Using FAFSA Against Students
Career College Central summary:
Some colleges are denying admission and perhaps reducing financial aid to students based on a single, non-financial, non-academic question that students submit to the federal government on their applications for student aid.
Millions of high school students and their parents probably have no idea this happens after they fill out the ubiquitous Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The form, known as the FAFSA, is used by nearly every American who needs help paying for college. It turns out students’ pleas for help are now being systematically used against them by some colleges.
When would-be college students apply for financial aid using the FAFSA, they are asked to list the colleges they are thinking about attending. The online version of the form asks applicants to submit up to 10 college names. The U.S. Department of Education then shares all the information on the FAFSA with all of the colleges on the list, as well as state agencies involved in awarding student aid. The form notes that the information could be used by state agencies, but there is no mention that individual colleges will use the information in admissions or financial aid — and there is no indication that students could be punished by colleges for where they appear on the list.
But the list has turned out to be very valuable to college admissions offices and private enrollment management consultants: They have discovered that the order in which students list institutions corresponds to students’ preferred college.
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