All told, 85 percent voiced at least some doubt about meeting their goals for the year, yet more evidence of a nationwide decline in college attendance that has been measured for several years. Highly desirable, doctorate-granting public universities — schools like Clemson, University of Virginia, and Purdue — are the only institutions for which a majority of respondents 59 percent had admitted full classes by May 1. Only about a quarter of public baccalaureate 22 percent and community colleges 27 percent had done so. After peaking at
The gap persisted even when students made cost-saving decisions about where to attend public versus private colleges and universities or where to live at home versus on campus.
Given that financial aid falls short, clear and consistent communication on award letters is critical. After a thorough qualitative review using a subset of award letters from unique institutions, we emerged with seven key findings: Confusing Jargon and Terminology: Of our letters, more than one-third did not include any cost information with which to contextualize the financial aid offered.
Failure to Differentiate Types of Aid: Seventy percent of letters grouped all aid together and provided no definitions to indicate to students how grants and scholarships, loans, and work-study all differ.
Of institutions that offered work-study, 70 percent provided no explanation of work-study and how it differs from other types of aid. Inconsistent Bottom Line Calculations: In our sample, only 40 percent calculated what students would need to pay, and those institutions had 23 different ways of calculating remaining costs.
No Clear Next Steps: Only about half of letters provided information about what to do to accept or decline awards, and those that did had inconsistent policies. Based on these findings, we present seven policy recommendations, calling on federal, state, and institutional parties to create systems-level change.
Federal policymakers should conduct consumer testing, and then set and require award letter standards via federal mandate.
State governments should adopt common award letter terms, calculations, and formats across their systems of higher education.
Colleges and universities should develop more student-centered financial aid offers and tools, as well as align their efforts with other key departments serving student financial needs. To read the entire report, please download it here.A declining birthrate means the college-going population could decline by more than 15 percent.
By The Hechinger Report Contributor Sept. 10, , at a.m.
Colleges Set to Fight for Fewer. Building a Competitive America runs through a litany of familiar problems—the decline in national savings and investment, the “dramatic” deterioration in the balance of payments, the poor. “This has coincided with a decline in domestic student enrollment and has led to real financial pain,” said Thomas Harnisch, director of state relations and policy analysis for the American.
In other words, the community college enrollment decline isn’t temporary, but the number of students enrolled in a four-year college or university has actually increased slightly.
This offers a clear path to community college leaders who want to reverse the decline. New America and uAspire, a nonprofit leader on college affordability, analyzed thousands of financial aid award letters and found not only that financial aid is insufficient to cover the cost of college for many students, but also that award letters lack consistency and transparency.
Fishman provides research and analysis on policies related to college finance, consumer protection, and access and paying for college.
New America and uAspire, a nonprofit leader on college accept or decline awards, and those that did had inconsistent policies.