Louisiana has bypassed Tennessee to become the No.1 state in the nation for the number of high school seniors completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), according to the most recent report by the National College Access Network (NCAN).
“Louisiana is a leader in financial aid planning, and more students than ever before are having their job training or college tuition paid for as a result,” said State Superintendent John White. “We applaud the students, families, school and school system leaders who have worked to ensure every graduate who wanted financial support for their postsecondary pursuits received it.”
The FAFSAis for all forms of federal financial aid, including Pell grants, work-study programs and federal student loans available to students to aid in the cost of education and technical training beyond high school. It is also required for Louisiana graduates to receive priority consideration for the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) scholarships, which can also be used for four-year college and community and technical college training. The priority deadline each year is July 1.
NCAN tracks states’ progress on its #FormYourFuture FAFSA Trackerand counts applications from both public and private schools that are fully completed and processed. To date, 78.7 percent of Louisiana’s Class of 2019, or about 37,662 graduates, have completed the form. That’s 0.9 percent more than Tennessee, which has engaged in a friendly competition with Louisiana for the top spot.
The Louisiana Department of Education also provides school system and school-level data, but it tallies submission rates, not completion rates, for public schools only, per state policy.
The increase in FAFSA submissions can be attributed, in part, to changes to the financial aid process. In the 2017-2018 school year, Louisiana began requiring financial aid planning as a condition for high school graduation. The requirement, which is unique to Louisiana, is part of the state’s Financial Aid Access Policy, approved by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in 2015. According to the policy, all graduates must now complete a FAFSA, a TOPS scholarship form, or indicate they do not plan to apply for financial aid by submitting a waiver.
To ensure the effective implementation of the policy, the Department in recent years has created a Louisiana Counselor Assistance Center; convened a Financial Aid Working Group; provided data on FAFSA submission rates among all seniors; and assisted school systems in coordinating events to counsel families directly on financial planning for postsecondary education.
The Department has also partnered with higher education entities and advocacy groups, such as the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance(LOSFA), Career Compass, the Louisiana Education Loan Authority(LELA), and College Beyond, to expand its reach.
To learn more about FAFSA, visit their website here.