The State of Student Loan Debt

As 2017 comes to a close, recaps of our eventful year are popping up in the media, social media feeds, and end-of-year reports. News stories have come and gone from our short-term memory, but the student loan debt crisis has perpetually remained top-of-mind. It won’t fade away anytime soon considering at least $1.3 trillion is owed by 44 million borrowers, according to a Forbes piece from February 2017.

The picture is particularly tough for minorities when digging deeper. “In 2013, 42 percent of African American families had student loans, compared to 28 percent of white families, according to the Urban Institute” (from a piece in The Atlantic).

The Brookings Institution reported in 2016 that “black borrowers remain more than three times as likely to default within four years as white borrowers (7.6 percent versus 2.4 percent). Hispanic borrowers, despite having about the same level of debt as white graduates, are more than twice as likely to default (5.7 percent).”

Repayment plans are available for loans offered through the federal government, but some borrowers aren’t always aware of them. However, short-term relief can turn into a long-term financial burden. To share an anecdote from my own experience, an income-based repayment plan sets a lower monthly payment than the 10-year standard repayment plan, but that prolongs the life of the loan and in turn the amount of interest paid.

Without question, students of all backgrounds face challenges in a landscape of rising costs of attendance and tightening budgets, but minority students are particularly impacted.

No need to make a prediction for 2018 – with certainty, the student loan debt crisis will remain top of mind for students and all of us who counsel them.

One last note: Now more than ever, scholarships are extremely valuable for students seeking funding for their education. The Charles L. Warren Memorial Heritage Scholarship is awarded by the Ohio Association for College Admission Counseling each year to outstanding high school seniors. The scholarship is a one-time $1,500 award, and eligible students may apply here: The deadline to apply is January 19, 2018.

Ryan Collins is an admission counselor at Baldwin Wallace University.


10 Things I Learned at the 2017 Summer Institute

The Ohio Association for College Admission Counseling (OACAC) hosted its Annual Summer Institute for its newest admissions professionals and high school counselors this past week at Bowling Green State University (BGSU). Through mentor group discussions, panels, and presentations, I learned everything I needed to know (and more) to conquer the upcoming travel season, and the rest of my first year as an admissions counselor. Here are the top 10 things I learned at the 2017 Summer Institute (SI):

10) Our job, as admissions professionals and high school counselors, is to change lives

This motto was introduced to the SI attendees within the first sixty seconds of the first featured speaker’s address. Van Wright, Assistant to the Vice Provost for Strategic Enrollment Planning at BGSU, shared his passion for shaping the futures of students and their families. He made it clear that our job would be difficult; whether that meant answering many questions time and time again, or dropping a Big Mac on our white t-shirts during travel. None of the challenges matter, Van said, when a student you recruited asks to take a photo with you at their college/university graduation. You helped them get their foot in the door. You provided them the opportunity to succeed in higher education. You changed their life, and they will go on to change others.

9) Nobody wants to grow up to be an admissions counselor

It’s true – we all wanted to be doctors, astronauts, singers, and even garbage truck drivers (because we thought it meant a one-day work week), but we did not discover the world of admissions until we experienced the application process as high school students. Most of us “fell into” college admissions; and for that, we will be forever grateful.

8) To quote High School Musical, “we’re all in this together”

SI taught me that I have an immense support system in my career, outside of my office (although I must admit my office support system is the, S/O to my University of Akron colleagues!) We may be recruiting the same students, but ultimately, we all want what is best for those students. We are not each other’s competition, but are instead each other’s backbones. I now know who I can turn to for a Tide stick when I inevitably drop that Big Mac on my outfit on the road.

7) Speaking of music, admissions professionals LOVE karaoke

Seriously. Nothing unites a group of strangers quite like covers of Lil Jon, Lady Gaga, and an eerily realistic rendition of New Edition’s “Can You Stand the Rain”.

6) To go from being a good counselor to a great one, you must go the extra mile

BGSU’s very own Sarah Zachrich and Ali Tracy shared their tips about how to become the best admissions counselor in the office and on the road. They stressed the importance of offering a personalized experience to each student that asks for one. Although we are typically swimming in to-do lists, and it might be tempting to push students to attend a larger visit day, it is crucial to remember that these personalized visits are invaluable. Call the financial aid office, connect with faculty, and email every current student you know to make these visits happen – because prospective students will notice your efforts. Great counselors eliminate the phrase “that’s not my job” from their vocabulary.

