Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Completion Rates in Arizona and Florida

Author: Helios Education Foundation

June 8, 2016

According to the U.S. Department of Education, fewer high school seniors are completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) this year. This trend has also held true for both Arizona and Florida where less than half of high school seniors fill out and complete the FAFSA.  

Overall, approximately 40 percent of Arizona students and 43 percent of Florida students successfully completed a FAFSA as of May 27. Completed FAFSA applications are those that are successfully filled out and accepted by the Department of Education. Arizona FAFSA completions were down almost one percent from the previous year, while Florida was down two percent.

In addition to completions, FAFSA submissions were also down as of May 27.  FAFSA submissions include all applications submitted, including those that are rejected due to key pieces missing. In Arizona, the percentage of students submitting a FAFSA decreased slightly by .3 percent while Florida saw a larger decrease at 1.5 percent. In both states, approximately 4 percent of students had started a FAFSA but had not successfully completed it. If the FAFSA is submitted but not complete, the student will receive an email from the Department of Education requesting he or she enter incomplete data.

Filling out the FAFSA is a critical step for students in their pursuit of earning a postsecondary degree.  Typically, the earlier students submit their FAFSA, the better since some scholarships and grants are awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis.  Completing the form is especially critical for low-income students because colleges and the government use the FAFSA to award need and merit-based aid. 

Through key partnerships and initiatives, Helios is helping students in Arizona and Florida to learn more about the FAFSA and provide assistance to help students complete it.  In Florida, Hillsborough County Public Schools, guided by LEAP directors, will establish a FASFA completion strategy, leveraging community organizations and businesses offering free tax preparation services. FASFA applications are contingent upon tax forms, thus LEAP expects to see an increase in students attending postsecondary institutions given the successful completion and submission of FASFA forms, ultimately securing financial assistance. 

In Arizona, Helios’ College Knowing & Going initiative has a specific FAFSA completion strategy where students in 18 school districts throughout the state will receive assistance filling out and completing the application. The goal is for every student, throughout the 83 schools represented in those districts, to complete and submit the application.  Many of the students impacted by this initiative are low-income and minority.

By developing specific strategies focused on increasing FAFSA completion in both Arizona and Florida, Helios hopes to increase the number of students who are prepared for and complete a postsecondary education.

Category: Postsecondary Success

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