op-ed: the early fafsa

“Failure is the tuition you pay for success.” – Walter Brunel

The early FAFSA has brought forth a litany of questions about how it will affect admissions deadlines, financial aid policies, and recruitment efforts.

The Change: The new FAFSA will use financial aid information from the past two years instead of only using the a family’s tax information from the preceding year.

New Submission Date:  Students can now submit the FAFSA earlier−on October 1st and continue to file until the next year.

Presently, the only qualification to obtain the grant is to be a citizen or an eligible non-citizen. In each case, a student must also have a high financial need, as determined by a family’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

However, excluded from this narrative, is how a student could barely pass high school and receive a full Pell grant. For the 2016–17 award year (July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017), the maximum award is $5,815, which is to divided between fall and spring semesters.

Working with different demographics, I have seen students who barely pass high school or who have recently emigrated to the United States, as an eligible non-citizen, receive full awards. In contrast, the lower middle-class student, with perfect grades, often times gets zilch.

FAFSA states that it has implemented the change to put “less pressure” on families who “won’t need to estimate” tax information. However, working in college admissions, the real reason may be to redress loopholes in the system.

For example, some families may list only one parent on the IRS tax form, with that specific parent claiming all the dependents in the family. In this manner, those who are generally seen as “too wealthy” by the federal government, which is determined by the family’s needs analysis, will get some aid.

Nonetheless, the implementation of the two-year rule may not fully curtail abuses. Families may still try to work the system, because the federal government has yet to solve the rising cost of education and the crippling student debt crisis.

Ultimately, the socioeconomic implications of the new FAFSA have yet to be foreseen. From an institutional perspective, universities may have to reevaluate deadlines, offers of admissions, and recruitment practices. From a student perspective, families are still not being informed about the true cost of college nor is the middle-class receiving the full scope of financial aid that they should be entitled to have.

If FAFSA truly wanted to rectify its policies and procedures, as the award has not increased relative to college costs, then it should institute a GPA restriction as well as a residency requirement of at least two years.

There will be much discussion about FAFSA, included within the larger debate about the high cost of college, as many answers are still unknown and will not be known till the early FAFSA has been fully instituted.

x-Jennifer

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