Why Is Financial Aid So Difficult?
The application procedure for financial aid requires tax returns, an internet connection, and deep knowledge of the federal government and FAFSA, which no one seems to have saved the policy wonks who developed it. And the government wants it to stay that way, so it doesn’t have to deal with broader concerns like the economic and societal challenges that hinder Americans from pursuing higher education.
If you haven’t completed a FAFSA form in a while, the paper allocation has over 100 questions and dozens of pages of instructions. When you fill it out online, the system uses your responses to determine which questions you need to answer. However, you are dealing with a website that is far from user-friendly, utilizes ‘you’ and ‘your’ interchangeably to refer to parents and learners, and even signing in can be difficult due to the strange terminology.
More significantly, filling out the FAFSA doesn’t tell you what you qualify for until you’ve chosen an institution, leaving you in the dark even after all of your hard work, and the great majority of the questions have no bearing on how aid is targeted.
The government is aware of the FAFSA application’s excessive complications. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee presented the Financial Aid Simplification and Transparency Act in 2015, which would make it easier for learners to apply for aid (FAST Act).
The act would have reduced red tape and needed only two questions to make aid more accessible and predictable. Regrettably, the bill was never put to a vote.
Why complicate the system?
Learners are urged to apply for FAFSA as soon as possible to maximize their award because there is more money available earlier in the application season. Being at the front of the queue keeps students from arriving at the counter and discovering that the bank has run out of money.
This is the key to understanding why the FAFSA is so difficult.
There is only so much money that can be distributed, and if everyone has the time, patience, and overall ability to apply for financial help, it will run out sooner than later. Indeed, research has shown that those most impacted by the intricacies of FAFSA are students with fewer resources – individuals who would also qualify for more aid based on their family income.
More learners asking for and being eligible for more money would place even more strain on the government’s willingness to make resources available for higher education. This would push it to address issues like poverty and rising income disparity, which require more than simply reducing the number of questions on an application.
FAFSA applications are difficult — and everyone, including the government, is aware of this. Unfortunately, college and college access are not expected to improve any time soon.