It took a lot of work to become a high-achieving high school senior.
You studied hard, got involved outside the classroom, and took pride in your accomplishments.
You are now in the middle of applying to numerous colleges and universities, completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and having staff at your school talk to you about scholarship opportunities. You are being congratulated and celebrated by family, teachers, and community members for your hard work and good grades—and you might have been told that a college is sure to award you a large or full-ride scholarship due to your GPA and achievements.
As a financial aid administrator for 26 years, this is when I get concerned. The false presumption among many students that their top-choice college will surely offer them an attractive financial aid package too often leads to students spending little or no time applying for local scholarships.
The Biden administration recently announced the reconstitution of an office designed to safeguard taxpayer-funded student aid dollars and protect students from predatory colleges. The previous administration had “deprioritized” the department tasked with enforcement of student protection regulations within the Office of Federal Student Aid in a move viewed by pro-student advocates as enabling problematic behavior on the part of predatory colleges.
In 2010, the federal government eliminated the bank-based student loan program (formerly the Federal Family Education Loan Program, or FFELP) in favor of originating loans directly from the Department of Education). The move saved the federal government more than $10 billion in payments to banks—funding that has since been used to increase student aid. While the department serves as the loan originator, the role of servicing student loans was left to external entities.
You completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and submitted all the needed paperwork.
Now you are enrolled in school and your friends are talking about getting a refund check. An email sent from your college says the funds will be available soon. Spring break is coming up and some of your friends are talking about going to the beach. Then you get another email from the campus housing office. They are asking you to save a few hundred dollars for the housing deposit for the upcoming fall semester.
Now you are curious. Is a refund going to be in your bank account? You may be wondering: “Is this extra money for me to spend?”
A new national campaign is underway to increase federal financial aid for low- and moderate-income students.
The aim of #DoublePell is simple. Supporters want to double the maximum Pell Grant, a move that would allow a student’s annual award to top out at $13,000.
A new website, doublepell.org, offers more information about the proposal and includes a customizable letter that students, families, and others can send to their members of Congress to communicate support for the increase.
Last week, the Department of Education wrapped up its four-day virtual Federal Student Aid (FSA) Training Conference. The conference mainly serves as an annual training for financial aid professionals who disburse federal aid to students on campus.
COVID-19 has created a great deal of uncertainty among students and families, as well as admission and financial aid professionals. Foremost among these uncertainties is the fact that there has been a 15 percent decline in FAFSA submissions from high school seniors nationwide compared with the same time last year.
Now, more than ever, students and families need information and support to complete the financial aid process.
Applying for financial aid can be a complicated task that requires significant time and effort for students and their families. According to recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics, although 65 percent of students who were high school freshmen in 2009 ultimately reported completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), 24 percent did not. Those who did not submit a FAFSA cited lack of awareness, lack of understanding of FAFSA requirements, and lack of time as barriers to completion.
On Sept. 17, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing titled “Time to Finish Fixing the FAFSA.” Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and ranking member Patty Murray (D-WA) have both sponsored FAFSA simplification legislation.