February 2, 2018—Thanks to the development of new data reporting tools, Massachusetts high school counselors and college advisors will for the first time be able to monitor whether students have filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which determines college applicants’ and returning students’ eligibility for Pell Grants, Work Study, education loans, and Massachusetts State Aid programs.
The Departments of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and Higher Education (DHE) collaborated in the development of new reports that will be available to counselors through Edwin Analytics, a powerful reporting and data analysis tool that gives authorized users access to a variety of reports on educational data. Beginning today, counselors and other authorized school and college personnel will have access to two new FAFSA reports that allow them to see whether a student has submitted a completed FAFSA to the U.S. Department of Education, or whether the application has been marked “incomplete” or “not found.” Counselors will be able to follow up with individual students to see if they need assistance in completing the FAFSA, and will also be able to monitor the overall FAFSA completion rates for their individual high school and district.
“One of the biggest reasons students do not graduate college is because they lack the financial resources to complete their degree. With this new data tool that helps counselors and advisors check whether individual students have completed their FAFSA, we hope more Massachusetts students will receive the necessary state and federal financial aid they qualify for in order to complete their degree,” Secretary of Education James Peyser said.
“I’m delighted that our respective agencies were able to collaborate on a plan to give school counselors a bird’s eye view of FAFSA completion rates,” said Carlos E. Santiago, Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education. “Not every student has a parent at home who is familiar with the college application process and can offer guidance in applying for financial aid. Massachusetts cannot afford to leave any students on the sidelines. With employers hungry to hire our graduates, it’s our job to make sure that every aspiring student has access to college and the career of his or her choice.”
“I’m happy to put this tool in the hands of high school counselors and advisors so that they can easily know when they have to remind students and families about this key step in the college admission process,” Acting Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Wulfson said. “We want to help schools and families work together to make college an option for all students.”
“I am super excited that school counselors will now have access to FAFSA completion data at their fingertips,” said Robert Bardwell, Director of School Counseling at Monson High School in Monson, MA and a member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC). “Counselors who can either help their students complete the form or refer them to other resources for assistance may make the difference for a student wishing to achieve a higher education degree or certificate. Many other states already provide this information to school counselors so it is wonderful to see Massachusetts doing the same. Our students will no doubt be advantaged because of this new resource.”
While Massachusetts currently ranks 5th in the nation for the percentage of students who complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, the overall number of high school seniors who complete the FAFSA still hovers at 48.5% statewide. Officials hope the new reports, coupled with a streamlined application and earlier filing deadline, will spur even higher completion rates. For Massachusetts students, the FAFSA filing deadline for consideration of state and federal aid is May 1, 2018, although many individual colleges have earlier deadlines.
The Massachusetts Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (MASFAA) is sponsoring FAFSA Completion events for students and families through the month of February, at Mount Wachusett Community College, Middlesex Community College (Lowell campus), North Shore Community College (Lynn campus) and Quincy College (Quincy and Plymouth campuses). Visit their website for more information or to register for free assistance at one of these events.