Let’s Kill FAFSA

Friend and colleague Carlo Salerno (@edanalyst) calls for eliminating FAFSA instead of simplifying it. I agree. Let’s do that. Let’s rely solely on the tax return for calculating the Estimated Family Contribution (EFC), Pell grant eligibility, and student loan eligibility. I see no reason for one agency to create and manage a complex form/endeavor with a black box calculation for EFC that relies on data that another agency collects, calculates, holds, and enforces. It is would be more efficient to do things this way, save money, and eliminate  the need for some applications to be verified.

It also eliminates families sending detailed financial information to colleges before they can be told their price.

I have a dog in this fight. I have build a fair amount of reporting based on family income, including graduation rates. For example, we have published for two years now, graduation rates of students from families with incomes of $150,000 and above that pretty much demonstrate that the Pell Institute report that stimulated this blog post by Matt Chingos and Susan Dynarski was wrong on the face of it as the data could only be assumed to be irrelevant if Va was so unrepresentative. In fact, Virginia has just about the highest four-graduation rates of public institutions in the country.

I would be willing to give up access to these income data in pursuit of greater efficiency and less burden.

How would we calculate Pell eligibility?

Perhaps like this:

Pell Value – Total tuition and Fees, plus cost of text books, for most expensive public community college in nation.

0 to 200% of Federal Poverty Level – 100% (No income cut-offs, based on family size, 100% Pell for each family member in college).

EFC = 5% of family income above 150% of poverty level divided by number of family members in college.

201% to 400% of Federal Poverty Level – 50% of Pell for each family member enrolled in college, eligible for 100% of remaining need to covered by subsidized loans covered by PAYE.

EFC = 10% of family income above 150% of poverty level divided by number of family members in college.

Burning Bridges

I guess I am tired and feeling cranky. Thursday’s InsideHigherEd story from Michael Stratford, U.S. Keeps Scrutiny of Risky Colleges Secret convinces me that USED cares very little about its credibility. Apparently the Department is afraid to release the names of over 500 institutions under funding restrictions and enhanced scrutiny.

But the department has refused to provide the names of those colleges because of the “competitive injury” it may cause them.


And what the hell will happen to institutions receiving the lowest PIRS ratings? Seriously, this makes no sense. Unless they are designing the ratings to give specific institutions the lowest ratings. This would mean they are targeting a specific group of institutions and that the game is rigged. Or that a different group of inmates is in charge of each of these projects. The Department really needs to think about consistency in its behavior and make an appeal to the President to back off PIRS or ask the Wizard of Oz for a backbone and courage. Yeah, I am probably reducing or eliminating the number of invitations I will receive from the Department in the future with this comment, but I am just so disappointed in this kind of inconsistency.

Of course, I am still waiting for Ted Mtichell or someone else from the Department to call me about using state data, but apparently that’s not going to happen. Perhaps because I suggested that our timeline probably would not be as quick as theirs. I’m not sure why that would matter since they haven’t hit any of their promised deadlines yet. (I often have that problem as well, and that is the nice thing about self-imposed deadlines – you can move them at will.)

Published on the same day, also at InsideHigherEd, is this story covering the release of a report from the National Student Clearinghouse showing that nearly half of the graduates with four-year degrees had experiences in community colleges. In fact, 65% of had three or more semesters of enrollment at a community college. Matt Reed writes about this pointing to the disconnect between thjhese data, the IPEDS GRS, and what typically is defined as success or failure for community colleges. Reed makes the further connection between community college transfer to four-year institution and student debt. What he leaves out is the connection to PIRS.

Yes, everything comes back to PIRS.

If PIRS happens and Congress somehow embraces it, it will drive federal data collections and definition of metrics for years to come. For good or ill, the concept paper from Senate HELP Committee suggests how things might be throttled back, but Congress has never been shy about adding things it wants to College Navigator.