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Week 10: Speaking with a Financial Aid Officer + Wrapping Up

May 17, 2021

Welcome back everyone!

This past week, I spoke to a William and Mary financial aid officer regarding the financial aid process and how we can improve the financial aid system to increase access rates at these colleges.

Some of the first questions I asked him were regarding the complexity of the financial aid system and FAFSA. He said that the complexity of the form is a big factor as to why so many families leave aid on the table. In addition to this, he said that it is easy to make mistakes on the form, and since the college works with the information the family provides them, the wrong financial aid packages can be given out as a result. This applies to the Net Price Calculator as well. The college rarely makes mistakes when giving out the aid a student needs, but if you enter the data wrong into the calculator, you won’t get the right aid.

So how do we solve this? Make the forms shorter right? He says that making the forms too simple could mean that families are less differentiable from each other, and they look equally “needy” when in reality one family needs the aid more than the other. We have to make sure the form is complex enough so they can be more accurate, but simple enough so every family who needs aid should be able to fill out the form with no problems.

I reached out to him because financial aid is one way we can improve access rates, specifically by “lowering” the cost of tuition for them. We also talked about other ways to make college more affordable for low-income students. He mentioned the idea of states giving out more money to public colleges, so they are able to aid both in-state and out-of-state tuition. Another important concept is financial literacy. Families that better save their money won’t have to worry about the amount of aid they will receive. Even taking AP classes and college credits in high school is beneficial because then students can graduate early and save tuition.

I’m starting to wrap up my research and am continuing to work on my deliverable(s). Can’t believe it’s already been 10 weeks since I first started my research. See y’all at Senior Showcase!

5 Replies to “Week 10: Speaking with a Financial Aid Officer + Wrapping Up”

  1. Milan M. says:

    Wow, Neel, I am really glad you took the time to meet with a financial aid officer from a college. The idea of states giving more money to public schools seems like the best solution in my opinion because this would incentivize colleges to hand out more aid to students in need. I think that one thing low-income families don’t have is experience when it comes to the college process. They need to be educated more on how aid works and exactly how much aid they can receive. This idea will especially helpful to students who are the first to go to college in their families.

    1. Neel D. says:

      I agree. I feel that many people just leave aid on the table because they are unaware of how much aid they can actually receive from a college. When I spoke to the financial aid officer, he told me about how they rely on regional deans and outreach programs to get this message across, but I believe this can be furthered by faculty at the students’ high school. BIM does a great job of this, and hopefully this will be true at other high schools, especially public ones.

  2. Eric M. says:

    Neel, this is all super interesting! I think that financial aid has been seen as a technique to price discrimination, to maximize revenue for colleges. As a system, do you think that it is fundamentally flawed because of this?

  3. Mimi Y. says:

    Wow, this is really interesting. After applying to college myself, I have also started to recognize these flaws of the process. I think the application process definitely puts low-income families at a disadvantage. Although aid is always laid out as an option, the form itself discourages families from considering this option. What if you spend hours on this meticulous form and the government chooses to not give you aid because of a small mistake? I love how you are exploring different solutions to this problem, and I’m excited to see the final product!

  4. Adelia Z. says:

    Hi Neel! I’m happy you had the opportunity to bring light to a subject that is often overlooked. During my time at the Bureau, I got to spend a lot of time looking at surveys and other types of forms and my advisors always paid a lot of attention to making sure that the forms were the proper length to keep people from getting overwhelmed but still get the information they needed. I hadn’t considered before how much the length of the FAFSA could contribute to who fills it out. Your point on financial literacy is also interesting to me, since it came up in my project as well as an alternative to manipulating pay frequency.

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