Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pittsburgh Promise $ Resulting in Lower Financial Aid

On the October "Start a New Post," Anonymous wrote:

Has anyone considered the double edge sword of the Pittsburgh Promise? Yes, the money of last resort should be available if it is properly funded. BUT what is to stop any college or loaning institution from thinking, "Hey, you are eligible for 'x' amount of money from Pittsburgh Promise so we will lower your financial aid by that much. In the end you college cost will be the same!!

21 comments:

Questioner said...

There have actually been reports, which PURE Reform has not investigated in detail, of this type of reduction in aid taking place. We can put together a list of questions for the Pittsburgh Promise, including a question on which if any colleges are reducing aid and if there is a way to prevent that from happening.

Roy said...

This is totally true, colleges assess the income and assets of the parents and expect a certain amount of money from the parents, if they have access to programs like the Pittsburgh Promise or the U of Pittsburgh Tuition matching faculty benefit, the college will just say thankyou for giving us that money from Pitt and from the Pittsburgh Promise but we still expect you to provide $xx,xxx amount that we demand for parents at your income level. This will benefit wealthy parents whose income is so high that the college was not inclined to offer any assistance. But for parents with incomes in the 50 to 120K range the Pittsburgh Promise will be a total wash.

Questioner said...

It seems that the Promise will be unlikely to attract families in this middle income range, or if it does attract them will leave them feeling duped, unless their children choose programs that offer no aid. It also seems like Promise funds would be wasted replacing other scholarship money. We can look into whether there is a way to avoid this problem and if not, whether the problem is being disclosed in advance.

Anonymous said...

If you do not have students in high school yet, but are interested in learning more about The Pittsburgh Promise, all high schools are having Promise Nights. I am sure the district website has the schedule. www.pghboe.net

Anonymous said...

The Pittsburgh Promise nite at Reizenstein is scheduled for Tues. Nov. 18.

I think that it is a good idea to ask detailed questions concerning the Promise. It CAN benefit students but many will do just as well with state and federal grants. Government grants will possibly/probably be reduced by the amount of the Promise award.

Questioner said...

PURE Reform will attend and ask questions. We will also send the questions in advance so the Promise rep can be prepared. Please let us know of any other issues of concern.

justaparent said...

Questioner, I think the biggest issue is the one we have touched on here. The Promise was rolled out as a "final destination" for post high school education dollars. The same question should be asked at the presentations at every school. Will Promise money result in the reduction of financial aid from other sources? Keep in mind the FAFSA form must be filled out to apply for Promise money, at least I think so. I will check the website to be sure.

Invisi-Mom said...

I have been following this post to see if any verified examples of colleges reducing financial aid have appeared in the comments. I certainly do not expect PURE Reform to do all the leg work to get to the bottom of the issue. The question was asked at a parent meeting last night and the answer was that no institutions are reducing aid based on Promise dollars. Promise money is the last stop for aid in financing post high school education.

The right thing to do now is to work toward dispelling the myth that Promise money has a negative impact to the family pocketbook.

Questioner said...

PURE Reform is still investigating. Who from the district stated that schools are not calculating a set "parent contribution" that is the same whether or not Promise money is available? We will be looking into whether Promise money is treated differently from other scholarships (wouldn't all scholarships say they are the "last stop," and yet we know that institutions do reduce their aid based on other scholarship money), and also following up with individual schools.

Invisi-Mom said...

I would prefer to get my notes and include them in my comments exactly as stated. I am not able to do that at this time of day. Nowhere in the question I asked or in my comments here did I use the term "parent contribution." I specifically asked if colleges and other institutions are seeing PPS on a student application and reducing the amount awarded a student based on anticipated Promise dollars.

Questioner said...

The issue of a set "parent contribution" was raised by Roy above, who said "the college will just say thankyou for giving us that money ... from the Pittsburgh Promise but we still expect you to provide $xx,xxx amount that we demand for parents at your income level," so that even if the colleges don't automatically reduce aid when they see PPS on an application that would be the practical effect for middle income families once all the forms and paperwork are processed.

Invisi-Mom said...

If you review the presentation on Pittsburgh Promise done for the Education Committee in October at their monthly meeting there is a page specifically breaking down promise dollar distribution based on three different types of post high school interest. Promise is LAST DOLLAR. If PUREreform can find evidence of the contrary I am sure it is something that can be fixed.

