The FAFSA Simplification Act has been a distant concern for most American colleges and universities since it was passed in 2021.
But now the implementation of the new rules is looming for the 2024-25 year, and higher ed leaders are left wondering whether they’re prepared.
The headlines for the federal legislation center around creating more access to education through new application processes and expanded Pell Grant eligibility.
The subtext is the FAFSA Simplification Act will have a vast on-campus ripple effect on enrollment strategies and around student support.
In short, the game is changing, and players have to change with it.
New landscape requires new strategies
Most colleges have finely-tuned marketing and enrollment strategies based around specific places, academic profiles and demographic characteristics. The new FAFSA law could change that, as it specifically aimed at creating student pipelines that didn’t exist before.
Colleges must work now to build enrollment strategies for the fall semester that take this possibility into account. Among the things they could be seeing…
- An influx in the overall number of applications, and a shift in the profile of applicant pools.
- Specifically, more students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds will be applying to college, and could likely be coming in supported by more federal financial aid.
- A more diverse student body is an incredible opportunity but also a potential challenge, as those students will have different personal, financial and emotional needs to keep them focused on their studies.
Supporting new student populations
If colleges welcome different populations of students than they typically serve, they must invest in the infrastructure to support those students. For the majority of institutions, the last decade has clarified that retention is just as important to their business model as enrollment. What do we mean?
- This river will run through student affairs, which must be given tools to support students with deep needs. That could be everything from financial coaching to grants to therapy.
- Tracking tools are necessary to make sure students don’t slip through the cracks. Expanded Pell Grant access for low-income students is great…as long as they’re being monitored to ensure that their short-term challenges aren’t holding them back from their long-term goals.
- Make sure you understand the full breadth of your on-campus resources – from mentorship to financial packages – so that those programs can be delivered efficiently to students who need them.
Some other points to consider:
- Take a collaborative approach to this College leaders should be leaning into these changes rather than shying away from them, and that means engaging government stakeholders and talking to peer institutions.
- Financial aid offices will see an impact With more eligible students, financial aid offices will experience a new frontier in the eternal juggling act between distribution and fiscal stability. Strategic planning and resource allocation will be crucial.
- Thinking deeply about enrollment marketing Colleges will be required to ask questions about their admissions criteria, particularly around what a successful student journey looks like at their school.