Recommendations from “The Reinvention of Financial Aid”

photograph of a FAFSA sign

The upcoming impact of the “Better FAFSA” will permanently alter the landscape of financial aid and disrupt the ways that enrollment and financial aid offices have traditionally operated. Institutions will need to respond to the transition of the Expected Family Contributions (EFC) to the Student Aid Index (SAI), adjust their awarding timelines, manage budget conversations with their CFO, and redeploy financial aid administrators in new ways while informing and supporting students and families to manage and understand these changes.  

The challenges ahead will be significant, but the courageous will succeed by embracing the opportunities that come with change while rethinking their assumptions about data.  

Last week, we presented nine key recommendations to think about these changes in our webinar, “The Reinvention of Financial Aid: How to Prepare For The Changes of the Next Awarding Cycle.” 

Below are some of our tips to navigate the next awarding cycle: 

Webinar: The Reinvention of Financial Aid

With this year’s implementation of the “Better FAFSA,” enrollment teams nationwide are wondering when and how to start contingency planning effectively.

This pre-recorded webinar provides exclusive insight and tips on how to prepare for these upcoming financial aid changes with confidence.

1. Leverage the FAFSA changes as a public service opportunity 

Yes, it’s a given that the new FAFSA changes and its rollout timeline are going to put stress on institutions and cause confusion among students. These headaches will be universal; they will be felt by every school and every student. A different perspective is to leverage it as a public service opportunity. You can share your knowledge and resources with high schoolers as well as their parents and counselors to help them prepare for the new timeline. It’s a great way to establish trust in an environment with so much uncertainty and conflicting information. 

2. Consistently communicate the operational and behavioral impact to all internal stakeholders 

Internally, enrollment teams have an opportunity to position themselves as experts within their schools and elevate the importance of the work they are doing. Enrollment will be the most impacted and best equipped to respond—other units across campus will need to understand the implications and do not have the same visibility into the challenges as you do. 

Your office will be the authority on the topic and can remind your colleagues that everyone has a stake in getting the rollout right while understanding how impactful this will be to both prospective and current students. The deadlines are changing and units across campus – from the Board and the cabinet to the athletics and student advising offices – everyone will need to be aware and prepare accordingly.  

3. Update all print and web materials with anticipated notification timelines (don’t forget about your applicant portal!) 

As deadlines change, so will your school’s notification timelines. These must be updated and there will be a lot of material to review. Applicant portals should receive top priority as they typically have a lot of information about this process and become the primary place for students to go to check their application status and find answers to their questions about tuition and financial aid. 

This is another moment where partnerships with key stakeholders are needed because so many web and print materials will need to be reviewed. For example, can you work with the web team at your school to search for any pages that have information about the FAFSA to produce a list of pages to review? Are there communications going out from other offices that may need to be updated – such as emails from coaches or student affairs units? 

4. Consider new questions you may want to ask of students when they apply 

In the absence of receiving the FAFSA, are there other data points that you can capture when a student applies?  
For example: 

  • “Do you have other family members in college?” 
  • “Do your parents own a second home?” 

Or simply ask, “Do you intend to apply for financial aid?” Even if the answer is no, you may want to reach out to those students and families and alert them how things will be different this year and see if they have any questions. They may have incorrect assumptions about the aid process or what they think their aid package may look like, and this is an opportunity to help them understand their options. 

5. Partner with MARKETview  

Current MARKETview partners have an advantage in navigating this changing financial aid landscape. As the incoming 2024 class’s FAFSA activity will look different than previous years, MARKETview can provide a source of truth with daily updates and contextual data. For example, we can compare how all income groups behave relative to their aid application timing and identify opportunities for schools to use these data points to get closer to their goals. 

Check out our infographic to see the full list of recommendations or access the webinar recording below: