Bayou State's New FAFSA Rules Plant Seeds for Student Success
Thursday, April 12, 2018
Posted by: Jack Porter, Advocacy Associate
The amount of financial aid forgone by students entering higher education is well-documented, with billions of dollars in grant aid left on the table each year. That is why Louisiana took unparalleled action to guarantee students in the state apply for aid that can help get them to and through college.
In December 2015, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) voted to approve a measure for the Louisiana Handbook for School Administrators to include strict guidelines around completion of financial aid applications for high school seniors. Beginning this academic year, in order to graduate students must either complete a state aid application, complete a FAFSA, or receive a waiver.
These requirements are aimed at improving the college-going culture in Louisiana and, in turn, postsecondary outcomes.
“With this policy, you capture students who are on the fence, haven’t thought about college at all, or maybe have thought about it but did not feel that it was within reach financially,” said Sujuan Boutte, executive director of the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance (LOSFA). Moreover, she said, this policy is aimed at providing students with a clear understanding of how much aid for which they are qualified.
Prior to this policy taking effect, LOSFA was afforded a unique opportunity to brace for it as a grantee in NCAN’s 2016-17 FAFSA Completion Challenge, sponsored by The Kresge Foundation.
“We were able to work with several other NCAN members as partners in order to come together and develop a set of best practices around FAFSA completion, and were then prepared for this policy to be in place,” said Tireka Cobb, director of field outreach services at LOSFA.
So far, these practices have proven effective: NCAN's #FormYourFuture FAFSA Tracker shows that Louisiana’s year-over-year FAFSA completion percentage increased by a whopping 37.6 percent as of March 30. As for their impact on postsecondary access and success, research foreshadows positive outcomes on two fronts.
There is a direct correlation between FAFSA completion and certain higher education metrics; high school students who complete a FAFSA are 63 percent more likely to enroll in higher education than students who do not complete the form, and FAFSA completers are 72 percent more likely to persist in college than their non-completing peers.
However, what is not fully understood is FAFSA completion's impact on what is arguably the most critical postsecondary outcome: completion. And although remarkably higher FAFSA-filing rates in Louisiana is a great sign, LOSFA understands the preliminary nature of this success.
“It’s just a part of a much larger mission for us,” Boutte said.
Holistically, this new and unprecedented policy will provide higher education stakeholders with a better understanding of the implications for virtually universal FAFSA completion.