Skip to main content
Home » Campus Diversity » The New, Free, Technology That’s Helping College Students Understand and Apply for Financial Assistance
Campus Diversity

The New, Free, Technology That’s Helping College Students Understand and Apply for Financial Assistance

Twenty million students apply for financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), annually. However, not all students are taking advantage of this money-saving opportunity, but a credit union is working to close that gap.

According to the EAB, in 2017, $2.3 billion in government aid went unclaimed due to lack of form submissions. Part of the reason is due to the process. Students applying for financial aid, such as loans and scholarships, need to fill out the FAFSA form, which has six sections and over 100 questions.

CommunityAmerica, a credit union in Kansas City, launched FAFSAchat, a FAFSA support chatbot, using artificial intelligence to help students with questions about the financial aid form. The free tool can answer approximately 400 questions.

Their Cost & Compare Calculator, a free software tool helps students broaden their college dreams by understanding the actual cost of college, provides personalized results and can compare the true cost of 6,000 colleges.

College affordability

Kansas City’s Alta Vista High School consists of a low income community. Ninety-two percent of the 400 students are Latino, and 90 percent go to college after graduation.

“College education gives students tools to move up in the world,” says Mary Claire Gustafson, the school’s college and career counselor. “In the case of Alta Vista students, it will give them leverage in their community and hopefully help their families move out of poverty.”

The school hosted a “FAFSA Fiesta,” showing students and parents the chatbot. “This tool was extremely useful,” says Gustafson.

Student perspective

Nearly half of all FAFSA applicants are first-generation students whose parents lack the experience to help their children.

For high school junior Anthony Tran, his mother — who’s from Vietnam and only finished middle school — is his motivation to go to college. Initially, he worried about going into debt.

“Being in a low-income family, this was a strong fear for me,” he says, explaining the FAFSAchat bot and the college calculator made him realize the cost of college, backed with scholarships, was much more affordable than he expected.          

University of Chicago student Carlos Cardona wishes he had FAFSAchat when he was in high school.

Back then, he didn’t think he could afford college. Now he’s telling other students to believe they can: “It is possible, but just takes a little work.”

Next article