Arrival of PPY, Early FAFSA May Shift College Admissions and Financial Aid Cycles, Surveys Find

By Allie Bidwell, Communications Staff

With the introduction of the use of prior-prior year (PPY) income data and Early FAFSA, many colleges and universities say they expect to deliver their financial aid awards earlier than in previous years, according to a new study. But some are also feeling pressure to adjust their admissions cycles to remain competitive.

The study, released on Monday by Cegment, Inc., surveyed 543 college professionals (including financial aid administrators) and 1,031 high school seniors and their parents. Of the college-bound students and their families surveyed, 69 percent said having an earlier understanding of their cost and financial aid eligibility at the colleges they are considering would be helpful. The vast majority – 90 percent – also said they want to receive their financial aid award letters earlier, and 41 percent want it before January 1. Of the college professionals surveyed, 77 percent said their institutions plan to deliver final award letters or estimated award letters sooner. The survey report did not, however, address the adjustment of financial aid priority deadlines.

“These changes will give students and families more time to plan and select a college with earlier and more complete information,” said Craig Carroll, founder of Cegment, Inc. (, in a statement. “College cost and financial aid eligibility will move even more to the forefront of the decision process, while colleges will be faced with an even longer admissions cycle than before.”

A significant portion of the college professionals surveyed – 89 percent – said they think the shift to PPY and Early FAFSA will have a very significant impact on the college admissions process, and about two-thirds said their institutions will make changes for the upcoming admissions cycle.

More than half of the students and parents surveyed said they wanted earlier admissions decisions, and more than one-third of the college professionals surveyed said their institutions have plans to shift the timing of their admissions cycles, such as by making applications available earlier, implementing earlier deadlines, or giving earlier admissions decisions.

“While a large percentage of institutions are not yet ready to make the leap to moving their admissions process earlier, many plan to shift their admissions strategy in other ways,” the survey said, noting that nearly half of the college professionals surveyed said their schools plan to engage with prospective students more aggressively. More than one quarter of college professionals also said their schools plan to institute an “early-decision” or “early-action” program.

However, a survey conducted by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) on a similar topic yielded slightly different results. While the vast majority of the 480 institutions that responded were aware of the change to PPY and Early FAFSA, and viewed the change as “good for students,” more than two-thirds (69 percent) said the change will not impact the undergraduate admissions calendar at their institution. And for those institutions that said they will make a change, most will begin their student outreach activities at an earlier date.


Publication Date: 8/3/2016

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