Student Spotlight- Elizabeth Burnside

Elizabeth Burnside wants everyone to know you are never too old to go back to school. At the age of 56, she is a full-time student at Chatfield’s Over-the-Rhine campus. Many people think a mother of two and grandmother of four could never go back to college, but Elizabeth had the support of her family and she knew she could do it! After she graduates from Chatfield in the fall of 2018 with her associate degree, Elizabeth plans to open a daycare center in her community—one that will cater to the various schedules of parents, including overnight shifts. She says she feels drawn to help those out there who may be working very hard but still struggling to support their families. It is her giving heart that led her to Chatfield in the first place, and what makes her such as exceptional student.

Before enrolling at Chatfield, Elizabeth spent her time mentoring graduates of Miami University who were teaching at Rothenberg Preparatory Academy, helping them to understand how best to teach in an urban school setting. As she worked with these young educators, it inspired her to go back to school herself. Just about the time she was kicking the idea around in her head, a Chatfield admissions counselor visited the school for a college presentation. Although Elizabeth had previously been unsuccessful taking college courses online, she decided to check out Chatfield to see if it would be a good fit for her.

After becoming a student, Elizabeth found the classes to be very small and really enjoyed the one-on-one attention she received from her instructors. She was impressed by the supportive programs on campus like tutoring and mentoring.

“It was a good feeling to know that I could ask for help, and not be embarrassed because I knew I wasn’t the only one who needed it,” Elizabeth said.

In fact, as she became more settled on campus, Elizabeth made it her personal goal to welcome new students and make sure they had what they needed. She encouraged them to seek help if they needed it and reassured them they could do it.

“Elizabeth has been a nurturing figure since she arrived on campus—the students look up to her and seek her out for advice or encouragement. She is there to offer advice or wisdom, or just lend an ear,” said Ryan Hall, Over-the-Rhine’s associate dean and site director.

Along with her full course load, Elizabeth was instrumental in starting the Chatfield Student Service Club (CSSC) at the OTR campus. Under her leadership, the group has organized several charity projects, including gathering hurricane relief supplies for Matthew 25 Ministries and volunteering at the Freestore Food Bank in Cincinnati. Over the Christmas holiday, Elizabeth located a needy family in the area and the students gathered presents for the children. Upcoming CSSC projects include a luncheon for new and returning students and activities for Black History Month.

“I believe Elizabeth’s passion for leadership and giving back has really helped drive the success of CSSC,” Ryan adds.

Elizabeth thinks of herself as a mentor to her fellow students, and offers this advice to anyone of any age considering returning to school:

“Make sure you have a plan and support of at least one person. That person can be someone on campus, there are advisors dedicated to your success. Start slow if you need to, one class a semester is still a start. If you try it, you’ll have help if you need it. Do not get discouraged. You are not too old.”


Benefits of Small Class Sizes

Many people who attend college classes with a large number of students don’t enjoy the experience.  “I felt like I was just a number” or “I felt lost in the shuffle” are common complaints.  The benefits of small class sizes at the elementary and secondary levels are well known, but those benefits translate to the college level as well.

“I like being in the smaller classes because I can get more one-on-one time with the instructors.  This spring will be my third semester at Chatfield and I like it a lot,” said Business Management student Marco Torres.  “A couple of my friends go to larger universities and they complain about the high number of students in the class. I just think learning is better when you have a smaller group.”

Most classes at Chatfield have an average of 11 students.  It’s enough to have a diverse mix of personalities and learning styles but still allows everyone to get to know each other on a personal level.

“Shy students come in all class sizes.  There are strategies that you can employ to bring them out of their shells, but it’s much easier to do that when you can get to know them better in a smaller class environment,” said Dr. Farzaneh Naseri-Sis, the English Department Chair at Chatfield.

Naseri-Sis said that the students also benefit from the relationships that are built in a smaller class. “They get to know their classmates and how to work with them. With large classes, many times students don’t get to interact with every individual, which is a shame.”

She added that students also tend to perform better when there are fewer people in the room. “In large classes, sometimes the students can get distracted with electronics instead of staying involved in the class.  It’s a lot harder to do that in a small class,” Naseri-Sis said. “You get to work with students one-on-one and they are generally more focused.”

That one-on-one attention is also the major academic benefit to smaller classes.  “I teach writing, and sometimes during class, students will ask me to read something they have written and give them immediate feedback.  That is possible in a small class, but it would be impossible in a class with 100 students or more,” Naseri-Sis said.  She added that a smaller number of students can get more out of classroom exercises by actually participating instead of just listening to others.

Nasari-Sis also explained that being able to get to know her students and their needs allows her to pair someone that is struggling with someone who is more comfortable with the material.  “When they get engaged with each other, the time flies by and they both get something out of that experience,” she said.  “The confidence level grows in both students when they work together like that.”

If you or a family member would like to know more about our small classes, caring instructors and safe environment, please give us a call. You can reach our Brown County campus at (513) 875-3344 and our Cincinnati campus at (513) 921-9856.

For more information or to schedule a visit, visit our website at



When That Big-Time College Doesn’t Work Out

This is the time of year – after all the holiday celebrations are done and the decorations put away – when college students head back to school.

Or do they? According to research by Complete College, only 19 percent of college students complete their bachelor’s degrees in the “traditional” four years.

Some are overwhelmed with academic challenges. Others simply can’t justify, or even afford, the high cost of tuition, room and board. Many just need a break.

And that’s OK. Today’s “traditional” student is now in the minority, while what we used to call “non-traditional students” make up the majority of college attendees.

What is important is that you continue your education in some way while you take a break from the school where you started. That’s where a local, two-year, open-admission college comes into play. In Greater Cincinnati, we have a few such colleges – Chatfield College being one of them. At any of these schools, credits earned will likely transfer to any other college or university accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. At Chatfield, a private, faith-based school, we have articulation agreements with 24 other colleges, which means they’ve reviewed and pre-approved our classes for transfer credit.

Two-year colleges are affordable, too. At Chatfield, students are eligible for Ohio College Opportunity Grants, as well as privately endowed scholarships available to those with the initiative to apply.

So if all the excitement of big-time college football or basketball has worn off, and the days of dorms and food courts are behind you, or even temporarily on hold, you can continue your education at a school where teaching and learning happens. Our students are the reason we are here, and all our efforts are directed toward making you successful.

If you plan to work full-time this semester, consider taking a single class to keep your head in the game. We can handle that. If you want to pursue your associate’s degree with us, even better. Or if you thought you never had the chance to go to college, it’s not too late.

It’s OK to take your time, but don’t ever give up.

Click here to have one of our admissions counselors call you with more information.

-John Tafaro,
President of Chatfield College

Alumni Profile: Christina Schnetzer

Sometimes life has a way of bringing us full circle, and that’s exactly what alumna Christina Schnetzer, ’97, says about returning to Chatfield as an instructor. A very active student who has become a dedicated part-time faculty member, Christina says Chatfield is her academic home, and she can’t imagine being anywhere else.

In 1994, Christina was a single mother in her thirties and recently divorced when she decided to visit Chatfield College in Brown County for its annual Quilt & Craft Show. She was new to the area and looking for new opportunities. After signing up for a free tee-shirt at the admissions booth, Christina received a call from one of Chatfield’s counselors a few days later. He asked if she were interested in going back to school. When she said she couldn’t afford it, he told her with the help of scholarships and grants, it was possible to attend Chatfield at a net cost she could manage. After that phone call, Christina realized her dream of becoming a teacher could become a reality and began the enrollment process immediately.

“I went to Chatfield with a nine-month-old baby on my hip, holding the hand of my eight-year-old,” Christina says. “The registrar and other staff members were so accommodating, passing my baby around and giving her older sister a coloring book, just so I could register for classes and sign all the paperwork to enroll.”

As a young person, Christina had many jobs, some of which she called terrible, but she did what she had to, in order to pay the bills. Before the arrival of her second daughter, she had a great job at UPS but after having issues with her pregnancy, Christina was limited physically and could not return to work. She decided it was time to “work smarter, not harder”.

“As a child, my parents taught me that my work ethic would determine who I would become and I would need to make my own way. This was important to me to follow. This way I didn’t feel like I owed my success to anyone other than myself,” Christina shared.

