Title: The Lifecycle of FInancial Challenges for Lower-Income Students
The FAFSA and the financial aid processes provide numerous challenges for students who come from lower-income backgrounds, throughout the lifecycle of their financial aid requests. BridgeEdU helps students of promise navigate four primary challenge areas.
Challenge Area 1) Receiving Aid
Lower-income students often trigger a verification process, forcing them and their families to prove to the college and the federal government that they are indeed needy of funding. Challenges include:
a) FAFSA loan processes can be confusing for anyone but are extra challenging for underserved students who are selected for “verification processes” three times more frequently than their more well-to-do peers.
b) Requests for what may be considered intrusive information about the student’s household, family living circumstances or legal status, that must match what is originally reported on the FAFSA
c) Requirements to re-submit incorrect tax filings to the IRS
d) Requests for citizenship documents, birth certificates, and proof of siblings college attendance
e) Proof of receipt of certain means-tested benefits or other funding, such as child support
f) Documentation of the cost of living and other related expenses and how a family survives with a lower income
g) Paper copies of W-2 forms and tax transcripts
All these requirements, which are sometimes iterative, can delay processing for weeks or even months. Some students never satisfy these requests.
50 percent of lower income students are selected each year for verification
22 percent of those selected give up on applying for financial aid
Source: National College Access Network
Challenge 2) Understanding the Aid
Award letters confuse students about grants, scholarships, and loans. They do not understand:
What are loans and grants and how it impacts their total cost for college
What is their obligation to repay long-term
GPA and progress requirements to ensuring grants and loans continue
Academic credit accumulation and its importance to their financial obligation
What additional costs the college or university includes in their costs for college that do not appear on the award letter
More than one third of universities do not include the complete cost of attending in their award letters.
Source: New America and uAspire
Challenge Area 3) Understanding their Investment and Impacts on Their Future
Without the non-academic support structures, students struggle with many priorities and challenges and often drop out before they can realize the ROI in their college investment. Some challenges include:
Bridge support to level up on academic skills
Social and emotional support
Balancing academic life and work-life
Supporting dependents while going to school
Call-out Box: 3.9 million or 23 percent of undergraduates with federal student loan debt dropped out during the 2015 and 2016 fiscal years.
Source: Hechinger Report
Challenge Area 4) Paying Back the Loan
Financial debt from school in the long term can have serious implications for students, particularly if they drop out or take more loans than recommended for the institution or degree.
Students need to understand:
How much they will repay
How long they will repay
That failing to complete college does not relieve them of their debt
Which career paths will empower them to achieve ROI
Call Out Box
44 million Americans have outstanding student loans, with about one-third in default, deferment or forbearance due to financial stress.
Source: The Department of Education
CTA: BridgeEdU works to serve students of promise. Our Financial Aid Coaching Tool (FACT) helps institutions and students understand their financial investment and how it relates to their academic momentum. BridgeEdU supports students by removing common barriers to success. Learn more at http://bridgeedu.com.