July 15, 2019
By Andrew Kreighbaum
For Inside Higher Ed
In a bid to boost the number of students receiving financial support for college, Texas will soon become the second state to require high school seniors to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid before graduating.
A handful of states have looked at making FAFSA completion mandatory for graduating high school students. Beginning with the 2020-21 academic year, Texas will provide a serious test case for the policy after big successes in Louisiana, which enacted the requirement last year.
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Completing the form is a leading indicator of college enrollment. And there’s ample evidence that more financial aid is associated with outcomes like college completion. Actually achieving big gains in FAFSA completion, though, requires significant investment and outreach by schools and state officials.
During the past academic year, Louisiana saw FAFSA completions by high school students climb by more than 25 percent. College access groups say high school seniors leave millions of aid dollars on the table each year by not completing the form — often because it’s too difficult or they don’t believe they’ll qualify for aid.
“As the forerunner of this kind of policy, the early successes that Louisiana has seen with mandatory FAFSA has to be encouraging for other states,” said Bill DeBaun, director of data and evaluation at the National College Access Network. “We shouldn’t assume Texas will see the same effects Louisiana did. But given the scale of the state, even a modest effect could make a big splash on the FAFSA completion cycle.”
If Texas has 25 percent of the growth Louisiana saw in FAFSA completions, that would mean an additional 12,700 students submit the application, DeBaun said.
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