Lawmaker claims schools complicated financial aid process

by: Tenikka Smith Updated:

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DAVIDSON, N.C. —

Davidson College is home to nearly 2,000 students and many of them rely on some form of financial aid.
 
A federal lawmaker claims Davidson and more than 100 other schools require forms that make it more difficult and expensive for students to apply for financial aid.
 
Davidson College said the additional form helps them make college more affordable for students and families.
 
U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland claims an investigation by the Democratic staff of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform found 111 schools may be violating the Higher Education Act by "explicitly requiring applicants to submit forms other than the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or by failing to make clear that students must submit only the FAFSA to apply for federal financial aid."

Davidson College was on that list because it requires families to fill out the College Board's PROFILE form, which costs $25 for the initial application and one college report.

Davidson Financial Aid Director David Gelinas said the college uses the FAFSA form to determine state and federal aid,  while the PROFILE form helps determine the amount of institutional aid a student can receive.
 
"I think our families understand, if I want to be considered for everything you could possibly offer to me I should fill out both these forms,” Gelinas said.
 
Gelinas said the PROFILE form asks for more detailed information than the FAFSA, like how much medical expenses a family has.
 
"That's what we're looking for, as in-depth a view as possible so we can make informed decisions about awarding our assistance to families,” he said.
 
This year, the PROFILE form was used to help Davidson distribute more than $34 million in institutional aid, compared to nearly $1.6 million in federal aid from FAFSA.
 
After learning about the investigation earlier this week, the college will still use the PROFILE form but updated its website to specify what the FAFSA and PROFILE are used for.
 
Senior Catherine Hare said the money she received by completing the PROFILE form helped make college more affordable for her family.
 
"I wouldn't be here without the money that Davidson is giving me through the Davidson Trust in the form of grants and scholarships."
 
Cummings has requested a meeting with the secretary of education to discuss ways to make sure schools that use any forms other than FAFSA are in compliance with the Higher Education Act and are not creating unnecessary barriers to federal assistance.
 
To see the details of the investigation and the full list of colleges, click here