Considering Cost in the College Decision

Host Jonathan Hughes is joined by Kevin Fudge, Higher Education Expert, who discusses why families should consider affordability when exploring college options, why it’s important to focus on career goals when making post-secondary plans, and how college-going trends have evolved.

On this episode of the MEFA Podcast, MEFA's Associate Director of College Planning and Content Creation Jonathan Hughes is joined by Kevin Fudge, Higher Education Expert, and Julie Shields-Rutyna, Director of College Planning, Education, and Training at MEFA. Kevin discusses why families should consider affordability when exploring college options, why it’s important to focus on career goals when making post-secondary plans, and how college-going trends have evolved. Jonathan and Julie discuss upcoming college financing events and answer listeners’ questions about completing the FAFSA and paying application fees.

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Resources Mentioned in this Episode

College Financing webinar events

FAFSA Festival

FAFSA Day Massachusetts

MassEdCO





Transcript

[00:00:00] Jonathan Hughes: Hi everyone. And welcome to the MEFA podcast. My name is Jonathan Hughes.
[00:00:12] Julie Shields-Rutyna: And I'm Julie Shields-Rutyna.
[00:00:14] Jonathan Hughes: Hello, Julie, how are you?
[00:00:15] Julie Shields-Rutyna: Hi Jonathan. I'm doing well.
[00:00:17] Jonathan Hughes: Well today we'll hear from higher education expert and MEFA presenter, Kevin Fudge. He'll talk to us about college affordability. I feel like I say this every week, but this is somebody that we've been waiting to have on the show ever since we thought of having a show. He's one of the first people we thought of to have on, and this week we get to have him on, and we had a great conversation about how families can put affordability front and center when they're making their college plan.
So this is the time when families are sort of like compiling their college lists and, you know, this is when they really want to be considering affordability. So you want to stick around and listen to that. But before that, Julie, we have something exciting to talk about.
[00:01:02] Julie Shields-Rutyna: We do. We do. So I thought it would be great to talk about how MEFA is hosting our second annual FAFSA Festival. And we're hosting that on Monday, October 18th from 4:00 to 8:00 PM.
[00:01:16] Jonathan Hughes: Yeah. All right. So Monday, October 18th from 4:00 to 8:00 PM is a FAFSA Festival. So Julie, tell me what in the world is the FAFSA Festival.
[00:01:27] Julie Shields-Rutyna: Yes. So I'll first tell you what it is. And then I'll tell you a little bit about how it came about. So that is, an online virtual event where students and families can register for a Zoom meeting. And when they join the Zoom meeting, then we will connect them with a FAFSA expert and that person can then answer their FAFSA questions or help them complete the form or whatever they need to do, that important form, which is a huge step to going to college and being able to afford it.
And so it's our second annual because we tried this for the first time last year in April. And what was happening at that point is that in the wake of the Coronavirus, there was a whole lot of uncertainty and that had a really pronounced effect on college bound students last year and their plans.
And so Massachusetts in general found that FAFSA completion was down and actually it was down nationwide. And so MEFA, in collaboration with other colleagues throughout Massachusetts, hosted this one day drop in virtual Zoom event, and the format went really well. We had a lot of volunteers who helped and we had a lot of families who were helped and the feedback was great from both sides.
So we're going to do it again.
[00:02:56] Jonathan Hughes: All right. And what's that time and date again?
[00:03:00] Julie Shields-Rutyna: Monday, October 18th, anywhere from 4:00 to 8:00 PM.
[00:03:04] Jonathan Hughes: Okay. So now around this time of the year, you know, October 1st is when the FAFSA becomes, it goes online, I guess, for families to be able to file for the next year.
So this is kind of like off to the races for financial aid. Right? And so this is when MEFA starts doing our college financing presentations for families of seniors who are going to be filing the FAFSA. How is this different?
[00:03:30] Julie Shields-Rutyna: Yes. And this is a great time of year and MEFA has numerous presentations about the FAFSA, about the CSS Profile, which is the other form that some colleges require to apply for financial aid.
