Student Awareness Lags as FAFSA Challenges Persist: Survey Reveals 1 in 5 Uninformed or Unconcerned About Changes


The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial gateway for millions of students seeking financial assistance for higher education. However, a recent survey conducted by The Generation Lab for Inside Higher Ed has revealed a concerning trend: one in five current college students are either unaware of changes to the FAFSA or are unconcerned about its implications. This lack of awareness could have significant consequences for students' financial aid packages and their ability to continue their education.

Student Awareness Lags as FAFSA Challenges Persist: Survey Reveals 1 in 5 Uninformed or Unconcerned About Changes

(Photo : PEXELS / Armin Rimoldi)

Lack of Awareness: A Barrier to Financial Aid

The survey data paints a clear picture: 21 percent of college students are not informed about the new FAFSA requirements or changes to the form. This lack of awareness is particularly troubling given that half of these students rely on federal financial aid. Among those who are aware of the changes, 18 percent express no concern, while 14 percent opted not to fill out the FAFSA because they do not expect to receive financial aid.

The implications of this lack of awareness are significant. As financial aid officers rush to provide incoming students with their aid packages, returning students may be caught off guard by changes to their financial aid offers. Jhenai Chandler, who holds the position of senior director of college completion at The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS), stresses the need to sustain a similar level of effort in retaining students as is dedicated to enrolling them. She asserts that FAFSA serves not only as a means of enrollment but also as a method of retaining students.

READ MORE: Department Of Education Implements Temporary Fix For FAFSA Social Security Glitch, Benefits Mixed-Status Families 

Financial Challenges and Student Concerns

Financial challenges are among the top concerns for college students, particularly for those who have considered stopping out. The survey found that students who receive financial aid are more likely to be concerned about the FAFSA rollout this year. Six in 10 students who receive federal aid express some level of concern, while 49 percent of low-income students are also worried about the FAFSA changes.

MorraLee Keller, senior director of strategic programming at the National College Attainment Network, notes that not every student fills out their own FAFSA, often relying on their parents for data. However, the lack of information about delays and changes to financial aid offers could lead to students making uninformed decisions about their enrollment status. Chandler echoes this concern, highlighting the risk of students reducing their course load, leaving college, or taking on excessive student loan debt due to a lack of information.

Communication Challenges and Solutions

One-third of students feel that their college has communicated poorly about the new FAFSA requirements, while only one-third believe that their college has communicated well. This lack of effective communication is partially attributed to the rocky rollout of the changes by the Department of Education, which provided colleges with new or changing information on a daily basis. Keller suggests that given the extent of the changes, no amount of communication from colleges would have been satisfactory.

To address these gaps in communication, Chandler recommends that all staff interacting with students should be aware of the FAFSA changes. Advisers, in particular, should be alerting students to potential changes to their aid packages. Institutional leaders should also ensure that student-facing personnel are equipped with the tools and resources to assist students with their FAFSA and financial wellness.

The FAFSA is a critical tool for millions of students seeking to fund their higher education. However, the lack of awareness among college students about changes to the FAFSA requirements poses a significant challenge. To address this issue, colleges and universities must improve communication with students and ensure that they are aware of the resources available to support them through the FAFSA process. By doing so, institutions can help students navigate the FAFSA maze and access the financial aid they need to succeed in college.

RELATED ARTICLE: Cordray Departs Federal Student Aid Amid FAFSA Fallout 

© 2024 University Herald, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
Join the Discussion
Real Time Analytics