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ERIC Number: ED533914
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2007-Oct
Pages: 9
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 14
Increasing College Enrollment among Low- and Moderate-Income Families: An Intervention to Improve Information and Access to Financial Aid
Bettinger, Eric P.; Long, Bridget Terry; Oreopoulos, Philip
National Center for Postsecondary Research
Higher education plays an increasingly important role in helping individuals attain social and economic success. Yet, despite decades of financial aid policy, substantial gaps in college access remain by income level and race. One major impediment to increasing college enrollment among low-income students is the lack of information about financial aid. In particular, few families appear to know about the types of aid available, and the federal application process for financial aid is so complex that it may actually impede student access. The Commission on the Future of Higher Education, assembled by Secretary of Education Spellings, recently concluded that some students "don't enter college because of inadequate information and rising costs, combined with a confusing financial aid system." The Commission further emphasized that "our financial aid system is confusing, complex, inefficient, [and] duplicative" (2006). Perhaps due to the complexity of the system and the lack of information about the availability of aid, the American Council on Education found that 850,000 students who would have been eligible for federal financial aid in 2000 did not complete the necessary forms to receive such aid (2004). The FAFSA also serves as the basis to award most state and institutional need-based aid, and so it is a critical gatekeeper to most college financial assistance. Concerns about the low visibility of aid programs and the complexity of the aid process have spurred calls to simplify the form and enhance the visibility of programs that are meant to educate students about the availability of financial aid. However, little research has been done to determine whether such policies would truly address the problems of access for low-income students. This project provides an intervention that streamlines both the aid application process and students' access to accurate and personalized higher educational information. Using a random assignment research design, H&R professionals are helping a group of eligible low- to middle-income families to complete the federal aid application form (FAFSA). Then, families are immediately given an estimate of their eligibility for federal and state financial aid as well as information about local postsecondary options. To track the impact of this intervention, the project data are being linked with college administrative files to determine which individuals elected to enroll and persist in higher education. In summary, our research will examine the effects of a program that tries to increase awareness about aid and simplify the application process. We will test the importance of simplifying college financial aid and providing guidance and encouragement throughout the application process. Moreover, we will examine how providing information about expected financial aid awards impacts college decisions. Our analysis will answer key questions about the importance of information and financial barriers in college access and persistence. Moreover, we aim to provide concrete examples of ways to improve college access for low-income students and the effectiveness of financial aid policies. (Contains 5 footnotes.
National Center for Postsecondary Research. Teachers College, Columbia University, Box 174, 525 West 120th Street, New York, NY 10027. Tel: 212-678-3091; Fax: 212-678-3699; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: National Center for Postsecondary Research (ED)