Friday, March 5, 2021

The costs of applying for financial aid for college

 The Chronicle of Higher Education has a surprisingly moving long story about the fact that applying for financial aid is not only time consuming, difficult and even expensive for the people who need it most, but can also be emotionally costly, especially for students from broken families, since the form requires input from both parents.

The Most Onerous Form in College Admissions. The Fafsa is tough, but the CSS Profile is grueling. There’s a human cost.   By Eric Hoover

"The most onerous form in admissions bores into the bones of your existence. Each year it sows confusion and multiplies misery among those seeking financial aid from many of the nation’s wealthiest colleges. It’s called the College Scholarship Service Profile, or CSS Profile, for short. Some students call it burdensome, invasive, evil.
"The CSS Profile is more detailed than the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or Fafsa. The latter form, which families use to get government grants and loans, has long been seen as a barrier to college access. But if the Fafsa is a 100 yards of difficulty, the CSS Profile is a mile.

"And unlike the federal form, it’s not free for everyone. The College Board provides fee waivers for some low-income students; otherwise families pay $25 to submit the form to one college, then $16 a pop for each additional one.
"Just so we’re clear, the application — used by more than 400,000 students annually — isn’t evil or ill-intentioned. It helps colleges and scholarship organizations allot more than $9 billion a year to students, often unlocking doors to a new life.
"This is perhaps the most important thing to know about the CSS Profile: Teenagers, especially in lower-income families, are often the ones who fill out the form. They’re the ones digging up tax forms and asking reluctant parents for their Social Security number. They’re the ones being asked to list “Social Security benefits received for all family members, except any who will be enrolled in college in 2021-22, that were not reported on a tax return,” and “Alimony Received (including, but not limited to, amounts reported on a tax return),” and to answer this: “Is any person in your family the beneficiary of a trust?”
"The heaviest weight falls on students who don’t live in a nuclear family. Students from single-parent homes. Students whose parents had ugly separations. Students with a parent who’s abusive or imprisoned or nowhere to be found. Whose parents are dead. Who live with siblings or grandparents or legal guardians or foster parents — or with no one.

"There are many reasons you might need to request a waiver for the CSS Profile’s noncustodial-parent requirement. One college counselor calls the process “the worst and most demeaning thing I’ve ever seen.”
"Though a majority of institutions that use the CSS Profile require noncustodial parents to complete their own form, students who have no contact with that parent can ask colleges to waive the requirement. They do so by completing the College Board’s official waiver-request form, which says that institutions typically consider the requests in cases of “documented abuse,” legal orders limiting the parent’s contact with the child, or “no contact or support ever received from the noncustodial parent.” Colleges might ask for documentation, such as court documents or legal orders.
"Each year, 22 percent of first-time domestic students using the CSS Profile get fee waivers, according to the College Board. Orphans and wards of the court under 24 get them, as do students receiving SAT fee waivers. Others qualify based on their parental income and family size (a family of four would qualify with an income of $45,000 or less). An applicant’s eligibility is determined automatically by his or her responses on the CSS Profile — meaning they don’t know if they will get a waiver until they complete the form.

"Let’s do some quick math. If 22 percent of CSS Profile users get fee waivers, that means 78 percent don’t. That’s approximately 312,000 students who pay the College Board about $7.8 million a year just by completing the $25 form and sending it to one college."

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