The new study, conducted by Stanford University Associate Professor Eric Bettinger, Harvard Graduate School of Education Professor Bridget Terry Long, and University of Toronto Associate Professor Philip Oreopoulos, tracked nearly 17,000 low-income individuals and determined that cumbersome financial aid forms and lack of information about higher education costs and financial aid prevented access to higher education.
At H&R Block offices during the 2008 tax season, the researchers invited individuals aged 17 to 30, who earned less than $45,000 annually in Ohio and North Carolina, to participate and randomly assigned them to one of three groups. For one group of participants, employees helped fill out the 102-question Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that serves as the critical application and gatekeeper for federal aid, as well as most state and institutional aid.
In order to streamline the process, the researchers prepopulated the application with already-collected tax information and then helped participants answer remaining questions. This significantly reduced the FAFSA form completion time from 13 hours to less than 10 minutes. Participants were also given personalized information about their financial aid options. Following the application process, the researchers tracked the progress of participants who were given aid information alongside those participants who did not receive help to determine whether streamlining the application process and providing information increased college enrollment.
"Making college aid applications almost effortless to complete had an extremely powerful impact on the number of low-income students who made it to college," said Oreopoulos. "For high school seniors, just helping their parents fill out the financial aid form and apply increased college enrollment rates by 30 percent."
Other program outcomes included:
The program increased college enrollment by 20 percent for young adults already out of high school with particularly large results for those with annual incomes less than $22,000.
The program increased the percentage who received a federal grant by 33 percent for high school seniors with positive effects also for older adults.
The program increased FAFSA submissions by 39 percent for seniors in high school; 186 percent for independent students who had never been to college; and 58 percent for independent students who had previously attended college.
The program also resulted in FAFSA applications being filed significantly earlier than those in the control group: over one month earlier for high school students and almost three months earlier for independent students. This allowed students to maximize their state and institutional financial aid awards in additional to federal aid.
On the other hand, the researchers said that participants who were only given information about aid (without help with the FAFSA) did not have higher aid application submission rates than those who did not receive any help.
"This suggests that simply informing individuals about their aid eligibility does not appear to improve college access," said Bettinger, "The real barrier is the complexity in actually filling out the form and finding the time to complete it. We were able to provide individuals with accurate aid information and submit the form for them, which greatly increased their chances of accessing higher education."
Long said the study proves there are simple, efficient ways to streamline the FAFSA process that can increase its visibility and prevent the misinformation, missed deadlines, and complexity that block some students from going to college.
"In most cases, two-thirds of the FAFSA form can be completed using tax information, so in less than 10 minutes, we were able to address a major educational problem and had a substantial impact on aid applications and college enrollment," Long said. "The next step is to think beyond one company to how we can implement these lessons on a larger scale, perhaps in schools or with community organizations, and ideally by changing the aid application process at the federal level."
This research has informed deliberations of the U.S. Department of Education and the White House regarding simplifying the financial aid process. Just this summer, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced plans to streamline FAFSA and explore ways to transfer information directly from the Internal Revenue Service to an online financial aid application. The researchers note that such a change should substantially reduce the time necessary to complete the FAFSA form and improve the accuracy of the information submitted. Additional outreach and assistance, such as that provided to study participants, would also greatly improve the current system of financial aid.
The project was funded with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the Kaufman Foundation, and the Institute of Education Sciences.For more information on the program and research results, please see "The Role of Simplification and Information in College Decisions: Results from the H&R Block FAFSA Experiment," National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper at
Mathematical confirmation: Rewiring financial networks reduces systemic risk
22.06.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Frugal Innovations: when less is more
19.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Arbeitswirtschaft und Organisation IAO
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
28.06.2017 | Health and Medicine