Louisiana releases Annual Financial Aid report Following Record 84 Percent FAFSA Submission Rate
Baton Rouge, La. —The U.S. Department of Education today released the 2019-2020 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), affording high school students in Louisiana and nationwide the chance to receive financial assistance to pursue college or post-secondary training after graduation.
The release of the application, which is for all forms of federal financial aid including Pell grants, work study programs and federal student loans, comes on the same day the Louisiana Department of Education published an annual report detailing the most recent FAFSA submission rates, the state of post-secondary access for graduates and ways to improve financial planning for students pursuing education and training opportunities after high school.
The report, “The State of Financial Aid in Louisiana,” is now available. Among the takeaways:
In 2018, Louisiana’s FAFSA submission rate reached record highs. This year, 84 percent of Louisiana students submitted the FAFSA by the July 1 priority deadline, surpassing the state’s all-time high and the national average, and ranking Louisiana No.1 in the nation for submission and growth rates. The submission rate grew 19 percentage points since 2017.
More than ever before, it is important to apply for financial aid to further post-secondary education. By 2018, 51 percent of the state’s jobs will require post-secondary education. By 2020, 65 percent of the nation’s jobs will require this level of training.
One of the most prominent barriers to post-secondary education or training in Louisiana is cost. Too few students and families have the money to fund a four-year degree or industry training program without financial assistance, and the average cost of attendance in Louisiana continues to climb. In 2018, the average cost of attendance for all two-and four-year institutions in Louisiana was $6,292 for tuition and fees, $1,386 for books and supplies and $13,185 for living expenses.
Despite significant gains, too few students take advantage of state and federal financial aid. Louisiana has seen tremendous improvement in the number of students submitting the FAFSA, but students, particularly those who are economically disadvantaged, continue to forego millions of dollars each year in federal grants, state opportunities and other post-secondary funding. It is estimated the 16 percent of students in the Class of 2018 who did not submit the FAFSA may be missing out on more than $94 million in aid.
“Louisiana is a leader in financial aid planning, and more students than ever before are having their job training or college tuition paid for as a result,” said State Superintendent John White. “We must maintain this momentum and work together to ensure every graduate who wants financial support for their post-secondary pursuits receives it.”
Louisiana has taken bold steps in recent years to promote financial planning among high school students. In December 2015, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved a policy regarding financial aid planning for graduating public high school seniors. The policy sought to increase student access to state and federal financial aid by requiring graduating seniors to either complete the TOPS application or the FAFSA, declare a hardship or submit a waiver to the local school system. The policy was made effective last year and was applied for the first time to the Class of 2018. It will continue to be applied this year and in the future.
Furthermore, the Department formed the Louisiana Financial Aid Working Group, a group of 50 representatives from various state education and workforce entities that meets quarterly to evaluate the state’s financial aid application completion rates, identify deficiencies and solutions for communities with low completion rates and provide recommendations on how to improve financial aid completion rates statewide. The Department has also continued to support professional school counselors in their mission to advise all students, not just university-bound ones, to apply for aid.
This year, the Department will provide an updated tool kit to school counselors, including materials to host FAFSA-related events for families on their campuses and information about new resources, such as the FAFSA mobile application, to help students and families complete the process.
Partner agencies and organizations, such as Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance, Career Compass, Louisiana Education Loan Authority and College Beyond, as well as individual schools and school systems, will provide additional guidance.
St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools, for example, will host an event at East St. John High School on Oct. 3 to connect students and families with financial planning resources and help them complete the FAFSA application.
“In order for students to realize the dream of post-secondary education, it is essential for us to assist our families with financial planning,” said St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools Superintendent Kevin R. George. “We are committed to ensuring that all of our students and families submit and complete the FAFSA in order to have all financial aid options available to them. With a 96 percent submission rate in 2018, we are just about there, but we will not stop until we have 100 percent completers.”
A calendar of all upcoming financial aid-focused events is available on the Department’s website.