States Move to Require the FAFSA for High School Graduation


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Updated March 24, 2020

High school students in three states — Illinois, Louisiana and Texas — already or will soon face a new graduation requirement: completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Lawmakers in at least another five states plus the District of Columbia are currently considering similar legislation — and it’s only February.

The simplicity of the policy is part of its appeal: If the FAFSA were a requirement for graduation, presumably, more students would complete the form, learn of aid availability and matriculate on to postsecondary education. Here at Education Commission of the States, we are learning all the time about what states can do to help preserve and leverage this simplicity into increased rates of college-going.

Specifically, states considering a similar change may benefit from considering these questions as their policies are developed:

  • Governance: This change sits at the intersection of K-12 and higher education. Who should lead the change? How should responsibilities be shared?
  • Access: Should the policy allow opt-outs from the policy? For whom? Under what conditions?
  • Finance: How can states prepare for increased pressures on state financial aid programs as a result of increased applications?
  • Outcomes: What can states expect in terms of increased application activity? Can states expect more students matriculating on to postsecondary education?

While this list of questions is certainly not exhaustive, it provides the broad contours of a policy that can provide uninterrupted access to the high school diplomas students have earned, while still increasing rates of aid applications and taking steps to ensure that students have the financial information they need to make decisions about postsecondary education.

To help states begin to answer these questions and learn from other states’ approaches, Education Commission of the States hosted a webinar, where attendees learned about the states that have enacted or are considering policies across this topic. The webinar also included representatives from the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance, who have worked collaboratively to enact and implement this change in their state. View the full webinar here.

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Senior Policy Analyst at Education Commission of the States |

Sarah supports the research and analytical capacity of the policy team in her role as a senior policy analyst at Education Commission of the States. Sarah has extensive experience in student financial aid programs, and is frequently called upon as an expert in state financial aid policy and practice. A recipient of state aid herself, Sarah believes that state policy leaders have a key role to play in ensuring affordable postsecondary opportunities for students from all backgrounds.

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Policy Researcher at Education Commission of the States |

As a policy researcher, Shaniqué works on tracking legislation, answering information requests and contributing to a variety of policy reports and data visualizations. Prior to joining Education Commission of the States, Shaniqué began her pursuit of a doctoral degree in higher education from the University of Denver with special interest in exploring funding inequities for historically black colleges and universities. Shaniqué also has a passion for identity development and student support and retention services, and she is dedicated to addressing issues of access and equity in postsecondary institutions.

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