Access to college aid programs is a major impediment to low-income students applying to and enrolling in college. Numerous studies show that many college applicants, especially those who are low-income, have very little understanding of college tuition levels, financial aid opportunities, and how to navigate the admissions process. Because of the complexity of the financial aid system and the lack of information about the availability of college aid, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of students who are eligible for financial aid do not complete the necessary forms to receive said aid each year.
Delegate Andrew Platt is proposing legislation in Maryland to use tax assistance preparation services for low-income families to help them complete and submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application for their child. This approach has already been proven effective by the Coalition for Evidence-based Policy. Platt’s legislation will create a grant program to cover the cost of the tax preparation provider to provide this service, which is $90 per family. He plans on using the open-source software used in the field experiment, have the Maryland Department of Education and the Maryland Higher Education Commission fine tune it, and then work to create partnerships with online tax preparation companies, like Turbo Tax, to offer the service alongside online tax preparation and submission, using the free, open sourced software.
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The Coalition for Evidence Based Policy sponsored this experiment. Publications related to the evidence can be found at the following links:
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