Mar 01, 2016

Group Assists Implementation of Policy Requiring Graduates to Choose Whether to Seek Aid

BATON ROUGE, La. – A recently commissioned Financial Aid Working Group met for the first time today in Baton Rouge to develop an action plan to implement the state’s new student financial aid choice policy. The goal of the Working Group is to increase student access to financial aid and provide districts with necessary supports to efficiently implement the policy. In December 2015, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) passed the policy requiring graduates in the class of 2018 and beyond to either complete financial aid forms or a non-participation form.

“Every graduate should be able to go to college or pursue post-secondary training after high school,” said State Superintendent John White. “Part of doing this is being able to afford tuition. Louisiana graduates leave $250 million in financial aid on the table each year, just because forms are not completed. By giving all families the choice to complete these financial aid forms, graduates can access money to pay for their education and achieve their dreams.”

The Financial Aid Working Group is comprised of members from a diverse group of organizations (see a list of members at the conclusion of this release) with an interest in increasing post-secondary access to Louisiana’s students. Members will create a state action plan for implementation, identify support services and programs available high schools and families, and assist in the development of partnerships and alliances with financial aid-related support programs, services, and other stakeholders.

The Working Group is scheduled to meet at least two more times on Thursday, April 21, and Thursday, June 9. The group will provide its report and recommendations to BESE at its August meeting.

The new BESE financial aid policy requires public school students graduating in spring 2018 and beyond to take one of the following steps as part of their Individual Graduation Plan:

  1. Complete the FAFSA; or
  2. Complete the Louisiana TOPS form; or
  3. Submit a parent’s signature on a non-participation form; or
  4. Receive a waiver through a district hardship waiver process.

Most Louisiana high school graduates are eligible for state or federal financial aid. These funds can be accessed by submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the Louisiana Office for Student Financial Assistance (LOSFA) application for state financial aid.

The FAFSA is for all forms of federal financial aid, including Pell grants, work study programs, and federal student loans available to students to aid in the cost of education and technical training beyond high school. Additionally, either the FAFSA or the LOSFA application is required for Louisiana graduates to receive TOPS and TOPS Tech scholarships, which can also be used for college and technical training.

Unfortunately, research suggests that, historically, FAFSA completion rates for Louisiana's public school seniors have been below 50 percent. By not completing the FAFSA and/or the LOSFA application for state financial aid, Louisiana students forego tens of millions of dollars each year in federal grants, state opportunities, and other funding for post-secondary education, not to mention TOPS eligibility.

For a list of members of the Financial Aid Working Group, please click here.

For more information on increasing student access to financial aid in Louisiana, please click here.

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