You can get to the committee presentations via the pghboe site and the follow the tabs to get to the BOARD links.

PURE is providing worthwhile info here and many who are unsure about posting are interested and read the site. We should all avoid using the site as a place to vent or spread unverified information.

Questioner said...

Here is the link to get to the power point presentation easily. http://www.pps.k12.pa.us/14311059122535553/blank/browse.asp?a=383&BMDRN=2000&BCOB=0&c=56788

Unfortunately, the page referred to breaking down distribution (p 15) contemplates the only aid as fed/state and Pgh Promise. Roy was talking about a different and very common situation where the college or other post secondary institution itself offers aid. He explains that in this scenario the college starts by determining the parent contribution expected for the family's income level and then for the portion beyond that expected parent contribution the school might offer its own need-based scholarship- but that aid is itself "last dollar," to be provided only after federal, state and local sources of funds including the Pittsburgh Promise are exhausted. (Occasionally a college will not reduce its own need to take into account other scholarships, but these tend to be highly selective private colleges outside of Allegheny County not eligible for Promise money anyway.)

For a family that would not be eligible for any need based funds from the school the Promise would indeed lower the amount the family would pay, and a family eligible for a 100% need based scholarship would of course pay nothing anyway (and the Promise will now cover books, etc.)- but for those families in the middle who would receive some need-based funds from the applicable college, it is hard to see how the Promise is not a wash.

Questioner said...

PS- Re: those unsure about posting- are they unsure about how to post, or do they have other hesitations about posting?

If anyone is concerned about anonymity- note that there is no way to determine the identities of posters, unless the poster chooses open ID or name as an identity (rather than Anonymous) or the poster sets up an identity and in the profile for that identity chooses "show my name" or "show my email address."

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the give-and-take this blog provides. I am in year eight as a PPS parent and I must say that the offerings to parents for all facets of PE from PPS have improved every year. As far as people hesitant to post, it is all about "still being in the learning process" themselves.

Now, for what the Pittsburgh Promise represents? Why it has to be useful for EVERY STUDENT? THERE IS NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF WHEN SAYING YOU GO TO A CITY PUBLIC CITY SCHOOL! Promise is a useful tool in convincing people to abandon the EYEORE attitude of "oh... well, I... go... to... a... city... high... school... and... it... will... probably... rain... today."

Invisi-Mom said...

UGH! The last anonymous comment was from me Invisi-Mom. Eyeore is my favorite.

I am feeling very positive today. A newsletter came from my high school and was sooooo good it would knock your socks off, sister!! In my excitement all day I goof up.

Questioner said...

Fair enough- but it is important for parents in the mid income range to know that the Promise may not reduce the amount of college costs they end up paying.

Questioner said...

Comments crossed- but glad to hear some good news too! Although people tend to focus on problems, we want our blog to include the good as well as the problematic.

Anonymous said...

As a former financial aid counselor at a community college, I had to deal almost daily with misconceptions on how aid programs worked. I think the Promise idea is great and it MIGHT benefit many students but they should also be aware upfront that aid CAN be reduced if money is received from other sources. Private colleges, like CMU and Duquesne have more leeway to award aid using private funds; the state and state related schools must follow government guidelines. To be eligible for Promise money, you must file the FAFSA forms. The Promise has been changed for next year to include college expenses, not just tuition. My gut feeling is that this might have been a reaction to awards being limited. I certainly have no proof of this. I think it is important that parents and PUREreform ask the questions upfront, not to be anti-Promise, but so that parents and kids are not disappointed in the spring/summer when the award is not quite what was expected.

Questioner said...

PURE appreciates these insights and will pursue answers to these questions. Promise officials did say that expansion of the program to cover expenses was aimed at situations where students were not receiving the full 5k (for ex, see the power point presentation mentioned above, where in the 2nd and 3rd examples a combination of low tuition and fed/state grants led to Promise awards of just $1900 and $1000). But nothing was said about any possible effect on parent contributions. This is an important issue not just to families but to the Promise itself- b/c if the Promise is in fact spending a great deal of money just to offset funds students would otherwise receive from colleges anyway it might be better to rewrite guidelines so that the Promise does not come into play at all in these situations.

Questioner said...

For more on this topic, please see the November post "Pittsburgh Promise- New information."