Florida College Access Network has released an updated data dashboard highlighting how states rank by FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) completions for public and private high school graduates. The dashboard also ranks states by the proportion of students eligible for a Pell Grant, as well as those who submit the FAFSA with errors. The data were provided to FCAN by the U.S. Department of Education and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE).
Florida’s 46.0% FAFSA completion rate for the 2021-22 school year represented a decrease of 0.7 percentage points from the year before. In comparison, the U.S. had an overall FAFSA completion rate of 55.9%, an increase of 2.4 percentage points from the year prior.
The National College Attainment Network (NCAN) reports that this year, the nation finally saw an increase in completions since the start of the pandemic. In particular, this year saw strong gains from both low-income public schools and high-minority schools nationally. However, Florida was behind those national gains, and only saw nominal gains in increases for students at low-income or high-minority schools. That means that thousands of Floridians who need aid the most are leaving money on the table. While Florida ranks 48th in FAFSA completions, the state has the 4th highest number of Pell Grant-eligible students. As a result, FCAN estimates that Florida high school graduates are leaving more than $300 million in Pell Grant dollars on the table each year.
Click image to view the full dashboard
Completing the FAFSA is the first step to accessing financial aid for college. FCAN research shows that FAFSA completion is a strong indicator of future college attendance.
However, Florida had the 9th highest rate of FAFSAs submitted with errors. The state’s 6.5% error rate — the percentage of submitted FAFSA applications that were incomplete or incorrect — is the equivalent of 7,009 applications. FCAN estimates that if all of these applications had been completed correctly, it would result in over 16 million in additional Pell Grant dollars for Florida students.
As we enter a new FAFSA season this fall, it is more important than ever that Floridians receive guidance and encouragement to complete the FAFSA. According to NCAN, the primary reasons students fail to complete the FAFSA include believing it is too complicated, thinking that they are not eligible for aid, or not even knowing this form of financial aid exists. This shows that clear information, collaboration, data tracking, and assistance are essential to supporting communities and students in getting the FAFSA submitted correctly.
If you are interested in building a college-going culture for your students, register for the Florida FAFSA Challenge now.
Want to know how your state is doing? Check out FCAN’s updated dashboard!
Visit FCAN’s FAFSA Challenge page
2022 FCAN Florida FAFSA Challenge Toolkit
What the FAFSA?! Best Ideas for Boosting FAFSA Completion from the 2022 Talent Strong Florida Summit
Helping Students with Common FAFSA Mistakes