“The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s report highlights the urgent need to simplify the federal aid application process and makes smart recommendations for how to do so. For all students, the financial aid application process is a daunting and complex task, but for first-generation and low-income students the process can impede access to financial-aid resources that provide vitally important funding to help finance their college education. The lack of a streamlined, easy to understand process has deterred far too many students from applying for federal financial aid. Removing redundant questions in application materials, simplifying application language, and improving the timing of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid deadlines are all key to creating a clear pathway for students to apply for the financial aid they deserve.
“A smart, simplified federal financial aid process is an essential element to achieving the U.S. education attainment goal of 60 percent of the working age population with high quality post-secondary degrees and credentials. As the public college and university contribution to that big goal, APLU and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) developed Project Degree Completion in which nearly 500 public institutions committed to developing innovative practices to attract and retain students with a collective commitment to awarding 3.8 million more bachelor’s degrees by 2025.
“Reforms like those outlined in the Gates Foundation’s Financial Aid Process Report promise to increase access to much-needed funding, which can often be the difference in a student enrolling in college and completing a degree. The new Gates proposal coupled with efforts like those of institutions participating in Project Degree Completion are part of a comprehensive approach to boosting access to higher education and degree completion. Together these and other efforts can increase the number of highly skilled college graduates who will shape our future economy and democratic society.
“Three-quarters of jobs will require some post-secondary education by 2025. Eliminating unnecessary barriers in the financial aid application process remains crucial to reaching that level of degree completion and preparing America for the opportunities and challenges of the 21st century economy.”