Public high schools around the Tampa Bay area are participating in a challenge to increase completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) – hosting financial aid awareness events, working with students and parents one-on-one, and helping to identify students who need to correct errors on their form that could prevent them from receiving aid.
It’s all part of a statewide effort called the Florida FAFSA Challenge, which aims to boost the number of Florida students completing the federal financial aid application by 5 percent each year.
The FAFSA determines if students are eligible for money for college or technical/vocational school in the form of grants, work study and federal loans. Since it can also determine if students are eligible for local aid or school-based scholarships, it’s recommended that all students complete a FAFSA each year.
Despite its importance, last year fewer than 50 percent of Florida’s public school students had completed the form by June 30, 2018. Had they all completed the form, more than half of the state’s students would have qualified for a Pell Grant, one of the largest forms of federal aid available to low-income students. According to the Florida College Access Network, it’s estimated that Florida high school graduates leave over $100 million in Pell Grants on the table each year simply because they do not complete the application.
The 2018-2019 Florida FAFSA Challenge runs through March 31, so there is still time for your school to increase its rate of completion. You can see how your school is doing through the FAFSA Challenge Data Dashboard, a tracking tool that displays completion rates at the state, county and school level.
As part of its mission to increase the number of Tampa Bay residents with a degree or high-quality credential to 60 percent by 2025, one of LEAP Tampa Bay’s top initiatives is to increase the completion rate of the FAFSA. For many people, an adequate financial aid package can mean the difference between pursuing a post-secondary education – or forgoing it completely. Many resources are available to help you navigate the financial aid process. To get started, visit www.leaptampabay.org/moneymatters.