Business & Finance | May 9th, 2020
For Some Middle Class Students, FAFSA is Unfair
By: Kia Cannon
After students graduate high school, some of them take the next steps to attend college to pursue their dreams. Attending college can be stressful because of the cost of higher education. Many students don’t attend college due to a lack of financial resources. To make it easier for students to afford college, the government put in place a financial student aid.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, widely known as FAFSA, is a form that is filled out yearly by incoming and current college students to decipher how much money students receive from the federal government.
Different types of student aid include grants, work study programs, and loans. The caveat is that the majority of the money awarded is need-based.
In order to receive student aid and to determine which form of it you’re receiving and how much, students are required to fill out an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) form. This EFC takes into account one’s family income and determines how much they should be liable to pay through a federally calculated formula.
Mario Golden, Florida Gulf Coast University freshman, said FAFSA needs to do a better job making sure all the money distributed is fair among us college students.
“I feel that all kids should receive the same amount of money from FAFSA, or at least have the opportunity to,” Golden said. “If your parents can’t afford to pay the complete tuition, then you should qualify and not just partially because I need that money like the other students they give it out to.”
Addressing Golden’s sentiments, EFC is a non-negotiable distribution. According to studentaid.gov, “You can’t receive more need-based aid than the amount of your financial need. For instance, if your cost of attendance is $16,000 and your EFC is $12000, your financial need is $4,000; so, you aren’t eligible for more than $4,000 in need-based aid.”
When most middle-class students fill out the FAFSA form, their EFC will be too high to qualify for the grants, subsidized loans, and in some students’ cases, they aren’t allowed to be a part of a work study program either.
Florida A&M University freshman, Shenyah Ruth, said filling out the FAFSA is a crucial part of getting prepared to attend college because there is a financial burden in seeking post-secondary education.
“Being in the middle class makes me question FAFSA as a whole,’’ Ruth said. “Filling out the form is supposed to benefit me, but when I don’t qualify for grants and scholarships, it only leaves me an option to file for a loan, and that’s not really fair.”
When middle class students fail to qualify for most of the forms of FAFSA, they are left with the choice to take out loans. Loans may end up hurting middle class students in the end because they are the ones that will eventually have to pay it back. The main issue with this is that the students are left in a turmoil of debt that they may have to struggle to get out of.
In the last 20 years, the number of students from higher income families, or the middle class, who have had to take out loans for college have doubled from 30% in the 1990s to 60% now, a report from the American Enterprise Institute says.
Some scholars theorize that many middle income children are at a higher risk of dropping out of college due to not being able to handle the debt they receive.
“What screws us over the most, in my opinion, is that all middle-class parents aren’t involved in our education as much as they should be,” said Golden. “My parents make a good amount of money, but that doesn’t mean college is at the top of their expense list, especially if I’m not an only child.”
Florida A&M University alumni Sean Cannon said FAFSA helped him have the opportunity to go to college since he received a full scholarship.
“With being a low income-based college student growing up, I understand why FAFSA helps out low income students a little bit more,” said Cannon. “But now that I have a child who’s in college and doesn’t qualify for most of the FAFSA given out, I feel they need to change the system due to all the extra money they have to give.”
Although the goal of FAFSA is to help all college students succeed and go to college, FAFSA may have to reevaluate the way they are supporting students, so that middle class college students don’t feel left out from receiving the financial backing they need.