National College Access Network
Lessons from Four States on Equitable FAFSA Completion
By Courtney Argenti, NCAN Graduate Policy Intern
Many students — especially low-income ones — do not complete the FAFSA because they are misinformed or completely uninformed about federal student aid. And while high school FAFSA completion has increased after a four-year decline, millions of students still are not completing the form: As of June 30, 2017, only 61 percent of high school seniors completed the FAFSA by graduation.
To help ensure more underserved students obtain the financial aid they need to attend college, we looked to four states — California, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Nevada — to identify best practices for increasing FAFSA completion among low-income students.
Why these four states? Earlier this year, NCAN published research demonstrating that, on average, there is a negative relationship between high school FAFSA completion rates and school district poverty. According to the research, California, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Nevada are the only states where high school FAFSA completion is both higher than the national completion rate, and higher in low-income districts than in higher-income ones.
Our new qualitative study, Increasing FAFSA Completion Among Low-Income Students: Lessons From Four States That Are Doing It Well, analyzes FAFSA completion initiatives within these states. We interviewed leaders of the higher education community and analyzed each of their organizations’ online resources to understand how the states promote equitable FAFSA completion. Eleven common themes emerged.
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