And just about college financing in general, you know, what is financial aid? How do you apply for it? How do colleges award financial aid based on what criteria. All of that. And so at mefa.org/events is the listing of all of our webinars. And I've presented a few. I've been involved in a few of these last weeks and it's been really exciting because there are a good number of families who attend, a good number of students who attend, and ask all kinds of great questions. So it's very interactive, good questions and topics come up. And I think everyone learns from those. And really it's just connecting students and families with all the good information hat they will need to understand the financial side of applying to college.
And it's more, they're not going to complete the forms on a webinar. They're going to just more learn and then know what to do to go complete the forms. So that's a little bit different than the FAFSA Festival. More of a working meeting with an expert, but I think it gives families a whole lot of information so that they then can feel empowered to go and apply.
[00:05:06] Jonathan Hughes: Right now we want people obviously to come to the FAFSA Festival and get the help that they need, would be best if they even file their form. But if someone's listening to this after October 18th, right. And they still need help filing that form, they still want someone to guide them through the form.
Or if they still have questions, what can they do?
[00:05:29] Julie Shields-Rutyna: Yes. There’s a collaborative group in Massachusetts called FAFSA Day Massachusetts. And that is a group that is going to hold other events similar to the FAFSA Festival. And people can always call MEFA. And another organization that I like to talk about is MassEdCO.
That's one of the equal opportunity centers in Massachusetts. They cover a lot of areas and the folks there and at the other equal opportunity centers are really happy to help students complete these forms. So there's just a lot of help. People should just know that and not be afraid and reach out.
And you can find all of those resource sources on the MEFA website, then we'll help you.
[00:06:21] Jonathan Hughes: And those are free resources as well, right? Yes. So Julie, if somebody wants to attend the FAFSA festival, what do they need to do?
[00:06:34] Julie Shields-Rutyna: Yeah, they can go to mefa.org/events too, and find it.
[00:06:41] Jonathan Hughes: Okay. So we will put the link in the show notes as well to the event where folks can register. And we can maybe put some resources that you mentioned, like the MassEdCO as well. So thanks Julie very much. And again, we want people to attend and get the help that they need. For now, we've got the head over to the MEFA mail bag, and these are the questions that have come to us from customers over the past two weeks and answered by our college guidance experts.
If you have any questions, please reach out to us at collegeplanning@mefa.org, or you can call us at 1-800-449-MEFA or you can reach us on social media on Facebook/MEFAma and Twitter at MEFAtweets.
Now today's question comes to us from a grandparent and she writes, I'm 66 years old and now raising my two grandchildren. So it's been a while since I've helped a teenager look for colleges. I do have two questions. One, do you pay one fee for the college applications? Well, what does each college still charge its own application for its own application? And then the second one is, can you give me some advice or insight regarding the FAFSA?
Unfortunately, my grandson has lost both of his parents. My husband and I are filing for legal guardianship. Do you know if a financial need will be based on our income? My grandson's living with us. I'll be watching the FAFSA webinars offered by the school system and any help you can provide is appreciated.
So we get a lot of things going on in this email again this week, but I'm going to throw this to you, Julie, and see what you can tell this grandparent.
[00:08:26] Julie Shields-Rutyna: Yeah. So those are some great questions and I'm sure that's, I'm sure that is challenging, but so wonderful that they are able to raise their two grandchildren.
So the first question is, do you pay one fee for the college application or does each college still charge its own application? And so the answer is the ladder. Each college may or may not charge their own application fee. But why that might be a good question is when you apply to college using the Common App, which is a common way that students apply, a lot of colleges accept the Common App.
You know, you're applying, you're doing one application, but then you're putting your college list of the colleges that you're applying to. And then you pay the fee to each college within that one. Common Application.
[00:09:21] Jonathan Hughes: But you actually pay through the Common App application to each college?
[00:09:26] Julie Shields-Rutyna: Right. But what I will also say is that it's worth looking on the different colleges websites. I have seen some colleges not charging a fee sometimes for certain reasons or for early applications, or it's just worth checking that out. But many colleges do charge. And you'll be paying that fee to each college that the student applies to.
And then on the FAFSA. Yeah, the FAFSA application really just wants a student information and parent information. And so they don't. They will not take the legal guardian information, which is okay, because in this case, then the student will just apply using the student's information and the student will be considered independent.
The college will award a financial aid offer based on the student's information. And one last caveat is if some of the colleges that the student is applying to require the CSS Profile form, then sometimes the CSS Profile will want to know, you know, what does the household really look like and who is living there?
