On Jan. 17, Maryville College featured its second annual financial aid virtual town hall.
The event, which began last year, achieved a significant amount of positive reviews. Prior to the event, parents and students received email notifications and postcards in the mail inviting them to watch the online event and post questions to be answered.
The event was streamed live from Knox ivi studios from 8 to 9 p.m. and was moderated by WBIR-TV news anchor John Becker.
The panel included members of the college’s enrollment and financial aid staff, two parents from the MC parents’ council and a current MC student.
During the event, MC senior Elizabeth Dunn and the parents of MC junior Emily Julian, Phil and Julie Julian, were available to answer questions regarding the overall process of enrollment and gaining financial aid at the college.
Vice president for enrollment Dr. Dolphus Henry, director of financial aid Richard Brand and assistant director of financial aid Alayne Bowman were also present to answer the more in-depth questions that parents and prospective students posed during the virtual town hall meeting.
MC’s web manager Russ Porter was also made available to assist in the retrieval and relaying of submitted questions.
Many of the questions were geared towards the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
One of the aspects that students and parents alike find daunting in the financial aid process is filing a FAFSA, which allows students to receive need-based aid alongside any federal or state-funded aid.
The FAFSA is often found to be confusing for first-year families to navigate, as well as intimidating since it is so vital to a prospective student’s decision of whether or not to enroll at MC.
In addition to the information gained through the virtual town hall, recent changes made to the admission packet make it easier for first-year families to process the information from the financial aid office.
In previous years, scholarship and aid information was sent separately from the acceptance letter. The packet now includes the letter alongside the scholarship notifications and financial aid form that estimates the given family’s expected cost to attend Maryville.
“What we’ve tried to do … is humanize the financial aid process so that it’s not as intimidating,” Henry said. “We’ve broken it down into six easy steps.”
Members of the panel described what they referred to as the “financial aid roadmap,” which is comprised of six steps that assist families in moving through the financial aid process.
After a student applies, MC responds immediately with merit scholarship information, if the student is eligible. The financial aid office then looks for more aid, specifically need-based aid given after referencing the FAFSA.
The student is then encouraged to look for competitive scholarships and fellowships that are unique on MC‘s campus, such as the Isaac Anderson fellowship, various fine arts scholarships and the Mountain Challenge fellowship.
All of the student’s financial aid options are combined into a single package, which the student learns about through email notification. Advisors help the student go over the award in detail and then help the student in finding alternative options for covering leftover cost, should there be any.
“We’re there to try to help demystify the financial aid process,” Henry said.
The virtual town hall also touched on MC’s uniqueness among other comparable small, liberal arts colleges. Diversity, multiculturalism and academic rigor were referenced during the discussion.
Maryville’s prime location seated at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was also a topic of the conversation.
The second annual virtual town hall provided a unique opportunity for parents and students to encounter MC in the comfort of their own homes. The panel was able to address many questions that should help to ease parents’ minds about the financial aid process and also show the best qualities of the college to prospective students.
The virtual town hall is already thought of as a unique and effective way to imprint MC in the minds of prospective students and should have a positive effect on raising enrollment at the college.