Summer Melt and Free Application for Federal Student Aid Verification

with Vansa Shewakramani Hanson

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) verification and its role in summer melt is examined in this study. Summer melt is when high school seniors who appear ready to go to college the fall following graduation do not enroll. The study revealed one-third of Houston Independent School District (HISD) college-intending students were flagged for FAFSA verification, and racial and ethnic minorities were especially at risk of verification. The study also found one-in-four college-intending students experienced summer melt and did not attend college by November 1st of the fall semester after completing high school. In line with prior research, FAFSA verification increased the likelihood of summer melt by six percentage points.

The study also showed 26 percent of students who experienced summer melt enrolled in college during a later term but still within two years of high school graduation. Students flagged for FAFSA verification were five percentage points more likely to delay their college enrollment than students who were not flagged for verification. Overall, results suggested reducing FAFSA verification and/or providing support to students and families managing the process might be a way to improve college enrollment rates and reduce summer melt. Moreover, some students who experienced summer melt did attend college; they just did so at a later date.