The Education Trust–New York Statement Supporting Universal FAFSA Legislation

Apr 11, 2024 | Press Release

The Education Trust–New York:

“The Education Trust–New York supports adoption of the Universal Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) legislation to ensure more high school students access the critical funding needed to make higher education possible. We urge the legislature to include Universal FAFSA in the Enacted Budget as it was originally presented in the Senate One-House budget (S8148) (Gounardes) and Executive Budget (A8806/S8306) proposal.

The Universal FAFSA policy in the Senate One-House and Executive Budget proposal includes crucial language allowing opt-outs for students who are unable to complete the FAFSA and requiring that all students be provided with information and support to complete other state aid forms when applicable — including the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and the DREAM Act Application that helps students from low-income backgrounds and undocumented students obtain grants and scholarships. This will help ensure that all students in New York, regardless of citizenship status, have support and resources needed to complete both the state aid applications and the FAFSA without implications for their ability to graduate.

Many high schools, community-based organizations, and institutions of higher education in New York have worked diligently for years to develop creative strategies encouraging students to complete the FAFSA. Yet, more than 40% of high school seniors across the state did not complete the FAFSA by the end of June 2023, leaving $226 million in unclaimed Pell Grants behind.

With recent increases in potential aid that make an additional 75,000 students in New York State eligible for the maximum Pell Grant, it is deeply concerning that so many high school students in New York, particularly students of color, from low-income backgrounds, and first-generation college hopefuls, are not utilizing millions of dollars of financial aid that could make postsecondary education accessible and affordable.

Ed Trust–NY’s analysis of FAFSA submission data from this year shows a significant drop in FAFSA completion rates from the same time last year, particularly at schools that serve the largest shares of students from low-income backgrounds. With the late implementation of Better FAFSA, and considering the application has been rife with issues, schools are working with a shorter cycle window than in previous years. This means students may have to make a college decision — what may arguably be one of the most important financial decisions in their lives — without having access to all their aid options, as major delays in application processing errors have led to a chaotic FAFSA cycle all around.

At the same time, districts across New York State have received unprecedented increases in state and federal funding in recent years that can be used to implement a Universal FAFSA policy. While we recognize that schools face many state requirements and mandates, the Universal FAFSA requirements would not fall solely on schools. Higher education partners — such as the State University of New York, City University of New York, and Higher Education Services Corporation — would provide training and support to schools to meet the bill requirements. Moreover, there are many opportunities for community partners to support. Ed Trust–NY is ready to mobilize our statewide networks to support Universal FAFSA completion.

Adopting a Universal FAFSA policy can create a stronger system in New York State to support completion, improve college access, particularly for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds, and bolster student success by opening more doors to opportunities that will put students on the path to a brighter future.”

Ed Trust–NY’s regional analysis for FASFA completion rate: