Using Behavioral Science to Increase FAFSA Completion

HEAG Business Office Operations, Community Colleges, Compliance, Federal Student Aid Programs, File Review and Verification, Financial Aid Industry News, Technology

It wasn’t the numbers in the blog post, “FAFSA Non-Filers: What the Research Says,” by Paula Acevedeo on the National College Access Network¹ that caught
 our attention, it was the experiments conducted by ideas42. With at least 2 million students failing to complete the FAFSA every year, ideas42 partnered with colleges to use behavioral science to increase FAFSA completion.

“Behavioral science is the study of how people make decisions and act within a complex and textured world where details matter. We make decisions with imperfect information and do not always choose what’s best for us. Behavioral science has been used across a variety of fields to realign policies, programs, and products with how we really behave.”²

ideas42 is a global nonprofit organization that uses behavioral science to drive social change.

Increasing FASFA Completion Rates with Emails and Apps

An experiment by ideas42 in partnership with Arizona State University showed that sending targeted emails to parents/guardians and to students about FAFSA deadlines increased the completion rate by priority deadline by 72% over a control group. The emails simplified language, broke the application into smaller steps, sent reminders and showed progress.

A smartphone app used in another experiment flagged FAFSA deadlines. The app helped to increase FAFSA submission for high school’s seniors in the San Jose Unified School District by 22%.

Maintaining Financial Aid for Students by Emailing Course Selections

In another experiment, ideas42 partnered with Valencia Community College. Two behaviorally designed emails were sent to students about the impact of their course selections on financial aid. The result was student’ aid awards increase by $150 per student over the control group with minority students seeing an even larger increase.

Improving Efficiency and Student Satisfaction

HEAG’s VERIFY uses many of the techniques used in the behavior science studies to improve the verification process. VERIFY is a completely electronic, customized and streamlined remote verification service built to support the needs of students and financial aid administrators. Through a school branded, secure online portal, students can use their smart phones to upload documents to be reviewed by a designated Verification Specialist. HEAG’s Verification Specialists send students email reminders and confirmations. Watch our video for more information on VERIFY:

VERIFY Remote Verification Video

Schedule a VERIFY demo



2. ideas42 Nudging for Success