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What students can do if parents can't—or won't—fill out college-aid forms

The following article is from the Wall Street Journal

March 4, 2019

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Generally, college students have a better shot at financial aid when their parents participate in the application process. But parents aren't always willing or able to fulfill this need.

Lack of information about parents' financial means, however, can severely limit students' eligibility for aid, sometimes leading young people to give up on the prospect of college itself.

Recent legislative proposals could make it easier for some students with extenuating family circumstances to apply for aid. But for now, here are two ways students may be able to navigate the financial-aid process without their parents' financial information:

Option 1: Seek to be declared independent
Students could see if they qualify as "independent" under the rules set up by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, which is the government form for financial aid.

Qualifying as independent allows the applicant to be eligible for the maximum amount of federal loans and gift-based aid without providing their parents' financial information, says Abril Hunt, an outreach manager who focuses on financial literacy for Educational Credit Management Corp., a nonprofit that helps students and families plan and pay for college.

Students who don't live with their parents and who pay their own bills and educational expenses aren't automatically considered independent. Qualifying criteria include: being at least 24 years old on or before Dec. 31 of the award year; being a minor who is legally emancipated; being an orphan or veteran; or having a dependent other than a spouse.

Option 2: Go through the dependency-override process
Individual schools can issue what is known as a "dependency override," which allows a student's FAFSA application to be considered without the parent's financial information.

Overrides are generally only granted due to such extenuating circumstances as an abusive family, abandonment, or the incarceration, hospitalization or institutionalization of both parents. Schools can take weeks or months to decide. Meanwhile, the applicants don't have financial-aid packages to compare.

To seek an override, the applicant submits just the student portion of the FAFSA, then must contact each target school to explain why the parents' financial information isn't included, says Ivette Chavez, director of financial services for the Making Waves Foundation's College & Alumni Program, which advises students on financial aid.

Generally, applicants will be asked to provide supporting documentation, such as letters from a community-based organization, school counselor or homeless shelter, or police records that document abuse, Ms. Chavez says.

If an override is denied, the applicant can appeal. Ms. Chavez recommends scheduling an in-person meeting with the school's financial-aid administrators. Additional documents supporting individuals' claims may also help, she says. Dependency overrides are granted for one year at a time.

Meanwhile, there are proposals in Congress to help. The FAFSA Fairness Act of 2019, for example, would ease the financial-aid application process for students dealing with situations such as parental abandonment, abuse and neglect. The bill would allow students who meet certain criteria to complete the FAFSA without their parents' information and receive an estimate of their federal financial-aid award for each school where they apply. They would then go through a verification process at the school they plan to attend.

Students wouldn't have to repeat the verification process each year they apply for aid at that school, with limited exceptions.

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Lynchburg public library hosts workshop on college prep

The following article is from ABC Channel 13 News

February 21, 2019

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The Lynchburg Public Library will host a workshop to help prospective college students in their preparations for college.

"Beyond the SAT," with Danny Eckstein will go over tips and tricks to get accepted and pay for college.

The workshop will help prospective students find and apply for federal financial aid and discuss ways to help pay for school.

Eckstein, director of the Educational Credit Management Corporation, will provide free resources and helpful information to navigate the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process as well as tips on college resume building and work study options.

The workshop will take place in the Community Meeting Room and is free and open to the public.

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ECMC Group Hosts a "Doing Day" at Minneapolis Office

The following videos are from KSTP

February 19, 2019

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More than 50 ECMC Group employees assembled hundreds of care packages for local charities as part of their annual "Doing Day" event.

ECMC Group was featured in the 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. news segments. Both clips can be found here: https://youtu.be/QOQrYPjOcqs

DeeDee Gorman, Senior Community Relations Specialist, was interviewed.

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We are all revolutionaries

The following article is from Forbes

February 4, 2019

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You are a revolutionary. We are all revolucionarios. You just don't know it yet.

No one ever told me this when I was young. When I was young, I was told not to speak my family's native language. I was led to believe that college was not for people like me, and that quiet people like me are better off remaining silent and staying out of the way. I am not here to simply tell you that you are a revolutionary but to help you realize your strengths, examine areas for growth, and to help you develop skills so that you can move forward with your dreams and make a revolutionary change for yourself, your loved ones, and your community.

I see you out there:

I know you have insecurities about your struggles to be bilingual and bicultural. 30% of Milwaukie students are Latino, and I know you've asked the questioned: should I be more "white"? Should I be more "Latino"? What does that mean anyhow? Why can't I just be me? I have that same struggle too—still to this day—but I am learning, too, that we are perfect the way that we are even if our Spanish isn't perfect. That struggle is the reason why we created Ascensión Milwaukie, a Latinx/Chicanx leadership group dedicated to creating and promoting positive academia, cultura, and lifestyle. It's a group that won 3 of 4 categories at the statewide Cesar E. Chavez Leadership Conference in its first year; a group that placed 50 percent of its graduates in 4-year universities and 100 percent in a community college or university, both exceeding our school's averages.

I know that equity and diversity is more than the color of your skin or your biological birth sex. I know that it is the combination—the intersectionality—of these things, and so much more. That's why your story is important, and making time to listen to each other is valuable and needed. Especially now, when it appears that society lacks empathy towards individuals that don't meet the standard definition of caucasian, heterosexual, male or female, and why we have worked so hard to produce school-wide lessons to make diversity, intersectionality, equity, and respect a part of our daily conversations.

