Wilson should make FAFSA mandatory


Graphic by Max Wix

Benjy Chait

The class of 2018 lost an estimated $2.6 billion in Pell Grants, need-based federal aid for college. Why? Because they didn’t submit their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). 

It is time we upped the ante and expect all students to apply and allow those with extenuating circumstances to opt-out, instead of our current system of asking everyone to opt-in.

FAFSA is an application that the government uses to determine students’ eligibility for certain financial aid and federal loan packages, which can help students save thousands on college. Unfortunately, in 2018, 661,000 eligible graduates missed out on Pell Grants simply because they didn’t apply.

To combat this, Louisiana made applying for FAFSA a requirement for seniors to graduate. Illinois and Texas signed off on the plan as well and plan to implement it in 2022. Here’s why: 90 percent of seniors that complete FAFSA enter college directly after high school, compared to the 55 percent of seniors that went to college not having completed it. To ensure that students complete the FAFSA, you have to take extra steps to put the forms in front of them.

 We serve a population with uneven access to information about college and exposure to college graduates who can help with the college process. Adding FAFSA as a requirement gives that vital resource to students who wouldn’t have known about it or chosen to apply otherwise, which will raise college enrollment rates. 

Some might say that this policy would force people who don’t qualify for or need financial aid to go through the hassle of the 108 question application. But they fail to see that while you might not qualify for federal packages deemed “needed,” there are also federal loans available for students of higher-income families that have lower interest rates than private banks.

Education about the college process and financial aid should not be extra. Rather, it should be implemented in high school, but remain optional, in order to help those who don’t have access to it at home. •