New Federal Financial Aid Rules May Benefit HBCU Enrollment in Big Ways

The U.S. Department of Education has published new guidance on financial aid verification requirements that should make it easier for students to receive student loan and grant funds in time for enrollment.

The Chronicle of Higher Education breaks down the details of the new policies.

The guidance, effective immediately, essentially acknowledges that challenge, giving colleges more flexibility when verifying students’ financial information. Colleges may now accept signed tax returns instead of tax transcripts, which often aren’t easy to get.

Another change concerns students who don’t file (and aren’t required to file) tax returns. They still must obtain verification of their nonfiling status from the Internal Revenue Service, but those who are unsuccessful may now submit a signed statement explaining that they tried, along with a copy of their W-2.

The Chronicle of Higher Education – Eric Hoover

The policies make it easier for low-income students to apply for and receive financial aid with fewer documents and far less time. For HBCU students, the predominant number of which are lower income and loan dependent for their education expenses, the rules allow them to prove loan eligibility status faster to campus officials who liaison with the Dept. of Ed for disbursements.

For students, this means shorter financial aid lines and fewer demands for personalized help with Federal Application for Student Financial Aid (FAFSA) documents. For schools, it could mean faster processing for loan refund check and scholarship disbursements, and decreased likelihood of dropped enrollment due to student nonpayment.

For everyone, it means a higher quality of customer service, employee satisfaction and campus morale. That’s a good thing.

Now that the feds have made it easier for students to secure funding, it is up to HBCUs to make their students aware of the changes and the specific documents they’ll now be able to use for proof of their income and loan eligibility. However HBCU officials work their magic to get the word out to students about FAFSA deadlines, registration, payment and drop dates, they should start sending those messages out now to prepare first-year students for admission and enrollment, and returning students for the fall semester.

In the middle of a federal government shutdown caused by a lunatic president, it’s good to see that his appointees are remaining committed to equalizing access for low-income students. It’s fair game to hate Trump, but it is hard to deny that among his fear mongering and law-breaking, HBCUs are making historic gains.