The Hidden Use of the FAFSA Information

We recommend that every family complete the FAFSA no matter what your financial position.  What many parents and students do not realize is that this information may hurt your financial aid package and admissions.  It is important to realize that the colleges maybe using the non-financial information against you in their decisions.  This is explained in a Higher Education article called “Using FAFSA Against Students”.

For people not familiar with the term FAFSA, it stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  You need to complete this form each year that you want to qualify for federal and college financial aid.

The article explains how college’s enrollment management departments are using the list of schools on the FAFSA form.  Some school’s admissions and financial aid decisions are influences by the position on the FAFSA form.  As I often discuss, getting a college education is big business.  At times, we overlook the business aspects of the process and focus on the emotional side of the decision.  This article will help you better understand the business side of the process.

Two major problems with the schools using the FAFSA information as a reference point.  In some cases the order may not be correct.  As an example in Pennsylvania, you should have a Pennsylvania school in the first position so that the state’s higher education department (PHEAA) will pick it up to qualify for state grant money.  Other states have similar rules.

The second reason is confidentiality.  When you, as a parent, cannot get access to your child’s college grades unless they give you permission but you are paying the bill. It seems unfair the schools have access to your thought process in your college priority.

On the other hand, can you blame them if you consider this a business?  The colleges are trying to maximize the grading system that the various publications developed.  Not that I agree with the process, but in your admission decision would you not use every available resource to get access to the best schools.  This blog article is just pointing out one other aspects of how colleges make their decisions.  It is always not fair or transparent.

The FAFSA process is not the only place you exposed your priority list.  When you listed the four free schools on your standardized test, guess who saw your list of schools in that process.  The schools are using an increasing amount of data to determine your interest in their school and their decisions.

In closing, I think the FAFSA list process should be changed and the list of schools should not be available to the colleges.  I always tell parents not to list your schools on the ACT or SAT for a variety of reasons.  That being said every family should complete the FAFSA form no matter what your financial position is.  By completing the FAFSA, the student will qualify for a loan in their name and it gives them some skin in their college investment.

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