Sep 29, 2022 - News

Financial aid filings from Iowa's high school seniors stabilize

A chart showing FAFSA filings by males and females between 2018=19 and 2022-23. Chart courtesy of Iowa College Aid

For the first time in four years, FAFSA applications from Iowa high school seniors are ticking up as the state's younger generations take a hard look at whether higher education is worth it.

Why it matters: College financial aid applications are a strong indicator of whether someone intends to pursue a college degree — either at a community college or four-year university.

  • But they've been steadily declining since 2018-19, when the economy was more prosperous and more students chose to earn money right away, rather than go to school, said Meghan Oster of Iowa College Aid.

By the numbers: This year, 18,355 public high school seniors filed a FAFSA, an increase of 112 filings from the previous year.

  • Yes, but: The increase in filings doesn't make up the gap that was created over the last five years.
  • Even though 49% of Iowa high school seniors filed for the 2022-23 school year, that still represents a 4 percentage point decline compared to 2018-19.

Between the lines: There's a lot of talk about whether a college degree is still worth it. Students have to navigate the spike in costs for higher education and the debt accumulation for many young graduates.

  • In a recent report by the Washington Post, 2 in 5 U.S. graduates regret their major, primarily if they entered arts and humanities.
  • Similarly, half of students who went to a for-profit, private school had regrets because of the higher debts they had to pay back.

Of note: President Joe Biden recently announced his administration is canceling up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt, putting the issue front and center of conversations once again.

The bottom line: The advertised price of tuition can be shocking for students, Oster said.

  • But she said they'll never have any idea how much savings they can get from grants at the state and federal levels if they don't fill out their FAFSA, which is free.
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