February 19, 2019

The Relationship Between Finances and Academic Persistence


By. Dr. Anthony Driggers

My professional advocacy and passion reside in helping students be successful in the largest emotional, financial and academic endeavor they will encounter in their young lives. The landscape is constantly changing.  Cost is a major factor in college choice. For example, please look below at an actual financial award letter for one of my students attending a private university. Following the illustration, I have additional thoughts to share with you.

Award Package By Aid Year 2013-2014 Aid Year



Need     Calculation


Cost of Attendance


Estimated Family Contribution


Initial Need


Outside Resource





Campus Housing


Expected     Enrollment
Cost     of Attendance




Mandatory Fees


Books and Supplies




Course Related Fees


Loan Fees for Subsidized


Loan Fees for UnSubsidized


Loan Fees-PLUS






Local Transportation





Cumulative     Loan Information as of
Loan Type







Financial   Aid Award
Fund Status

Fall 2013

Spring 2014


Fed Direct Loan (Sub) Web Accepted




Need-Based Grant Accepted




Federal Pell Grant Accepted




Direct Parent Loan Offered




University Grant Accepted









If you study this package thoroughly, you will discover that the student’s award package has a zero expected family contribution.  The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is the amount of money your family will be expected to contribute to your education. The EFC is subtracted from the school’s Cost of Attendance (COA), also known as the “student budget”, to arrive at your financial need: Financial Need = COA – EFC. The student budget includes tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies, travel, and personal and incidental expenses. The lower your EFC, the more financial aid you will get. The school will try to meet this need through a financial aid “package” that combines aid from federal, state, school, and private sources with loans and student employment (retrieved from http://www.finaid.org/fafsa/efc.phtml.)

Therefore zero is the best status one can receive from the federal government in terms of financial aid. This means that you qualify for the maximum amount of aid. This university, for a private institution, is considered to be very affordable.  However, my student is being asked to borrow $2,500.00 to meet the cost of attendance, and the parent is being asked to borrow $25, 000.00 to meet the cost. This still leaves the student with a $4,000 gap, even with the university giving her $8,000.00 worth of grant money.

The public universities (4 year state schools) are now leaving students with zero expected family contributions with $6, 000.00 and larger gaps.  So paying for college is expensive.  I would like to share a message with you from another student who went on my college tour several years ago.  Here is her recent message.

Ended my semester with a 3.0 and this school year with a 3.2… To me those just aren’t numbers it represents me growing up as a person and making that transition into a young woman who wants better for herself. Last year I ended freshman year with a 1.3 GPA and I couldn’t be more proud of the place that I am in now”

Fortunately, this young lady has parents who can write a check for her to attend college, even as the federal and state governments refuse to do that for her, any longer. Anyone receiving federal and state financial aid would have lost their access to those two sources of payment with a 1.3 grade point average.  The student attended one of the better public high schools in the area. She is from an economically comfortable and affluent suburb. Unfortunately, regardless of income or previous academic preparation, many students will encounter academic difficulty (which can be rooted in both in the cognitive and non-cognitive) in college and may find themselves with a dangerously low grade point averages. This will be the case regardless of their previous academic preparation.   What is notable about the student above is her will to persist.  However, her will to persist would mean absolutely nothing if she didn’t have parents with the financial means to allow her to clean her freshman academic record and give her a second chance to succeed. Many students, sadly, will be in school one year and done.

There are reports and studies have revealed that nationally 55 percent of students who start college will not receive a credential (degree or certificate).  You can bet that traditionally the statistics are far worse for underserved populations.

This is the motivation behind my work and effort. I see this train crash happening over and over and over again. I am trying to stop it.

So I hope that this communication shows the following two things:

1)      College is a very expensive investment that needs to be taken seriously and the planning for it needs to be comprehensive and guided by a highly competent professional.

2)      Regardless of your child’s previous academic background, good, mediocre or bad, without a strategic plan that incorporate a myriad of issues, they are fighting an uphill battle to attend and graduate from college.

Let’s work together to help young people meet their academic goals.

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