Opinion: The Flaw in FAFSA

The student aid application process has a fatal flaw: it presumes if parents CAN help with college costs that they WILL help with college costs.

Thinking about college can be extremely stressful. Not just the anxiety that comes with an unknown future, but something even more nerve wracking… money.

bellamadAs we all know, seniors or not, college can be very expensive. With scholarships, however, a lot of weight can be taken off your shoulders. But here’s the problem, how do you get scholarships if your parents make an above average amount of money? Most of the time, you don’t. And I’m sure you’re thinking, “Why would you need a scholarship if your parents make a lot of money?”

Well, not everyone whose parents make a decent amount of money actually gets help from their parents when it comes to paying for college. That seems to be the situation that a lot of students here at Jeffersonville High School are experiencing.

That little question concerning parent income included in scholarship applications assumes parents will aid financially with college, but that is not always an accurate assumption. Of course, they have scholarships for all different kinds of things that don’t require information about your parent’s yearly earnings.

If you’re a senior, I’m sure you’ve heard of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This can be a big help, but only if you qualify. Part of the application asks you what your parents’ annual income is, which is the dreaded question for those whose parents are well-off.

No one ever complains that their parents “make too much money” until it comes to paying for college. It practically takes you out of the running for these types of things, and that is absolutely awful if you’re one of those students whose parents aren’t contributing.

According to the Indiana Financial Aid and Activity Program Report from the 2013-2014 school year, “…financial need is equal to the cost of tuition and fees minus the expected contribution of the student and his or her family.” This sounds great, truly need-based, but I have yet to run into a scholarship application that asks for income as well as how much support you are receiving from your parents financially.

As reported by the 2017 Indiana College Readiness Report, out of the 456 students that graduated from Jeff High in 2017, only 40 of those students were 21st century scholars. The 21st century scholarship program offers Indiana students a chance to get up to four years of fully paid tuition at multiple Indiana colleges. However, this only applies to students whose family income does not exceed $45,000 (for a family of 4). Who says those parents aren’t providing more financial help than parents who make more than that?

People tend to expect that when your parents make a lot of money, you don’t have to worry about college debt – but that’s not really how it works. Bigger paychecks tend to mean bigger bills. This means that even parents that make a lot of money don’t have enough to save for their children’s college tuition by the time all the bills have been paid.

What can we do? We could just make college kids rack up more and more student debt over the years, or we could get rid of that sickening question and give scholarships based on actual need, not assumed need.

Written by Kristen Jacobs

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