18 Dec What’s New and Challenging – How to Help Today’s Pell-Eligible Student Finance their Education
According to a survey by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 70% of the students cited financial aid as the reason for dropping out of college. You’d think there must be a shortage of funding available. Not quite.
In 2015, USA Today reported that $2.9 billion in financial aid went unclaimed. That is an enormous amount of available and unused money. Why aren’t the students getting it?
This complex problem has two parts: First, many students of promise (first-gen, Pell-eligible) are not aware financial aid is available; and, second, those who are aware do not know how to apply successfully.
Financial Aid, It Shouldn’t Be This Tough
There is only a 44% Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion rate by high school seniors. Students are giving up on getting through the application process, which indicates that although they are motivated enough to begin, the task is proving unmanageable.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics’ Education Longitudinal Survey, over 16% of low-income, first-time, full-time freshmen enrollments in 2012 forfeited during the enrollment process due to confusion or anxiety over financial aid.
Red Tape Prevents Students from Receiving Necessary Aid
As of 2017, the student aid office of a college or university is required to verify with the Internal Revenue Service the filing status of students whose families didn’t earn enough to file. This step, intended to preserve the integrity of aid distribution, has made it more difficult for students of promise to receive aid.
The verification process is lengthy and manual, requiring families to submit forms via mail. If everything goes smoothly, students receive an answer within 20 business days. However, since many parents are unfamiliar with the process, administrative errors are possible; if they omit any information or fill out the forms incorrectly, student aid could be delayed or denied, which ultimately interrupts or impedes the student’s education.
Bridge the Gap
Students are not receiving the financial aid they need, and colleges are losing students and money. Luckily, we don’t have to wait for systematic restructuring to fix this problem. We can bridge the gaps by employing personalized coaching and technology to meet students where they are in the financial aid planning process.
Though scaling successful retention programs at an institutional level proves difficult, a growing number of institutions are increasingly and successfully integrating targeted support systems for closing the most substantial rifts.
One such support program, BridgeEdU, teams up with institutions to pair Pell-eligible students with Success Coaches, who are experts in financial aid counseling and financial literacy. The program’s Financial Aid Coordinators and Success Coaches further this partnership with institutional financial aid counselors to learn the school’s processes, assist with document completion, and train students to successfully manage these responsibilities in subsequent years.