Colleges may be able to attract students by simplifying their financial aid process. According to a new study conducted by CampusLogic and Gallup, the financial aid process has impacted minority, first-generation and recent college graduates more than their white, non-first-generation alumni and those who graduated before 2010.
The 2019 CampusLogic-Gallup survey of college graduates suggests that the financial aid process affects students' decisions on where they will attend school. About four-in-ten recent college graduates surveyed said that the financial aid process affected their decision to attend a specific school "a lot" or "some."
The financial aid process is more likely to have had "a lot" or "some" impact on the decision to attend a specific school for those who are non-white, a recent graduate or a first-generation college graduate. The results are based on a logistic regression model that estimates the influence of each factor on the decision to attend a specific school, controlling for the effects of other factors.
|* This refers to the financial aid process, including applying for financial aid, getting notified of and understanding the aid available, verifying eligibility and getting aid disbursed.|
|CampusLogic-Gallup, Oct 24-Nov 7, 2019|
Comparing graduation year, race/ethnicity and first-generation status subgroups further highlights how the financial aid process impacts these groups differently:
|A lot||Some||Not much||Not at all||Does not apply|
|All college graduates||23||17||17||29||13|
|Generation college graduate status|
|*This refers to the financial aid process, including applying for financial aid, getting notified of and understanding the aid available, verifying eligibility and getting aid disbursed.|
|Campus Logic-Gallup, Oct 24-Nov 7, 2019|
Recent graduates are most likely to have been affected by the financial aid process when selecting where to attend. According to the logistic regression model, those who graduated in 2010 or later are twice as likely as those who graduated before 2010 to report that it affected their decision to attend a specific school "a lot" or "some." Overall, more than half of those who graduated in 2010 or later reported that the financial aid process had an impact on school selection.
The financial aid experience appears to be especially impactful for Hispanic and black graduates. These groups were more likely than their white peers to be affected by the financial aid process when deciding which school to attend. Over half of Hispanic and black graduates were impacted "a lot" or "some" by their financial aid process when deciding to attend a specific institution. Further, results from the logistic regression model indicate that minority college graduates are 1.5 times as likely as white graduates to report an impact of the financial aid process on school selection.
First-generation college students are also more likely to be influenced by the financial aid process when selecting where to attend than those students who have a parent who graduated from college. Over four in ten first-generation college students were impacted "a lot" or "some" by their financial aid process when deciding to attend a specific institution.
The financial aid process matters when deciding where to attend college.
With the rapidly rising price tag of college, those considering college as a next step must navigate an increasingly complex and frustrating financial aid process. For many schools, the total cost of attendance is not made clear to prospective students until well after they are admitted and enrolled. Students often have to guess how much financial aid they will eventually receive, and even once they are admitted, can wait several more weeks until receiving an aid award notification from the institution's financial aid office. When students apply later in the year for - and receive -- state grants and private scholarships, other grants may get adjusted as a result. Processes like these can frustrate students and their families to the point that it discourages initial enrollment or degree completion.
This study shows that the financial aid process was especially influential on those who graduated recently. This likely reflects the continually increasing cost of college that leaves parents and students to cover a larger share of the price themselves and to rely more heavily on financial aid. As the price of college and burden to pay for it continue to rise, the impact of the financial aid process should reasonably be expected to follow.
Findings from the study potentially also reflect unobserved factors. Black and Hispanic populations, for example, are generally overrepresented among lower-income households. These households may be more sensitive to college costs and thus more impacted by a cumbersome financial aid process. Those without a parent who has attended college are without a crucial resource to help navigate the college admissions and financial aid process.
An ever-increasing college sticker price and an expanding number of minorities and first-generation students attending college suggests it will become increasingly important for schools to ensure their financial aid processes do not inadvertently hinder access.
With the admissions process for fall 2020 wrapping up amid an uncertain environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, colleges and universities are once again asking themselves how they can encourage their applicants to spend the next chapter of their lives at their institution. To adapt to the changing needs of applicants and attract more potential enrollees, colleges can update their financial aid process to ease the burden on applicants. Through this, schools can diversify their student body and be more attractive to students and their families.
Grant Buckles contributed to this article.