Aid Policies Violate Higher Ed Act
Published: Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 02:02
According to a letter written by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Feb. 5, Georgetown is one of 111 elite American universities that may have violated the Higher Education Act by leading applicants to believe they were required to fill out the College Board’s CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE to receive federal financial aid when, in fact, they were not.
The PROFILE, which costs $25 for the first form and $16 thereafter, allows applicants to provide a more in-depth account of their financial status in order to qualify for institutional financial aid. This form is separate from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which is the only form actually necessary for students to receive federal aid.
The 111 universities that have been accused of violating the act include every Ivy League university except Princeton, as well as Georgetown, Duke University, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Chicago and the University of Michigan.
Georgetown Director of Media Relations Rachel Pugh said that any confusion about the roles of the two forms was not intentional on Georgetown’s part.
“Students who want to apply for federal aid only should complete just the FAFSA. Those wanting to be considered for Georgetown Scholarship must complete the PROFILE. The PROFILE is only required for institutional aid. It has never been our intention to suggest to prospective students or their families that the PROFILE is required for federal aid,” Pugh wrote in an email to The Hoya.
According to Pugh, the university has made necessary changes to prevent any future confusion.
“This week we learned that we could make these directions more clear on some of our financial aid websites. cscWe immediately took steps to make sure the distinction between the two forms is clear throughout the admissions process across the university. Our goal is to ensure that each prospective student understands all of the financial aid options available to them,” Pugh wrote.
While Crystal Walker (SFS ’16) did not have any problems differentiating between the two forms when filing for financial aid a year and a half ago, she pointed out the irony in charging applicants for financial aid.
“Even though it’s kind of annoying that I have to pay for this application so I can get aid — it does seem like a really big barrier — I’m still going to pay it because I want to get financial aid,” Walker said.
Chris Kolychkine (COL ’17) thought Georgetown’s financial aid documents were the clearest of any college he applied to.
“I understood completely and clearly that they were separate things,” Kolychkine said of the FAFSA and the PROFILE. “Georgetown … was probably the only school I didn’t have problems with in terms of financial aid because they were clear, crystal clear, every step of the way.”
At the same time, Walker added that the PROFILE fee is well worth the financial aid she has received from the university
“I mean, what’s $25 to $25,000?” Walker said.
In the wake of the accusations, the University of Pennsylvania has reworded the language on its website to clarify its position, according to university spokesperson Ron Ozio.
“To be certain there is no further misunderstanding, we have reworked the language on our website to make this more clear,” Ozio said in a statement., according to Bloomberg Businessweek.
Harvard University, which was also cited in the letter, will not change its financial aid procedure but rather will strive to maintain a clear line of communication with applicants, also according to Bloomberg Businessweek.
“[Harvard] will continue working to ensure that our students have the clear guidance they need to access the federal and Harvard-funded aid to which they are entitled,” university spokesperson Jeff Neal said.