In episode 12 of Futureproof Focus podcast, Dr. Sharon B. De Vivo, president and chief executive officer of Vaughn College and host of the podcast, sat down with three staff members for an informative conversation about college affordability. Read on to learn about the latest changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) from Beatriz Novoa-Cruz, associate vice president of enrollment services, and New York State opportunity programs from Lauren Cajade, executive director of Vaughn’s opportunity programs. Additionally, discover an exciting new tool to help Vaughn students apply for multiple scholarships from Stephen DeSalvo, assistant vice president/chief development officer of the office of institutional advancement and engagement.

The Value of a Vaughn Degree

Were you aware that students who earn a bachelor’s degree can earn $1.2 million more than those without one over the course of their lifetime?

We know that the cost of attending college may be overwhelming. The good news is that Vaughn strives to make earning a degree more affordable. Approximately 90% of Vaughn students receive some type of financial aid, whether it be through state aid, opportunity program support and scholarships. And Vaughn’s financial aid and admissions teams will assist students through every step of the financial aid application process.

Are you ready to dive into your future? What follows is important information from our panel that can help you take the first steps to affording a college education.

New Changes to the FAFSA

Sometimes change is a good thing but can also come with delays. The FAFSA has undergone significant changes through the FAFSA Simplification Act that not only extends aid to more students but makes the application easier and faster to complete. Beginning with the 2024-25 award year, students will be using the new system. It opened on December 31 for the 2024-25 academic year but the new process is taking longer for the government to calculate individual awards for applicants than anticipated, and the timeframe has been pushed back. Institutions have recently begun receiving FAFSA information from the government. This information is needed to be able to review applications and provide prospective students with financial award letters so they can determine the cost of attendance at the institutions they’ve applied to.

Vaughn has extended its preferred deadline to June 1 for students who wish to enroll to accommodate the FAFSA lag and will work with prospective students and their families to help them through the process.

In the meantime, here are the important changes to the FAFSA you need to know about:

  • Fewer questions: The number of questions has been reduced from 108 to 46, with as many as 26 that students may be able to skip, thus further reducing the number to as few as 18—depending on individual circumstances.
  • Eliminated Expected Family Contribution (EFC): EFC has now been replaced with a similar concept called Student Aid Index (SAI), which determines aid based on income.
  • Additional grants: The new SAI will help more underserved students qualify for Pell Grants, which is money that does not have to be repaid.

Important tip: The IRS retrieval tool is still in place. Novoa-Cruz encourages students to use this valuable resource, which makes uploading federal tax returns easy and more accurate—not to mention accelerating the application process.

Whether you have heard about the FAFSA or are new to the college financial aid process, it’s important to know that this application is your gateway to applying for federal aid. Why is this important? Completing the FAFSA application not only opens up opportunities for institutional financial aid but it also extends consideration for additional scholarships and other types of aid. Novoa-Cruz stresses that everyone should complete the FAFSA, regardless of whether or not they think they are eligible.

“Completing the FAFSA is the number one thing for students to do to help with the cost of an education,” said Novoa-Cruz. “Some families make the assumption that they won’t qualify and do not apply…Last year, over $3 billion in Pell Grants was left undisbursed. Even if they don’t qualify for the federal Pell Grant, there are other forms of grants that do not have to paid back, such as awards through the New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and the Enhanced Tuition Awards Program (ETA) that New York state students may be eligible for—not to mention scholarships. So, it always makes sense to apply.”

New York State Opportunity Programs

Vaughn proudly offers help through the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) as another way to give New York state students a jump-start on their futures. Funded by the New York State Education Department (NYSED), HEOP continues to play a crucial role at Vaughn by supporting students who are academically and economically disadvantaged. “Through a state-issued grant, Vaughn is able to assist students with things like tuition, textbooks and laptop computers to help them get to the finish line,” said Cajade. “We even offer summer programs, counseling and tutoring to help level the playing field for these students, come the fall semester.”

To be eligible for HEOP, students must meet the following requirements:

  • Be a New York resident.
  • Be a first-time college student, with transfer students from other opportunity programs also eligible to apply.
  • Meet economic criteria.
  • Meet academic criteria. Students must take a standardized exam to see where they place in math and English.

“We are proud to say we have 100 students in the program,” said Cajade. “HEOP is instrumental in paving the way for students to enroll and succeed in college.” She cannot emphasize enough the importance of completing the FAFSA form. “There are several opportunities for students to receive free money to attend college, but students must complete the FAFSA form to be eligible for any of it.”

