Study: Early FAFSA Has Sped Up Student Filing Rates

By Allie Bidwell, Communications Staff

Students who will be starting college next fall are taking advantage of the Early FAFSA filing date, according to real-time data collected by Royall & Company, a division of EAB.

The results of the survey, published Thursday, show that on average, the 171 schools that participated reported that they have already received nearly one-third of the total FAFSA filings they received last year. No schools reported receiving less than 20 percent of last year’s total, the survey said.

Although schools overall are seeing increased FAFSA filings, the increases varied across sectors. While private colleges and universities reported receiving 35 percent of last year’s total FAFSA filings, public schools reported receiving 20 percent.

“This disparity probably reflects students’ belief that they cannot afford private school tuition and are therefore more intentional about their pursuit of financial aid at those institutions,” wrote Pam Kiecker Royall, head of research for Royall & Company, in a blog post.

The group also found that institutions that launched marketing campaigns promoting the Early FAFSA sooner – over the summer – saw FAFSA submission rates more than two times higher (43 percent vs. 21 percent) than those that launched their marketing campaigns in the fall.

“This sharp contrast in launch timing results confirms our long-standing belief that early outreach drives better response rates, a correlation that also points to our finding that applications deployed early garnered a greater FAFSA lift than those that did not,” Royall wrote.

Since President Barack Obama announced the use of prior-prior year (PPY) income to facilitate the Early FAFSA, some schools have seen the move as an opportunity to notify students of their aid offers sooner.

Royall & Company’s data shows that many schools intend to adjust the timing of their aid offers. Overall, 57 percent said they would notify students of need-based aid between two and eight weeks earlier than last year, and 30 percent said they would include need-based aid offers in their admissions letters.

“Our research — the first based on real student actions rather than measures of students’ future intentions — paints a clear picture of the impact of ‘earliness’ in college enrollment management: early FAFSA availability stimulates early student FAFSA filings that should prompt institutions’ earlier marketing campaigns, application deadlines, and financial aid offers,” Royall wrote.


Publication Date: 12/5/2016

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