FAFSA requirement raised completion charges, however uncovered hurdles to varsity assist entry, examine finds

A Louisiana coverage requiring highschool college students to fill out a federal monetary assist software helped shut the hole in completion charges between low- and high-income college districts inside simply two years. But it revealed info gaps and different hurdles for college kids to unlock faculty assist.

That’s in response to research released on Thursday by the Century Foundation, which dissected the impacts of Louisiana’s pioneering coverage requiring the Free Application for Federal Student Aid as a commencement requirement.

With 13 states throughout the nation contemplating the same requirement, the analysis offers a yardstick for whether or not the requirement is efficient in serving to low-income college students acquire entry to federal assist for faculty. And whereas Colorado lawmakers aren’t contemplating such a transfer, the analysis lays out issues for states in search of to spice up FAFSA completion charges.

“This is about creating a system of support, which can connect the dots between students and the components of college access,” Peter Granville, the muse’s senior coverage director and creator of the examine, mentioned. “I hope it’s not seen as a quick and easy solution, but instead part of a comprehensive approach to increasing student knowledge about how to access college and the resources to afford it.”

More than $2 billion in Pell Grants — the need-based federal assist program for postsecondary schooling — goes unclaimed every year by college students who don’t full the free software, in response to the examine. Colorado ranks 47th in the nation for the percentage of high school students who complete the form.

Although the Louisiana coverage is labeled as obligatory, college students can decide out of it. While the coverage doesn’t get each pupil to fill out the shape, Granville mentioned, it does create conversations about faculty choices.

In the primary 12 months after the coverage was applied, four out of 5 excessive faculties had 65% or extra of their seniors finishing the FAFSA, in contrast with 1 in three faculties the 12 months earlier than, the researchers discovered.

But they discovered that a couple of third of submitted FAFSA kinds had been by no means evaluated for federal monetary assist eligibility due to lacking info, incomplete signatures, or challenges with info verification.

The report mentioned the variety of functions with incomplete info was larger in districts with extra low-income college students and college students of shade. Students in the country illegally and English-learning college students additionally had issue with the requirement, as a result of they lacked a Social Security quantity or struggled to interpret the shape.

Granville mentioned he recommends that states fund sources to assist college students navigate the shape, together with more cash for counselors.

“The No. 1 thing I would say that families need for FAFSA completion is one-on-one help with the form from a trained counselor or other professional,” Granville mentioned.

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