While President Obama is on his bus tour promoting his ideas for making college more affordable, so many barriers remain in place for low-income students. The federal financial aid form — the FAFSA — is one barrier that could be fixed, but isn’t.
Sara Goldrick Rab has been retweeting students’ laments about the FAFSA as another school year starts, and today she “Storified” the Tweets. This us a must read.
My colleague speak often about the financial aid available to our students. My sense is that few people working in higher ed know how challenging the financial aid paperwork can be for many students — especially for First Generation students.
Sadly, this is an old problem. I waited for scholarship, PELL Grants, and all other AID through Financial Aid when I was in college (> 20 years ago) and started many years unable to buy my books (and I was working) because it took so long for the funds to come through. The library usually had 1-3 copies of the text books, and I definitely wasn’t the only one in my circumstance, because that was never enough!
When I started up the Rocky Mt. Chapter of SWEP (a Chapter of a women’s environmental professionals organization), I had the pleasure of awarding 3 $1K scholarships during my tenure. At my urging, we set it up so that the selectee got a check – from us. The student did need to submit a transcript, an essay, and meet some other criteria, but once we selected, the money was the student’s. Period.
I am happy to say I’ve seen some other organizations use this model since. It’s one thing to have tough criteria for funding; it’s another entirely to set up the awarding of funding such that inequality between low-income and higher-income students is guaranteed.
Thanks for the great comment. What a thing of dignity and integrity, to just hand students the money that they need.
There’s this whole sense that the FAFSA and other financial aid work is built around assumptions of weeding out cheats instead of supporting great students who just plain don’t have the cash to go to school.
Thanks for reminding us that it doesn’t have to be that way. ________________________________________
The honor system is undervalued. In reality, most folks who cheat this system will fail out – and not get to cheat it again – and there will be few cheats when one is drawing from a population where integrity and reputation are all one has.
The belief that lower income folks are more likely to abuse a system is so tragically wrong and can’t begin to address it in a comment.