Access to college aid programs is a major impediment to low-income students applying to and enrolling in college. Numerous studies show that many college applicant, especially those who are low-income, have very little understanding of college tuition levels, financial aid opportunities, and how to navigate the admissions process.
Another part of the problem is the complexity of the financial aid system. The FAFSA is a long and complex financial document, comprising over eight pages and 100 questions, with and can include three additional worksheets with 40 questions. Unsurprisingly, students and their parents are often confused by the complexity of the FAFSA, and end up not completing and submitting the form. The Commission on the Future of Higher Education concluded that “our financial aid system is confusing, complex, inefficient, and duplicative.”
Because of the complexity of the financial aid system and the lack of information about the availability of college aid, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of students who are eligible for financial aid do not complete the necessary forms to receive said aid each air. The FAFSA also serves as the basis to award most state and institutional need-based aid, and so it is a critical gatekeeper to most financial aid. Thus, not submitting the FAFSA makes it nearly impossible to receive any other college aid.
What was the problem?
What is the solution?
Use tax assistance preparation services for low-income families as an intervention point to complete and submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application for their child. Large scale field experiments prove this program increases tuition assistance and college attendance and persistence.
Delegate Andrew Platt's legislation in Maryland uses tax assistance preparation services for low-income families to help them complete and submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application for their child. This approach has already been proven effective by the Coalition for Evidence-based Policy. Platt’s legislation will create a grant program to cover the cost of the tax preparation provider to provide this service, which is $90 per family. He plans on using the open-source software used in the field experiment, have the Maryland Department of Education and the Maryland Higher Education Commission fine tune it, and then work to create partnerships with online tax preparation companies, like Turbo Tax, to offer the service alongside online tax preparation and submission, using the free, open sourced software.