By Bill DeBaun, Director of Data and Evaluation, NCAN
FAFSA completions for the high school class of 2021 have lagged last year by double-digit percentages since October. But a strong December saw completions gain back 4.5% in an encouraging development for an otherwise disastrous cycle.
On Nov. 27, the 2021-22 FAFSA cycle hit its low point of -16.8% FAFSA completions compared to the 2020-21 cycle on the same date. On Dec. 25, the 2021-22 FAFSA cycle was at -12.3%.
These numbers come from NCAN’s analysis of data from Federal Student Aid presented on the Form Your Future FAFSA Tracker, which is updated weekly throughout the FAFSA cycle.
The Tracker examines FAFSA completion at the national, state, city, district, and school levels. For the U.S. and each state, the Tracker computes both an estimated percentage of the current senior class that has completed a FAFSA and a year-over-year percent change.
As of Dec. 25, NCAN estimates that 29.9% of the class of 2021 completed a FAFSA. The top states by percentage completion were Illinois (45.3%), Washington, D.C. (45.2%), New Jersey (41.7%), Tennessee (41.1%), and Kentucky (36.4%).
The percent change metric is much grimmer. As of Dec. 25, no state has more FAFSAs completed than at the same point last year. Georgia (-1.2%) and Hawaii (-1.3%) have the smallest decreases.
There continues to be a worryingly inequitable aspect of FAFSA completion nationally. Title I-eligible public high schools have FAFSA completion declines of -15.5%, compared to -9.6% for non-Title I-eligible public high schools. High-minority public high schools, defined as having 40% or more Black and Hispanic students, have FAFSA completion declines of -17.8%, compared to -7.6% for low-minority high schools. Public high schools in rural places and small towns continue to have much larger FAFSA completion declines than their urban and suburban counterparts.
With the FAFSA Tracker, users can look at national data, examine state profiles that are sortable by city, district, and school, and compare cycle-over-cycle data nationally and by state.
NCAN continues to monitor FAFSA completion closely and will update the FAFSA Tracker through the rest of the cycle. Those with questions, comments, concerns, or requests for specific data pulls can contact Bill DeBaun, NCAN’s director of data and evaluation, at email@example.com.