"In 2015 the White House made an announcement that some enrollment experts predicted could transform the college-admissions process. Soon, students would be able to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid earlier and using older tax information. ... The change, some argued, could have much larger implications for how colleges operate. ... Has it?" The Chronicle of Higher Education asks.
"Midway through the first admissions cycle since the Fafsa changes took effect, it’s still too soon to say, though many people are looking for signs. Admissions deans are capitalizing on the new timing — and sweating a cycle that’s especially difficult to predict. And advocacy groups are worried that when the dust settles, the early Fafsa will be one more effort to help low-income students that ends up mostly benefiting more-affluent ones. ...
While many student advocates were excited about the idea of using older tax data, few had thought through the implications that moving up the financial-aid timeline would have for colleges.
What do we know about how things are playing out so far? According to the Education Department, more than five million Fafsa applications had been processed by December 30. Applications are down significantly compared with the first three months of previous cycles: About eight million applications are typically filed in the first quarter, according to the department.
The department points to several explanations. First, applicants have a longer timeline in which to file this year. And second, many of the deadlines for state grant aid — which can lead to spikes in filing — haven’t hit yet. As a result, the department expects the numbers to keep going up in February and March.
About half of this cycle’s aid applicants are eligible for federal Pell Grants, which go to low-income students, according to the department. That percentage is similar to those of previous years."
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Publication Date: 1/30/2017