‘Why should we reward colleges with more funds for raising their rates?’
Applications for college financial aid are down dramatically this year. Yet given the economic crisis, it’s a safe bet that more students will need financial support. With the lockdowns removing regular access to guidance counselors and other resources to help them, these struggling students, including the children of front-line workers, won’t know where to turn for help to navigate the complex maze of financial applications.
They need a reformed system, and the pandemic is a great opportunity to rethink our federal financial-aid system — especially by adding transparency for students and accountability for colleges.
The most obvious problem is with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid itself. With over 100 items on the form, many students and parents find it overwhelming, if not downright baffling. Surveys show many applicants don’t have enough information to complete the application or find it too time-consuming.
This, even though everything the government should need to know to make determinations can be found on a family’s tax return. We could eliminate the FAFSA altogether or reduce the questions to those that fit on a postcard, suggests Richard Vedder, an economist at Ohio University.
But the form is only the tip of the iceberg. Students and parents have no idea how the financial-aid “formula” actually works. Why is it that the same California student who decides to go to Stanford will receive more money in aid than if she attends the University of California system?
James Piereson is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
Naomi Schaefer Riley is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.
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