First Glimpse: Early FAFSA Data

By Carrie Warick, Director of Policy and Advocacy

During the first two-and-a-half weeks after the FAFSA became available early this year, almost 1.5 million federal aid applications were filed, a U.S. Department of Education official said last week at the annual meeting of the National Association of State Student Grand Aid Programs (NASSGAP). That is 4 percent more than were filed through the same time period starting Jan. 1 of the last FAFSA season. 

This year, during the first few days of FAFSA filing, numbers spiked almost 25 percent over last year, but have leveled off throughout the month. Only time will tell whether more FAFSAs are filed overall thanks to the change to PPY income and an Oct. 1 start date. 

But it’s not too early to start tracking your local numbers: FAFSA completion data by high school is now available. You can download your state here, but be sure to look for the 17/18 tab. The NCAN team downloaded all 50 states plus D.C. and Puerto Rico to see how week one went. While the data are not yet complete enough to share individual numbers, we will be watching for specific themes and will release our first report when the first four weeks of data are available. Themes include:

  • General increased FAFSA submission and completion across most states
  • Completion rates increasing more than submission rates, meaning families are likely struggling less with the FSA ID this year than last year
  • Alarming decreases in FAFSA submission and completion in all New England states, Oregon and Puerto Rico

Additionally, we’ll continue to watch the seven states that use a “first-come, first-served” model for distributing their financial aid. In these states (Alaska, Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Vermont, and Washington) early FAFSA filing is crucial because states do not guarantee every student will receive funding, but rather give a set amount of funding to each eligible applicant until that money runs out. Getting the message to low-income students to file early in these states is especially important.

NCAN and our partners at NASSGAP and the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) continue to ask the Education Department to regularly release updated data and request that the data be broken down by dependent/independent students and by income status or Pell Grant eligibility. In the meantime, please take advantage of the free educational, informational and outreach resources offered by Form Your Future, NCAN’s new national FAFSA campaign designed to help millions more low-income students apply for financial aid.