I know that your introverted nature makes it a daily struggle to operate in class like a "normal" student. Society tells us that we need to be loud, be confident, be open (exposed), be able to speak in front of an audience, and get straight A's while doing it, if we want to make it in life. I know because I was just like you. I didn't get straight A's. I'm still learning how to embrace my inner introvert and how to be an extrovert when needed. I know that you will make it in life and be even greater because you will have the "bi-cultural" gift, skills, and talents of an ambivert.

I know you are uncertain about your future because you will be a first generation college student. I know because only 20 percent of our graduates go on to a 4-year university and fewer than 60 percent of our graduates will attend any type of college. We know you have the capability, but that you lack the familiarity. That's why it's part of the comprehensive counseling program to do a Myers Briggs inventory with each of you when forecasting and exploring future options. It's why Milwaukie has the largest college and career fair in our district. It's why I coordinate college field trips for AVID and the ECMC Scholars programs and have volunteered to drive the minibus to various campuses. No one ever showed me what the future could be like, but we make certain you have the ability to access this information.

Not only do I see you. I believe in you and work hard with you. When you needed space and time, I shared my office with you. When you needed to fundraise, I worked next to you. When you marched in demonstration, I marched with you. When you needed to dance, bailamos. Because together we are creating the revolution of making our world a better place and bringing pride to our community in the process.

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SD-WAN: Today's networking technology

The following article is from CIOReview

February 1, 2019

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A few decades ago, Sun Microsystems coinedthe phrase "The Network Is the Computer" to define its product strategy. In today's world of complex applications, sophisticated data analytics, pervasive use of multimedia and a widely dispersed workforce,the network is increasingly the lifeblood of any corporation.

Traditionally, most corporations, including my own,have usedMultiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS)-based wide area network (WAN) services to move vast quantities of data. A distinct advantage of MPLS has been its high reliability ensured via service level agreements (SLA) with service providers. Conversely, high bandwidth costs have been its biggest limitation, driving up operating expenses in the data-hungry world in which most companies live. MPLS networks are also notoriously slow to provision or upgrade.Initial setupscan take months and a simple bandwidth upgrade can be a weeks-long process.

Companies have long sought to address these hurdles by selectively migrating services to the public Internet, which is significantly cheaper and quicker to upgrade. However, the Internet still suffers from performance inconsistency, despite rapid improvements over the past decade. The upshot is that many companies have been living in a hybrid world, with mission-critical traffic being sent via MPLS and the rest via cheaper Internet services. This has created additional overhead since the appropriate routing of traffic becomes a manual process handled by network programmers and administrators. The quest to solve this problem of balance between performance and cost is leading many corporations to turn tosoftware-defined (SD)WAN technology.

In basic terms, SD-WAN is a software service that enables enterprises to dynamically route traffic across a hybrid network environment. The technology is rapidly gaining wide adoption. At ECMC Group, we are adopting SD-WAN capabilities as part of ourstrategy to migrateour entire application portfolio to the cloud, including Microsoft Office, custom-built transaction systems, third-party software as a service (SaaS) solutions as well as data warehousing and analytics platforms. In addition, our company relies heavily on virtual communication platforms for voice and video. Collectively, these requirements have underscored the criticality of reliable and cost-effective WAN services with minimal administrative overhead.

We see several key benefits from moving to this technology.

Performance Flexibility: SD-WAN solutions enable a hybrid WAN to react to changing network conditions automatically, a characteristic that provides unprecedented flexibility. Its routing appliances and algorithms evaluate the different transport options and distribute traffic accordingly. For instance, traffic with higher quality of service requirements will be routed via MPLS, while others leverage the Internet, providing higher bandwidth at much lower costs.

Lower Cost: This benefit is a natural offshoot of the above. With SD-WAN, we anticipate being able to rely more on less expensive broadband circuits versus our private links. This offers us the freedom to invest in the higher capacity broadband links and minimize the size of our expensive MPLS circuits. The dynamic routing features of SD-WAN solutions also mean that network capacity can match increases in demand without the need to invest in additional WAN infrastructure.

Security: While the inherent security limitations of the Internet are well understood, SD-WAN solutions compensate for this deficiency by using standards-based encryption to provide connectivity over any type of transport, thus establishing its own secure network.Any new SD‐WAN device has to first beauthenticated to this network and receive its assigned policy before being granted access. Policies can allow sensitive traffic to have its own encryption keys and be isolated from the rest.

Simplified Administration: Manually configuring a hybrid WAN is challenging.Routing protocols typically stay with the single best path between two points and don't react to changing conditions in the network such as packet loss, congestion, etc.Furthermore, any changes in traffic patterns must be accommodated by manually changing configurations. This drives administrative overhead from the IT staff. The SD-WAN model allows the routing logic to be pre-configured, but on an ongoing basis, relies on the software to evaluate and direct network traffic in real-time;thereby,limiting the need for further manual intervention.

It is worth noting that while implementation-ready, SD-WAN is continuing to evolve in its maturity. Coupled with performance improvements on the public Internet, it is possible that companies will completely eliminate dependency on private links in the very near future.

A second point of note is the implication for IT talent. Configuring SD-WANs will require IT staff to be more strategic and less tactical in their approach, much like a city planner, ensuring that the model defined at the outset can fully leverage the autonomous capabilities of the network on an ongoing basis.

SD-WAN is quickly becoming the preferred networking solution within corporations and, therefore, the conduit to efficient and effective systems—an exciting development for organizations and IT professionals as we look to enhance our technology environments now and into the future.

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