Survey Finds Families Struggle to Navigate FAFSA; Financial Aid Officers are Parents' Top Pick for College Planning Advice

September 13, 2018 4:19:12 PM EDT / by John Fees

Since Bill Suneson and I founded GradGuard, we have always been focused on providing useful insights to the trends facing higher education. 

As a result, it is a real credit to large organizations who share our interest and are committed to building knowledge that impacts the schools and college families we serve.  For many years we worked closely with Sallie Mae whose ground breaking - How America Pays (now Value) for College - became the benchmark for the industry. Today, we are pleased to work closely with Allianz Global Assistance in the research they have undertaken to determine with the College Confidence Index.  

According to the 2018 Allianz Tuition Insurance College Confidence Index, "roughly 40 percent of families find the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) challenging to complete – a troubling statistic considering the growing number of families saving nothing for college.

The index reveals a growing "college savings gap," as even parents who have saved have only about a third of what they think a four-year degree will cost. Both groups expect to tap outside sources (including those accessible after filing the FAFSA.) to cover 40 percent of the balance, a significant increase from 2017."

GG AGA TPP logo with Cap on Top

One of the questions we have been interested in is who do families trust when making financial decisions.

The index also shows that parents who seek help with FAFSA and other financing questions place the most trust in a college's financial aid officer or their own financial advisors, while students turn equally to family members and financial aid officers. 

Allianz Tuition Insurance surveyed 1,000 current and prospective students and 1,000 parents on perceptions and actions linked to college preparedness and overall confidence. Most parents surveyed (71 percent) felt confident in their ability to pay for their children's college education, though the 2018 data revealed several areas in which families seem to fall behind. This also pointed to opportunities for financial professionals to offer more hands-on guidance.

Families struggle to complete the FAFSA application. Thirty-seven percent of parents and 41 percent of students found the FAFSA process confusing. Of those parents who sought FAFSA support, 25 percent went to college financial aid officers, and 57 percent of students consulted their parents. However, more than 40 percent of parents and 31 percent of students did not seek advice about planning for college costs.

Financial aid officers are the top information source for families planning to pay for college. Parents who requested guidance trust financial aid officers (88 percent) and financial advisors/planners (86 percent) over family members. Further, 85 percent of students place equal trust in family members and financial aid officers.

The College Savings Gap is growing. Many parents (44 percent) and prospective students (45 percent) haven't put aside any money to finance higher education. Overall, parents saved an average of $12,937 (down 12 percent from $14,690) and students saved an average of $7,800 (up 17 percent from $6,678). However, families expect a four-year program will cost more than $61,000.

Finn_AllianzGA_Infog_201807_Tuition_f_InfoSnacksB"This year's College Confidence Index draws a clearer picture of how many people overlook opportunities to manage one of the most important investments of their lives," said Daniel Durazo, Marketing and Communications Director at Allianz Global Assistance. "The data indicates financial aid officers at higher education institutions are an important ally for families, especially for those without access to financial advisors. A college financial aid officer can serve a critical role, helping families navigate costs, financing, and, in many situations, options for protecting their investment such as tuition insurance."

GradGuard is pleased to work closely with Allianz Global Assistance in designing the Tuition Protection Plan that enables schools to help students overcome unexpected mid-term withdrawals that could otherwise be a costly disruption of their education.

Please contact us to receive a copy of the complete report and to learn more about why today more than 250 colleges and universities trust GradGuard to protect their students. 

Learn More About GradGuard's Tuition Protection Plan from Allianz. 

confidence street sign

Methodology: These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted on behalf of Allianz Global Assistance in April 2018. For the survey, a sample of n=2,000 Americans (college students age 17-25, prospective n=500, current, n=500; and parents of prospective students 17-25, n=500, and of current students n= 500) were interviewed online via Ipsos's I-Say panel. Quotas and weighting (by gender and region) were employed to ensure that the sample's composition reflects the overall population according to census information. The precision of Ipsos online surveys is measured using a Bayesian credibility interval. In this case, with a sample of this size, the results are considered accurate to within ± 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what they would have been had all parents and students in America been polled. The credibility intervals are wider among subsets of the population.

Topics: Financial Literacy, tuition refunds, nacubo,, Student Loans, Tuition Protection Plan, Allianz Global Assistance,, financial aid

John Fees

Written by John Fees

John Fees is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of GradGuard™. Fees is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he received a bachelors of science degree in History and is also a graduate of Harvard Business School where he completed a Masters in Business Administration. John Fees lives in Phoenix, Arizona and is married to Melissa Soza Fees, Ph.D. and is the father of five children. He is the Treasurer for the Arizona College Success Arizona, a Director of College Parents of America, Founding Director and investor in Tonto Creek Camp which provides service leadership experiences to 8,000 students annually. He is also an active member of University Risk Management and Insurance Association and the Professional Insurance Marketers Association.

Subscribe to Email Updates

Lists by Topic

see all

Posts by Topic

see all

Recent Posts