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Briefing at Boston State House explores universal FAFSA

January 31, 2024
By Tara Nguyen

Briefing at Boston State House explores universal FAFSA
The Boston State House held a briefing Wednesday with uAspire, Hildreth Institute and OneGoal to discuss the potential effects of implementing a universal FAFSA bill. The bill would require all Massachusetts high school students to apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), as it is currently optional in the state of Massachusetts.

The briefing panel was made up of a number of supporters for the bill from student service organizations, researchers, students, and other state leaders. Among them was Femi Stoltz, the Massachusetts Policy Director for uAspire, an organization working to advise students through the financial aid process and other post-secondary school systems. “Especially for first generation college students it can be a difficult process to take on by yourself, and by requiring students to fill out the FAFSA, it allows schools to offer extra support for families throughout the process,” said Stoltz.

Stoltz moderated Wednesday’s discussion, drawing on both the panelists of the briefing and statistics to help show how beneficial it would be to implement the universal FAFSA bill in Massachusetts. “There are no negative effects to the program” she said during a discussion on what the bill might cause. Among these effects is the fact that when college students apply for FAFSA, they are 84% more likely to attend college, according to the National College Attainment Network.

Stoltz also drew evidence from other states, presenting a statement by the former Louisiana State Superintendent John White. In 2020, the state enacted a measure requiring students to complete the FAFSA form in order to graduate, making them leaders in the country for FAFSA rates of completion. The state was able to close the gap completely between high and low income schools in FAFSA form completion just two years after it was implemented, according to Inside Higher Ed.

When students fill out FAFSA, it opens them up to the opportunity of going to college, rather than the fear they will not be able to afford it without knowing how much they can get in aid. This was expressed by many of the student advocates who were in attendance. They shared a similar experience of thinking they would not be able to go to college due to finances and then finding out they could with the help of FAFSA.

Wednesday’s briefing comes as a move to promote the bill H1294, which petitions for Massachusetts schools to require the FAFSA application form unless they choose to opt-out.