Financial Aid Verification: Making it easier to understand what’s happening
A December 10 article by Eric Hoover in The Chronicle of Higher Education (“The Verification Trap“) prompted the search for this Link of the Week selection. How, one wondered, did colleges and universities explain “verification”? How simple, how easy might it be made for people who were not familiar with the term and process?
Today’s Link selection surfaced after a search for “FAFSA verification on university website” and “FAFSA verification on college website.” I went 8 pages deep on the university search and 4 pages deep on the college search. Many of the same schools appeared in each search.
After reading the opening content on more than 30 sites, the Cal State Channel islands page impressed for making 4 things clear in the opening paragraphs:
•About 30 percent of FAFSA filers are selected randomly for verification. (That helps make it clear that selection is not because you’ve been identified as a likely cheater. Some sites make a point of noting that any financial aid office can select someone for verification if they suspect a problem. One imagines that that’s a small percent of those who undergo the process. Although I once knew of a college that verified every FAFSA result. Really.)
•If you have been selected, you’ll receive an email from the Financial Aid office that will also tell you what forms you need to submit. (In other words: If you don’t get an email from the Financial Aid office, don’t worry about this.)
•A Financial Aid person will review the verification forms you submit, make any changes needed to your FAFSA, and send the changes along for FAFSA award adjustments. (All you have to do is complete the forms. Cal State Channel Islands will do the rest.)
•Processing the verification forms and getting any changes back can take up to 6 weeks. (That’s nice to know. Don’t think I saw that anywhere else.)
Overall: Many, maybe most, sites visited took people immediately into the details of the forms and process on dense pages that required unusual diligence to follow. In other words, not very web-friendly. I’d especially not blame anyone experiencing verification for the first time to be unsettled about what awaited them.
Writing Right for the Web…
The writing style here is refreshingly free of the bureaucratic language often found on financial aid pages. The content presentation is relatively easy to scan thanks to a decent font size and nice white space not only between paragraphs but also between sentences within paragraphs.
The site earned a “Good” rating from Google Test My site for a 5 second mobile download speed. Google projects a 19 percent visitor loss rate.
Follow the Link of the Week
Compare the opening content, language, and presentation style of your FAFSA verification page to the Link of the Week at Cal State Channel Islands when you visit the “Verification” page.
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Link of the Week takes a break until mid-January
The holiday break for Christmas and New Year’s is upon us. Expect the next “Your Monthly Higher Education Newsletter” about January 8 and the next Link of the Week email the following Monday. Until then… a Happy Holiday and Happy New Year to everyone.