Wanting to teach her two small children the same thing her parents had taught her, she made her mind up that she was going to earn her degree.  Entering Chatfield’s campus for the first time, through the beautiful tree-lined front drive, Christina remembers a peaceful feeling coming over her. Although there were some obstacles to overcome, like past grades and previous college attempts, Chatfield’s staff worked hard to help her.

Christina explained, “I remember feeling like the Holy Spirit led me through the process. The registrar told me somehow my grades transferred, which at the time seemed impossible.”

As Christina began her journey at Chatfield, she had a lot to juggle—two kids, a full-time job and going to class. Even with a lot going on at home, she was very involved on campus—singing in the choir, volunteering in the admissions office and at the quilt show, writing and directing her own play, and even putting on a talent show.  For a few semesters, Christina was enrolled in an independent study and she remembers instructors allowing her to bring her youngest on campus when she had no other option for childcare. In particular, Christina shares her gratitude to former instructor Sue Hamann as a very influential person in her life, who told Christina “yes, you have to do the work but sometimes you have to roll with the punches.” Christina said everyone at Chatfield would go above and beyond to make sure the students had what they needed to succeed.

“It’s important to realize that not every student has a support system at home, and sometimes Chatfield is their support system. The communal atmosphere here means so much, because you don’t find that everywhere. People care and the students matter,” said Christina.

In the spring of 1997, Christina graduated from Chatfield with an associate degree. After waiting a few years, she decided to pursue her bachelor’s degree. Despite continued work and family responsibilities and a scarcity of available time, her hard work paid off in 2004, when she graduated from Antioch University with a bachelor’s degree in humanities.

Before going back to school to earn her Master of Science at Kaplan, Christina was pursuing another of her passions—singing. Performing at open mics and an assortment of professional gigs, she returned to Chatfield to sing at its Band fest event. It was then Christina decided to start taking steps to become an instructor. Since the beginning of 2015, Christina has been teaching English and communications classes at Chatfield.

She believes teaching is her calling, rather than just another job. With a laugh, Christina says she believes what they say is true—if you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work. As a part-time instructor, Christina said there are a million others things she could do with more benefits and a tangible payoff, but her reward is seeing students reach their goals and achieve the dreams they set out to accomplish. She hopes to continue to find new ways to grow and serve the Chatfield community.

As both an instructor and as a mom, Christina teaches the value of self-motivation. She says she may be tough on her students, but she is just as tough on herself.

“We can show these students that they can achieve whatever they want, as long as they work hard enough for it,” she said. “We’re not straight-A students all the time, and that’s okay. What matters is that we are still working at it.”

Christina offers this advice to anyone considering going back to school, “When I decided to go back to school all those years ago, I did it for two reasons. First, to show my kids the importance of drive and working hard for what you want. Secondly, I wanted to show the ones who said I couldn’t do it, and even myself, that I could, I would, and I did.  You can too.”


No More Worrying: There’s a Safe and Local Option

Safety and security on college campuses is a concern for many people these days. Each year, thousands of parents see their students heading off to begin their college careers.  And even though the kids are grown, the parents still worry about them.

One local college that has an excellent record for safety and security is Chatfield College.

Every year, college campuses are required to report campus safety plans and crime statistics to the United States Department of Education. The record for Chatfield is outstanding.

“For at least the past ten years, Chatfield has had no incidents to report. That’s across both our Brown County and Over-the-Rhine campuses.  We are an extremely safe environment,” said Dr. Peter Hanson, Chief Academic Officer and Chatfield Dean. Chatfield is a non-residential campus, so none of the issues that can arise in a dormitory setting are a problem.

“Our students are living at home or with their families,” said Hanson. He added that if a student is troubled in some way, help is never far away.

“When a student walks in looking troubled, it’s not very long before someone will walk up to them and ask them how they are doing and if they are OK,” Hanson said.

“Knowing our students enables us to have one-on-one interactions with them,” Hanson added that the sense of security also contributes to academic and social success.

“It certainly stands to reason that if you are comfortable, you are going to be able to learn to a far greater extent than if you are uncomfortable or insecure,” Hanson said.