And that's where you could put more information about you and your husband, you know, being legal guardians and all of that on CSS Profile if you need to complete that. But on the FAFSA, the student can complete that on their own.
[00:10:57] Jonathan Hughes: And to ask the other question that a lot of parents ask, how do you know if you need to file a CSS?
[00:11:04] Julie Shields-Rutyna: Oh yeah. Great. So well the college website, the financial aid section should say, here's what's required to apply for financial aid and here is our financial aid deadline date. So that's one way that you could see if they just needed the FAFSA or if they need the FAFSA and the CSS Profile. And another way is if you go to the collegeboard.com/cssprofile, that website right on the front of the CSS Profile website, it will, there's a link for participating institutions and it will list the colleges that require the CSS Profile.
So two ways you can find it.
[00:11:49] Jonathan Hughes: All right. Well, thank you so much, Julie. And remember if you have any questions you can call us at 1-800-449-MEFA, or email us at collegeplanning@mefa.org. We have a bench of college guidance experts that will advise you, and it's a free resource to take advantage of. So we hope that you do that.
Now we can go to my conversation with higher education expert, Kevin Fudge. Kevin Fudge has over 20 years of experience in education and currently operates at the intersection of K-12 higher education and workforce development. Over his career, he's worked in admissions, college access, and higher education policy.
He holds degrees from the University of Virginia and Harvard University and serves on the boards of the Ouray Scholars Program, Central Scholarship, and Apprentice. But I know him best as a sought after presenter for college financing. Kevin, how are you?
[00:12:45] Kevin Fudge: I'm well, Jonathan, thank you.
[00:12:47] Jonathan Hughes: Thank you for joining me.
So I know you as just, you know, an authority on student loans and an advocate for affordability and for students. Can you just explain to anybody who's listening what your background is. And what your past to your current role?
[00:13:12] Kevin Fudge: Sure thanks. Wow. That's a pretty heavy question. So I'll try to, I'll try to condense it in a little time as possible.
So I started out, you know, in education, working towards becoming a teacher. Well, the ultimate goal of being a high school principal. And then I got into college admissions. My role in admissions was doing college access and working with traditionally marginalized populations that might not have had access to college before.
So it really opened my eyes to a lot of the groups that were working to make college, you know, equitable access to all. But then as the liaison with financial aid, really kind of saw the complexities of the financial aid application process and how challenging it was. You know, for every family that did all the right things, quote unquote, you know, like a grade, standardized tests, would for interview, did all these great things, found the right college.
Then when it comes to find the right financial fit, found some difficulties. And this was all across the spectrum. So people that were super highly educated or themselves and gone to college themselves had confusion to people who were first-generation students, whose families had never gone to college and everywhere in between.
And so that led me to work at my current organization, which is a national nonprofit that started out focusing heavily on higher education financing and student loans in particular to now sort of morphed into an organization that's honed in on the middle school to transition to high school opening up, you know, career exploration opportunities to work-based learning to youth to get an idea of what they might want to pursue and tying those careers into educational opportunities after high school.
So I've really been fortunate to see sort of the landscape from different perspectives.
[00:14:58] Jonathan Hughes: I mentioned the sort of flourishing of the new career aspect of what's going on. And I feel like that's something that's happening a lot across the spectrum here as a focus, not necessarily on college only, but on college and career.
And I'm wondering if you can give me a perspective and anybody listening a perspective on why that is.
[00:15:24] Kevin Fudge: Well, I think it's important to remember the conversations that I've had with many school counselors, is that the challenge they have and administrators to principals, teachers, is that college is viewed as this destination.
Like you work so hard, you do all these things and like college is the goal. And then it's like, well, what's next? And I think when you bring in the career exploration in the conversation earlier, as well as, you know, the college exploration piece, where you think you might want to go. It's important to make that connection because you can see that there are multiple paths towards getting to your destination.
That don't always mean a four year degree. And also you see, like with the workforce development piece that there's this emphasis on skill development and lifelong learning and that college again, isn't this end all be all goal destination, but that it's part of a continuum. And the more we can help young people and families view it as a continuum and as a process, the less emphasis there'll be on like, okay, I have to get into this college or else the sky's gonna fall. Or if I don't go to this one college, I'm not going to be successful in life. And to sort of, in my opinion, it sort of takes the pressure off of this one sole decision that's going to happen.
