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!