FAFSA Completions Reach 82 Percent of Last Year's Total

March 13, 2017

By Courtney Argenti, Graduate Policy Intern

Largely thanks to Early FAFSA, high schoolers completed 603,529 more FAFSAs through Feb. 17 of this FAFSA cycle than they did by that point in the 2016-17 cycle. And there’s more good news: High school completion rates are much closer to the total number of FAFSAs that were completed by June 30, 2016 than they were at this time last year. 

By Feb. 17, 2016, national high school FAFSA completions stood at 814,567 — this is 44 percent of the total completions logged on the common summer completion marker of June 30 (1,721,678). This year, with over 1.4 million FAFSAs already completed, the national high school FAFSA completion rate through Feb. 17 has reached 82 percent of June 30, 2016’s total completions.

Across the board, states are really close to reaching last June’s high school FAFSA completion benchmark*. Kentucky is 97 percent of the way to the June 30, 2016 marker, while Utah and Washington are at 95 percent. Impressively, Tennessee has already surpassed the common summer completion marker. Last year at this time, these states were at 32 percent, 23 percent, 68 percent, and 71 percent (respectively) of the way to the total Jun. 30, 2016 high school FAFSA completions. Interestingly, last year both Kentucky and Tennessee were the closest to reaching their summer benchmarks by Feb. 17. In Tennessee, the early date for FAFSA completion to remain eligible for the Tennessee Promise likely contributes to early FAFSA filing.

With four-and-a-half months of the 2017-18 FAFSA cycle completed, and three-and-a-half months to go until the end of June, these data are clear indicators of the success of Early FAFSA. 

Every state – plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico – has significantly higher FAFSA completion rates through Feb. 17, 2017 than they did leading up to Feb. 17, 2016. Nationwide, there is a 74-percent increase in completions when comparing 2016-17 cycle rates through Feb. 17, 2016 to this cycle’s rates through Feb. 17, 2017. 

In nearly half of all states, the total amount of FAFSAs completed through Feb. 17, 2017 is at least double the total from Feb. 17, 2016: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska**, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota**, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico**, South Carolina, South Dakota**, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. 

Other states not on this list have also shown great progress. For a complete chart of states’ high school FAFSA completion rates and comparisons, see here.

*At 42 percent, Puerto Rico is the furthest away from meeting its June 30 FAFSA completion benchmark, however, only 17 percent of schools in Puerto Rico could be included within the data, so this rate may actually be higher.

**These states have fewer than 50 percent of high schools included in the data.

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