Navigating the Challenges of the New FAFSA

The introduction of the new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) has brought about significant shifts in the landscape of college financial aid. While the intent was to simplify the process, recent developments suggest a more complex reality. Here’s a comprehensive look at the challenges posed by the new FAFSA and the innovative responses from higher education institutions: 

1. Decrease in FAFSA Submissions
  • Problems with the new FAFSA have led to a decline in the number of students applying for college financial aid.
  • According to higher education expert Mark Kantrowitz, the Department of Education anticipates a 15 percent decrease in FAFSA submissions, equating to approximately 2 million fewer applications this year.
  • This trend raises concerns about reduced access to higher education, as financial resources play a pivotal role in students’ decision-making processes.
2. Innovative Responses from Higher Education Institutions
  • In response to the challenges posed by the new FAFSA, higher education institutions have taken proactive measures to support students in navigating the financial aid landscape.
  • Tom Delahunt, vice president for strategic recruitment and enrollment at Southwestern University, spearheaded the development of a makeshift financial aid estimate form. Mimicking the new Student Aid Index calculations, this form provides admitted students with a preliminary understanding of their potential aid packages.
  • Similarly, Rob Reddy, vice president for enrollment management at St. Louis University, devised an alternative form that mirrors the new FAFSA. With over 430 completed forms received within a week, the university’s initiative underscores the demand for information among students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • Carroll College in Montana has adopted a conditional guarantee approach, offering aid package estimates based on Student Aid Index numbers from filed FAFSAs. While providing valuable insights to students and families, Carroll’s approach acknowledges potential changes in final federal aid and ensures transparency throughout the process. 
3. Benefits of Institutional Forms and Estimates 
  • The introduction of institutional forms and estimates serves multiple purposes beyond providing financial clarity to students and families.
  • By offering early aid guarantees, institutions instill confidence in prospective students and facilitate informed decision-making.
  • Additionally, in a year marked by uncertainty, institutions that provide timely aid offers may gain a competitive edge, attracting students seeking stability amidst fluctuating circumstances. 

In conclusion, the implementation of the new FAFSA has prompted both challenges and innovative solutions within the realm of higher education. While the road ahead may be fraught with uncertainties, the proactive efforts of institutions demonstrate a collective commitment to supporting students on their journey toward educational attainment. As the landscape continues to evolve, collaboration and adaptability remain paramount in ensuring equitable access to higher education for all. 

By Cat Hollands, Capture Client Trainer, Capture Higher Ed