Now, granted, it is a super loaded decision, with big implications, but the more pressure we can take off of young people, more pressure we can take off of families, I think is overall a good thing and helps bring better perspective to the process.
[00:16:49] Jonathan Hughes: You've been a presenter for many years. And you're someone that cares very deeply, obviously we've seen about affordability, that students and families should strongly consider affordability as part of their thought process. When they're looking, you know, let's say a college, for example, can you tell me what you tell families? Whether you're presenting from MEFA or talking to them in another capacity.
What do you tell families about that?
[00:17:12] Kevin Fudge: Sure. I tell families affordability is huge. You know, a lot of times people equate like college admissions with like, do I have academic chops or the academic qualifications to apply for the set of schools that I'm most interested in. And am I academically qualified enough?
How do I look on a scattergram, be it at anything online that says, okay, your GPSs, your standardized test scores are this. You have this many honors and advanced placement classes. Therefore here are your target schools. And, you know, I would recommend the importance of doing that from affordability standards.
Every family has different definitions of what is affordable. And people have different definitions of, you know, of financial risk. Like what is an acceptable financial risk. Some people may say, oh, you know what, I'm going to borrow $200,000 in loans because I want to make it happen for this one particular school or another family will be like, yeah, you know what?
That is, that seems like a very risky strategy to me. I'd like to go in a different direction. I think it's important to not only to have the conversation about what is affordable between partners if two partners are paying for a child's college education, but also between the partners and the students themselves, so that they have some perspective.
Oftentimes in my career, I've seen where a family has come to me in July or August when they get their bill. And they're like, what do we do now? And it's like at that point, you're kind of between a rock and a hard place because you've committed yourself to this institution that you now find is no longer affordable.
So the earlier those conversations can be had the better. And again, it's just establishing that perspective, much like you're looking for an academic fit for college or social fit. So too, should you look for a financial fit. And for every family that that's gonna mean something different.
It's challenging because it's not as clearly defined as the academic fit, right? So you can look at a bunch of colleges and pretty much determine very quickly if you fall within the parameters of what students were, the academic profile of admitted students. It's much harder to determine the financial profile, even when all the tools they have available to calculate like net price and, you know, what am I actually gonna play?
I'm not going to really pay sticker price. So if I do pay this as my net price, okay, well, that's what I'm gonna pay for this one year. But financial aid is a year to year proposition. So how do I know sophomore, junior, and senior year. Oh, by the way, I have two more kids behind the one that's currently going.
So again, that's why you have to take the affordability means not just like paying for the current student that's in school, but like any student that's behind them. And then how paying for college impacts your ability to retire. If that is one of the goals.
[00:20:00] Jonathan Hughes: One of the things that I've heard you talk about that's always stayed with me was the prospective on colleges that we have in New England.
And this is something that you sort of alluded to a while back when you said that, you know, a focus on college as the destination and the sky's going to fall on it to get this particular college, particularly in New England, we have so many private colleges and so many prestigious colleges. How does that shape our view of what is affordable and what isn't from the rest of the country?
[00:20:28] Kevin Fudge: Sure. So keep in mind about 70% of people nationwide go to public colleges. We are the only state in the country where more people go to private colleges than public colleges. So it casts a very large shadow over the perception of how, you know, folks here in New England, in particular in Massachusetts, view college.
Right? If I say college, and if I'm giving, having a talk with families, immediately people are going to think of a four year school with leafy campus and all this, right. So I think part of it is expanding the definition of college for folks in general and understanding that it means a lot more than four year school.
But then also recognizing here in New England, that we can fall victims to just basic behavioral economics, where behavioral economics is something. We think something is more valuable because it costs more. And so if a college costs X, wow, it's really, it costs really a lot of money. Therefore it must be.
And so there's a psychology about it that I think is important and it gets back to the affordability piece and establishing our own boundaries again with what is affordable. What do I think is a quality? What is a good school and not relying on, you know, the conversation among your peers, like the validation you might get from slapping a certain bumper sticker on your car.
Like, you know, one of my standard lines in my talks, MEFA conversations is, you know where your son or daughter goes to college, it's not reflection on how well of a job you do as a parent. It's a market condition, whether or not you can technically you can afford a school depending on your definition of affordability.
