OLYMPIA — There’s a great new way to pay for college in our state—the Washington College Grant. It gives more money to more people for more kinds of education. Now, the Washington Student Achievement Council has unveiled a new data dashboard to help schools and communities track how many students are applying for financial aid. The FAFSA completion dashboard, available online, includes real-time data on state and district FAFSA completion metrics.
The FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a critical first step to career and college education, providing students access to federal, state, and institutional aid. Those financial resources can alleviate, if not remove, financial barriers to continued education.
This year’s applicants will be the first to access the new Washington College Grant, recognized as one of the nation’s most generous state financial aid programs. The grant will help low- and middle-income people of all ages continue their career and college education. The grant currently supports students pursuing certificates and degree programs. Beginning in 2020-21 it will also support people in registered apprenticeships.
In Washington, there are two ways to apply for financial aid. U.S. citizens and eligible non-citizens apply with the FAFSA. People who can’t file the FAFSA due to immigration status can still apply for state aid with the WASFA, the Washington Application for State Financial Aid.
Financial aid, including the Washington College Grant, provides equitable access to affordable career and college education pathways. Affordability, at its core, is an equity issue: nearly half of the K‐12 population comes from low‐income families, and students of color are over‐represented in this group.
Measuring the number of completed financial aid applications is a strong indicator of Washingtonians’ career and college readiness. Seniors who complete a FAFSA are 84 percent more likely to continue their education directly after high school.
Despite the promise of financial aid, communities across Washington are leaving money on the table. Only around half of Washington’s high school seniors apply for financial aid, placing our state 49th in the nation. In 2017, students in Washington missed out on $50 million in federal student financial aid.
The Dashboard will be an integral tool to measure Washington’s FAFSA completion rate. Districts across the state will use the dashboard to track progress, and the Washington Student Achievement Council will join with a variety of state and local partners to engage in this effort.