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Beyond FASFA Completion
ARTICLE

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Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning Volume 47, Number 1, ISSN 0009-1383

Abstract

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)--which students must complete to qualify for most federal, state, and institutional financial aid--is a gateway to college through which many students must pass, particularly those from low- to moderate-income households (King, 2004; Kofoed, 2013). Yet given the complexity of the application-which requires students and families to provide an array of information about their income, assets, and family composition-that gateway acts as a substantial barrier for many of those students (Bettinger et al., 2012; Dynarski & Scott-Clayton, 2006). This recognition has catalyzed a variety of efforts to provide students with additional information about and assistance with the financial-aid process. These include the US Department of Education's (UDOE's) FAFSA Completion Pilot, which provides school districts with real-time information about individual students' FAFSA completion status; the privately funded College Goal Sunday, which offers students across the country individualized assistance with FAFSA completion; and interventions to integrate the FAFSA application into the income-tax-return process (Bettinger et al., 2012). Given the complexity of tasks related to successfully completing the FAFSA and verifying income and assets if they are required to do so pose substantial barriers to college access for low-income students. This article describes the use of text messaging--currently students' preferred mode of communication--as a way to provide them with personalized, college-related information; prompt them to complete financial-aid and other required tasks by important deadlines; and invite them to request one-on-one assistance from a counselor or advisor if they need help. Though each text is only 160 characters long, the messages operate through a variety of powerful behavioral channels to encourage students to take action on important college-related tasks. First, the messages can alleviate the confusion students have about the tasks they are required to complete over the summer by delivering task-related information in consolidated and just-in-time bursts throughout the summer. Second, the messages can address students' tendency to procrastinate in the face of onerous tasks by prompting them to focus on completing important ones (e.g., registering for orientation) in the moment. Finally, by inviting students to write back if they need assistance, the texts help minimize barriers to students' accessing professional advising when they need help. Recommended guidelines for educators and policy makers are included.

Citation

Castleman, B. & Page, L. (2015). Beyond FASFA Completion. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 47(1), 28-35. Retrieved November 19, 2019 from .

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