Growing up as triplets was always an obstacle, and there were many opportunities for my parents to teach my siblings and me about the value of compromise. Being blue-collar workers, my parents always emphasized the importance of hard work and expressed hope that we would experience fluidity in our classes and that we would never have to work as hard as they did.
My mother quit teaching after high school, and my father went to college, earning a four-year degree in the 1980s. With this split in my parents’ educational backgrounds, I am not a first-generation college student, but it nonetheless influences the way I have navigated my path to higher education. increase.
Unsurprisingly, given the increasing cost of college tuition across the United States, the bills of three students attending college at the same time were more than my parents could afford. My dad was in college, well before my brother and I were in his first year, so I was confident that I could help the three of us by completing the financial aid paperwork. Not at all.
For me, this was the experience gap. Those wealthy enough to apply for financial aid or not meet its criteria didn’t bother to think about the process.
Those who were not wealthy but needed help could ask a professional to fill out the necessary paperwork. Somewhere in the ancillary spaces around his two camps, there was a place for my family to rest. I certainly need a lot of financial help, but I can’t hire a third party to help me with the process.
As a result of my parents’ lack of knowledge and comfort with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and CSS Profiles, and my inbox flooded with bold “DEADLINE” emails, I combed through tax documents on Google. Now
Median household income in my hometown is just under $150,000 in 2021, which created an interesting set of affordances for me. High school became a place to work to hide family income and blend in with wealthy classmates.
As an aspiring college athlete, the conversation about financial aid swirled around me somewhat of an afterthought. The process of being recruited by a coach to a school that met my aspirations was prioritized.
I knew I needed help, but I thought the process would be easy. In a town where nearly 70% of her residents over the age of 25 have a bachelor’s degree or higher, I thought every parent was familiar with the college admissions process. In her alumni class of over 500 students at a minimally resourced public school, guidance counselors were scattered and individualized feedback was not part of the framework of her 15-minute meetings.
Pa. Republicans Propose FAFSA Requirements for High School Seniors
I set out on a journey to go through all the boxes of my parents income, expenses, property taxes and wages. It was a more intimate trip than I had cared for as a 17 year old daughter.
There was no longer a secret about the reality of my parents’ socioeconomic status. As I had completed my brother’s application as well as myself, I couldn’t help but think there was a huge gap in advice and support.
Given the importance of financial assistance to low-income households, it seems to me why resource allocation is necessary. Federal support is often what determines whether low-income students can even explore college options.
A 2018 report by the National College Attainment network found that high school seniors in poorer districts were less likely to complete FAFSA than students in wealthier neighborhoods. This is an accessibility issue that systematically penalizes low-income students.
It has been proven that people who complete the FAFSA form are more likely to go on to college. Information about the importance of applying for financial assistance is available online, but many of the available resources are inaccurate, misleading, and do not provide the necessary support that agency-specific resources and workshops offer. Is not.
The new calculator was created to ease the process of determining a prospective student’s projected tuition, including less invasive and more accessible questions, but not required federal forms and loan applications. Assistance in navigating the process remains a blind spot.
While it is important to champion the concept of diversity in higher education, the lack of sufficient resources available to low-income students compared to the financial aid application process represents a major structural shortcoming.
Institutional changes are needed to make it easier for low-income students to participate in post-secondary education. It should be the role of both high schools and higher education institutions to host information sessions for students and parents to reduce obfuscation around federal aid. This hands-on approach and the implementation of guided instruction with tedious but important applications make the path to higher education for low-income students a little easier.
Francesca Testa is a senior at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.