Making Cents of PPY

Making Cents of PPY

New "Prior-Prior Year" report shows most higher education institutions reassess financial aid practices

The numbers mean a lot to enrollment managers like Brent Benner. As the Director of Enrollment Management at The University of Tampa, Benner knows that what the numbers say can be a critical resource to higher education institutions looking to refine and direct future strategies.

When the results for the national "Prior-Prior Year (PPY)" survey were tabulated, he was excited to share them. Benner, along with John Baworowsky, Ph.D., vice provost for Enrollment Management at Marquette University, and Kathleen Cross, Ph.D., executive VP at KelmscottEDU, conducted the national research study. The survey was designed to measure changes and impacts among colleges and universities.

The advent of Prior-Prior Year (PPY) compelled most institutions of higher education to reassess their financial aid awarding practices and communications. What follows is a snapshot of the study.

"The P-P year significantly widens that amount of time that families have to assess college cost, which is one of the most major expenses that student and parents face," Benner says. "Our research indicates that in 2016 and before, financial aid packages were typically sent on average March 21. That average date has moved up significantly since Prior-Prior Year."

Baworowsky says the findings will help enrollment managers get a better idea about the size of their freshman classes. "You can see that, in general, students deposited earlier."

As for surprises? Baworowsky says it was interesting to see an increase in wealthy families filing FAFSAs in Prior-Prior Year. "I also was surprised that so many universities moved up their financial aid deadlines, which is not advantageous to students and parents."

For more information or the full report, contact Kathleen Cross at kcross@fuseteam.com or visit relevate online.

PPY: Awarding
Most higher education institutions made changes in financial aid awarding and timelines this past year.
88% made changes in their financial aid awarding timelines
78% of their students filed their FAFSAs earlier
77% mailed award letters earlier
33% mailed initial merit offers earlier
Of institutions that changed the deadline, moving up their filing deadline by two months was most common

"Earlier notification of aid offers more time to plan for college costs. In theory, students may get their aid offer in November—nine months before they start college." – John M. Baworowsky, Ph.D., Vice Provost for Enrollment Management, Marquette University

PPY: Communications
Most higher education institutions modified their communications.
86% communicated the opportunity for students to file a FAFSA in October
63% communicated earlier awarding dates
41% communicated earlier filing deadlines
16% added net price calculator communications
10% made no changes in their financial aid communications

"Colleges have conducted messaging regarding the FAFSA and financial aid significantly earlier than in previous years, and many schools have moved toward earlier financial aid deadlines." – Brent Benner, Director of Enrollment Management, The University of Tampa

PPY: What Institutions Learned
While early awarding drove earlier deposits, early packaging did not seem to favor high-cost, low discount colleges.
42% found earlier awards drove earlier deposits
39% said more students attempted to negotiate their packages
36% affirmed PPY encouraged students to commit earlier
25% stated PPY generated more deposits for them
13% felt more confident about the size of our first-year class due to PPY

"Our research indicates that in 2016 and before, financial aid packages were typically sent on average March 21. That average date has moved up significantly since prior-prior year." – Brent Benner, Director of Enrollment Management, The University of Tampa

PPY: Predictions for 2018
Over 50% of the respondents believe other institutions will send earlier award letters in 2017/18, yet more than 50 % of the respondents are not planning for earlier award letters next year.
75% plan to study data before making changes
Most respondents will not be influenced by competitors aid plans
67% stated their institution will set tuition earlier next year
33% felt that institutions sending award letters after January will be negatively impacted
28% expect larger changes in 2018