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What does universal access to FAFSA program in NY mean for students?

  • / Updated:
  • Edwin Viera 

New York’s 2025 budget creates universal access to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid program.

School districts statewide will have the resources to help high schoolers complete the application. Those who do not fill it out must sign a waiver stating they know of the available aid but are not pursuing it.

Sen. Andrew Gounardes, D-Sunset Park, the bill’s sponsor, said FAFSA’s required information can be daunting.

“Some students or some families are well-prepared and well-equipped to review that document and provide that information; some students might not be,” Gounardes acknowledged. “Some students might not even know where to turn to get that information, especially if they’re the first in their family to pursue college if they’re the first generation here.”

Some schools have moved closer to charging $100,000 a year for tuition, which Gounardes said can deter students from considering college. But through the FAFSA process, scholarships and grants can provide enough to shave the number down to a more reasonable figure. A Sallie Mae report showed college spending is up as families spend close to $28,000 each year on college.

Feedback for the proposal was positive, considering most high school seniors who complete the FAFSA are likely to go to college after graduation. Gounardes argued the state can build on the progress by reviewing admissions practices to ensure they are fair and do not exclude students from certain backgrounds.

“In particular, I think it’s high time we end legacy admissions,” Gounardes emphasized. “There’s no reason why we should have affirmative action for privileged kids in New York state, especially from institutions that receive significant public dollars either for grants or construction or awards or this or that or whatever.”

He introduced a bill ending legacy admissions, which is still in committee. Among public and private colleges in New York, 42% still consider legacy applicants for admissions.