Improving Financial Aid Process May Make Colleges More Attractive, Report Says 

By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Staff Reporter

The college financial aid process has more significantly impacted school choice in recent years, with a heightened increase among black, Hispanic, and first-generation students, according to a recently published report from CampusLogic and Gallup.

The survey aims to help college and university leaders better understand the challenges students face when it comes to financial aid needs and experiences, and collected responses from more than 25,000 U.S. adults who are either college alumni or reported as having completed some college, but not attained a degree.

“The financial aid process matters when deciding where to attend college. With the rapidly rising price tag of college, those considering college as a next step must navigate an increasingly complex and frustrating financial aid process,” Gallup wrote in a blog post on the report.

According to the report, the importance of the financial aid process for college choice has become more important with each passing year. Between the 1970s and the 2010s, the percent of alumni reporting that the financial aid process affected their school choice nearly doubled from 27.9% to 53.9%.

While roughly 4 in 10 recent college graduates surveyed said the financial aid process affected their decision to attend a specific school, black and Hispanic alumni were 1.6 times more likely than white and Asian respondents to say the process affected their enrollment decision “a lot,” with 50.8% of black alumni and 51.5% of Hispanic alumni reporting the financial aid process impacted their school decision.

Additionally, the survey found a more heightened impact for first-generation students with 44% reporting the financial aid process having “a lot” or “some” impact on school choice, compared with 38% of students who have a parent who graduated from college.

The report also highlighted a number of financial aid trends for individuals who did not complete college and found that 66.4% of non-completers said the financial aid process was a source of stress while enrolled, 25% of whom said it was a major cause of stress.

Further, three-quarters of respondents who did not complete their program said they were more likely to apply to institutions that provided clear information about the cost of attendance. 

Of those surveyed, 31.4% of former students reported that they would be more likely to return to complete their program of study if they had more information about outside scholarship availability. This was followed closely by 29.5% who wanted more personalized financial aid office support, and 29.2% who wanted better information about the true cost of completing their program.

“With the admissions process for fall 2020 wrapping up amid an uncertain environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, colleges and universities are once again asking themselves how they can encourage their applicants to spend the next chapter of their lives at their institution,” the Gallup blog post said. “To adapt to the changing needs of applicants and attract more potential enrollees, colleges can update their financial aid process to ease the burden on applicants. Through this, schools can diversify their student body and be more attractive to students and their families.”


Publication Date: 6/11/2020

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