Congratulations to the 49 schools in Florida that had already met their 5% goal (as of March 5)! Statewide, FAFSA completion reached 32.2%. With two weeks left, that figure places Florida 9.4 percentage points away from this year’s FAFSA Challenge completion goal of 41.6%. However, the state’s current 6.7% error rate (percentage of FAFSAs submitted with errors) means Florida’s completion rate could be 34.5% if those errors are corrected, which puts Florida closer to the goal.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last March, we understood students would need more time and support completing their FAFSA, especially since support was delivered virtually. According to the National College Attainment Network’s (NCAN) Form Your Future FAFSA Tracker, FAFSA completions are down 9.1% nationally this school year compared to last year, with 43.1% of the nation’s high school class of 2021 completing a FAFSA.
“Submitting” versus “Completing” the FAFSA
Sometimes, students may submit a FAFSA that is either incomplete or contains errors. In most cases, the student is unaware that there are additional steps they must take to correct or complete their application. In this year’s FAFSA cycle, more than 4,500 students have submitted an incomplete or incorrect FAFSA out of over 67,000 submitted. These students have already done most of the required work—they just need a little more guidance to get across the finish line. If these students corrected or completed their FAFSAs, Florida would be 2.3 percentage points closer to our goal!
Finding Out Who Has a Completed a FAFSA
Through the Florida Department of Education Office of Student Financial Assistance (OSFA), several school districts enjoy a data-sharing agreement with the state that allows them to access student-level FAFSA completion information. This information allows them to identify individual students’ FAFSA completion status, whether complete, incomplete, or not started. See if your district has this agreement in place. Or to gain access to this data, reach out to Pedro Hernandez, OSFA Director of Outreach Services.
Get Help Finishing the FAFSA
With two weeks left in the Florida FAFSA Challenge, there is still time to meet your FAFSA completion goal! Virtual resources can help students complete their FAFSA.
FCAN is partnering with the Florida Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (FASFAA), FloridaShines, and others to offer two virtual how-to sessions called College 101: Finishing the FAFSA that are offered on March 22 and March 29, from 6-8 pm. Encourage students to register here to learn step-by-step how to complete the FAFSA.
The Federal Student Aid YouTube channel also offers free step-by-step tutorials as well as other helpful videos. The department offers helpful answers to coronavirus-related questions. The Florida School Counselor Association offered a webinar discussing the development and implementation of a virtual FAFSA completion lab (view the recording here).
Visit FCAN’s Florida FAFSA Challenge page for help with common mistakes and access to free resources to help boost FAFSA completion. In the meantime, you can visit our FAFSA Challenge Dashboard to see how your school or district is doing.