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Some colleges misusing FAFSA data in the admissions process


Monday, October 28, 2013

Millions of students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid as part of the college admissions process every year. However, according to Inside Higher Ed, some colleges are using applicants' information to influence their admissions and financial aid decisions.

Hidden dangers
The news source reported that some schools are basing their decisions on whether candidates should be admitted, and how much financial aid they receive, based on the response to a single, non-academic question in the FAFSA. All applicants are asked to list 10 schools to which they are considering applying. While this question may seem innocent enough, Inside Higher Ed claims that certain colleges are using this information to deny students admission and possibly to reduce the amount of financial aid successful applicants are awarded.

At the heart of the matter lies the discovery that the order in which students list their preferred schools corresponds closely to the strength of their desire to attend a specific college. As such, some schools appear to be denying admission to students if the college in question is not at the top of the list. David Hawkins, director of public policy and research for the National Association for College Admission Counseling, claims that this approach is being adopted by private colleges attempting to increase their yield - the number of students who decide to attend a college after being offered a place.

"The student has no idea that this information is being used in this context," Hawkins told the news source. "Institutions certainly aren't telling students they are using it. Certainly, this is a concern from this association's standpoint."

Troubling trends
In recent years, substantial evidence has come to light that not only are students from lower-income backgrounds often overlooked by prestigious colleges, but they are also being awarded less financial aid.

Earlier this year, The Atlantic reported that many schools are actively targeting "full pay" students to raise net tuition revenues and reduce the amount of financial aid awarded. In addition, a report published by non-partisan think tank The Century Foundation suggests that 74 percent of students at the nation's 146 most prestigious colleges came from the wealthiest quartile of American households. The news source reported that similar research indicates students from more affluent families were much more likely to apply to and enroll in selective schools than students from lower-income families.

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Some colleges misusing FAFSA data in the admissions process
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