A greater number of Southwest Florida high school seniors have successfully completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) compared to last year.

According to data released by Florida College Access Network (Florida CAN), about 27 percent of Southwest Florida seniors — 3,081 out of 11,415 students — completed FAFSA as of Jan. 20. That figure surpasses the April 1 benchmark for last year’s FAFSA completion rate, which was set at 25 percent.

“The fact that Southwest Florida is already at 27 percent is a positive indicator for an increase over last year’s FAFSA completion rates,” said Troy Miller, Florida CAN’s associate director for research and policy, in a statement. “More than half of Southwest Florida high schools show a positive increase in completion rates so far this year over last year, which indicates an increase in FAFSA education and outreach to students and parents throughout the region.”

Florida CAN serves as the data partner for FAFSA first!, a FutureMakers Coalition campaign committed to informing Southwest Florida seniors about the federal student aid application process.

“Thanks to regional collaboration through the FAFSA first! campaign and additional efforts to inform high school students and their parents about filing their FAFSA, as well the increased application timeline, we are in a strong position to achieve our goal of 40 percent FAFSA completion by the end of this school year,” said Tessa LeSage, director of social innovation and sustainability for the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, in a statement. The foundation serves as the backbone organization for FutureMakers.

The 2017-18 FAFSA became available Oct. 1 — three months earlier than in the past — and requires already filed tax return information.

The federal deadline for filing FAFSA is June 30, while Florida’s state deadline by which FAFSA needs to be processed is May 15. Colleges and universities also have varying priority and filing deadlines.

The Jan. 20, 2017 completion data shows the following high schools as top performers in their respective school districts:

* Florida SouthWestern Collegiate High School, Charlotte County: 54.2 percent (the highest school rate within the region)

* Oasis Charter High School, Lee County: 48.3 percent

* Barron Collier High School, Collier County: 41.2 percent

* Moore Haven Middle-High School, Glades County: 24.1 percent

* Clewiston High School, Hendry County: 23.6 percent


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