Understanding and Applying for Financial Aid

March 17, 2016

John Dolan

A message from the President's Office by Vice President of Enrollment Management John Dolan

This week, Vice President of Enrollment Management John Dolan and I are writing about how Simmons helps students understand the challenges of applying for scholarship grants and loans and how we think about financial aid at Simmons. Concerns about financial aid were raised by students in the Ten Demands last fall.

Simmons College makes every effort to provide a transformational, impactful, and affordable educational experience for students. With an enrolled population that is quite diverse, Simmons is the envy of many small private institutions in this regard. We take great pride in the fact that our student body includes many first generation students and a breadth of economic, religious, cultural, and gender profiles that make our College the wonderful community of scholars we experience and benefit from today.

There is no doubt that providing full-need financial aid awards for students is a desire we all can agree on. Indeed, it is a vision we aspire to and hope to someday achieve as we look to our future. However, our current circumstances make meeting the full financial need of all students a fiscal impossibility for Simmons College.

As we shared with the community in a fall meeting, we researched 4,000 institutions of higher education to determine which ones can make the promise of meeting the full financial need of all of its students. The results were revealing. There are only 62 colleges and universities in the U.S. that can truly meet the full financial need of all their students. And, those 62 colleges and universities have an average endowment, per institution, of $4 billion.

Our Simmons endowment is about $180 million. Unfortunately, our endowment does not allow us to meet full financial need for all students. But, it is important to let you know that Simmons provides financial aid awards to 91% of the entire undergraduate student body. The size of awards ranges considerably and they take the form of grants that do not have to be repaid and of loans that must be repaid. We would certainly like to provide all financial aid as grants, however that is just not possible here at Simmons, right now.

This does not mean that the Enrollment Management Division is not responding in a positive, proactive manner. In the spirit of our deep commitment to community and to our students, the College’s enrollment staff is looking intensely at ways to make a Simmons education more affordable to all students and to help students to be more knowledgeable about financial aid literacy.

Current Practices That Serve Our Students

Student Financial Services Availability: 

Financing a college education can be daunting. We understand this, and the experienced staff in Student Financial Services wants to do all they can to support Simmons students. Financial Aid Officers and Accounts Receivable Representatives are available Monday through Friday to assist students on a walk-in basis or by appointment.

Student Financial Services offers extended hours on Wednesdays and Thursdays, until 6 p.m., to accommodate evening and commuter students. The staff is committed to ensuring that students understand the financial implications of earning a Simmons College degree and strongly encourages students to visit the office for individual counseling at any point during the process.

E-Search for Financial Aid/Scholarship Opportunities: 

Student Financial Services has replaced the paper binders with a customized “e-source” support service to help students locate websites listing all potential outside scholarships and fellowships. This includes customized searches for scholarships or aid that would be best suited for students, based on ethnicity, academic profile, interests, etc.

Director of Financial Aid Heather Patenaude has called the e-source “an exciting site designed for student empowerment; students can easily navigate the pages in order to find alternative ways of subsidizing their education.” The Student Financial Aid team recently created an Outside Scholarships web page and Scholarships Twitter account to keep you informed as soon as new opportunities are available. Our Financial Aid Officers will help students use these new resources to find scholarship opportunities.

$ALT Money: 

Simmons College pays for a financial literacy program which is available to all current students and alumnae. $ALT is a financial literacy tool that offers courses, articles, and resources that address issues such as debt management, saving, employment, student loans, and taxes. Holly Frankio, Simmons Bursar, oversees this initiative and has noted that “after recruiting a $ALT Ambassador to engage with current students about the offerings, subscriptions to $ALT have increased and students are becoming more involved in their own financial decisions.” In addition, several courses geared toward personal finance have been integrated into the online platform and into current curriculum. We hope this tool will provide students with as much information as possible about their personal finances here at Simmons and beyond.

The creators of $ALT, American Student Assistance, have sponsored College Planning Centers in the Boston area. These centers offer appointments for students who wish to seek guidance in the financing of their education. The Centers staff work with students to determine outside scholarships and ensure success in postsecondary education. The closest location of a College Planning Center to our Boston campus is at the Boston Public Library on Boylston Street.

Moving Forward

Workshops for Completing the Financial Aid Process: 

Through the creation of financial aid seminars, our students will be better able to understand their personal financial situation. This will include filing the FAFSA, reading bills, applying for loans, and determining the best way to make a Simmons education attainable. These seminars will be a means of educating and better supporting our students’ financial needs at Simmons. We fully recognize that financing a private college education can be a bewildering experience. Our aim is to assist in making the process more manageable for students by offering a more ‘hands-on’ approach.

We are grateful for the community meetings that have inspired our work and we continue to be open to feedback. Simmons College and the Enrollment Management Division are dedicated to improving services to students, and to continually looking for ways to better support Simmons scholars in their attainment of an affordable Simmons education.