Aug 09, 2016

Louisiana’s FAFSA Completion Rate Trails National Average, Students Leaving Millions in Aid on the Table

BATON ROUGE, La. – The Financial Aid Working Group today issued its final report to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) following a comprehensive study of policy approved by BESE in December 2015 requiring 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 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (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.

The Financial Aid Working Group, formed in January 2016 to ensure parents, students, and districts are properly supported throughout the implementation, made several recommendations to BESE, including:

  • Recommendation 1: Inform students and families about financial aid eligibility and opportunities throughout students’ high school career.
  • Recommendation 2: Ensure financial aid planning support services are consistently updated and accessible for students and their families.
  • Recommendation 3: Stakeholders should foster meaningful partnerships that leverage the unique competencies of each group and provide families and communities with financial aid assistance specifically tailored to their needs.

In the report, the group concluded “Louisiana’s FAFSA completion rate amongst its high school seniors is still relatively low when compared to other states. Parents and school counselors require additional training and assistance with respect to the FAFSA completion process. Fortunately, now more than ever, students, their families, and schools have access to support services aimed specifically at increasing the number of students completing the FAFSA and receiving the financial support necessary to continue their postsecondary education. Additionally, the LDOE has committed to awarding grants to any school system interested in accessing, developing, or purchasing capacity to provide direct access to financial aid planning to parents and guardians. As the financial aid completion policy is implemented, additional support services and providers will undoubtedly be identified to assist students and schools navigate the financial aid process.”

“Since 2012, nearly 8,000 more students have earned college-going scores on the ACT and the number of high school graduates enrolling in college is increasing,” said State Superintendent John White. “We are leaving tens of millions of dollars on the table because we are not applying for financial aid to help students pay for universities, community colleges, and technical training. The simple fact is the kids who need the aid the most are the ones applying the least.”

In the 2014-2015 school year, the rate of completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by public high school seniors increased to 48 percent, an increase of 4 percentage points from 2012-2013. This rate still trails the national average of 55 percent. 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. It is also required for Louisiana graduates to achieve TOPS and TOPS Tech scholarships, which can also be used for college and technical training. By not completing the FAFSA, Louisiana students forego roughly $54 million a year in federal grants, state opportunities, and other funding for postsecondary education, not to mention TOPS eligibility.

Related Links:

Final Report of the Financial Aid Working Group to BESE – August 2016

Information on increasing student access to financial aid in Louisiana

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