Arizona FAFSA Challenge geared to promote postsecondary education

On Friday, Sept. 21, education leaders statewide met at Arizona State University to discuss the importance of increasing FAFSA application completion in Arizona.

FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a form that students can complete to apply for financial assistance such as federal grants, work-study programs and loans.

Education leaders and foundations statewide work to promote the Arizona FAFSA Challenge, which is geared toward increasing FAFSA completion.

“Filling out a FAFSA lets students and their families know what federal money is available to fund a postsecondary education including grants, scholarships, on-campus jobs, student loans and more,” Governor Doug Ducey said. “To help high school leaders with this important first step, Achieve60AZ has partnered with my office, the Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education and Helios Education Foundation for something we call the Arizona FAFSA Challenge.”

In the 2017-2018 academic year, 43 percent of Arizona high school seniors completed a FAFSA form.

Gov. Ducey’s said, “Our goal this year is to increase that at least 50 percent so that more students can take their education to the next level and be successful in the workforce.”

Why does the amount of FAFSA applicants matter?

“What we all need to know is that completion of FAFSA helps predict success in postsecondary education. 90 percent of high school seniors who complete FAFSA attend college directly after high school,” Steven Seleznow, Arizona Community Foundation President & CEO, said. “We have clear indication and clear data that completing FAFSA makes a difference.”

Completing FAFSA allows high school students and their families to have a better understanding of their financial options as students take their next steps and pursue postsecondary education.

In addition to providing financial education and assistance regarding postsecondary education, FAFSA has been renovated to become more user-friendly.  

“With FAFSA and the changes that have been made over the last two years, you can fill these forms out 18 months in advance. You can use it to determine where you want to go to school, I wish I had that. You can do it electronically. Your parents’ information is more easily garnered. So, there’s just a lot of benefit,” Dawn Wallace, Governor’s Office of Education Director and Education Policy Advisor, said.

In the past, filling out the FAFSA form was viewed as a tedious, dreadful task. Making the application process easier is intended to entice more students to complete the form.

Seleznow added, “It’s been, no doubt, a very rigorous and ugly form to fill out for any family. It’s been made easier. It’s going mobile. So, if I were to tell you to do one thing- no matter where you are, no matter what job you have, no matter what you do- mobilize your community around helping every kid who wants to go to college.”

The foundations and leaders promoting the Arizona FAFSA Challenge hope to increase the amount of Arizona high school senior FAFSA applications by getting the community involved.

“Complete that form,” Seleznow said. “That is one of the most important reforms we can put in place. Fill out the form, and we’ll see college-going rates accelerate like we’ve never seen.”

“If 90 percent of kids go to college once they fill out a form, let’s help them fill out the form,” Wallace exclaimed.

Sierra Ciaramella

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