Saturday, April 2, 2005

Get the 411 on Higher Education

Georgia Public Broadcasting was recently pleased to host Governor Sonny Perdue at our headquarters in Atlanta for the announcement of the Georgia Student Finance Commission's GAcollege411 program. GAcollege411 is an online mentoring resource that helps students and their families select a college, apply for admission, and develop a plan for financing higher education. The mission of GAcollege411 is to increase access to postsecondary education in the state of Georgia AND to simplify the tasks and processes related to planning, applying, and paying for higher education.

The site is organized into seven sections accessible through tabs across the top of the page:
- Career Info
- Student Planner
- GA Colleges
- Applications & Transcripts
- Paying for College
- GA College Savings Plan
- Adult Learner

Each of these areas provides students and parents with important information needed to ensure success in the many stages of education, from planning, applying, and funding to career choices after college.

Career Info

This section of GAcollege411 helps students to plan their college curricula by identifying majors that match career preferences. The Career Key survey solicits information about student interests and uses answers to assign Holland Codes, point values correlated to each of six personality types. The Student Career Matching Assistant takes students' Holland Codes, along with the answers to a few brief questions regarding your career preferences, and match them with a list of compatible careers. The matching assistant will also provide suggested majors for each career and the Georgia colleges and universities that offer them. If students prefer to examine all potential careers, GAcollege411 provides a list of careers grouped within broad occupational clusters. For each career, students may find a job description and breakdown of job tasks as well as information about the required experience, education, and training.

Student Planner

This section gives students the information they will need to plan their high school educations in order to meet college entrance requirements in Georgia. The Test Prep feature provides tutorials, interactive practice sessions, a Vocabulary Builder, techniques, and strategies to strengthen student academic skills in preparation for the ACT, SAT, and GRE exams. The Student Planner Timeline offers students a general guideline for the financial aid and college application process beginning with 8th grade and continuing through the senior year of high school. Beginning in July 2005, the High School Planner will allow students to track their high school coursework and compare it against the requirements of their colleges and universities of interest.

GA Colleges

This feature gives students several ways to evaluate the potential colleges and universities available to them after high school graduation. The Comparative View provides information such as student enrollment, student to faculty ratio, average financial aid packages, in-state tuition, and out-of-state tuition to help students and parents compare and contrast schools. The Campus Tours section gives an overview of each school, including photos, enrollment, admissions and financial aid information, a campus summary, and a lot more. The Matching Assistant allows students to choose colleges and universities according to specific criteria such as major, enrollment, financial aid availability, or percentage of students living on campus. The Distance Search enables students to search for schools near their home zip codes.

Applications & Transcripts

Rather than having to gather forms from countless organizations in order to apply for college admission and financial aid, GAcollege411 allows students and parents to find everything in one place. Students seeking financial aid are required to fill out a FAFSA form; students who have already entered their information into the GAcollege411 website will be able to transfer certain data to the online FAFSA application automatically. The Loan Application module allows students and parents to download application forms for student loans from the Georgia Student Finance Commission; online applications will be available soon. Students may also download applications for grants and scholarships. Beginning in July 2005, the College Admissions module will allow students to apply to the school of their choice online. As early as 2006, students will be able to send electronic transcripts along with their online admissions applications.

Paying for College
This section tells parents and students everything they need to know about paying for college. Financial Aid 411 gives a brief overview of the financial aid process, including types of available aid, eligibility information, and information about how and when to apply. Scholarships & Grants gives information about these programs and offers a search tool to help locate them. Additionally, sections on Savings Plans and Tax Savings tell parents and students about things they can do to save money for college. A special section called Tools & Calculators helps determine how much money students can and should borrow to pay for their higher educations.

GA College Savings Plan
This module provides an overview of the Georgia Higher Education Plan, a 529 savings plan that allows a state income tax deduction of up to $2,000 per year per student. These tax-exempt funds may be used to pay for thousands of higher education institutions. The site offers links to learn more about the program, sign up for an account, or manage an existing account.

Adult Learner
This section for nontraditional students seeking to begin or resume their higher educations will be available in July 2005. It offers information for students interested in obtaining their GED, career choice information, advice for first-time college students, information about restarting college, and information about financial aid for adult learners.

My 411
Students who choose to take advantage of the resources provided by GAcollege411 should be sure to utilize the My 411 module. Students can create special portfolios for career choices based on the information obtained through the activities in the Career Info section. They can also create Student Portfolios that document their achievements, awards, and activities throughout high school. There are also sections where students can save their top choices for colleges, review financial aid applications and status, and submit their personal profiles to recruiters at the schools of their choice.

Be sure that your students know that it is never too early to start planning for college. Encourage them to talk with their parents about GAcollege411 and to take an active role in determining the course of their higher educations today by visiting the site at