Scholarship Universe

Scholarship Universe is an exciting platform for current Vaughn students to search and apply for scholarships—both institutional (at Vaughn) or external. This software program connects to each student’s account through a database, thus making the process more streamlined when the time comes to apply. “Vaughn proudly offers 36 donor-funded scholarships—with five scholarships within each one—from outside corporations and organizations,” DeSalvo said. “Through the Institutional Advancement Office, we raise funds specifically for scholarships. Some of our donors include the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the JFK Chamber of Commerce—who are dependent on our student workforce.” To be considered for most of the 36 Vaughn scholarships, DeSalvo said students should have their profiles and all supporting documentation completed by the spring. In addition to the 36 institutional scholarships, DeSalvo explained that Vaughn students have access to over 14,500 nationwide scholarships through one platform. This gives them an incredible opportunity to find scholarships that meet their criteria. To start the scholarship application process, DeSalvo said students must:

As far as being awarded scholarship money is concerned, DeSalvo said: “The most motivated students receive the greatest amount of funds. The more motivated you are, the more opportunities there will be for you. You have to take the initiative. It’s up to the students. The money is out there. Motivation is the name of the game.”

President DeVivo’s Success Tips of the Month

President DeVivo closed the podcast with her success tips of the month for you—and other students—who are starting their college search:

  • Always know what career field you want to enter before applying.
  • Be sure the college you are applying to has a strong employer network.
  • Be sure the college has a supportive career services department that will dedicate itself to your success, both during and after college.

Don’t let the cost of a college education hold you back from pursuing your dreams. Did you know that nearly 18 million students apply for financial assistance through the FAFSA? Don’t miss out on your opportunity to fund your college degree. Email us if you need help with the FAFSA.

Interested in a futureproof career in engineering and technology, management or aviation? Discover all that a Vaughn degree offers. Apply today!

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced in February that it is “working to accelerate its training and hiring of air traffic controllers through the development of an Enhanced Air Traffic Collegiate Initiative (AT-CTI) program,” in light of the ongoing workforce shortage. This latest action builds on the FAA’s current AT-CTI program to help offset the 2,500-person shortfall of air traffic controllers in the US.

The FAA expedites the pathway for AT-CTI school graduates

Beginning in April, current AT-CTI institutions (including Vaughn) can apply to join the Enhanced AT-CTI program. The FAA will then make its selections and sign partnership agreements with those institutions that agree to—and are able to—incorporate the new enhancements to the curriculum for the 2024-2025 school year. This enhanced program ensures that graduates have the necessary skills to begin on-the-job training. Additionally, this program will allow graduates to bypass the once-required 16-week FAA Academy training in Oklahoma City and receive their training at their respective AT-CTI college or university.

To bolster this initiative even further, the FAA has taken steps to ensure the training of the highest quality of graduating students by providing guidance on the criteria and coursework of the enhanced program. The FAA will oversee all program requirements to ensure the institutions are following all of the technology, testing, oversight and participation requirements of the Enhanced AT-CTI program. Graduates, however, are still required to pass the Air Traffic Skills Assessment (ATSA) exam as well as the necessary medical and security requirements outlined in this list of questions and answers.

According to the announcement in February, FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker stated: “Hiring more air traffic controllers is a priority. We need more entry points for controller candidates, and this enhanced college controller training program is an additional avenue to get controllers into facilities sooner.”

In addition to the changes to the AT-CTI program, the FAA noted the following efforts to make air traffic control training more accessible:

  • The announcement of a year-round hiring track for experienced controllers from the military and private industry.
  • The goal to fill every seat at the FAA Academy and increase classroom capacity beyond current limits.
  • Expanding the use of advanced training across the country. The agency has opened new facilities in Chicago, IL and San Diego, CA. Additional facilities in Nashua, NH and Phoenix, AZ will open in the spring.
  • Plans to finish the deployment of tower simulator systems in 95 facilities by December 2025. The FAA will deploy the first system—based in Austin, TX—by January 2024.
  • To strengthen our safety culture, reports from the Air Traffic Safety Oversight Service will be provided to the FAA administrator and Aviation Safety Associate administrator.

Why Vaughn is the best choice to become an air traffic controller

Is becoming an air traffic controller on your radar for the future? If so, this blog must have given you something to think about—not to mention motivation. As one of the original 13 institutions in the AT-CTI program, Vaughn is the premier choice for air traffic control training. Vaughn students qualify for air traffic controller jobs more quickly, thanks to the facilities, connections and experience offered to help them get certified. It is also worth noting that the FAA hires more of its candidates from AT-CTI institutions and the military. And air traffic controllers in the New York region are in particularly high demand, in part due to the fact that New York is a major travel hub.

