FAFSA = Free Application for Federal Student Aid | FAFSA – for All Need-based Aid

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This “In a Crab Shell” edition is Part 2 of 2 focused on the FAFSA and financial aid. This edition looks at outcomes in universal FAFSA states; these states have various policies that require (with opt-out options) FAFSA completion for graduating high school students.

Link Part 1: https://mailchi.mp/mdacc.org/tfgdt72gy8-5706984?ct=t%28Crab_Shell_%2330_2018.1.5_COPY_01%29

FAFSA = Free Application for Federal Student Aid


FAFSA – for All Need-based Aid

U.S. College Affordability Snapshot

•             Decades of rising college costs

•             Years of weak/stagnant wage growth in many sectors

•             A decade of cuts in state support for higher ed  

o             Families pay more

o             Federal gov’t pays higher % of financial aid disbursed

•             Declining FAFSA completion rates, even lower since COVID-19

o             Worse among underrepresented populations

o             Many Pell Grant eligible students never submit a FAFSA

FAFSA completion strongly correlated to

•             Increased enrollment in college / postsecondary education or training

•             Increased persistence in college / postsecondary education or training

The FAFSA is the administrative form that unlocks access to all need-based financial aid, not just federal aid as the name suggests.

Students must submit the FAFSA to be considered for:

•             ALL need-based aid from federal, state, college/university sources (includes Pell Grants)

•             All low-interest federal student loans

•             Maryland’s Community College Promise

Note: Maryland offers the Maryland State Financial Aid Application (MSFAA) see more in last section.


As described in Part 1 of this two-part “In a Crab Shell” series, 6 states now have policies of universal FAFSA completion for high school seniors. Most of those state policies were implemented only 1-2 years before COVID-19 disruptions. So, only Louisiana, the first state to implement such a policy, can provide outcome data at this time. That data looks very promising.

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