And the students aren’t the only ones that get a sense of security from the close environment at Chatfield.

“It brings a sense of peace to parents and other family members to know that their student is in a safe environment.  All parents want the best for their children and that includes safety and security,” Hanson said.

That security is also found in downtown Cincinnati at the Over-the-Rhine campus of Chatfield as well.

“The entire campus there is contained within a single building.  We have a very knowledgeable and well-trained staff in OTR, just like we do at our St. Martin campus.  They help to ensure that our mission to teach and help the students grow continues to move forward,” said Hanson.

And if someone who doesn’t belong happens to come along at either campus, Hanson said it wouldn’t be long before they were spotted.

“Someone that doesn’t belong would stand out immediately.  The majority of people know which car belongs to whom and things like that, so we are all looking out for each other like a close neighborhood or family.”

Hanson said that the feeling of security and safety is one of the foundations of Chatfield’s success.

“As a smaller school, we are always going to be able to have that close interaction with our students. If they have any problems with academics or with other issues, we see that immediately and can make sure they stay on the right track.”

Mary Castle is a non-traditional student in her 40’s who has rekindled her college career at Chatfield.

“I feel very safe and secure there.  I know everyone on campus. I feel safe, not only for myself but if I bring my children, I know they will be safe as well,” said Castle.

“I have a nephew that goes to Chatfield through the Ohio College Credit Plus (CCP) program.  He’s a junior in high school.  I think it’s a very safe place to be.”

Student Kamri Offutt is still a senior in high school, also attending through CCP.  But by the time she graduates from high school, she will have earned her associate degree from Chatfield.  She started attending classes there at 16 years old.

“I literally drove right into Chatfield and felt this really calm feeling like ‘this is where I’m supposed to be.’ It’s really cool when you feel something like that,” said Offutt.

“I feel completely safe.  I‘m not afraid to leave my laptop on the table while I run to the library or something.  The worst thing that happened to me is that I lost my keys, but that was my fault,” she laughed.

Castle said that she encourages people her age to check out their education options at Chatfield.

“The admissions staff at Chatfield have been very encouraging to me as I restarted my college career.   It’s never too late to learn. If you stop learning, you lose part of yourself,” she said.

Meanwhile, Offutt said she sees her upcoming graduation as bittersweet.

“I wish I didn’t have to leave next year.  I encourage everyone to just come and experience Chatfield.  Once you see the campus, you will fall in love,” she said.

To start your college career in the safe and secure environment at Chatfield, call the St. Martin Campus at (513) 875-3344 or the Cincinnati Campus at (513) 921-9856.  You can also check us out online at


Consider Giving to Chatfield This #Giving Tuesday

After Thanksgiving, many of you fought the long lines and did some early Christmas shopping on Black Friday.  Many more of you shopped on Small Business Saturday, which helps our small local businesses.  Today, some of you are probably making purchases on Cyber Monday on your breaks or lunch hour.  Tomorrow, we celebrate generosity on what is known as Giving Tuesday.

Now entering its sixth year, Giving Tuesday is an international day of giving back and kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving. Since its inaugural year in 2012, Giving Tuesday has become a movement that celebrates and supports giving and philanthropy.  It connects diverse groups of individuals, communities, and organizations around the world for one common purpose: to celebrate and encourage giving.

This will be our 4th year participating in #GivingTuesday at Chatfield College.  This year, Chatfield students have been hard at work serving their fellow students and in their communities. Chatfield Student Service Club (CSSC) has completed several different projects this year like gathering hurricane relief supplies for Matthew 25 Ministries, donating their fall festival proceeds to buy toys for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and supporting needy families through the Christmas season. In fact, in honor of Giving Tuesday, the groups at both campuses plan to give back by serving at the Freestore Foodbank in Cincinnati and Hope Emergency in Brown County.

In turn, we hope to receive monetary gifts on Giving Tuesday, of any amount, to show our students that they are supported in their efforts of serving others and achieving a better future for themselves and their families.

We are excited to say we are also eligible for the gift match on facebook. Thanks to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, every gift given through our facebook page tomorrow beginning at 8:00am will be matched up to $2,000!

