The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) allows students to access Pell Grant, State Grant, Work Study, other need based financial aid, and federal student loans. But in Minnesota, only roughly 45% of graduating high school seniors complete the form each year and Minnesota ranked 39th nationally for FAFSA completions last year. Completing the FAFSA is an absolutely critical path to education beyond high school and the workforce.
Universal FAFSA Policy Details
By implementing FAFSA completion as a high school graduation requirement, with an easy opt out process, Minnesota could significantly boost FAFSA completion and improve access to millions of dollars in Pell Grants and other aid that students could use to pursue a degree.
- High school seniors would be required to complete a FAFSA, or an application for state financial aid if they are ineligible for federal aid, in order to graduate.
- Students can complete a "no questions asked" opt out form with a parent/guardian signature, or if they are 18 years of age.
- High school principals may provide a hardship waiver if a student is unable to meet the requirement due to extenuating circumstances.
See LeadMN's handout on the Universal FAFSA policy here.
See LeadMN's Q & A about the Universal FAFSA policy here.
Maximizing The Impact Of The New Simplified FAFSA
With the Congressional passage of FAFSA simplification in December 2020, the FAFSA will now be reduced from 108 questions to a maximum of 36. This change will eliminate the complexity that is a barrier and deterrent for so many students and their families. By implementing a Universal FAFSA completion policy, we can make sure that many of the students who think college is out of reach financially would be able to see that there is often financial support available to them. This change will be fully implemented by October 2023. Passage of a Universal FAFSA completion policy now, would prepare Minnesota to take full advantage of the simplified FAFSA.
Free and Reduced Lunch Eligible vs FAFSA Completions
A major concern for policy makers in considering a Universal FAFSA policy should be the ability of low-income students to access the existing financial aid resources available for them to make college affordable. In Minnesota it is estimated that over $30 million in Pell Grant went unused by eligible high school seniors in 2018.
In an analysis conducted by LeadMN, we found that of the 15 school districts with Free and Reduced Lunch rates over 50%, only 3 had a FAFSA completions rate over 50%. Take a look at the dashboard below to see how increased rates of eligibility for Free and Reduced Lunch often coincides with lower FAFSA completion rates in Minnesota's school districts. By requiring Universal FAFSA completion for high school seniors, we can ensure that every student has access to the financial aid that is available to them to pursue their American Dream.
Does your organization support a Universal FAFSA requirement (HF2046/SF2735)? Provide your organizations endorsement here.
Do you support creating a Universal FAFSA requirement (HF2046/SF2735)? Send a letter to your local legislators here to encourage them to pass this important legislation.
Universal FAFSA News