Federal Financial Aid Demands Decline During Pandemic, Experts Discuss Impact on Access to Colleges

MADISON, Wisconsin (WMTV) – Higher education experts say the pandemic has raised concerns about access to college, especially for students from underserved groups.

The fear arises as high school students across the country do not apply for bulk financial aid eligibility as before. According to the Wisconsin Policy Forum, the number of completions for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) has fallen nearly 8% nationwide in the past two years. The drop was even worse in Wisconsin, with a 12.2% drop over the same time period, or since the start of the pandemic.

Senior education policy researcher Sara Shaw explained: “In some cases this was due to less supports available to families and students, and in some cases it was due to students having to they actually had less interest in going to college.

Shaw said: “The worrying piece is that fewer FAFSA number one means fewer families having access to the financial assistance they are entitled to and this can make college more affordable for them. And that usually means fewer students enrolling in college.

The data also showed a disproportionate decline in FAFSA completion among students from “underprivileged schools,” including those with majority students of color and low-income students.

Cheryl Rapp, college affordability specialist for College Goal Wisconsin, said: “Those who were already low income [or] The first generation who maybe struggled or weren’t sure they could afford college is now saying to themselves, “Well, I really can’t afford college because things have gone wrong. changed in my life. Maybe they’ve lost their job, or maybe they don’t know exactly where the income will come from to help pay for their education.

College Goal Wisconsin is a volunteer-run nonprofit organization that helps students with FAFSA, according to its website.

Keyimani Alford, dean of access and student success at Madison College, said the barriers to entering college include the FAFSA application itself.

“We know that our underserved, minority first generation students have the most difficulty filling out the application, answering all of the 105,108 questions that are on the application as a whole,” he said.

Alford said about 32 percent of Madison College students this year are receiving financial aid. That’s less than the average of about 35 percent.

Families can get help filling out the FAFSA form through college financial aid offices. The helpline number for Federal Student Aid is 800-433-3243.

Copyright 2021 WMTV. All rights reserved.

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