As of late 2019, only three states require FAFSA® completion before high school graduation. Those states include Louisianna, Texas, and Illinois. However, many schools are pushing to make FAFSA® completion mandatory nationwide.
Recent studies show that almost one-third of students who don’t file FAFSA® would have been eligible for the Pell Grant — a form of gift aid that students do not have to pay back. That’s over $6,300 per student in unclaimed gift aid that students could use towards their education instead of taking out student loans.
That’s why it’s important that more students fill out the FAFSA®.
States that require FAFSA®
Louisiana was the first state to pass a law requiring high school seniors to file their FAFSA® before graduation – Texas and Illinois followed their example in 2019. Many other states are currently considering similar legislation, with Michigan, Indiana, California, and Washington D.C in the process of reviewing a similar policy for their students.
Before Louisiana initially rolled out this law, only 26% of high school students completed the FAFSA® form each year, whereas 77% completed the application the year the law went into effect.
There was also a higher overall graduation rate and an increase in college attendance that same year.
Creative FAFSA® Approaches
The state of Tennessee does not have a law requiring FAFSA® submission, but they do have a unique approach in their “FAFSA® Frenzy.” This program began in the 2016-2017 academic year. Schools bring in computers and volunteers to help students complete their applications.
As of 2020, Tennessee reported a 75% filing rate amongst their high school student population. Hawaii, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, and Oklahoma are also looking into similar programs to help increase FAFSA® filing rates amongst their students.
The biggest challenge to the FAFSA® process is ensuring that students submit and complete their applications on time. Many results show that late submissions result in students missing out on a lot of aid they could have received had they completed and submitted their application.