Fewer low-income students making enrollment deposits, filing FAFSA

A new analysis from education firm EAB highlights several “red flags for educational equity,” finding that fewer low-income students, particularly students of color, are submitting enrollment deposits this year. Moreover, among lower-income deposited students, “an alarming number” had not filed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as of June 12. 

EAB, which looked at the status of more than 500,000 students admitted to four-year institutions, says the declines are especially worrying, as they reflect the disproportionate impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on underrepresented communities.   

Gaps largest for underrepresented students

Looking at enrollment deposits, which are down this year for students at all income levels, EAB found that students with Expected Family Contributions (EFCs) below $10,000 had a six percent year-over-year drop in deposits. Black students in that income bracket had 12 percent drop in deposits. 

Moreover, many deposited students had not filed the FAFSA as of June 12, a key step in accessing the federal financial aid needed to afford college. FAFSA filings have been down overall, but EAB says the decline is especially conspicuous among Black and Latinx students from households with incomes less than $80,000, an approximation of Pell-eligibility.


Financial Aid and COVID-19

Charlene Brown-McKenzie, director of Georgetown’s Center for Multicultural Equity and Access, and Missy Foy, director of the Georgetown Scholars Program, discuss the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on students who rely on financial aid.

“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,” Molly O’Connor, a senior director at EAB, told Inside Higher Ed. “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.”

Saying the findings are “a call to action on educational equity,” EAB outlines several steps that college leaders can take to improve access, including repeatedly contacting non-filers and communicating the importance of completing the FAFSA. Colleges, EAB says, also should provide FAFSA completion support and should even reach out to students who have already filed, given that the pandemic may have changed families’ financial circumstances and increased their need for support.

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