Two years after the world learned to use “quarantine,” “pivot,” “Zoom meetings,” and other words associated with adapting to the pandemic, some important terms that many students, families, and educators may not know much about — but have been around for a long time — are “tax credits” and, more specifically, “education tax credits.” Typically, words such as “taxes” and “IRS” are avoided unless speaking directly to a tax professional, but bringing awareness of the terms is crucial to helping families and educators learn about the benefits they offer.Continue reading Tax Filing: What You Should Know About Education Tax Credits
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.
Historically, Black and Latinx students have been at significant educational disadvantages. These inequities have crossed into many facets of higher education, from access to quality K-12 education to enrollment rates at selective institutions. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has deepened these inequities, as the virus has disproportionately affected low-income Black and Latinx students’ ability to receive a quality education.
Researchers at EAB wanted to determine if these inequities extended to enrollment deposits and financial aid at colleges and universities. To do so, they analyzed enrollment data and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) deposit information of 500,000 students admitted to four-year colleges across the United States for the Fall 2020 semester.
Results of the study indicate a widening equity gap. According to deposit submission rates, low-income and minority students are not submitting deposits as much as in previous years. While deposits are down across all low- and middle-income households, they are lowest among Pell-eligible households. When broken down by race and ethnicity, Black students were significantly more likely not to submit deposits when compared to other ethnic groups.
Also, of significant concern is the percentage of low-income students who have not filed a FAFSA form even though they qualify for financial aid. Eighteen percent of Black students and 15 percent of Latinx students have not yet filed their FAFSA form for the Fall 2020 year, rates much higher than white and Asian students. While minority students usually file at lesser rates than white students, the heightened rates for the Fall 2020 semester indicate that the coronavirus pandemic may be disproportionally affecting the minority student population.
As a result of the findings, EAB encourages colleges and universities to act swiftly to ebb the impact of coronavirus on low-income and minority students. They suggest that the first step involves identifying and contacting students who have made a deposit, but have yet to complete and submit their FAFSA. Colleges can then provide FAFSA completion support to help students submit their financial aid information. EAB urges colleges to be consistent, persistent, and clear in their messaging to relate the significance of filing these important documents.
Read more about FAFSA filings and enrollment declines.
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School closures and the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus propelled a decrease in FAFSA applications nationally, according to an Associated Press analysis of federal data.
As of mid-June, 70,000 fewer students had filed for federal aid compared to the same time period in 2019. The decline represents a 3.7 percent drop overall.
Louisiana became the first state in the nation in 2018 to set FAFSA completion as a high school graduation requirement.
Since then, Illinois and Texas have adopted similar policies and several other states are weighing the option.
Officials from Louisiana recently shared their state’s story during a webinar organized by the Education Commission of the States. During the hour-long presentation, education leaders explained the process Louisiana followed when adopting the new requirement and discussed how counselors can support students as they file for financial aid.
Should high schoolers need to complete the FAFSA in order to graduate?
CEOs from two college access organizations — uAspire and CollegeSpring — think so.
From not getting an FSA ID before filling out the FAFSA to forgetting to sign the form — it’s easy to make missteps when applying for federal financial aid.
But the US Department of Education wants to help students avoid the most common mistakes.
Officials published a blog post this month outlining 11 common FAFSA errors, and the article offers plenty of helpful information to guide students and families as they complete the form.
It’s FAFSA season!
Looking for a better way to chart submission rates for the students you serve? Check out the US Department of Education’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid Completion Tool.
The searchable database provides weekly updates for every high school where five or more students have filed a FAFSA.
The Department of Education recently announced changes to FAFSA verification aimed to help make the process less burdensome.
In lieu of IRS tax return transcripts and verification of non-filing forms, the guidance allows institutions to accept copies of signed income tax returns and written statements of non-filing from students who are selected for FAFSA verification. The changes are effective immediately and apply to both the 2018-19 and 2019-20 cycles.