Written by Rachel Wimberly
The FAFSA Simplification Act will bring many changes in 2024-2025, and based on the conversations taking place in my network, most administrators are (understandably) quite nervous. Although change is common in higher education, this is one of the most significant changes I’ve seen over the course of my eight years of experience in the industry.
In this post, I’ll reflect on the top concerns I’ve seen floating around LinkedIn, popping up in my newsfeed, and coming up in conversations at the industry events I’ve attended recently (such as NASFAA). Keep reading if you have some concerns yourself, or if you’re looking for ways to face these changes head on!
Top Concerns for FAFSA Simplification & Other Financial Aid Changes
Concern 1: Getting Ahead of Student Confusion
While most of the provisions in the FAFSA Simplification Act are small and won’t impact more than terminology, administrators are worried about the confusion it will cause for students who filled out the FAFSA last year.
In order to get ahead of that confusion, administrators need to focus on student communication and outreach. They need to meet students where they are, including using modern communication channels like texting instead of email and avoiding financial aid jargon they might not know.
This is the perfect use case for solutions like Ocelot’s Two-Way Texting, which allows institutions to communicate information with students in the way that is most likely to reach them: through their phones. With Two-Way Texting, administrators can proactively inform students about changes, helping to avoid confusion before it starts.
Concern 2: Updating Resources for Compliance
The second concern that has been haunting financial aid professionals is how they will manage to update content, adapt department procedures, and train staff on new terms and calculations in the face of all these changes. This is no mean feat, especially when you consider that many FinAid teams are operating with fewer staff and resources.
Thankfully, institutions of higher education that work with Ocelot have a head start with these updates. Our team at Ocelot has a combined seventy years of experience in higher education, so we understand how important it is that your institutions’ student communication tools such as chatbot, live chat, video content, and texting campaigns provide information that is compliant with the most up-to-date financial aid information.
Ocelot understands this need, and that’s why our dedicated Compliance Committee helps to do the work for our clients, curating and updating the content in our extensive AI-powered higher education knowledge base so that students get the most accurate and current answers to their most important questions. And an added bonus? Staff are relieved of the time they would have spent answering basic questions or updating information, so they are instead able to focus on more complex student concerns.
Concern 3: Getting the Right Students the Right Information
As the FAFSA Simplification changes roll out, financial aid offices will need to focus on proactive and regular student outreach that is specific to students’ needs. Administrators are currently expressing concern about students who have filled out the FAFSA in the past being confused about the new process and falling through the cracks — especially independent students.
The FAFSA gives independent students new responsibility: to resolve their ‘provisional’ independent status, they must reach out to their financial aid office directly in order to finalize their financial aid package. Being able to identify these students and have a method in place to contact them quickly will streamline the process of getting aid disbursed on time.
It makes sense for financial aid offices to proactively reach out to students; this is where an integration between your student communication solutions (chatbot, live chat, and two-way texting) and your student information system or customer relationship management (CRM) tools will be vital. This will enable you to segment students based on their needs, then communicate with them directly via the channels they prefer.
Concern 4: Preparing Students for Loan Repayment
In the midst of FAFSA Simplification, the loan repayment pause that has been in place since the start of COVID is ending — and administrators have expressed deep concern that students are not ready to enter repayment. This concern is especially valid considering that 5.1 million borrowers have no repayment plan selected for their student loans — almost 5 times as many as before the pandemic.
A smooth transition into repayment does not seem likely when so many students are uneducated about repayment plans and starting the repayment process. Communicating early and frequently with students about their upcoming student loan payments is another item on financial aid administrators’ to-do lists this fall. Thankfully, this is one of the other areas two-way texting solutions can come in handy!
Change Isn’t Effortless — But It Can Be Easier
Change always has a ripple effect, especially when it comes to changes in the way we approach financial aid. But with the right solutions in place, administrators can tackle their concerns and more efficiently manage those changes so they are better equipped to assist students through those changes. Talk to our team at Ocelot to see how our AI-powered Chatbot, Two-Way Texting, and Live chat can help you help your students today!