FAFSA for the Future

Jun 30, 2022

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By Victoria Graham
Director of College & Career Readiness

What happens when Texas strongly encourages financial aid application completion for high school seniors?

June 30, 2022 — In 2019, the Texas Legislature passed a landmark education bill, known regionally as HB3. One element of the bill was instituting a new graduation requirement: complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the Texas Application for Student Financial Aid (TASFA), or sign a waiver purposely declining the opportunity.

When the bill was signed into law, Texas became the second state (behind Louisiana) in the nation to institute a graduate requirement for financial aid completion.

Since 2019, Illinois, California, Colorado, Alabama, and New Hampshire have all passed similar graduation requirements. At the time Texas lagged significantly in financial aid completion rates, even relative to states with similar demographics. The spirit of the graduation requirement was to show many high school students their potential aid to spur entrance into college or an approved career readiness program immediately after graduation.

When the bill was signed into law the intent was implementation would start with the graduating class of 2021. However, the pandemic caused the state to revise the original plan and pivoted to implementation in starting with this year’s graduation class.

After getting off to a slow start, Texas is now 5th in the nation in FAFSA completion and 1st in the nation* in FAFSA completion growth.

FAFSA Completion*: 

  1. Louisiana: 66.5%
  2. Tennessee: 66.4%
  3. Washington D.C.: 64.3%
  4. Illinois: 62.7%
  5. Texas: 62.6%

FAFSA Completion Growth*: 

  1. Texas: 25.9%
  2. Alabama: 24.9%
  3. New Mexico: 7.6%
  4. California: 6.6%
  5. Mississippi: 6.3%

Largest Counties in Texas Current FAFSA Completion Rates*: 

  1. Dallas County: 63%
  2. Bexar County: 61%
  3. Harris County: 57%
  4. Travis County: 57%
  5. Tarrant County: 56%

Good Reason Houston Partner School Systems Current FAFSA Completion Rates*: 

  1. Aldine: 52%
  2. Alief: 58%
  3. Channelview: 44%
  4. Galena Park: 58%
  5. Houston: 61%
  6. KIPP Texas**: 77%
  7. Pasadena: 66%
  8. Sheldon: 61%
  9. Spring Branch: 58%
  10. Spring: 54%
  11. YES Prep: 84%

Good Reason Houston Partner District Change in FAFSA Completion Rates from May Last Year:

  1. Aldine: 40% (+12%)
  2. Alief: 46% (+12%)
  3. Channelview: 27% (+17%)
  4. Galena Park: 31% (+27%)
  5. Houston: 46% (+15%)
  6. KIPP Texas: 70% (+7%)
  7. Pasadena: 45% (+21%)
  8. Sheldon: 40% (+21%)
  9. Spring Branch: 46% (+12%)
  10. Spring: 39% (+15%)
  11. YES Prep: 79% (+5%)

Completing financial aid is only one step of many a student may take to continue their postsecondary educational plans.

But it is an important step, and one that our state legislature is banking will spur greater postsecondary enrollment. Only time will tell if this requirement will lead to increases in postsecondary enrollment and ultimately postsecondary completion. However, initial FAFSA data is promising for a state that once ranked in the bottom half of FAFSA completion nationally.

*Statistics as of June 30, 2022.