Getting help paying for college education takes on even greater importance in the pandemic.
Currently, the number of people who have completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is down 10% from the same time last year.
The National College Attainment Network (NCAN) says the drop is disproportionate for low-income students.
“Students have been deprived of the traditional support they have, whether it be reminders and general outreach to a school counselor or access counselor from a community organization coming for assembly or visiting classes. English or civics to talk about going to college and the steps involved, ”said Kim Cook, NCAN Executive Director.
Groups are getting creative during the pandemic to raise awareness of the importance of completing the FAFSA so that you can be considered for federal funds, including loans and grants. One of them organized a drive-in party for more information.
Emphasis was also placed on setting up more appointments for virtual help.
Another thing that might help is to make completing the FAFSA a requirement for getting a high school diploma. Currently, Louisiana and Illinois require it, and Texas will do so for the class of 2022. But other states are now considering that as well.
“The frustration is that those who could benefit the most from the help are the ones who are least likely to complete the form, probably because many students are in low-resource schools that might not have enough school counselors or from outside community organizations available to help raise awareness or help students solve some of the more sensitive questions on the form, ”Cook said.
Since Louisiana began requiring students to complete the FAFSA, completion rates have risen from around 55% to over 70%. NCAN says it’s not 100% because you can opt out after being notified of the form. They found an increase of about 2% in university enrollments.
In two years we will have a better idea whether the requirement leads to more students graduating from the university.
Completing the FAFSA will be easier for everyone starting in the 2023-2024 academic year. Congress recently approved the editorial change, removing some questions, which should make it a faster and less intimidating process.