughly $100 billion in new loans, and the repayment plans for those loans.”
Unfortunately, it’s widely acknowledged that award letters are a major source of the inequity, confusion, and misinterpretation. Here are the Seven Financial Aid Award Letter “Don’t’s” that we’ve identified since 2008:
Include confusing jargon and terminology.
Omit the complete cost of attendance.
Fail to differentiate types of aid.
Mislead packaging of parent plus loans.
Provide vague definitions of work study.
Show inconsistent bottom line calculations.
Do not provide clear next steps.
In the article The Financial Aid Conundrum, we see that this issue affects all students, but disproportionately for low-income students of color who tend to have a lower sense of ownership. When students lack basic financial literacy skills, they make decisions that are based more on the influences of others than their own needs, and more fueled by opinions rather than critical information.
Moneythink is on the case
Since our inception in 2008, Moneythink has been a leader in financial capability for traditionally under-served youth. From 2008-2016, we mentored 30,000 HS students nationwide using our proprietary financial capability curricula — garnering accolades along the way, such as the White House Champions of Change Award.
Beginning in 2016, after years of work in financial literacy mentorship, we honed in on one of the most decisive moments in a young person’s life: enrolling and graduating from college with minimal financial burden. With an acute understanding of the obstacles, it was clear that a successful Moneythink program could support the development of youth-focused financial empowerment habits through virtual college financial advising, while also impacting long-term behavioral change and economic status. Between 2017-2019, we provided financial college coaching to over 2,500 students in Illinois and California.
Along the way, it became clear that we could support the field as content experts focused on providing objective financial aid coaching. We convene advisors and organizations already doing great work and optimize their financial aid coaching with our tools, content, and training.
“It’s not because there isn’t a standard format. The Department of Education has suggested a financial aid award template to help clarify and systematize the information across different colleges. But it’s really up to colleges to decide how to format the information, the language they use. And we’re really seeing a lot of variance between college financial aid award letters.”
We know that students, families, and educators need to have tools at their fingertips to make sense of the information they can get, in whatever format it’s in, to make a truly informed choice that keeps student goals at the center.
This is where Moneythink’s new affordability tool, DecidED, comes in.
What Moneythink’s DecidED can do for YOU and Your Students
Our tool, DecidED, completely removes the guesswork out of college affordability for students and their families, as well as empowers counselors and advisors in the space. Moneythink’s tool, DecidED, scheduled for full release in the fall, 2020: .
Helps students make a holistic college enrollment decision informed by an accurate understanding of the cost of their college options.
Provides focused, action-oriented, personalized content that helps students, families, and advisors make well informed enrollment decisions based on clear guidelines and methodology.
Helps schools, districts, and college access organizations extend the reach and impact of services by scaling financial aid literacy and action-enabling tools with technology and reporting.
DecidED can support educators and institutions during, throughout, and after the financial aid application process for students.
Educators and Institutions will be able to use DecidED for relevant, accurate financial aid guidance, advising, and tools so that they can navigate the “next normal” as education systems re-invent themselves.
Administrators and Advocates can use DecidED for training, research, stories, and data that can inform reform as educators reconsider education priorities in light of lessons learned this year. We also share relevant, timely information and resources such as the NACAC Enrollment Deposit Fee Waiver and SwiftStudent for appeals.
DecidED helps students complete financial aid transactional steps and make a holistic college enrollment decision.
Students use DecidED during the financial aid application process to:
Receive FAFSA/CA Dream Act submission reminders and instructions;
Make highly informed enrollment decisions grounded in an accurate and complete understanding of college costs;
Compare true apples-to-apples affordability levels, quality, and fit across multiple college options;
Consider how graduation rate and future salaries outcomes might influence their enrollment decision;
Have productive conversations about the tradeoffs of college options with advisors and family; and
Create a data-driven financial plan to responsibly pay for their college years.
Students use DecidED once in college to:
Receive FAFSA/CA Dream Act renewal reminders and instructions for 2nd+ year of college; and
Continue to make highly informed decisions related to their financial plan to responsibly pay for their remaining college years.
Using our cutting edge-technology, DecidED clarifies the difference between gift aid (what students don’t have to pay back such as grants and scholarships) and self-help (what students have to pay back or earn such as loans and work study), and makes clear what the costs of attendance are. Only with all of these pieces can students and families fully understand 1) what college will cost, 2) how much outside aid they will get to go there, and 3) what is left for the family to cover. By helping students make affordability-informed enrollment decisions, we expect that will increase the chance of students obtaining a bachelor’s degree, within their expected time to completion, with a sustainable amount of debt.
Partner with Moneythink to scale success
Whether you are a high school counselor, a school administrator, a district director, an education advocate, or a college access program lead, we want to help you scale your success.
Here are the different ways you can engage with Moneythink to enhance your services and extend your impact.
Sign up for a DecidED Demo this summer and learn how the tool can be used by you and your partners.
Sign up for a Moneythink Partnership Info Sessionthis summer and find out how partnership with Moneythink can improve your student outcomes and increase your team’s capacity to advise and affirm.
Sign up for a Moneythink Financial Aid Training for the fall and let our content experts update your staff on financial aid policy, financial aid applications, and best practices in the field.
Sign up for the DecidED Pilotfor the fall so that we can offer your organization the collaboration, data, tools, and resources to help your students succeed.
Sign up for aMoneythink API Info Session if you’d like to learn more about how our data, reporting, and API resources can compliment and improve your existing tools and reports.
DecidED comes at a critical time when K-12 systems are still waiting to understand how the coronavirus will impact school plans for the 2020-2021 Academic Year. Moneythink can support education leaders in designing a new normal for graduating high school seniors, incoming college freshmen and incoming college transfers that learns from old lessons and prevents more students from making ill-informed and unaffordable college decisions.
Together, we can help our students not just survive, but thrive. Not just complete, but succeed. Our students can achieve #lessdebtmoredegrees, and at the same time, design a pathway towards an economically sustainable future for themselves, and their families.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Joshua Lachs serves as the CEO at Moneythink, a national ed-tech nonprofit that aims to bring college cost transparency to scale while helping all students have the opportunity to earn a college degree with little to no debt.
Meredith Curry is a Senior Advisor at Moneythink. Meredith has served as the Founding Director of Operations at California College Guidance Initiative and the Executive Director at South Central Scholars.
As former first-gen college students, Josh and Meredith each know firsthand that the financial side of college can be daunting and are both inspired to ensure that students have access to the opportunities they deserve.