Culture of Support

One Stop: A student’s best friend for financing the future

August 29, 2016 by Cindy O'Dell
Jorge Aguero

Jorge Aguero is on of a large team of One Stop specialists who help guide Brandman students through funding options for their educations.

Brandman University doesn’t have a smiling mascot to greet new students. It has something much better: One Stop specialists.

One Stop specialists help adult students find the answer to their top questions: What will this education cost and how can I pay for it?

As experts in navigating the often complex world of the scholarships, grants, and subsidized and unsubsidized loans available to adult students, One Stop specialists provide Brandman students with a detailed funding form that shows them their tuition and fees total and their funding options.

It doesn’t stop there, said Lee Brown who works with undergraduate and graduate students in the Online campus as a lead One Stop specialist.

More than a spreadsheet

Academic advisors and One Stops work together at Brandman University to guide students through their academic careers. Mitali Gadhia talks with Lee Brown, both serve online students.

Academic advisors and One Stops work together at Brandman University to guide students through their academic careers. Mitali Gadhia talks with Lee Brown, both serve online students.

“We explain every detail,” said Brown. That includes telling them what happens if they stop taking classes (a six-month grace period kicks in but then students must start to repay any loans).

It includes quizzing them about where they work. Brandman partners with many businesses to create scholarships. Other employers offer tuition assistance. Military students learn about using all their benefits, including grants. One Stop specialists check for income levels that could qualify students for Pell Grants or the CalGrants available to California residents.

“Loans are really the last resort for many undergraduates,” said Brown.

Not everyone qualifies for everything

Jorge Aguero works with students in the Marybelle and S. Paul Musco School of Nursing and Health Professions. Because many of the graduate-level students he advises already have some experience in getting financial aid, his job frequently involves educating them about what options are still available, usually unsubsidized and Grad PLUS loan. The second option is credit-based and may require a co-signer.

Both Aguero and Brown stressed that the thorough assessment only works if students follow through by making appointments (in person at the campuses and sites or by phone and email if online) to get the information and then carefully consider the options.

Only borrow what you need

“I tell students all the time that just because they can take out loans of a certain amount, they don’t have to take the full amount,” said Brown.

That kind of advice helps explain why Brandman University consistently has one of the lowest default rates as determined by the U.S. Department of Education. Rates are calculated over a three-year period and Brandman’s is 3.3 percent for the most recent data available. The default rate for all California colleges and universities is 11.2 percent. The national default rate is 11.8 percent.

The university’s high graduation rate and low default rate also mean Brandman students are meeting their career goals and have salaries that make it possible to pay off loans.

Making the most of military benefits
Christopher Schuldes, an Air Force traditional reservist, used a combination of Post 9/11 GI Bill funding and tuition assistance. That combination, plus using credits from military academies that count toward completing a degree, has allowed him to earn a bachelor’s, master’s and begin the doctoral program at Brandman without any out-of-pocket spending. Military tuition assistance is often overlooked by active military, he said, but all branches have access to it. Using that first let him save his Post 9/11 funding for his advanced degrees.

 

The private, nonprofit advantage

Aguero, who used Pell grants and other funding sources to pay for his own undergraduate education at a Cal State and then worked briefly for a for-profit educational institution, said the Brandman way of helping students stands out.

One Stop specialist Lee Brown

One Stop specialist Lee Brown

“It’s not something every school offers,” he said.

“We’re the buffer. We’re the liaison to financial aid, to student accounts. We go to bat for them (the students),” added Brown. “I always tell them, ‘If you have to withdraw, let’s do a petition. Don’t just disappear.’”

Working together makes all the difference. “It’s the students who don’t know they have options who get in the worst trouble,” said Brown.

Frank Rodriguez, a One Stop specialist for the Irvine campus, sums it up. “Because we stay with a student the entire time that at Brandman, they know they’re not ‘just a number’ to us. We take something that can be so complex (financing an education) and find a way to communicate it to students so they understand it.”

How Brandman combats defaults

  • Informs students about their financial status
  • Smart Start/Finance Your Education appointments
  • Funding plans
  • Master Promissory Note and entrance counseling so student know what needs to be paid back and when.
  • Exit counseling to clear up any misconceptions about obligations and to re-emphasize the consequences of defaulting to the student before a degree is conferred.
  • Early identification of at-risk students to help them complete their educations.

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