You can help us achieve our goal!   Make your gift for #GivingTuesday on Chatfield’s facebook page, our website at, mail in your gift to Chatfield College at 20918 State Route 251; St. Martin, OH 45118, or call us at 513-875-3344 X 130 to make your pledge or payment.

Every gift matters to our students.  Please share this with all of your friends and family, so that we can spread the word concerning our campaign, and be sure to follow us on Facebook, as we will be making periodic updates as we near our goal.


Student Spotlight-Trent Moore

Many of our students overcome obstacles to be able to sit in our classrooms and pursue their dreams of earning a degree. Trent Moore is no different. Without any type of formal education or support system in place, Trent managed to obtain his GED and enroll himself in college. After a failed attempt and much self-doubt, Trent came to call Chatfield home.

Growing up in Owensville in Clermont County, Trent attended a public elementary school until about the third grade, when his parents pulled him out of school to be home-schooled. Unfortunately, no schooling followed. Any learning Trent did was self-led and very unorthodox. Despite having a difficult home life and no support or encouragement from his parents, Trent, still a child at this point, worked hard to keep himself from falling too far behind his peers.

By the age of 18, having been “out of school” for years, Trent was tired of feeling like the least educated person in the room. He had been motivated to leave home, found a job, and was finally ready to chase after his dream of an education. In the summer of 2014, at the age of 20, Trent earned his GED.

“It was like I needed to prove something to myself… that I was capable, intelligent,” Trent says.
At the age of 19, Trent was taken in by a family friend, Shari Shafer, who offered him a place to live, someone to confide in, and a supportive environment.

“What family I did have was harmful and I had to get away from them; and I had to pursue non-traditional sources of support, like the family that has taken me in. It took a long time for me to heal enough to begin pursuing my goals,” Trent shared.

After earning his GED some time before, he decided that college was his next step, as it had always been an aspiration of his. Although he was working a full-time retail job, Trent enrolled in UC Clermont full time. Stresses like being in a classroom with other students, feeling unprepared, navigating the financial aid process left Trent with high anxiety and panic attacks. Even though Trent had purchased his books, scheduled classes, and had a student id made, he drove to campus on the first day of classes and withdrew.

“My full-time job paired with a full-time course load, no family or friends to support me, fear of the unknown, it all felt like too much,” Trent remembers.

After deciding to withdraw from UC Clermont, Trent continued working but his desire to go to college did not go away. After much deliberation, Trent felt that the first time around, he made the decision too quickly and the whole process just felt rushed.

“It felt like something I had to do, this was just the next logical step,” he said.

After having several talks about college with the family who had taken him in, the adult children in the family shared they had attended Chatfield College and had had a positive experience. When Trent showed interest in Chatfield, one of the daughters, Allison, offered to accompany Trent on a visit.

Trent’s first impression of the Brown County campus and grounds was that it was a very peaceful place. He immediately felt at home. One particular instance that stood out for Trent was meeting with one of Chatfield’s Financial Aid counselors. Trent remembered the financial aid process at UC Clermont as a very stressful experience. As is common practice, students under the age of 24 must submit their parents’ financial and tax information for financial aid. Chatfield was able to wave this stipulation and help Trent gain “independent status” so he would not have to contact his parents, from whom he was estranged, to obtain their financial information—a huge relief for Trent.

Trent began at Chatfield as a part-time student with ten credit hours in the spring of 2015. He was soon enamored with the classroom environment—something he had never really been a part of. Being able to contribute to discussions in class and engage with his classmates made his education even richer. It wasn’t long before Trent was excelling in all his classes and began to tutor other students in his spare time. As his tutoring schedule grew, he was approached to begin tutoring students officially through the library and learning center. In his time at Chatfield, Trent has tutored more than 10 students, in subjects such as Math, English, Psychology, and Biology.

Trent said, “Tutoring was a very rewarding thing for me, and also a learning experience. Being able to work closely with other students and help ease their difficulties also strengthened my own studies.”

