Iowa College Aid announces steps to increase FAFSA filing

Tressa Schultz

Fewer Iowans, Americans have been applying for college financial aid

Iowa College Aid today announced new initiatives to increase FAFSA filing in light of falling rates—both statewide and nationwide—during the pandemic. The FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is required for all federal and state financial aid and most forms of aid from colleges and universities.

“In addition to being the door to financial aid, the FAFSA is tied to higher college-going rates,” said Dr. Mark Wiederspan, Executive Director of Iowa College Aid. “Students who say they plan to go to college are much more likely to follow through if they file this application. So focusing on the FAFSA actually helps us achieve Iowa’s goal that 70 percent of the workforce will have education beyond high school.”

In partnership with the Iowa College Access Network, Iowa College Aid hired 10 FAFSA associates to help students file the FAFSA this summer. The agency also made FAFSA completion goals a requirement for its 2021-22 round of funding for Local College Access Networks. Finally, Iowa College Aid held a series of workshops with school counselors and higher education stakeholders this spring to develop FAFSA strategies.

Also today, Iowa College Aid released a report showing that fewer Iowans filed the FAFSA during the pandemic. As of May 31, 49 percent of Iowa public high school seniors in the class of 2021 had filed. That rate represents a drop of 2 percentage points from a year ago and continues a four-year downward trend.

“It’s worth noting that this filing cycle was the first to take place entirely during the pandemic,” Wiederspan said. “Last year, we were on track to post some gains until COVID-19 hit. Then we saw a drop that continued into this cycle. And Iowa’s numbers track with what we see happening all over the country.”

When separated by race and gender, Asian males and females were the only two student groups in Iowa whose FAFSA filing rates rose this cycle. The largest drops were among Hispanic and Black males, who already had the lowest rates. “Our efforts will focus on increasing FAFSA filing overall as well as closing these equity gaps,” Wiederspan said.

Read the full “FAFSA Filing in Iowa: 2021” report here