What is the cost of a university admission form? A lot.

Lincoln Agnew for The Chronicle

There is a form that evokes an emotional reaction in some people, even years after completing it.

No, this is not a divorce or bankruptcy. It is also not the free app for federal student aid, the Fafsa. It’s the profile of the college scholarship service, or CSS profile, that still reminds them of frustration and angst.

So what is it? The CSS profile is more detailed financial accounting than the Fafsa. Although Fafsa has been criticized for making university access more difficult for some students, especially those with low income or the first in their families to attend university, the form is free for everyone. to complete, and it is used to give students access to government grants and loans.

The CSS profile is not free – it costs $ 25 to submit the form to one college and $ 16 for each additional college. The College Board, which manages the form, grants fee waivers to low-income students. Ultimately, the CSS Profile helps colleges and other scholarship organizations allocate over $ 9 billion a year to students.

To complete the form, you need to know, among other things, the year your home was purchased, the current market value of the home, whether a family member is a beneficiary of a trust, and what Social Security benefits. have been received by all family members except those who will be enrolling in university in 2021-2022 and who have not been declared in an income tax return. Remember that teens are often the ones who fill out this form. Some colleges require students to complete the form each year.

Carolyn Blair, a college counselor at a high school outside of St. Louis, says she warns parents of juniors against the form: “When you go to the CSS profile, the colleges will ask you to cut you off. finger and email it to them. “

At a National Association for College Admission Counseling conference in 2019 (remember the in-person lectures?), Our Eric Hoover heard anecdotes from several members of the public about their experiences with the form or helping students to complete it. He realized that the CSS Profile was not just a political story – it was a human story. Last year when the the federal government announced changes in the Fafsa and simplified it, he knew it was time to write about this other demanding document.

The CSS profile was already longer and more difficult to complete than the Fafsa was, and the simplification of the Fafsa would make the contrast between the two even greater. To see what the process would involve, Eric tried filling out the form for his cat. He found several questions that he wasn’t sure how to answer.

In its history, Eric writes that the CSS profile isn’t just another bureaucratic pain. Form has a human cost, and low-income families are the ones paying for it.


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