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Financial aid: FAFSA completion rate in New York still 5% below pre-pandemic levels

New data show college financial-aid completion rates in New York are five percentage points lower than they were pre-pandemic.

An education advocacy group aims to get more students financially on track for college. Analysis from The Education Trust-New York found the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion rate gap persists two years into the pandemic, particularly for schools serving students from low-income backgrounds.

Jeff Smink, deputy director of The Education Trust-New York, said the figures are concerning.

“We know that higher completion rates of FAFSA leads to more students enrolling in college, particularly from low-income areas,” Smink observed. “So this can also be a leading indicator of maybe something we are seeing from the pandemic, which could be a lot of students dropped out. We know some students were forced to take jobs.”

DiSanto Propane (Billboard)

New York students are missing out on an estimated $152 million in federal financial aid by not filling out the FAFSA, plus other resources from the New York State Tuition Assistance Program.

Smink pointed out The Education Trust offers an online toolkit for students and families explaining the FAFSA process, along with other federal and state dollars available for tuition assistance.

He explained it is about taking a community-wide approach to ensure students have the resources they need to complete their applications.

“One of the things we’ve seen be successful is having schools and guidance counselors really push this information and work with students,” Smink noted. “But also having community partners work with schools and work with students to improve those completion rates.”

The Education Trust also supports the New York FAFSA Completion Challenge, which recognizes schools with high FAFSA completion rates and make big strides in improving completion rates.

After May 1, 12 awards will be granted across the state to schools, offering $750 to be used as a scholarship for students.