Milwaukee Journal Sentinel utilizes FAFSA expertise of UW–Madison’s Bruecker

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel utilized the expertise of UW–Madison’s Ellie Bruecker for an article reporting on the declining number of Milwaukee Public School (MPS) students who have filled out the FAFSA his year.

Ellie Bruecker

Bruecker is a doctoral student with the School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis.

As of April 8, the article reports, “1,369 MPS seniors had completed the FAFSA, compared with 2,032 on the same day in 2020 and 2,012 in 2019. That’s a decline of more than 32 percent compared with last year.”

Bruecker, who studies FAFSA completion rates, said the data is “cause for concern.” While not directly linked to college enrollment trends, she said, they are an indicator of the number of students who are seriously thinking about going to college.

“It’s like a ‘canary in the coal mine’ situation,” Bruecker said. “If students aren’t filling out a FAFSA, they’re probably not applying for colleges. There’s this whole gantlet of steps you go through in order to eventually enroll in higher education, and if students are missing this step, it’s likely they’re missing other steps.”

The article shared Bruecker’s analysis of federal data, which found about 39.7 percent of Wisconsin seniors have completed a FAFSA so far this year, compared with 49.6 percent by this time last year and 45.3 percent nationwide.

Bruecker said she saw much bigger drops among Title I schools — where at least 40 percent of families qualify as low-income — and schools that have high proportions of students of color.

Learn more by reading the full article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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