Fixing financial aid
“Overwhelming,” “confusing,” “scary,” “intimidating,” “nerve-wracking,” “embarrassing,” and “miserable.” The college students I met recently sounded like they were describing a horror film or a tough final exam. Instead, they were recounting their struggles navigating America’s financial aid system.
Each year, the U.S. government offers more than $120 billion in federal grants, loans, and work-study funds to help students pay for college. But the overly complex and confusing financial aid system is failing the students most in need of assistance, preventing them from pursuing their dreams of attending college.
Only about half of low-income high school seniors who would qualify for federal student loans or grants apply for them. And just under one-third of low-income high school seniors who would be eligible for Pell Grants, a federal subsidy for the neediest students that does not need to be paid back, take advantage of them when they start college. Without financial aid, many students drop out of school or decide not to go to college at all. At a time when our country needs more college graduates, the financial aid application process has become an unnecessary roadblock on the path to a higher education degree.