Too often, Florida students and their families lack the information needed to make informed decisions about how to pay for college. A major “missed opportunity” for thousands of Florida students each year is failure to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the form that holds the key to many state and federal aid programs such as the Pell Grant.
Fortunately for Broward County students, local leaders recently took a big step to ensuring that worries over financing college don’t get in the way of continuing their educations beyond high school.
During an April 21 meeting, Broward County school board members voted unanimously to allow school counselors and other support staff access to student-level FAFSA completion data. Having access to student-level FAFSA data will allow those in the best position to help students get the help and resources they need to access financial aid.
“It is critically important, as you heard last year, the state of Florida left over $100 million in federal aid on the table due to the fact that FAFSA applications were not completed,” said Superintendent Robert Runcie at the meeting.
“I too am very excited about this opportunity and what it is going to provide for our students,” said school board member Heather Brinkworth.
With the help of the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Student Financial Assistance (OSFA), designated staff in Broward County will be able to see which students have started and completed the FAFSA through the state’s Bright Futures Evaluation System. OSFA is in the process of helping other districts in the state access this data in time for January 2016, when next year’s FAFSA becomes available.
Ralph Aiello, the district’s supervisor for school counseling, said during the meeting that the data will be used to assist all students with the FAFSA and will support many of the efforts and partnerships already in place once the process is fully implemented.
Florida College Access Network and others like the Florida School Counselor Association have been strong proponents of making student-level FAFSA completion data available to Florida schools. We applaud Broward County Public Schools and the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Student Financial Assistance on this important measure, and we look forward to all Florida school districts having access to this important information that will result in more Florida students achieving a postsecondary education. To learn more about accessing student-level FAFSA completion data at your school or district, please contact Troy Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pictured: Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie at April 21 school board meeting