Educators to Host More FAFSA Events to Assist Students

When speaking to high school and college students about the current Free Application for Financial Student Aid (FAFSA) season, most express a mix of concerns and optimism. There are few reports of anger directed towards the technical glitches that have made this financial aid process more challenging this year.

Why? They recognize that FAFSA unlocks access to $150 billion in college grants, work-study funds, and federal student loans crucial for financing their education. They understand that FAFSA is a vital tool in their college funding journey.

Despite this awareness, there has been a decline in FAFSA submissions nationwide, including in Texas, due to issues with the form that have hindered some students from completing it promptly and dissuaded others from even starting the process.

Educators, counselors, and administrators at high schools and colleges are cognizant of this trend and have organized additional workshops until early May to prompt students to complete and submit their FAFSA applications.

About 200 students seeking clarification on their applications took part in a bilingual FAFSA Workshop on April 20 at the Education Service Center Region 19. Nearly all attendees arrived with family members, laptops, and financial documents, hoping to either initiate, correct, or submit their applications on the spot.

Yaxley Bouche, an 18-year-old senior at Austin High School, was among those present with her mother, Diana, aiming to finalize the parent portion of the form so that Yaxley could complete her FAFSA submission.

“I’m a bit anxious about the amount of aid I’ll receive,” shared Yaxley, a Central resident intending to pursue nursing at either El Paso Community College or the University of Texas at El Paso. “Will my funding be lower because I’m submitting later?”

With the assistance of numerous volunteers, primarily from EPCC and UTEP, students received the support they needed at the event.

The two institutions collaborated on the event and committed to partaking in future sessions over the next two weeks to aid other families navigating the FAFSA complexities.

One volunteer guided Diana Bouche in setting up an account, a process that will undergo verification in three days. Following this, her daughter can proceed with her application, which is anticipated to be approved within 10 business days.

Austin High School senior Yaxley Bouche, alongside her mother, Diana Bouche, reviewing part of her financial aid application during a Saturday, April 20, 2024, FAFSA Workshop. (Daniel Perez / El Paso Matters)

“I’m not entirely at ease yet,” remarked Yaxley Bouche as she closed her laptop before leaving. “I’m still apprehensive about the waiting period.”

Decline in FAFSA Completion Rates among Seniors

Based on data from the National College Attainment Network, as of April 12, only 29% of high school seniors have finalized their FAFSA applications. Over 1.2 million applications have been submitted, reflecting a 36% decrease compared to the previous year.

In Texas, approximately 34% of the senior class, equivalent to around 373,000 students, have completed the FAFSA. Since the Class of 2022, Texas requires high school seniors to submit a FAFSA, the Texas Application for State Financial Aid (TASFA), or submit an opt-out form.

To simplify the FAFSA process, Congress passed the FAFSA Simplification Act in 2021. The updated application was designed to be more user-friendly, reducing the number of questions to 36 from the original 108. It also aimed to broaden eligibility for federal financial aid.

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