And, you know, don't get swept up in the business of higher ed. It's important to separate that and make it make a very cerebral decision. But I think because college is this like loaded investment and people equate it, like well, it has so much bearing on the rest of my child's life. Like, you know what?
I think we maybe outsize the proportion of impact that it can have. And therefore, the outsize proportion of the impact and how we perceive it impacts our rationality, the level of importance increases the rationality decreases. So you want to kind of bring those in balance and say, I want to be very level headed and rational.
And so therefore here are the schools that we're going to target or here's, you know, here's how our approach is going to be.
[00:22:53] Jonathan Hughes: How do you counsel a student or a parent to try to make a wise decision in the face of that emotional pressure that you talked about? Or if you know he or she doesn't go to X college?
[00:23:06] Kevin Fudge: Yeah. I have had conversations with folks who have said, well, I just, as a parent, I want to hold up my end of the bargain. I told, you know, little Johnny or little Susie that if they did all these things and they got into this school that I would find how to make it happen. And I think if you're a parent that's kind of like made that contract with your child, you need to kind of, I mean, I don't say this lightly.
I mean, I have a child who's about to go into high school, so I'm not saying this callously, but like rip it up and start all over. I don't know. As a parent, you understood the terms of the deal because of, you know, how precious college financing can be. Right. I think it's also important to make sure that both, if it's a two-parent household, that both parents are on the same page. Often ran into some unfortunate situations where, you know, one parent's like, okay, you know, full wind to the sails, let's just do whatever we have to do.
And the other parent might be a little more fiscally conservative and say, wait a minute, hold on. You know, how does this fit into our larger overall financial goals? And then for the student, if I will have conversations with them, yeah, with parents or by themselves. And then just ask them, like, what is it that attracts you to this, why do you feel this is the right fit?
And if they're candid and they say, oh, cause my friends going, oh, cause I think it's great. Then you can sort of like peel back sort of the reasoning. And hopefully if you're still in the evaluation process, get them to look at a broader range of schools rather than pigeonholing it on only name brand institutions.
[00:24:36] Jonathan Hughes: I want to talk briefly to another topic that we've discussed previously that I think people would be interested in. And it's about the long-term trends in college cost and demographic changes that that may lead to challenges for colleges in the number of students going to college. And about the impact that might have on college costs in the future.
[00:25:00] Kevin Fudge: A lot of colleges are going to be kind of competing with each other for the same pool of students, the same shrinking pool. And so how do we diversify our portfolios and how do we, you know, demonstrate our value beyond like the students that are just leaving high school and transitioning, or, you know, adult learners where let's double down on adult learners.
Because in fact, you know, if you look at stats, The average age of a college student, isn't the 18 to 21 year old that, you know, stereotypically see in movies and, you know, the whole rites of passage moving along. But it is, you know, those 23, 24, 25 year olds, perhaps they'll have a job, might have families, et cetera.
So, you know, I think again, bringing it back a little bit to the New England piece and the business of higher ed here, you know, I don't know that we'll see a ton of mergers and acquisitions and closures. So I like to think that you're going to see a lot more of agreements with the private sector.
And especially as we were looking at the developing skills and helping people move within organizations and quote unquote up-skill. And so, you know, again, I think you look at where schools are making agreements with employers on majors. I mean, that's a province of two-year colleges across the country that are doing it.
They're doing these types of things. And so the traditional four year liberal arts, like, you know, let's study Chaucer and, you know, deconstruct, you know, Emmanuel Kant, like that's great. And there'll always be a market for that. You know, higher education for the masses is a little bit more utilitarian.
And how has this, you know, on a pathway towards my degree here, like improving my station at work and providing me opportunities to move forward within my career.
[00:26:45] Jonathan Hughes: So you think that's something that will, as colleges rethink their, sort of relationship to students and to the marketplace that is going to be something that benefits students?
[00:26:58] Kevin Fudge: Well, absolutely.
I think it's going to be consumers choice and people voting with their feet and turning down offers and, you know, it may be turning down brand name schools to go to something that might not be as prestigious or reputable, but can provide a quality experience. One of the things that I tell families a lot is to help them sort of bring some perspective to the dream school.
Like I have to go here and like, you know, this school or bust, is that there are a variety of ways to enhance the college experience that aren't just like plush dorms with air conditioning and, you know, an iPad and, you know, smart fridge in your room, you know? So think of all the different ways that you can enhance the experience through your network.
