With the exponentially growing college price tag, those contemplating education as a next move must negotiate the highly complicated and stressful financial aid mechanism. For certain colleges, admission’s overall cost is not apparent to prospective students until they get access and are enrolled. Such issues thwart students and their families and discourage them from their initial enrollment to degree completion. Colleges should change their financial aid method to reduce the pressure for applicants in response to the applicants’ hanging demands and draw more prospective participants. In this way, schools will diversify and draw pupils and attract their family members. Also, it will help students to get benefits they are eligible for. For non-white candidates, new graduates, and first-generation college graduates, the financial aid process has a significant role in deciding whether they should attend a particular school. When considering where to study, fresh graduates are more probably influenced by the financial aid process. Simplification of the financial aid process helps colleges to recruit students.
With reference to a new report submitted by the Urban Institute, The Education Trust, NASFAA, and the National College Access Network, of all the multiple reforms policymakers can implement to improve and strengthen the financial aid process; currently, three options are accessible to the students that can assist them in making decisions on which institute to attend with better knowledge. Recently, a report funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s consortium grant was published. According to that report, to improve the financial process, three initiatives should be emphasized by policymakers. These are as following;
- Creation of an early warning mechanism to timely alert students of their eligibility for assistance
- Emphasizing the improvement of Pell Grant recipients’ completion rates
- Modifying the FAFSA proposal based on earnings data from prior years.
These strategies are actually the common sense concepts that will alleviate the number of obstacles to a college education for first-generation, low-income, and non-white students.
One of the biggest obstacles to achievement is that although many students have academic ambitions, many don’t get themselves enrolled in college after they pass out from high school. It might be due to a lack of funds and not having proper information regarding the financial aid process. Sometimes, students mistakenly assume that they can’t afford college expenses, so they prefer out-of-college preparatory courses. It is mainly due to misconceptions regarding higher education costs.
Having students to know their financial aid choices earlier will help. The use of various federally-tested incentive programs, such as a free-price launch program, reduced price launch program, Medicaid, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, will help approach and educate families. However, for the outreach to be successful, a significant percentage of households will have to be met at the right moment. That is why it is better to use a number of services to educate households about their choices. Some students potentially circumvent their enrollment to some colleges due to the deadlines of the FAFSA application.
Students these days are unaware of the financial aid process and its specifications. This is why they get admission to college without realizing how much financial aid they can get. It is more reasonable to apply first for financial aid and then apply for any college. In the course of evaluation of the upcoming academic years, The White House assured that it would use prior-prior year (PPY) income data on FAFSA. This step would encourage students to see their aid options as soon as possible. It will also encourage them to file their federal financial aid applications as early as October 1, instead of January. This move to PPY has been supported for a long time by higher education groups, including NASFAA.
The use of PPY revenue data can also simplify the FAFSA framework further. The United States Education Department could seek more IRS cooperation to boost data exchange and simplify matters more. Furthermore, to enhance college preference, details on Pell Grant graduation rates can also be used. For this purpose, proper education on Pell Grant Graduation is necessary for students as well as policymakers as it is a two-way process. The shortage of knowledge on Pell beneficiaries affects students making college decisions and politicians responsible for determining the success of their programs.
Recently, The Education Trust submitted a report on a comparison of graduation outcomes of the students who received Pell Grant with that of the ones who didn’t receive Pell Grant. According to this report, on average, the gap between graduation rates of both the categories is not only high at the national level but is high on the institutional level as well. This gap was 14% at the national level and 5.7% at the institutional level.
In another paper, RADD, it was proposed that these graduation gaps are less significant for students like they don’t bother if a school is right for all students or not. These distinctions are substantial for decision-makers with the role of designing ways to resolve inequalities. So, for policymakers, it is a must to achieve this goal of resolving inequalities and promote the concept of accessible quality education for all. For this purpose, schools with low disparities in completion rates and high average graduation rates should be motivated to take in more students with low incomes. Similarly, Schools with minor differences but poor average completion rates should be encouraged to strive for change.
For all students to have good college experiences, a lot of work needs to be done. In addition to their struggles with studies and taking part in co-curricular activities, students with low wages face even more challenges as they have to develop strategies to arrange payments. The financial aid process is basically devised for such students. Together, these measures will allow students with low incomes to realize that college is a choice, easier to find resources and enroll in a school that suits them well.