FAFSA Resource Library: Accessing and Using Data
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Getting Access to Data

Access to student-level FAFSA completion data will make this work much more effective. Most states receive student-level FAFSA completion data from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA). Many states then distribute that information to school districts, some distribute the data to the high schools, and a few share it with counselors and other partners to track which specific students have completed a FAFSA.

Unfortunately, even if your state gets those data from FSA, there's no guarantee that the information will make its way to the district or school level. But if they are able to access the data, counselors and advisers can target their outreach to students and families much more efficiently and effectively.

What Data Are Out There: FSA provides very basic information to states about the status of a student's FAFSA. Basically, they'll report whether the FAFSA has been submitted and whether it is completed.

Other Sources of FAFSA Completion Data:  If a state has it's own financial aid form, this could be another source of information. But that will not necessarily offer information about the completion of the federal form. Students and families may self-report data, but this might not be accurate for several reasons, including the possibility that a FAFSA was submitted but never completed.

How to Get Access to Student-Level Data from FSA: This can be a sticky wicket since some states have signed the agreement with FSA, but the data just sit at the state agency and are never distributed locally. You can check here to see if your state has the data, but it's best to check with your district to get more information about accessing this data.

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Analyzing and Using the Data

If you have access to student-level FAFSA completion data, that's a great first step. But these data will only be helpful if analyzed and used to identify the non-completers. Here are some things to consider when the data are available:

  • Training School Staff and Partners: Even if the data are available at the district or school level, people must know where it lives, how to access it, and what to do with it. Ideally counselors and authorized partners have access to the completion data on the students they serve and can follow up with them individually to give them the nudge (as assistance) they need to finish the form.
  • Data Analysis and Visualization: Some communities use FAFSA completion data to create a chart to make it easy to track the FAFSA completion rate by class, school, district and/or state. Some communities share these data with partners so they can be held accountable for their joint efforts. Some communities use data visualizations to ignite and track friendly competitions within or between schools to motivate and inspire excellence. Others use the data to report out to the public how they are doing on FAFSA completion. Data analysis can help easily identify the students who need more help. Data visualizations can be used to track accountability.

Blogs, Webinars, and E-learning Courses:

Other Resources: