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The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

The Blue Banner

The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

The Blue Banner

Changes to federal student aid program causes worry for UNCA students and parents

Chaewon Kim
UNC Asheville student Jasmine Narehood poses outdoors.

A major federal student aid program recently made changes to its application process for the 2024-2025 academic year, and not all of them are welcomed by parents and students.

“People with multiple children who are middle income will receive less. That’s what scares me,” said Robin Narehood, mother of UNC Asheville student Jasmine Narehood.

UNCA financial aid officials say that these changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid application process will be mostly positive for university-bound students and their families.

“We are hopeful the changes will make financial aid more accessible for students and not create more barriers, which should help increase enrollment,” wrote the financial aid office in response to emailed questions.

There are numerous changes to the FAFSA application process.

The application form is much shorter, with just 36 questions instead of 108. Business owners and family farm owners will now have to include their earned income in their total assets.

The eligibility requirements for Pell Grants have also increased to include more families. For instance, the family contribution for college can now be even less than previously, which means more low-income families are automatically considered for Pell Grants.

Narehood said it’s some of the other changes that worry her, such as the removal of a discount for parents with multiple siblings in college.

“I was sitting there stunned,” Narehood said.

She said she was only recently made aware of this change during a visit to the financial aid office of a college that her son wants to attend next fall. 

Narehood’s daughter, Jasmine, a student at UNC Asheville, said her mom is definitely worried about how she will be able to pay his tuition.

“It’s a lot of unknown things and it kind of went from like ‘It’ll be better next year, you’ll both be in college so your aid will increase.’ to ‘Oh yeah, they took that away, right?’ when that would be helpful,” said Jasmine, a junior studying for a degree in applied mathematics.

Jasmine Narehood’s brother, Nathan, is currently a senior in high school, and the FAFSA changes could impact his upcoming educational plans.

“If my brother couldn’t get enough scholarships then it could potentially mean he might have to wait for a year and go to community college instead,” she said.

According to the UNC Asheville financial aid officials, the FAFSA changes aren’t likely to have a negative impact on many families with multiple siblings attending college, due to the increase of Pell Grant eligibility.

Robin Narehood said she is not sure her children will qualify for Pell Grants because her income is right on the border for eligibility requirements. For instance, a single parent with three children would need to make less or equal to $67,500 to qualify for a maximum Pell Grant.

Narehood makes around $59,000 to $70,000 a year as a chemistry teacher at a small community college near her home in Dobson, North Carolina.

On October 5, UNC Asheville officials announced the launch of Access Asheville, a financial aid program that covers tuition and fee costs for first year and transfer students with North Carolina residency whose families make less or equal to $80,000 annually.

“This will provide an affordable path to pursue an undergraduate college degree for those who may have previously thought it would be out of reach financially,” according to Interim Chancellor Kimberly van Noort in a press release.

However, Robin Narehood said the program won’t help her son and daughter. She said Nathan doesn’t plan to attend UNC Asheville and Jasmine is neither a first year student nor does the program cover housing and meal costs.

Currently, she has a housing credit because she had a campus job this past summer, but she isn’t sure how her housing situation on the UNCA campus will look in the upcoming academic year.

 “I don’t know if I will be able to afford to live in the Woods. I would probably have to either get a single somewhere or look into somewhere that has doubles,” said Jasmine. Woods is one of the campus housing units at UNCA.

Jasmine said she regrets she didn’t choose an institution that would have given her more financial aid than UNCA.

“I chose to come here over a school that gave me more aid,” Jasmine said. “Even if I wasn’t given FAFSA, it wouldn’t have impacted me that much and my brother wouldn’t have to worry about it. And it wouldn’t have to be on our radar as much as it is.”

Jasmine said her mom, Robin, is a single parent with three children, and receives child support payments.

Overall, the financial aid office believes the changes will be mostly positive especially for low-income families.

“We expect more students to receive need-based aid for 24-25 than previous years with no negative impact due to FAFSA form changes,” said the financial aid office.

Robin Narehood said she isn’t so sure.

“I am concerned for middle class children. Their parents would make just above the limit to qualify for many grants and scholarships, but don’t make enough to pay out of pocket for college,” she said.

It also bothers Narehood that FAFSA eligibility is based on income without fully considering one’s expenses.

“Someone looking on the outside says, ‘Oh well, you make plenty.’ But then, I’ve got two teenagers driving and going to have a third teenager driving. So I’ve got car insurance, and I’ve got medical insurance, visual insurance, dental insurance and all the costs associated with that. So there are all kinds of big ticket things that come up when you have teenagers. And at the same time, you’re going to have to pay for college.”

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