Find out how Vaughn and the latest FAA expedited process could be your pathway to the control tower. Learn more about Vaughn’s air traffic control program and apply today!

What do a robotics engineer, data analyst and power engineer all have in common? These highly skilled engineers all hold a degree in mechatronic engineering—one of the most diverse, in-demand and high-paying fields of today. So, what exactly is “mechatronic engineering”?

What is mechatronic engineering?

Mechatronic engineering is an emerging field of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer engineering—all rolled into one. Vaughn is one of the only institutions in New York to offer a degree in mechatronic engineering and is one of four institutions in the country that received accreditation for the program by the Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) of ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology).

This is significant since ABET accreditation assures that programs meet specific standards to prepare graduates who are ready to enter critical technical fields that lead the way in innovation and emerging technologies, while also anticipating the welfare and safety needs of the public. Highly skilled individuals who are trained in this field use their knowledge to design and develop new systems, hardware and even new products. Because of the unique nature of having these three disciplines under their belts, mechatronic engineers are eligible to apply to an expansive range of career options. Today, robotics is playing a major role in engineering, especially in the fields of automotives, the medical supply industry and uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs)—along with so many more in between.

Is pursuing a degree in mechatronic engineering of interest to you? Here is a snapshot of some of the exciting careers that you may not even have thought of, along with profiles of a few of our graduates who are living their dream careers:

  • Renewable and sustainable energy: Vaughn graduate, Samia Oishi, who is making a difference in the field of sustainable energy.
  • Automotive research, design and technology: Emily German and Terry Cetoute.
  • Logistics/Robotics: Jefferson Maldonado, who landed his dream job in robotics.
  • Aerospace and defense: Tatiana Jaimes, who not only designed a literacy tool for the blind but landed a job as a mechatronic engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab after graduation, and Atif Saeed, who landed a job in aerospace at SpaceX!
  • UAV/Drone engineering: Drone pilots and engineers can have degrees in mechatronic engineering which teach them how to design, print 3D components, assemble and operate drones. Drone engineers and operators can be employed in a variety of fields including real estate, manufacturing, agriculture and construction.
  • Pharmaceutical manufacturing: Engineers in pharmaceutical manufacturing are responsible for designing, implementing, and maintaining manufacturing processes and equipment, ensuring the production of high-quality and safe pharmaceutical products while adhering to regulatory standards and optimizing efficiency in the production line.
  • Biomedical and healthcare: Engineers in the biomedical and healthcare industries contribute to the design, development, and enhancement of cutting-edge prosthetic devices. They integrate biomechanics, materials science and electronics to create customized solutions that improve the functionality and comfort of prosthetic limbs.
  • Agriculture: In agriculture, engineers design and implement innovative technologies, such as precision farming equipment, automated irrigation systems and sensor-based monitoring devices which can improve crop yield, optimize resource utilization and enhance overall efficiency. Additionally, agricultural engineers work on the development of machinery, robotics and software applications to address challenges in modern large-scale farming.

An in-demand field

Every day across the world, technology continues to advance at a rapid pace. It therefore comes as no surprise that businesses from nearly every sector are turning—at least to a certain extent—to the latest in robotics or sophisticated intelligence systems to help streamline their operations or processes. So, who are the brains behind these systems? You guessed it! Those who have engineering degrees—such as the mechatronic engineering degree from Vaughn. This acceleration in the demand for these specialized skills is placing these engineers as among the most sought-after professionals in the industry.

High salaries

According to Lightcast career data, mechatronic engineers in the New York region can earn a median annual salary of $119,000 per year—with some positions paying considerably higher, depending on the industry, company, role and experience level.

Why Vaughn is the best choice for mechatronic engineering

Vaughn is dedicated to preparing students for success. Here are several examples of how the College goes above and beyond to create unique opportunities for its students:

  • Provides financial support for students to attend national conferences to present research and also network with industry representatives—which may result in internship and employment opportunities.
  • Widespread student participation in extracurricular activities which include numerous clubs, professional societies and student competitions where Vaughn’s teams have consistently won top awards in national and international competitions—such as VEX U robotics, Mars Rover and uncrewed aerial vehicle competitions—over teams from larger universities.
  • Offers an array of engineering summer programming, which is designed to develop students’ abilities at the high school level and grow their confidence in programming, hands-on experimentation, technical report writing and presentation development.
  • Vaughn’s small class sizes, experienced faculty and state-of-the-art labs and facilities provide the ideal learning environment for students to hone their craft.

Are you looking for an exciting engineering career? Mechatronic engineering may be the right path for you! Discover how a degree from Vaughn College can put you in demand for a range of some of today’s hottest career opportunities. Apply today.