This week marked a milestone in the White House’s efforts to improve access to affordable postsecondary education. On Monday, President Obama announced changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to make the form easier for students to file.
The changes, which start with the 2017-18 FAFSA, allow families to submit the FAFSA as early as October 1 – three months earlier than the current January 1 date. Families will also be able to use income information from the “prior-prior” year, so students can find out their aid eligibility earlier in the college application process.
Making the FAFSA process simpler is a big help to students, but they’ll continue to need support from you. As The Chronicle of Higher Education points out, making the application process easier isn’t a magic cure for FAFSA. Shifting from a paper application to an online form cut the average completion time by nearly a third, yet nearly two million eligible students still don’t file the FAFSA each year.
Nearly $9.5 billion in federal Pell Grants is available for those two million students, and it might be only a text message away. Text messaging is an effective way to nudge students through the FAFSA process. One study found that text messages sent through Signal Vine’s platform increased persistence by nearly twelve percentage points by sending students text reminders to refile their FAFSA each year.
Financial aid is always going to be stressful for students. The recent changes are definitely a great step toward a simpler FAFSA, but there are still 108 questions on the form. There are still strict deadlines. There are still many, many questions on students’ minds. Organizations must continue to support students throughout the financial aid process to ensure that all students have access to an affordable education.
See how text messaging improves FAFSA completion rates.