High School Seniors Surpass FAFSA Completion Benchmark

May 17, 2017

By Carrie Warick, Director of Policy and Advocacy 

More 2017 high school seniors completed the FAFSA by May 5 than all 2016 high school seniors did by graduation last year -- more specifically, by June 30, 2016. Meeting this benchmark eight weeks earlier than last year is a positive sign that the Early FAFSA initiative is working.

The Obama Administration implemented Early FAFSA with two goals. One was to have prospective students file the FAFSA sooner -- as early as Oct. 1 of an academic year, rather than Jan. 1 -- so they enter the college application season with a better understanding of their federal financial aid. The other was to encourage more students to complete the FAFSA, given the longer time frame and the ability to use the data from already-completed taxes (known in financial aid parlance as prior- prior-year income).

In December, trend lines demonstrated that the first goal was being met: 1.1 million high school seniors filed their FAFSA before it would have even been available to them in the past.

These new data released May 12 by the U.S. Education Department's Office of Federal Student Aid demonstrate that high school seniors are on track to meet the second goal as well: High school seniors completed 1.98 million FAFSAs as of May 5, 2017 -- almost 5,000 more FAFSAs than 2016 high school seniors filed by their graduation day last year. 

High school seniors in 28 states have already surpassed the total FAFSAs filed by their older peers as of June 30, 2016. And while they haven't yet met that benchmark, seniors in the remaining 22 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico all are ahead of where they were last year on May 5. At this point in 2016, students had only completed 88 percent of the total FAFSAs that would be filed by graduation. That translates to 238,000 more seniors filing a FAFSA by May 5, 2017 than did so by May 5, 2016.

Seniors in the following states completed more FAFSAs as of May 5, 2017 than seniors in their state did by June 30, 2016, helping to lift the national total over last year's benchmark:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Iowa
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Massachusetts
  • Maine
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

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