TN leads nation in students requesting federal aid for college

More than 61 percent of the state’s high school seniors filed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid by April 17, according to the analysis released Friday by Bellwether Education Partners, a national nonprofit dedicated to helping education organizations. The completion rate is the highest in the nation, reports The Tennessean.

Tennessee also had the highest year-over-year hike in FAFSA completion, jumping from a 49 percent rate at the same time in 2014. The Volunteer State’s increase “accounted for more than 40 percent of the gain in FAFSA completions across the entire country,” according to the report, written by Bellwether associate partner Chad Aldeman.

Nationwide, about 40.8 percent of high school seniors have filed a FAFSA, compared to 40.2 percent in 2014. Aldeman said 22 states saw their year-over-year completion rates decline.

The FAFSA isn’t the only step toward college enrollment, but it can be a critical one for students who rely on scholarships or grants to make tuition affordable.

“Typically, any student who wants or needs financial support from the federal government, states, or colleges and universities to pay for higher education must complete the FAFSA,” Aldeman wrote.

Tennessee has been a national leader in FAFSA completion for years thanks to the Hope Scholarship, which requires students to apply for aid. But Aldeman wrote that the jump to the top of the national rankings in 2015 was driven by the first year of Tennessee Promise, a scholarship program that offers eligible high school seniors tuition-free community college — if they complete the FAFSA.

“It’s always good when your state is highlighted among the nation as taking a lead,” said Mike Krause, executive director of Tennessee Promise. “I think it indicates that we have the right mix of initiatives right now.”

Note: A Bellweather blog post on the FAFSA data is HERE.