For any parent of a high school senior going to college, the joys of FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, are swiftly learned. The questions include not only the inchoate college student’s information, but mom’s and dad’s as well. A lot of it. All kinds of financial and personal information of the sort they couldn’t get without a warrant. Some might even call it “intrusive.”
If you want student aid for your kid, which could mean tens of thousand of dollars, there isn’t much of a choice. Tell the government what it wants to know, or you get squat. Of course, you might get squat anyway, but you have to be in it to win it.
Texas is making FAFSA mandatory, joining Louisiana as the second state to do so.
Completing the form is a leading indicator of college enrollment. And there’s ample evidence that more financial aid is associated with outcomes like college completion. Actually achieving big gains in FAFSA completion, though, requires significant investment and outreach by schools and state officials.
That nagging feeling is your brain saying, “but correlation doesn’t prove causation,” as if filling out FAFSA makes students go to college rather than the other way around. But hey, Louisiana does it, so how can Texas, which struggled with whether its history books should teach the exacting science of creationism?
The contention is that by filling out FAFSA, poor students learn of their eligibility for financial aid, which removes a barrier to going to college for those who don’t try because they don’t believe they can afford it. Fair enough. But couldn’t this be accomplished by public schools (the free ones mandated by the government) strongly informing and encouraging students to apply rather than mandating FAFSA applications upon pain of being denied a high school diploma?
They’re also already tasked with a number of compliance activities — students in the state must receive CPR instruction and training on how to interact with a police officer before graduating high school. Both requirements must be documented on a student’s transcript.
Not that there’s anything wrong with CPR instruction, and what student doesn’t benefit from being trained to say “Yes, Occifer” and keep your hands where they can see them as a Texas cop does a random digital probe for the sake of the children. But FAFSA is quite a different animal.
“We need a lot more students to get a postsecondary education,” said [president-elect of the Texas School Counselor Association Lesa] Pritchard. “If this will help, obviously we’re game for that.”
Do we? We need plumbers and electricians. Do we need a million more gender studies Ph.D.’s? Even if students learning of the availability of, and their eligibility for, student aid will increase the number of students getting a college education, making it mandatory for a student to reveal his parent’s, his siblings’, finances to the government is a significant cost.
Nowhere is this mentioned. No school official appears aware. Or perhaps they’re very well aware, but don’t want dad to know that they’re putting junior’s diploma up against his having to reveal all to the government. But “do it for the children” is good enough for Texas.