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Addressing FAFSA Delays: Strategies for Colleges to Support Students

February 8, 2024

The continued FAFSA delays this year pose significant challenges for both students and colleges, disrupting traditional admission timelines and financial planning. As institutions grapple with these challenges, it’s crucial to adopt proactive measures to mitigate the impact on prospective students and their families, and to shore up campus enrollment plans for the fall. Here are strategies colleges can employ to navigate the current situation effectively.

Overcommunicate with Students and Parents

Transparency is key. Inform students and parents about the delay and reassure them that they will receive competitive financial aid packages as soon as possible. Regular updates can alleviate concerns and maintain trust in the process.

Adjust Key Admission Deadlines

Consider extending the decision deadline beyond the traditional May 1. This gives students additional time to make informed choices without feeling pressured by financial uncertainties.

Reschedule Admitted Student Events

Delaying admitted student events to later in April allows colleges to host these crucial engagements after financial aid packages have been distributed, ensuring students have all the information they need. Colleges might also consider keeping their scheduled events and adding more later in the spring to accommodate more families.

Conduct Surveys for Personalized Communication

Survey students to understand their concerns regarding finances and college decisions. These data enable personalized communication, addressing individual needs and reinforcing the institution’s commitment to supporting its prospective students. Like with traditional admitted student surveys, the results can help prioritize communication with families to maximize staff time.

Prioritize and Segment Students

By ranking students based on various criteria (predictive model score, engagement activity, etc.), colleges can efficiently allocate resources once financial aid packaging begins. This ensures that counselors focus their efforts where they’re most needed and on those students most likely to respond positively to the financial aid offer.

Reevaluate Merit Awards

Reissuing merit awards with an invitation for feedback can demonstrate a college’s willingness to adjust aid based on student needs and perceptions, fostering a supportive admissions environment. Simply resending the merit award can be a helpful reminder for the student.

Engage in Direct Conversations Based on SAI

Asking students to share their Student Aid Index (SAI) can facilitate targeted discussions about financial aid, providing clarity and reassurance about the forthcoming financial aid packages.

Consider the Financial Implications of Increased Aid

While offering more financial aid upfront might seem like an immediate solution, it’s essential for institutions to weigh the pros and cons carefully. Each college must determine its capacity to increase aid without compromising long-term financial stability. Financial aid leveraging partners will be able to provide valuable insight when considering these measures.

Implement Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAPs)

LRAPs can be a game-changer for students on the fence about enrolling due to financial uncertainty. These programs offer a safety net, promising to assist with loan repayment if graduates’ incomes fall below a certain threshold. By offering LRAPs, colleges not only ease financial concerns but also demonstrate a commitment to student success beyond graduation. It is a way to differentiate from other institutions before students are receiving many financial aid awards at once later in the spring.

Many of these ideas come from the great minds at The Admissions Directors Lunchcast. Check out their Emergency Lunchcast: FAFSA Delays (Again) to hear their discussion.

In navigating the challenges posed by FAFSA delays, colleges must be innovative, empathetic, and proactive. By employing these strategies and communicating clearly with families, institutions can support their prospective students through this uncertain period. Reinforcing their value proposition and ensuring that financial barriers do not deter talented individuals from pursuing higher education, institutions can make the case that college is worth it.