As Trent became involved in classes, he increased his extracurricular activities as well. He was a founding member of the Chatfield Student Service Club established in the fall of 2016 and still serves as the vice president. Trent is also a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, of which he is also the vice president. Through these groups, Trent has served the community as well as his fellow students. He continues to tutor his fellow students as well.

Trent adds, “The Shafer family has made positive and indelible effects upon my life, as has the family at Chatfield College. I don’t know where I’d be without them.”

Graduating this spring, Trent says he plans to go on to earn his bachelor’s degree and ultimately, a PhD. He has several local schools in mind, although he hasn’t chosen one yet. When asked what he wants to use his education for, Trent responded he planned to be an author, professor, and an advocate for those less fortunate.

“Although I have also felt I had a serving heart, I didn’t have the resources for much community service on my own. I really want unique experiences with people different than me. I believe that is part of a well-rounded education,” Trent says. He even shared that he is considering joining AmeriCorps before returning to school.

“I don’t have immodest goals,” Trent said with a laugh.

“If I had to give advice to someone considering going back to school, I’d tell them to trust those who are willing to help, but even more so, trust yourself. Know that you are capable.”

Goodbye, But Not Farewell!

Dear Chatfield Family,

I have many mixed feelings as I report to you that my wife Debbie has accepted an amazing job offer in Las Vegas where she will continue her career in deaf education, and therefore, I will be stepping down as the Director of Development at Chatfield College.  Debbie and I want you to know that we believe, more than ever, in the mission of Chatfield.  This was not an easy decision, but we are happy and excited to begin the next chapter in our lives with our three dogs in the Nevada desert!

During my 24 years as a development professional, I have raised money for many organizations, including the Boy Scouts, American Cancer Society, Mount Notre Dame High School and most recently, Chatfield College.  I have been blessed to work with some of the best volunteers in Greater Cincinnati.  Working for Chatfield has been most rewarding because education makes such a difference in the lives of our students. Every gift, no matter how large or small, goes a long way and can be life-changing for a Chatfield student.  Education or a skilled trade has time and again proven to be the best way to eliminate generation poverty. I know because I have seen it happen!

I will fondly remember my time at Chatfield.  Here are a few highlights:

  • Being a part of the renovation of two historic buildings: the new state-of-the-art OTR campus, and the expansion and remodeling of the Welcome Center in Brown County.
  • Helping increase the number of named endowed scholarships, to provide more opportunities for students.
  • Working with inspiring student-speakers for the scholarship luncheon each spring.
  • Sharing in the joy and success of our students at commencement each May.
  • Serving on a planning committee for special fundraising events, including the successful ChatField of Dreams auction each October.
  • Having the opportunity to work with the dedicated Board Advancement Committee to push forward Chatfield’s strategic plan.

I want to thank John Tafaro and the search committee that hired me for making me your Director of Development.  I have truly grown in my position and will be eternally grateful for the people I have met along the way.  I especially want thank all the investors at Chatfield College for your guidance and support during my four-year tenure at this great institution. In particular, I want to thank the trustees who serve on the Advancement committee with whom I have been privileged to work, including Paul Sittenfeld, Kip Heekin, Shannon Keesee, Anne Castleberry, Chris Benintendi, Brad East, Rosemary Schlachter and John Tafaro. I also want to thank the amazing staff at Chatfield for welcoming me with open arms and for your support throughout my tenure. More specifically, I thank Cheryl Kern for putting up with me on a daily basis!

We will miss you Chatfield, but you will always be in our thoughts and prayers, as well as our estate plan!  Thank you all for what you have done to invest in Chatfield College and what you will continue to do.

Goodbye, but not farewell,

Jim Ludwig


Why Online?

Good question! Colleges and universities all over the country are working to create better and more meaningful online learning opportunities for their students. Chatfield is proud to be joining the world of online learning this January! The rationale behind our decision to offer Chatfield classes online is simple: online courses empower students by eliminating the problems associated with rigid class times and transportation to and from school. Colleges across the country recognize that students are choosing their school for many reasons, including the support they receive given their other responsibilities. Life profiles of today’s students everywhere, including Chatfield, show that many have jobs, families and other circumstances that make attending face-to-face classes on a campus difficult. Students desire more flexibility and accessibility to reach their educational goals. At Chatfield, we want to meet the needs of our students. Online course offerings will allow us to be sensitive to those needs and allow students to receive personalized access to learning at any time and from anywhere.

