Nov 1, 2022 - News

Washington students are losing out on college aid, officials say

Illustration of a graduation cap but the tassel is a ladder.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Washington students have been completing federal financial aid forms at a lower-than-average rate — and that's costing them big money, state officials say.

Driving the news: The Free Application for Federal Student Financial Aid (FAFSA) for the 2023-24 school year opened Oct. 1, and state officials are urging prospective college students to fill it out even if they don't think they'll qualify for financial help.

Why it matters: State programs, like the generous Washington College Grant, use the federal application to determine eligibility for aid. So, even students who might not be qualified for a federal award may be able to get state assistance — but they have to apply to find out.

By the numbers: As of Sept. 30, only 42.3% of Washington's spring 2022 graduating class had filled out the FAFSA, according to the National College Attainment Network's analysis of federal data.

  • That's much lower than the national rate of 57.7%, putting Washington among the bottom three states for FAFSA completion, along with Utah and Alaska.

What they're saying: “Lots of people don’t think they are eligible — that’s a common mistake,” Katie Tallman, director of communications for the Washington Student Achievement Council, said in a recent news release.

  • She noted that the Washington College Grant, which the Legislature approved in 2019, fully covers public university tuition and fees for families making up to 60% of the state's median income.
  • Students from families that earn up to 100% of the state's median income also qualify for partial awards, Tallman said. Right now, the median income is $107,000 for a family of four.

What we're watching: Whether this year's FAFSA completion rates improve as more people look to return to college after the pandemic — or whether a new law aimed at increasing FAFSA completion has a noticeable effect.


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