How One State Leads the Country in Boosting FAFSA Completions

November 22, 2016

By Courtney Argenti, Graduate Policy Intern 

NCAN member EducationQuest Foundation has worked diligently to raise awareness of Early FAFSA and increase FAFSA completion throughout Nebraska. Within the first four weeks of the 2017-18 cycle, Nebraska’s FAFSA completion rate for high school seniors was up 201 percent and their submission rate was up 184 percent, compared to the first four weeks of the 2016-17 cycle. This significant improvement speaks to the successful completion strategies EducationQuest has implemented. 

Nebraska experienced the greatest increase in FAFSA completions and submissions for high school seniors in the nation during the first four weeks of the new Early FAFSA timeline. Their improvement is significantly higher than the national average – a 21-percent increase in completions and 16-percent increase in submissions. After releasing our First Look at Early FAFSA Data on Nov. 8, NCAN contacted EducationQuest to learn more about their FAFSA completion strategies. 

Completing the FAFSA as soon as possible is crucial for students in Nebraska, as some state aid is offered on a first-come, first-served basis. To spread the word about Early FAFSA, EducationQuest partnered with statewide media sources. Their news release ran in 26 newspapers and generated a story on the WOWT 6 Omaha news station, which featured interviews with Creighton students who emphasized the importance of financial aid to viewers. Additionally, EducationQuest raised awareness about Early FAFSA and continues to provide information and resources via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Financial aid presentations are conducted in all Nebraska high schools each year. This year, more than 300 presentations took place in September and October, which helped students and parents prepare for Early FAFSA. In the financial aid presentations, attendees learned key information about financial aid and created their FSA ID. This guidance helped to minimize the challenges experienced last year with the new username and password system.

Additionally, Financial Aid Programs are conducted across the state and throughout the year. Students and parents who cannot attend an on-site Financial Aid Program can participate in a webinar or watch a FAFSA Demo video, which walks students through the application and provides helpful tips. Families may also look to EducationQuest’s FAFSA Tools for assistance with the financial aid application. This user-friendly resource bank includes:

  • FSA ID Guidance: help with creating an FSA ID 
  • FAFSA Checklist: a list of documents and information needed before completing the FAFSA
  • Financial Aid Videos: explanation of the financial aid process, verification, award letters, and student loans
  • FAFSA Tutorial: a detailed explanation of each section and question on the FAFSA
  • Correcting Your FAFSA: help with adding more colleges and using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool 
  • Steps to Renew Your FAFSA: clarification of the annual FAFSA Renewal process

NCAN applauds EducationQuest’s comprehensive strategy and dedication to Nebraskan students. We will continue to conduct periodic assessments of FAFSA data as it is released, which will allow us to compare the completion and submission rates within historically higher volume periods—February and March, for example—across the 2016-17 and 2017-18 FAFSA cycles.

We expect that FAFSA data will become more accurate as more schools are included within the analysis. Because the U.S. Education Department Office of Federal Student Aid’s FAFSA completion tool only includes high schools where at least five students have completed FAFSAs — thus deflating some FAFSA completion and submission rates – only 19 percent of all high schools in Nebraska are represented by the current data.

For additional resources visit Form Your Future, NCAN’s national FAFSA completion campaign!

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