Faith SandlerAdvising, Alerts, Financial Aid, Words of Faith

Just six weeks into the application season and The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis has already found it necessary to issue three alerts to all students, especially those applying to college for the first time. If you know students that fit that description and who are concerned about how they will finance their education, would you please pass along THIS LINK at which all alerts are indexed?

This is an unprecedented application season because the new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) has been released and is both dysfunctional and delayed. FAFSA is the gateway to all need-based aid at the school, state, and federal levels. Income and other relevant family information is reported there and analyzed by a formula set by Congress and modified almost as infrequently as the tax code is.

Just when things in admissions and financial aid had started to “normalize” post-pandemic, this new nightmare hit. It is not lost on the staff of The Scholarship Foundation that this year’s rising college freshmen were mere months away from entering high school when COVID came to call. Six of our nineteen staff members have a dependent student intending college in the fall (four of them will be first-time freshmen).

The delay and dysfunction of FAFSA means:

  • Too many families can’t complete the form, due to glitches or inability to make corrections.
  • No data will be delivered to colleges until at least mid-March.
  • Credible financial aid offers can’t be made until April or May.
  • At most colleges, students with the greatest need will be last to receive their offers.
  • In many cases, it will not be “safe” for a student to commit until well into the summer.

The pressure is on, and those most likely to be hurt without alert are those least able to financially withstand an ill-informed decision.

Colleges are frantic. Most now have entire divisions organized under an umbrella term “enrollment management.” The field is full of complicated calculations designed to produce a high yield of committed students requiring the least amount of institutional investment. Under the umbrella are sophisticated marketing campaigns delivering messages via gift boxes, emails, texts, and phone calls pressuring students to commit. That would be fine if any semblance of consumer protection existed for the 18-year olds making this first major financial decision of their lives, but such is not the case.

A few weeks ago, when the realities of the new FAFSA were just beginning to unfold, we were able to help the media understand and tell the story. But now our attention is solely focused on providing the information (and ultimately the financial support) that students need to take the next educational step, no matter how dysfunctional the system may be. This week, I said “no” to a national reporter who was looking for help finding families being crushed by this crisis for interviews. We and they are too busy for that now.

Please use this blogpost to help us get the word out widely and directly to those who need to know.


– Faith Sandler