Why is financial aid so complicated?

In case you haven’t filled out a FAFSA form recently, the paper allocation includes over 100 questions and dozens of pages of directions. If you’re filling it out online, the system uses responses to automatically determine what questions you need to answer. But you’re also dealing with a website that is far from user-friendly, uses ‘you’ and ‘your’ to refer to parents and students interchangeably, and even logging on can be a pain because of the confusing terminology.

More importantly, filling out FAFSA doesn’t tell you what you qualify for until you’ve chosen a school, leaving you in the dark even after all that work, and the vast majority of the questions contribute nothing to how aid is targeted.

The government is aware of the unnecessary complexities of the FAFSA application. In fact, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee introduced a new act in 2015 that would make it easier for students to apply for aid through the Financial Aid Simplification and Transparency Act (FAST Act).

The act would have cut red tape and required only two questions to make aid easier to apply for and the outcomes more predictable. Unfortunately, the bill never went to a vote.

Why Keep the System Complicated?

Students are encouraged to apply for FAFSA as soon as possible to maximize the amount they receive because there’s more money to give away earlier in the application season. Being at the front of the line prevents students from reaching the counter and finding the bank has run out of money.

This is the key to understanding why FAFSA is so complicated.

There’s only so much money to be given away, and if everyone has the time, patience, and general capability of applying for financial aid, it will run out sooner. Indeed, research has shown that those most affected by the complexities of FAFSA are students with fewer resources – those who would also qualify for greater amounts of aid based on their family income.

More students applying for and being eligible for more money would put even more pressure on the resources the government is willing to make available for higher education. That would force it to tackle issues like poverty and growing income inequality, and those problems require more than cutting the number of questions on an application.

Why Academics Should Stop Writing And Speaking In Jargon

In short, academics are their own worst enemies.

The problem is that academics often tend to forget who their intended audience is. They use jargon that sets them apart and makes them appear unreachable. Instead of using pretentious words and phrases, they should stop writing and speaking in jargon and start using language everyone understands.

There are plenty of reasons why common language is better than jargon.

Jargon isolates

It’s as accurate in academia as it is in the workplace: jargon creates distance. An unusual word or phrase can get in the way of understanding what the real message is. Unclear communication, whether written or spoken, can make meaning inaccessible.

Jargon can also turn away potential students who don’t understand what their professors are talking about.

Who is your audience?

When academics write and speak for other academics, it makes perfect sense to write in jargon. The jargon of academia is not dissimilar to a mysterious code. It’s the secret handshake between distinguished scholars. Because that code is understood by both the sender and the receiver, it’s perfectly okay to speak and write in jargon that is exclusive to the field of study.

If you are not a part of that selective, group, however, jargon makes the message more difficult to understand.

“Edu-speak” is a disease

Letting edu-speak to take over academic communication is like allowing a disease to spread. You didn’t mean for it to happen, but once it took hold, it permeated everything.

As a result, academics speak in acronyms exclusive to their own fields. Buzzwords, clichés, and empty phrases fill the gaps in thoughts and sentences when precise language can provide more meaning, especially for those outside the ivory tower of academia.

How To Use Micro-Learning In Higher Education Classrooms

Micro-learning is an extremely useful tool for any educator, and it brings with it numerous benefits to both the educator and the learner. Micro-learning technology can make learning ‘50% more efficient’ for half of the cost of traditional educational technology, for example. So what is micro-learning? As the ‘micro-‘ part of the name indicates, micro-learning is focused on smaller learning units that are delivered within a short time frame. Usually, each micro-learning unit will have a single objective (or ‘learning outcome’), and it is advisable to make this objective clear to the learner(s) prior to delivering the unit to facilitate their ability to reflect on and celebrate their educational achievements. Despite its ‘bite-size’ format, however, a micro-learning unit should ideally be integrated into your broader curriculum and syllabus. Ready to get started with micro-learning? Here are three ways to use micro-learning in the higher education classroom:

  1. Challenge preconceptions with a video. A 60-90 second information-packed video can be enough to alter students’ perceptions on a single issue completely. Video is most effective in the classroom when it is presented in the highest possible definition with excellent sound, and when it is solely focused on one issue that is relevant to the wider curriculum. Student attitudes to the issue can be surveyed before and after watching the video (perhaps using one of these tools) in order to render visible just how powerfully the video has altered their viewpoints. Micro-learning videos can also be used in conjunction with what is known as a ‘flipped classroom.’ Increasingly in vogue among educational professionals, a flipped classroom is one where students watch a video before the class (instead of in the class itself) and come to class ready to reflect on what they have learned, and do activities to extend that learning.
  2. Gamify learning. 61% of CEOs and other top business executives admit that they take at least one daily break from work to play games. Turn this love of distractions into an educational tool by using gamification software to teach a single issue (for example, the names of countries in South America or the declension of Latin verbs) as a 2-minute game with engaging graphics, motivational rewards, and enjoyable sound effects.
  3. Boost student recall with a micro-quiz. Many educational platforms such as Moodle provide ready-made quiz-making software. Test students’ recall of their last class with a 5-minute quiz and the process will improve their memory.