October might call to mind all things fall– pumpkins, apple cider, crisp nights and falling leaves. But it’s also the beginning of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) season! As of October 1st, the FAFSA application is open, and students can begin filling out and filing their FAFSA.
Behind the scenes, Wisconsin has numerous organizations and stakeholders working diligently to increase the FAFSA completion rates by developing, collating, and sharing resources. For the 2021- 2022 school year, Wisconsin ranked 38th for FAFSA completion, with 50 percent of students submitting an application, below the national average by several percentage points (NCAN 2022).
There are extensive supports and resources available for students to file the FAFSA and secure the needed financial resources to begin and finish their post-secondary education. We are urging everyone to help feed the FAFSA frenzy and get the word out to students, families, administrators, teachers, pupil services, community partners, and anyone else who can move the dial past 50 percent and towards 75 percent FAFSA completion rates in Wisconsin.
Supporting FAFSA completion can help students attain the financial support necessary for pursuing their post-secondary dreams, such as trades and skills certificates, two-year college and four-year college. In 2021, Wisconsin left $49,625,120 of Pell grant funding on the table (Breen, AlQaisi, and DeBaun 2022).
Pell grants are one type of aid available and are need-based awards that do not need to be repaid. Thus, they provide financial aid support, especially for students from low-income backgrounds.
As parents, school staff, community partners, and state-level stakeholders support the FAFSA completion process, some excellent resources are available in addition to the Federal Student Aid website, including:
Wisconsin Educational Opportunity Program (WEOP) - WEOP offers free services to students and families throughout the state including: financial aid application assistance, college admission support, one on one academic, career or personal advising, setting up a personal educational plan, and transition strategies from 8th grade to high school as well as from 12th grade to college.
DPI FAFSA Webpage - Resources available for promoting FAFSA filing, FAFSA filing support, and FAFSA Data Sharing Agreements (availability of your twelfth-grade students’ Free Application for Federal Student Aid [FAFSA] completion status in WISEdash for Districts).
College Goal Wisconsin - Free virtual (every Wednesday in October from 6 - 8 p.m.) and in-person events throughout the state to assist students and families with completing the FAFSA.
Fair Opportunity Project (FOP) - Wisconsin FAFSA Support such as FREE personalized help with: FAFSA completion, college application essays, finding a mentor, and exploring careers.
NCAN (National CollegeAttainment Network) - FAFSA Planning Calendar
A few quick resources developed through state partnerships to get students started and join the FAFSA frenzy include: Why It’s Important to Fill out the FAFSA (in Spanish and English) and the Three Useful Ways to Pay for College Poster.
Breen, Stephanie, Raymond AlQaisi, and Bill DeBaun. 2022. “NCAN Report: $3.75 Billion in Pell Grants Goes Unclaimed for High School Class of 2021.” National College Attainment Network (NCAN). https://www.ncan.org/news/592984/NCAN-Report-3.75-Billion-in-Pell-Grants....
National College Attainment Network (NCAN). 2022. “FAFSA Tracker.” Form Your Future. https://formyourfuture.org/fafsa-tracker/.
Submitted by: Andréa Donegan, DPI School Counseling Consultant