5) Don’t be afraid to ask for more responsibility, but remember you can also ask for help

Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone to take on further responsibilities is the best way to grow personally and professionally. Evaluate what skills you want to develop, and discuss opportunities with your supervisor. On the other hand, if you feel that your current work quality will suffer, don’t be afraid to decline an additional opportunity provided by your supervisor. Remember that your prospective students (as well as your mental health and well-being) deserve the best version of yourself. Don’t overload your plate with too much responsibility.

4) There are many resources available to help you master territory management

I can’t begin to tell you how many gasps I heard after Thiel College Senior Admissions Counselor, Jake Kos, mapped out his travel schedule on BatchGeo. “Where was this tool when I planned my travel?!” was the common response. Jake also presented the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Ohio School Report Card, and School Digger. These tools provide data about public and private high schools across the nation including student/teacher ratios, ethnic makeup, student performance, enrollment, graduation rates, and more. These data can help to determine which schools in your territory are worth visiting.

3) Bring your business card with you EVERYWHERE you go

If I didn’t already learn this lesson firsthand at SI, Adrea Spoon, BGSU’s Director of Admissions, imprinted this message in my mind. You never know where you might meet a prospective student or their parents; it could be at Cedar Point in Sandusky or at Cheers Restaurant in Boston! If your business card is always handy, you will have endless opportunities to grow your network and market your institution.

2) If you want to enhance your career, you need to get involved

Whether you join an OACAC committee or volunteer at your institution’s move-in day, it is critical to get involved. Volunteering allows you to form relationships and build your professional network; and we have all heard the expression “it’s who you know, not what you know”. Volunteer work also provides you with skills training that you may not be utilizing in your office. Get out and get involved! Again – don’t forget to bring that business card!

1) The admissions profession is the greatest profession in the world

Sure, we work weeknights and weekends sometimes. Yes, other times we forget to schedule enough time to eat a real lunch. But what other profession allows you to drive a brand-new rental car to a comfy hotel bed, after changing the lives of students and their families every day? 🙂

If you attended this year’s Summer Institute, what did you learn?


By: Bre Koch

Admissions Counselor

The University of Akron

OACAC Annual Conference Community Service: I Know I Can

The Inclusion, Access, and Success Committee was excited to collaborate with I Know I Can, a college access organization serving the Columbus, OH city school district, to raise donations during OACAC’s Annual Conference (April 10-11).


I Know I Can (IKIC) was founded in 1988 as a result of the foresight, dedication, and generosity of community and civic leaders who believed that no child should be denied a college education simply because they could not afford it.  I Know I Can is the only college access program in Columbus and one of the largest and most successful in the nation. Since its beginning, I Know I Can has made higher education a reality for tens of thousands of Columbus City Schools students who dreamed of a college education and worked hard to get it. Today, IKIC provides the materials, financial support, mentoring and advising services needed to help students overcome barriers and achieve their higher education dreams with particular emphasis on middle school and high school students as well as current college students.  For the past 27 years, IKIC has not only helped parents and students navigate the college-going process; it has also awarded more than 25,000 grants and scholarships, with a total investment of more than $26 million in the higher education of CCS’s college-bound students.

With the support from conference attendees we were able to collect 4 full bins of items including notepads, pens/pencils, cups, college logo wear, and other items.

We can definitely say that they want to offer a big Thank You to everyone at the OACAC Annual Conference who made donations to the students at I Know I Can!


DEADLINE APPROACHING: Charles L. Warren Memorial Heritage Scholarship


The Charles L. Warren Memorial Heritage Scholarship deadline for high school seniors is this Friday, February 12, 2016! Click this link for the application Please remember that high schools counselors must be OACAC members* for their students to be considered for the scholarship! Click here to become a member Please contact Nancy Gibson at if you have any questions.

*Just one counselor in your high school needs to be an OACAC member to qualify.

TEASER: OACAC Warren Scholarship


One of your students could be standing here as an OACAC Warren Scholar in 2016!



The Charles L. Warren Memorial Heritage Scholarship deadline has changed this year! The application will be live on the OACAC website after December 1, 2015, and the new deadline is February 12, 2016. Be watching for more details in December! 


Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA); Opportunity to the Unauthorized Immigrant

It was in 1994 that I immigrated to “El Norte” (The North).

