April 29, 2024

FAFSA Completion Rates Down 33% Compared to Last Year

Education Forward Arizona and other Arizona groups offering assistance to boost completion rates and college applications

Submissions for this year’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) are down 33% over 2023 in Arizona, leaving millions of dollars of federal aid on the table. To get high school students and their families the help they need to complete the vital application, Education Forward Arizona and other groups are offering in-person and online assistance and more.

Among other tools, Education Forward Arizona’s Ask Benji chatbot provides free FAFSA support via text answers to nearly 1,000 common questions related to FAFSA, financial aid and college readiness. The digital assistant helped nearly 34,000 students during the 2022-23 school year. Among students who interacted with Benji five or more times, FAFSA completion rates were 13% higher than those who didn’t engage.

“The high school graduating class of 2024 faces unprecedented challenges in paying for postsecondary education,” said Rich Nickel, President and CEO of Education Forward Arizona. “Education Forward Arizona has developed innovative solutions to help them through the complicated process and ensure they can access the aid they deserve. Seniors who complete the FAFSA are 84% more likely to enroll in postsecondary education immediately.”

Education Forward Arizona is working closely with partners—including the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR), the Arizona FAFSA Coalition, Helios Education Foundation, Aliento and the Arizona Governor’s Office—to support Finish Line to the FAFSA, a statewide campaign to boost FAFSA completion rates. 

Resources available to students include:

  • In-person FAFSA completion workshops at Capital One Café (upcoming dates: May 4 and June 15)
  • Enhanced FAFSA completion, next steps and messaging for students through the statewide Ask Benji Chatbot 
  • The College Ready AZ website, through ABOR, offers timely FAFSA resources and events for students, families, and educators 
  • Statewide implementation of a dynamically updated FAFSA Resource Hub to provide practitioners with the tools needed to support students and families in FAFSA completion

This year the U.S. Department of Education released a new version of the FAFSA, designed to streamline the process and increase the number of students eligible for federal student aid. Unfortunately, students and families across the nation have experienced multiple technical issues when trying to use the new federal system. The result is that significantly fewer students have completed the FAFSA this year. 

“We want every Arizona student to secure funding for the postsecondary paths that will enable them to develop the skills needed to succeed in a career,” Nickel added. “And as beneficial as it is to individual students and families, it’s an even bigger boon our economy. Findings from the recent study Billions to Gain, conducted in partnership with the Helios Education Foundation, show that with a 20% increase in enrollment, Arizona would gain more than $5 billion per high school cohort from higher lifetime earnings, better health and increased workforce productivity.