Nicolas Jafarieh, Executive VP, Sallie Mae
December 15, 2022
Education is synonymous with opportunity. My parents knew that well as teachers in Iran before the revolution. They believed in the value of education so much that my mother sold her wedding jewelry to open a school where more children, including young girls, could thrive. When my family came to the U.S., I didn’t look or sound like everyone else, but that foundational belief in the power of education as a great equalizer — so intrinsic to the American Dream — forged my path to and through higher education.
While a lot has changed since I attended college and law school, the federal financing system is even more complex and too often, it creates obstacles for those who need the most support. From creating a plan to pay for college, selecting a school, navigating the FAFSA and financial aid offers and borrowing — the system clearly favors those with specific know-how in navigating the process.
As you might expect, that’s often gained through prior experience, typically from parents or family members. In fact, roughly 70 percent of adults ages 22 to 59 with a college degree have at least one parent with a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to just 26 percent of Americans who do not have a parent with a degree, according to the Pew Research Center. Add to that the findings of our recent College Confidence report, conducted by Ipsos, which found only 35 percent of first-generation students feel confident about paying for college, just 32 percent definitely plan to submit the FAFSA, and half say both the student and parent will borrow to cover college costs.