There has been a lot of media attention lately in the higher education community about FAFSA position codes. Unfortunately, at least a couple of these articles had sensationalized headlines implying that this very important data was being misused by schools, against students.
First of all, what are we talking about? On the paper FAFSA application, students are given the option to indicate up to four colleges where they wish to have the FAFSA data sent. On the electronic application, they can include 10 institutions.
While the text on the FAFSA does not ask the student to rank the student’s choice (i.e., which school is the student’s first-choice institution), the order a student lists an institution does appear to correlate to a student’s interest in that college or university. Consider the following results from campuses using Noel-Levitz financial aid services:
In an analysis of 153 of our campus partners, students enrolled at a 64 percent rate at the campuses listed first on their FAFSA. The yield dropped to 22 percent in position two and to 16 percent in position three. Students yielded at about the same rate in the remaining positions as those who did not file a FAFSA at all (12 percent). These trends were similar for both public and private colleges/universities.