Fearful woman in raincoat holding an umbrella while reports and forms to fill out are falling on her.

Accessible Education Means More Than Just Simpler Forms

The new year brought a new version of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). . It’s designed to be easier, faster, and better supported than in previous years. 

The response to the launch was underwhelming. Writing in the New York Times, Ron Lieber reported:

My big kid is going to college this fall, so I spent Sunday afternoon and evening trying to access the site and complete the form.

Completion proved elusive.

Instead of encountering a smoother process, he encountered technical glitches, confusing directions, and unresponsive help services. All in all, he felt frustrated.

Massive tech roll-outs are notoriously difficult, but they improve over time. By the next admissions period for most colleges, the online FAFSA form likely will be much easier.

But it will likely never get so easy that it won’t be one more hurdle people have to jump over to get to college. 

Not only is college all too often unaffordable for people, the bureaucracy and red tape are a significant barrier to helpful resources. People working two jobs and raising a family often don’t have the time, energy, or expertise to fill out complicated paperwork and difficult systems. 

The current education system demands a lot of tedious work to access college. And the larger the barriers to entry are for college, the more the economy as a whole suffers.

Michael Younger, Calbright’s vice president of workforce, strategy, and innovation has said: “A barrier to education is truly a barrier to the knowledge economy.” Research proves this point, showing that the more people and groups are excluded from higher education, the more the economy drags. Giving more people access to education expands the economy for everyone. 

America is increasingly a knowledge-based economy with essential jobs requiring specific skills – and we may be entering a crisis period where not enough people have those skills to keep the economy running smoothly. 

Increasingly, economic prosperity requires that we make college education accessible to everyone who wants it. That doesn’t just mean making it cheaper, it means reducing the hoops students have to jump through to get the help they need. 

Calbright is designed to show how this can be done. It’s not just that we’re free – we’ve also reduced the paperwork and the admissions process to be as simple as possible. There’s no financial aid forms to fill out, we don’t even need your credit card number. Admission is guaranteed to every Californian over the age of 18 with a high school diploma or equivalent. We have dedicated staff who help students through every part of the process from the very beginning all the way through graduation.

We keep our classes rigorous, but we remove every logistical and administrative issue students might have. Instead of making students jump through hoops, we find ways to meet their needs. 

That’s what college accessibility can look like. It goes way beyond simpler forms.

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