March 13, 2021
Make rational decisions.
Beware of fraudsters and thieves.
Don’t give money to the wrong people.
All that’s good advice for any business, and colleges are no exception. Institutions with precious resources must carefully determine how to use them. Financial-aid offices play a large role in that task, deciding how much this student over here must pay compared with that student over there. It’s a tough job, requiring an eye for nuance and a stomach for making difficult judgment calls about a family’s wherewithal.
For decades, many financial-aid offices have relied on the College Board’s CSS Profile to help them cut through complexity. About 300 colleges, schools, and scholarship organizations use the detailed aid application to assess families’ financial need and allot institutional grants.
But it comes with a troubling trade-off: As The Chronicle reported in February, the form is especially onerous for low-income and first-generation students, who often must tackle it with little or no help from an adult. If the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or Fafsa, is 100 yards of frustration, the CSS Profile is a mile.