This is what many Latin American individuals call this great land of opportunity. The choice was not made by me, the choice was made by my father that saw an opportunity for growth. Coming to a strange land meant leaving my identity (home). Oftentimes, people leave their children, your life as a farmer, and the most fearful part about this migration is that you have no idea what lays ahead. I remember running and crawling through fields of Arizona and swimming rivers of Guatemala and Mexico. Running at night and sleeping by day.

According to the Boston Globe more than 6,000 people have died trying to cross the Mexico-United States border since 1998. Young children, women, and young men have died trying to cross the border. At times women and children are involved in rape and human trafficking, as well as mules for drugs, but that’s another story. However, there are many that have made it to begin a new life in the U.S.A. As the years pass, many individuals like myself live in shadows and not  exposed to a normal life in the United States because they are afraid of deportation.

According to PEW Research Center about 65,000 Unauthorized children graduate from high schools all over the United States. Some of these students do not know that they are Undocumented or Unauthorized individuals in the States, until a parent decides to share that information with them. Now a young child full of deception, anger, and not connected, it is very hard to understand the concept of immigrant. It is heartbreaking for them, at one point thinking that college was an option, now it is a struggle to achieve or an impossible dream to catch. Hence, where the DREAMERS notion comes to be talked about.

With all that has been said, there are so many students that are wanting to go onto a university or college to make a better living, to get a better education, or to experience the whole “college experience” that their peers talk about. Education currently serves to them a gateway to be a better person that can contribute to society. Eleanor Roosevelt said “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”. Students had no choice. According to their parents, they had to be here. How can these students be an individual of DREAMERS if we keep closing the doors for them. So what does it mean to be Unauthorized?  

Typically, a person has  “no papers”. That means that you do not have a social security number. Not having a social security number you have no way of working or being eligible for a driver’s license, nor can the student apply for federal student aid or FAFSA. The land of opportunities has now turn into a land of struggles. However, the U.S. Government and the Obama Administration has worked very hard to finally see some progress in the lines of Immigration Reform. Finally, for some, prayers were answered, On June 15, 2012, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced that certain people who came to the United States as children and meet several guidelines may request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal called The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). To find out more on eligibility visit the Department of Homeland Security’s page (DHS) for additional information; eligibility, renewal of DACA, application, and what defines DACA.   

Going back to helping students continue their education, I believe that education is huge component of receiving DACA, as well as if an Official at DHS sees your education progress that’s a big part of looking great on the application. One major part that I always encourage students is number one, to apply for DACA (if you can be able to afford it) and number two is to look for 2 year community colleges that can receive admissions to those students who are DACA recipients or not. It is not that colleges do not want to admit students with situations as this, it’s that some states do not allow for students to apply for admissions being Unauthorized. Which then brings on the issue of applying for colleges. Nerdwallet has some great insights of how to go about applying for college and as a DACA student. By clicking here you can find out the steps on how to apply as a DACA or Unauthorized Immigrant student. Also, a great amount of work has been done from non-for profit organizations that can help with students that are DACA recipients or Unauthorized Immigrant Students that are looking to finance their college education.

An organization that is located in Palo Alto, CA helps students with finding schools that they have partnered with to help students seek opportunities to go to college. The mission of QuestBridge is a powerful platform bridging the nation’s brightest, under-served youth and leading institutions of higher education and further opportunities. We are an aggregator of excellence. QuestBridge provides a single, internet-based meeting point which links exceptional students with colleges, scholarship providers, enrichment programs, employers, and organizations seeking students who have excelled despite obstacles. By facilitating these exchanges, QuestBridge aims to increase the percentage of talented low-income students attending the nation’s best universities and the ranks of national leadership itself.

Also, the best part of these colleges and universities is that they provide a great amount of institutional scholarships. If you would like to know which schools are part of the QuestBridge please visit: QuestBridge. It will provide much information on scholarships and as well as opportunities to even apply. This is a great opportunities for students to get engaged in and also it provides a gateway to help them understand that there is a way or a possibility that they can too go to college.

I hope that this has helped in making it more understanding of what Unauthorized individuals go through and as well as the struggles of what some of the brightest students go through in making a choice to go to school or not because policies put into place that hinder them from going to college.

Alex Bonilla, MBA
Multicultural Recruitment Coordinator
Defiance College