And especially now with social media, the ability to connect with people and ping somebody and say, Hey, I got your name from somebody, you know, can we just set up 15 minutes to do a zoom chat? I have these kinds of questions, like the ability to sort of informational interview and get experience that way and make connections.
It's just amazing in a way that when I went to college, you know, before the internet was invented, like we just didn't have that. We might, my hope is that, people sort of adopt a more of a hybrid mentality towards their education and career preparation in high school and beyond that again, doesn't focus on like, okay, like put the pot roast in the oven. And four years later it comes out fully baked.
But before, you know, taking more agency and not just like, well, I'm gonna go to college and then I'm going to come out this educated scholar, ready to take on the world. Like, no, here are some things that I can do to, to create agency for myself and like set a path forward, developing skills and connections and things.
[00:28:42] Jonathan Hughes: And is that something that you talk to students about before they get to school?
[00:28:50] Kevin Fudge: Well, I think it's important to, I guess I do a little bit of like level set, like expectations. So for example, if I talk to kids who want to go to Florida, I'm like, all right, well, are you going to Florida to study agriculture?
Or are you going to Florida cause you want to party? Because you can go to University of Maine and study agriculture and because there's no agricultural equivalent, I'm not sure don't quote me on that because I haven't checked the New England's tuition student program, forgetting what the technical term of it is.
But basically you can pay in state rates if you're a school in New England regional tuition program.
[00:29:30] Jonathan Hughes: I think tuition break.
[00:29:31] Kevin Fudge: Right. So you could go to University of Maine and major in the same thing. And obviously it's not as sunny. But so I think it's level setting and it's also exposure to similar possibilities.
And then it's like, okay, if you think you want to major in X and you're gonna have this outcome right. What, if you don't have that outcome, how would you pivot? And then they're like, oh, well, if I didn't do this, then I would study this. I was like, okay, well, so you're not going to this college to do that.
Like keep an open mind. I mean, they say the average student changes their major seven or eight times before they settle on something. And I think, you know, obviously for people who say, I want to build bridges, I'm going to be a civil engineer. Or, you know, I'm going to be a doctor and I have to get started right away, like pre-med curriculum, organic chemistry sophomore year.
And you're very focused. Great. For the most part, people go to college and they're really not sure. And that's okay. But the sooner that they sort of make those connections and challenge those assumptions. Because I tell young people, talk to folks that are already working in the field and find out what their career progression was, you know, find out what they majored and you'd be surprised.
[00:30:40] Jonathan Hughes: You know, part of the problem that you and I, and anybody in this field recognizes, is that a lot of the times, by the time it, you know, students are going to college or getting their financial aid offers and making the choices. You know, they're just thinking about things that maybe should have been brought to their attention earlier.
Right. So and you mentioned working at an organization now that sort of pivots to the middle school age range. Can you speak to that a little bit? I mean, what is something that, what are some changes that we can make to get kids to be thinking about things like this maybe a little bit earlier? And it's always going to be difficult. I can't imagine thinking back to myself in seventh grade or eighth grade or in high school, you know, taking much very seriously at that age.
[00:31:46] Kevin Fudge: So yeah, it's interesting because the one way to look at it as, and some of the, I think, and this gets back to me being a very positive person. I think some of the negative ways that it's framed is that, oh, well, a 13 or 14 year is not going to know what they want to do.
And you know, you don't want them to, you don't want to. There's concerns with tracking and saying like, okay, you're basically telling the student they should be X and these are all the things you need to do to be that person. I tend to think about it in a different way and say, you're almost validating their interests and abilities and skills currently now.
And they're saying, you know, you like photography or you like art. Wow. Look at all the different ways that you can apply your talents to create a living and make a living doing that. So graphic design, that's like every time I watch a movie with my kids, whether it's like an animated movie, like Disney or DreamWorks, or whether it's like, you know, like Marvel, the Avengers. And you see, you scroll down, you see all of the people that contributed technical support.
I'm like that could be you on a PC. And your home, like helping out with, you know, the digital design of the scene and the creation. Like it's not just the act like, so somebody can say, I want to be an entertainment and you can say, that's great. You can try to be an actor, but if you're not an actor, here's all the things that happen behind the scenes.
