In an article examining a Kentucky bill that would require all high school students to file the FAFSA, the Louisville Courier Journal utilizes the expertise of UW-Madison’s Ellie Bruecker.
Bruecker, a doctoral student with the School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, is a project assistant with the university’s Student Success Through Applied Research Lab.
The report explains that regardless of plans after high school graduation, filling out the FAFSA can make students aware of money they didn’t know they qualified for. And, for some, the process can reveal that college could be within their financial reach. Being required to file the FAFSA could be especially beneficial for low-income students, who tend to make up little of campus populations.
According to the Council on Postsecondary Education’s president, Aaron Thompson, “Kentucky is leaving millions on the table in federal Pell grants,” all money students in Kentucky could claim if they filled out the FAFSA.
At UW-Madison, Bruecker is studying the effects of Louisiana’s FAFSA filing requirement that began with the 2017-18 academic year. According to Bruecker, mandatory filing is relatively new, with only three states – Texas, Louisiana, and Illinois – requiring the application for graduation.
With about two-fifths of students never filling out a FAFSA, making it required could fill an information gap, Bruecker tells the newspaper. However, after Louisiana’s requirement passed, it did not change the rates of college enrollment.
Bruecker explains to the Louisville Courier Journal that she is concerned that states won’t fund support to help students understand the results of the FAFSA in tandem with filing requirements. She tells the newspaper that not providing counselors and support to help with the FAFSA and college process, particularly in high-poverty schools, is “irresponsible.”
“There are so many steps beyond FAFSA filing that low-income students and students of color and undocumented students and first-generation students need support to complete,” Bruecker tells the newspaper. “Without those supports, just making students fill out the FAFSA isn’t going to do very much.”
To learn more about this topic, check out the entire Louisville Courier Journal report here.