The deceptive financial aid system at America's colleges
When prospective students navigate the process of choosing a college, financing is a central and often determining factor in the final decision of enrollment. Students first turn to college websites and the College Board to look at cost data, and many then apply for financial aid through FAFSA, which relies on cost estimates provided directly by colleges to determine aid packages. Prospective students know that college is a steep investment—they take seriously the decision of where and what to study and the costs it incurs. No matter how talented, hard working, and committed a student is, if financing falls through, the dream of obtaining higher education can be dashed. But much of the financial data that prospective students receive is misleading. In the cost information offered to prospective students, higher ed institutions consistently underestimate the non-tuition costs of attending college, and overestimate the amount of incoming aid from grants and scholarships. Discrepancies between estimated and real prices can add up to thousands of dollars in unanticipated costs, burdening students who already struggle to afford college.