Helping College Students Navigate Financial Aid: The Dos and Don’ts

 

tichavakundaToday’s blogger is Antar Tichavakunda, doctoral candidate at the University of Southern California and researcher in the Pullias Center for Higher Education. Read his full article, “Perceptions of Financial Aid: Black Students at a Predominantly White Institution,” in The Educational Forum. Part 1 of his blog series can be found here.

The majority of college students, in one way or another, will come in contact with their school’s financial aid office.

Students and their families first become acquainted with financial aid as seniors in high school applying to colleges—meaning it’s important for secondary school educators to be aware of the process students are negotiating. They fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and other documents to better understand how much college attendance will cost them.

Students will consider different types of loans, learn of their eligibility for grants or scholarships, and ultimately decide with their parents what school to attend and how they will fund attendance.

This is no simple task.

Researchers and policy makers cite the complexity of financial aid forms as an obstacle to college attendance.

But the financial aid process does not stop there.

Students who depend on financial aid keep up with deadlines, get tax documents from parents, and renew FAFSA on a yearly basis. As I explore in my article, the yearly financial aid process should not be taken for granted. While the focus of my paper is on Black students’ experiences and perceptions of financial aid at a predominantly White institution of higher education, a few takeaways apply to any student in higher education who depends on financial aid.

Here are some recommendations for high school counselors, financial aid officers, administrators, and anyone concerned with supporting students’ college experiences:

Do:

  • Encourage a proactive approach to financial aid—both for students and for the financial aid office staff. Students should be encouraged to ask questions, and the financial aid office should likewise reach out to students.
  • Encourage in-person interactions—students in my study suggested that going into the financial aid office, in person, was the most efficient mode of communication.
  • Encourage an understanding of web resources—students found the user-friendly, in-depth nature of the school’s financial aid website valuable in their experience with financial aid.

Don’t:

  • Assume financial aid literacy as a given—learning about financial aid is an ongoing process for many students, and all students, particularly those who may be the first in their families to attend college, may have knowledge gaps.
  • Assume that financial aid is only for parents—some students, even though they are still teenagers, are the ones entrusted with filling out their financial aid forms and collecting tax documents from their parents.
  • Assume that students of the same race have similar backgrounds—regardless of race, students have different experiences and upbringings. Even students of similar socioeconomic backgrounds might display different levels of financial aid acumen.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Antar Tichavakunda’s article with the education community for free through February 28, 2017.

One thought on “Helping College Students Navigate Financial Aid: The Dos and Don’ts

  1. Peggy L Moch says:

    FAFSA requirements have recently changed allowing students to apply for financial aid much sooner than previously. Here at my university in south GA we are pushing all students to file early this year. I strong urge all students to check with their financial aid advisers to make sure they get this taken care of in a timely fashion. 🙂 Peggy Moch

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