Last spring, financial aid officers and high school guidance counselors were panicked by a number of implications from the pandemic, one of which was the number of FAFSA applications submitted. As of May 2020, the application submissions were down 2% year-over-year. What they didn’t know then was how dire the same situation would be at the start of 2021. As of now, the FAFSA has been available to students for a little over three months, but applications are down a whopping 12% from last year, according to #FormYourFuture FAFSA Tracker. Thankfully, school districts, states and organizations are stepping forward to meet students in their need amidst the pandemic. Read on to see how others are encouraging students to complete the FAFSA and tips for how you can navigate the process this year, too.Broward County, Florida is taking a multi-tiered approach to helping its students complete the FAFSA, according to The Wall Street Journal. They have coordinated virtual workshops in multiple languages, contacted students individually, and set up a 24-hour FAFSA hotline to walk students and their parents through the process.The FAFSA Fast Break is sponsored by Chiefs for Change, a group of state and district education leaders that are working to ensure students across the country have safe schools and an excellent education. All of their work culminates in providing students with a reliable and affordable pathway to college before pursuing meaningful work through their careers. Their concern over the lower FAFSA apps is requiring their team of leaders to double down on finding creative ways to encourage school districts and students to complete the form. “We can’t let COVID derail students’ dreams for life after high school,” said Chiefs for Change CEO Mike Magee. “The current trends are very troubling. With many fewer students submitting the FAFSA, we must redouble our efforts to help students fill out the form and get the money they need for college. School districts led by members of Chiefs for Change have found creative ways to support seniors in planning for college during the pandemic. In the fall, we published a report highlighting some of those new approaches. We hope the ideas can help other districts as they look to serve students in this challenging time.”
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