College financial aid applications see slight dip during COVID
Elizabeth Keest Sedrel
(o) 515-725-3417 (c) 515-710-1257
Iowa FAFSA Completion Campaign and GEAR UP will step up outreach this fall
Iowa College Aid will redouble efforts this fall to encourage more high school seniors to apply for college financial aid after the number dropped in 2019-20 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Until mid-March, Iowa was on track to continue an upward trend in filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). After that point, the rate dipped below the previous two years, according to a new report.
“Iowa College Aid will step up outreach in 2020-21 to help more high school seniors file the FAFSA,” said Dr. Mark Wiederspan, executive director of Iowa College Aid. ”Knowing how much financial aid students qualify for is a key to pursuing postsecondary education, which aligns with the Future Ready Iowa goal of 70 percent of the workforce having education or training beyond high school by 2025. The impact of COVID-19 makes it even more important to ensure students get this done.”
The report also found that FAFSA filing rates are lower for students attending high-poverty schools compared to more affluent schools. However, GEAR UP Iowa, a college access program that targets low-income students, shows promise in closing that gap. FAFSA filing rates are growing much more quickly at GEAR UP schools than at non-GEAR UP schools.
As of May 31, 52 percent of Iowa’s public high school seniors had applied for financial aid for the 2020-21 school year, down from 54 percent a year earlier, according to “FAFSA Filing in Iowa: 2020,” released by Iowa College Aid. Since then, however, the percentage of high school seniors filing the FAFSA has increased to 53.88 percent, nearly closing the gap. Iowa College Aid’s FAFA Completion Campaign includes a link to FAFSA filing rates for the state and each public high school: FAFSA.iowa.gov.
Students must file the FAFSA to qualify for federal aid, state-funded grants and scholarships, and many forms of aid provided by individual public and private colleges and universities.