I think it's more explosive to all the possibilities that your interest in skills and talents can take you. And that's a different from saying, okay, if you know, this career is like a civil engineer. And if you want to be a civil engineer, you need three years of this. You need four years of that and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Like we're not telling stories. Pick your path, pick your destiny and then it will forever be charted. I mean, you look at that with, you know, vocational schools. I mean, vocational schools have great opportunities for young people to do a variety of things and yes, they picked a particular focus, but it doesn't mean it's like, that's your future for the next 40 years.
I firmly believe in human potential and that, you know, it's on us as well. It's grown up. So I hate using that word, but like as professionals that are in this space and invested in young people, in the development of their futures, is really helping them expand the idea of what's possible and in validating their interests and skills and talents. And not saying, and not being negative and I'm not trying to pigeon hole, the more to expand.
You know, my son participated in a, you know, wonderful basketball camp this year, that was like, they brought in analytics and talked about it as much as it talked about like, well, here's how, here's the science behind why this play works and using angles and vectors and things like that. But then also like analytics and probability and like here's the likelihood of that play working.
And here's why like, this player might be better because they get more rebounds versus somebody who scores more points. You know, who knows? I don't, I don't know. He still has designs on playing in the NBA, but maybe he is his interest in analytics or his interest in data has been stoked. So that the next time he gets some app assignment, he's like, oh, this is useless.
Like, what am I, what am after. Learn this. I say to parents to please be having conversations with your kids about huge, like hear them. They may say, you know what, I'm not really, I'm not really wanting to go to college right now. That doesn't mean they don't won't go forever. They may, they may want to have a conversation with you about deferring and taking a year off, or like delving more into their interests so that when they do go, they will be more serious about their studies. They will be more focused and they will have more quality.
[00:35:17] Jonathan Hughes: But before we go, I just want to ask you one question. If you are talking to a family who is just starting this process. They're looking at colleges, they're trying to maybe compile their list or set up their applications, or maybe even filed their FAFSA this year.
And they're struggling with the question that they always ask me, which is how do families do this? Like, how are we supposed to do this? What would you say?
[00:35:42] Kevin Fudge: Well, first I tell them to take a deep breath and it's like, it's looking at the top of Everest and being like, how the heck am I ever going to climb that?
Like really? And I mean, I know it's been, it's a tried and true and worn out cliché, but the longest journey begins with a single step. I think it helps to compartmentalize. I always say manila folders are your friend. So it's all part of the same process, but as much as you can kind of compartmentalize and say, okay, if we're looking at schools, I usually kind of set parameters and say, is it big or small?
And do you want to go close to home or far away from home? And so you have a file of like big schools that are close. You have a file that a big schools that are far, you have a file that are small schools that are closed and a file that are small schools. Because being able to like break down things into, it's like thinking about it from a math perspective and like a big number, but breaking it down into its lowest common denominator.
I've often said that my job, especially when I was in doing more policy focused work, was to be able to articulate and explain complex, you know, policy procedure and practice. And make it into digestible portions that just a general person on the street could understand if I explained that to them.
And I think that's what is hard. If it's easy for me. Cause like, I speak the language and I've often said that financial aid is a language that you have to learn. But the more fluent you become in the language of financial aid, the language of higher education, the better you will be able to do that.
And to break things down into the lowest common denominators so that you can look at them and attack them from that perspective, versus like trying to wrap your whole arms around it in one sitting. Right. And so, yeah, I mean, and set yourself timelines and don't put unnecessary pressure on yourself.
You know, like recognize that there are deadlines. Don't wait until, you know, the day before to do it and recognize you can do things as a process and move them along versus like, okay, let's all tackle this in one night.
[00:37:53] Jonathan Hughes: All right, Kevin. Well, thank you so much.
[00:37:55] Kevin Fudge: My pleasure. Thanks for having me. Good luck with everybody and the rest of the year.
[00:38:01] Jonathan Hughes: All right. Well that is our show, everyone. Julie, thank you again.
[00:38:06] Julie Shields-Rutyna: Thank you so much.
[00:38:07] Jonathan Hughes: Remember if you liked the show, please find us on Spotify, Apple podcasts, or wherever you're hearing this. And if you could do us an extra favor and give us a five star rating, that would make us very happy. Until next time, goodbye everyone.



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