Grueling FAFSA application process leaves money on the table, hurts students

Posted October 17, 2015 by
directly above photograph of a grant application

Directly above photograph of a grant application. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

As the cost of college tuitions skyrocket, the world of academia is constantly growing more competitive, which is causing a large number of students to second guess their options for college. Today, a college education can be financially intimidating, especially when your main form of payment is through some sort of government aid, student loan, or the hope for a potential scholarship. With college costing an average student more than $30,000 per year, students are actively seeking any monetary help possible to ensure they are not haunted by a mountain of debt after graduation.

Unfortunately, with most forms of aid available to students, there is one main problem: they are riddled with red tape surrounding the application process, making it so tedious that many students are deterred from the extra workload, especially on top of their existing assignments.

Certain government programs such as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) provide financial aid to students across the nation, awarding over $150 billion federal grants, loans, and work-study funds each year to more than 13 million students paying for college or career school. The only problem is that they make the “free form” so grueling that most families can’t find the time to actually complete the document.

The FAFSA is 10 pages long with over 100 different repetitive questions. Every year the document is released on January 1st, and in some states families have as little as two months to complete it. Between the time restrictions and lengthy personal information required, it’s nearly impossible to complete. In 2011-12, an estimated two million students who would have qualified for Pell grants did not file a FAFSA form.

On January 7, 2015, Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) along with Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced their first bill of new Congress, the bipartisan FAST Act. This bill would simplify the process of applying for and receiving federal financial aid to attend college, by cutting the FAFSA down to one page consisting of two questions. Eliminating the current form is expected to save students’ families millions of hours each year (Data courtesy of Voxgov).

As government officials actively try to simplify the process of acquiring federal aid for education, it is time that this philosophy is applied universally across the financial aid process as a whole. The obvious one is scholarships, but as many people know, this can be a daunting process in itself. Luckily, the booming technology industry has also developed some answers of its own that will hopefully help students in this process.

With no shortage of scholarship search engines, now is the time for innovative ways in which students of all ages can easily access and understand the scholarships available to them. Timing is everything, and the more students are informed on scholarship deadlines as well as allocate time to complete the scholarships, the better chances for a worry-free college education or continued education. It is time for a universal application encompassing all the aspects of the different scholarships a student is eligible for, resulting in a streamlined stress-free process.

By Kenny Sandorffy, founder, ScholarshipOwl

Kenny Sandorffy is the cofounder and CEO at ScholarshipOwl, an education technology company that matches students to hundreds of scholarships, and automates the application process by combining the different requirements of each potential scholarship into one easy form.

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