Analysis of College Enrollment Deposits and FAFSA Applications Raises Equity Concerns

EAB study shows sharp drop in FAFSA filings among students of color who have already made deposits

Washington, District of Columbia, UNITED STATES

Washington, DC, July 23, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Education company EAB released findings today from analysis of deposit activity and Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) filings among more than 500,000 rising college freshmen. The study shows an alarming downward trend in FAFSA filings among students from historically underserved populations who already have been accepted into and made a deposit to the school of their choice. Data recently released by the National College Attainment Network showed a drop in FAFSA filings overall, especially among students from families with lower incomes. EAB’s new analysis sheds light on specific student populations that are at greatest risk of missing out on college entirely.

The number of students of color who submitted a deposit but who have not yet filed for federal financial aid has more than doubled compared to this time last year. The increase among Black students is 138 percent, and the increase among Latinx students is 129 percent.

“What we are seeing in deposits and FAFSA filing activity among students from historically underrepresented minority households points to worsening education equity gaps this fall,” said EAB Senior Director Molly O’Connor. “These are students who were planning to start school in August but who now may be at risk of forfeiting their deposits and missing out on college completely.”

The longer a person waits to enroll in college, the less likely he or she is to earn a bachelor’s degree. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics suggests that the likelihood of enrolling in a four-year program declined by 30 percent among students who took just one year off.

EAB is encouraging university leaders to take immediate action to blunt the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on students and families of color. The first step is to identify and contact deposited students who have not yet filed their FAFSA. To cut through the noise and stress that families are feeling right now, schools need to be clear, proactive, and persistent in their outreach about the importance of filing. 

“The pandemic has hit Black and Latinx families much harder than other populations in terms of both job losses and health impacts,” O’Connor added. “We have to do everything we can to ensure students from underserved communities gain access to all of the financial support available to them so they can pursue a college degree.”

EAB also recommends colleges find ways to help families fill out the FAFSA. Schools should offer virtual FAFSA 101 workshops, send written guidance and FAQs to demystify the process, or simply reach out to families to ask if they need added support. 

“A simple phone call can be the catalyst for helping a prospective student access the financial aid needed to enroll this fall,” O’Connor suggested. “Navigating the financial aid process is difficult during the best of times, and these are far from the best of times for students and families whose lives have been turned upside down.”

More detailed findings from EAB’s analysis of deposit activity and FAFSA filings can be found in a new post to the company’s website.

About EAB
At EAB, our mission is to make education smarter and our communities stronger. We harness the collective power of more than 1,700 schools, colleges, and universities to uncover and apply proven practices and transformative insights. And since complex problems require multifaceted solutions, we work with each school differently to apply these insights through a customized blend of research, technology, and services. From kindergarten to college and beyond, EAB partners with education leaders, practitioners, and staffs to accelerate progress and drive results across three key areas: enrollment management, student success, and institutional operations and strategy. 


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