Caitlin Tucker, an expert and advocate of blended and online learning, identifies that future employers want to hire students who can communicate effectively, think critically, work collaboratively and leverage technology successfully. At Chatfield, we are committed to putting students at the center of their learning and helping them develop these 21st-century skills that are critical to future success. By creating online learning opportunities at Chatfield, we give our students flexible solutions to help them meet their goals and achieve a better future.

Done well, online education can provide a personalized learning culture that encourages student choice in the learning process. Students can expect that the online courses offered at Chatfield will be intentionally designed with the same support and interaction with instructors that they experience in their traditional face-to-face classes at either campus. Students will be challenged online to work in collaboration with other students and the instructor to deepen their understanding and application of course concepts and to meet learning objectives.

If interested in taking an online course this spring, contact your academic advisor or your site director.

By Not Filing FAFSA, Students Passed Up $2.3 B in Aid

Freshmen entering college this fall left $2.3 billion in financial aid on the table by not filling out the free application for federal student aid or the FAFSA, according to an analysis published Monday by NerdWallet, a personal finance site. Researchers at the site came to this number by estimating the number of high school graduates who didn’t complete the FAFSA and would also have been eligible for a Pell grant, the money the government provides to low-income students to pay for college. They multiplied that by the average amount of Pell aid disbursed to students.

The FAFSA functions essentially as “the gateway to free money for college,” said Brianna McGurran, a student loan expert at NerdWallet. Students need to fill it out to get access to federal grants, federal student loans, work-study and in some cases, state and university grants. “The FAFSA is an incredibly important part of any student’s college application and financing strategy,” McGurran said. “It really is a first step to making college affordable.”

Fill out the FASFA here.

The complicated financial-aid system may deter students

The analysis echoes other research indicating that our complicated financial-aid system may deter students interested in attending college and who could benefit from grants or loans from seeking the money out. Of the 20% of students who didn’t apply for financial aid during the 2011-2012 academic year, about 44% said they didn’t apply because they thought they wouldn’t be eligible for help, according to a separate study published last year by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Others cited the complexity of the FAFSA as a reason for not applying. “There’s a sense that only low-income students and families are eligible for aid, when that is false,” McGurran said.

Though the FAFSA includes more than 100 questions, the Obama-era Department of Education took steps to make it easier to fill out. Officials opened the form on Oct. 1 for the first time last year to align better with the rest of the application cycle. The hope was that colleges would time their financial aid offers closer to their offers of admission so that students could have as much relevant information as possible available to them before deciding on a school.


Not all colleges cooperated with the timeline, but the opportunity to get the financial aid application done sooner appears to appeal to students and families. Nearly 238,000 students filled out the application the first day it was opened this year, an 8% increase from the same day last year, according to the Department of Education.

This application cycle also marks the second year students and families haven’t had to take a guess at their family finances when applying for financial aid. That’s because the government recently began requiring applicants to use tax-return information from the tax year two years prior to the year they’re applying for aid. (For example, a student applying for financial aid for the 2018-2019 academic year would use their family’s tax return from 2016.) That way, they’ll be able to use completed tax information and take advantage of the IRS data retrieval tool, which pulls a filer’s income information into the FAFSA directly from the IRS.

Still, despite efforts to make the financial aid process smoother, critics say it still creates too many complications. Requiring low-income students to raise their hands for funds by filling out a complicated form and, in many cases, repeatedly prove how poor they are through various follow ups can deter those who need it from seeking aid.

The NerdWallet analysis indicates that simple messaging may convince more students to seek financial aid. Tennessee had the highest FAFSA completion rate of any state, according to the study. That state also has a robust free community college program, which requires students to fill out the FAFSA to become eligible. “There’s such an appetite for these programs that whatever students need to do get access within reason, I think they’re willing to do,” McGurran said.

Article originally published on Market Watch.

At Chatfield, our financial aid counselors are available to help you navigate every step of the financial aid process. To learn more about Chatfield’s aid process or other scholarships available to help you finance your education, click here.