Advocates Call for Increased Awareness of Financial Aid

Advocates Call for Increased Awareness of Financial Aid

RESTON, Va.

With the rising cost of college tuition making national news, financial aid initiatives and studies are taking center stage.

Lower-income families, who most need information about financial aid for college, have the least information about how to pay for higher education, according to a new Harris Poll, commissioned by the Sallie Mae Fund.

Among families making less than $50,000 per year, 60 percent said they need more information about how to pay for college, compared with 37 percent of those making more than $75,000 per year. Nearly half (45 percent) of parents surveyed with income less than $25,000 per year say they have “no idea” how they are going to pay for college for their children.

The survey also found that knowledge about financial aid is a key predictor of whether a young adult is likely to attend college — the more a young adult knows about financial aid, the more likely he or she is to pursue higher education.

Minority families who were part of the survey expressed a greater need for financial aid information, with 66 percent of African American parents and 62 percent of Hispanic American parents saying they do not have enough information about how to pay for college, versus 44 percent of White parents. On an average, Hispanic American parents also receive financial aid information more than two years later than other parents do (the child’s average age was 17 for Hispanic families, compared with 15 for White and African American families).

In response to the study’s findings and to bolster its work to date on the access issue, the Sallie Mae Fund announced a three-year $15 million commitment for Project Access, a community-based initiative designed to improve access to higher education. The program will target underserved populations through a series of efforts, including public awareness campaigns in English and Spanish, “Paying for College” workshops and television programs, and a toll-free number (1-888-858-7166) that offers education information on planning and paying for college.

According to the survey, many parents and young adults are not aware of even basic sources of financial aid. For instance, 62 percent of all parents and 65 percent of young adults planning to attend college did not name grants as a source of financial aid.

Along those lines, the College Board released findings last month from its yearlong study, “Challenging Times, Clear Choices.” The report recommends greater investment in financial aid.



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