One of the barriers to accessing higher education is financing the rising costs of tuition and student fees, yet many college students do not apply for financial aid by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Completing the FAFSA can be a critical component accessing postsecondary education. The FAFSA is required to qualify for federal, state and most institutional financial aid.
Minnesota students apply for financial aid (grants and loans) using the FAFSA at higher levels than students nationally. Survey data conducted by the U.S. Department of Education in 2008-2009 estimated that 70 percent of all Minnesota undergraduates applied for federal financial aid compared to 59 percent nationally. Students attending Minnesota private institutions had the highest FAFSA filing rates; 93 percent of students attending private for-profit institutions and 83 percent of students attending private not-for-profit institutions.
There are a variety of reasons students do not complete the FAFSA; non-filers tend to be older, attend college part-time, and attend public institutions. See FAFSA Filing Rates for First-Year Students from Minnesota Measures 2011 report.
FAFSA completion information can be helpful in implementing targeted outreach efforts to assist high school seniors and their families who have not yet submitted a FAFSA, or who submitted an incomplete FAFSA.
To encourage more students to complete the FAFSA the Minnesota Legislature requested the Minnesota Office of Higher Education report on the policies and procedures adopted by postsecondary institutions to increase student awareness of the need to complete a FAFSA. Increasing Student Awareness of the FAFSA report was completed in 2011.
Additionally in 2010, the U. S. Department of Education implemented a FAFSA Completion Project to assist secondary school administrators and states in determining which of their students completed a FAFSA.
Starting with the 2016-2017 academic year the Minnesota Office of Higher Education will be implementing an enhanced FAFSA Completion Initiative for Minnesota.
Data from the U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid Data Centers provides statistics on the number of FAFSAs completed by the student's state of legal residence, prospective college of enrollment, and high school of enrollment.
Also see data from Minnesota's FAFSA Completion Initiative.