Ohio’s FAFSA completion rates go up again, but at a lower rate than last year

August 3, 2018

Ohio’s FAFSA completion rates go up again, but at a lower rate than last year

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The number of Ohio high school students completing federal financial aid forms went up for the second year in a row, but at a lower rate. 

Getting students to fill out the FAFSA, a long, complicated form that is the only way to qualify for federal money for higher education, is a challenge.

A change in federal policy in 2016 let students complete the FAFSA three months earlier and use tax information from 2015 to do so.

Completion for the 2016-17 school year spiked 6 percent in Ohio and 9 percent nationally, reversing a four-year decline.

“Since then we’ve leveled off in what we view as a new baseline,” Kim Cook, the executive director of the National College Access Network, said. 

For the 2017-18 school year, Ohio’s completion rate for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid went up 1.1 percent. Nationally, the completion rate went up 1.9 percent, according to the organization’s data.

Ohio ranks 14th nationally for percentage of high school seniors who have completed the FAFSA, which might explain why the state has a relatively small increase this year. 

Bigger gains come in states with lower rates or where officials changed FAFSA policy. Louisiana has the largest jump, a result of the state making FAFSA completion a requirement for high school graduation, Cook said. 

U.S. Department of Education officials are looking at ways to streamline the FAFSA. The government recently revamped the online portal used to fill out the form to make it mobile-friendly. There are plans to beta-test a new smart phone app in the coming months.

Cook said since students -- and parents -- use their phones so often, these updates could bring more awareness to the FAFSA completion process.

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