October 12, 2021

FAFSA is a Key Step to Reaching Our Attainment Goal

Arizona is one of the fastest growing states in the country and its continued economic growth depends on a successful education system leading to high levels of postsecondary attainment. Without it, the state won’t be able to fill positions with the qualified workforce needed. Five years ago, a group of Arizona leaders formed the Achieve60AZ alliance and set a goal of increasing the number of Arizonans earning a postsecondary certificate or degree to 60% by 2030. Arizona is now less than nine years away from that milestone, with much work to be done to achieve that goal.

It is known that one of the most effective ways to boost educational attainment is to ensure that more students have the financial resources needed to pursue a postsecondary education or credential. One of the greatest tools to reduce the financial barriers to accessing postsecondary education is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). 

October is the month when the FAFSA becomes available for students to begin applying for federal financial aid dollars to attend college. Completing the FAFSA is a critical step in the college financing process.

The mission at Education Forward Arizona is to advocate for and act on education improvements that advance the quality of life for all Arizonans. The process to ensure more students – including low-income students and students of color – attend college starts with completing the FAFSA. In fact, according to the National College Attainment Network, 90% of Arizona seniors who complete a FAFSA attend college directly after high school, compared to just 55% of non-FAFSA completers.

Reaching the Achieve60AZ goal requires the collective effort of education partners to help Arizona students and families understand why completing their FAFSA is a great place to begin. FAFSA completion is a strong predictor of higher education outcomes. And with Arizona’s postsecondary attainment rate hovering near 46% the state must continue finding and implementing ways to ensure more students take advantage of the financial aid available.

“Benji, thank you for your help, especially when you urged me to fill out my FASFA, and I kept procrastinating no one else was there except you Benji. And when I did finally complete my FASFA you were there to help me cross the finish line. You answered all of my questions and all of my concerns and helped me to complete the FAFSA so I could attend college and pursue my dreams!”

– High School Graduate

FAFSA Arizona Hotline
Students and families can call the Arizona FAFSA Hotline between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday for free support with FAFSA completion, college applications and next steps for enrollment. 1-833-AZ-FAFSA for English, 1-833-MiFAFSA for Spanish.

Arizona FAFSA website
Visit AZFAFSA.org for help completing the FAFSA.

Key deadlines for Arizona students:
Oct. 1: FAFSA opens
Nov. 15: NAU Priority Deadline
Jan. 15: ASU Priority Deadline
March 1: UArizona Priority Deadline
June 2022: Last month to file the FAFSA

Last year in Arizona, nearly $70 million of federal financial aid was left on the table. This year’s statewide FAFSA completion goal is 52%. The Arizona FAFSA Challenge is helping schools all over the state to boost their completion rates through events, public service announcements and trainings. Students and families are also getting direct assistance through the Ask Benji tool. Ask Benji is an artificial intelligence powered chatbot that is able to respond to student questions 24/7 via text messaging. This past academic year more than 120 high schools in Arizona with 37,000 students texted asked Ask Benji to answer their FAFSA questions, and this year Ask Benji is available to any Arizona senior that needs help with their FAFSA. Just text “Hi Benji” to 602-786-8171.

Building a strong state requires a strong education continuum, from the earliest ages through college and career. Arizonans can’t afford to continue leaving money on the table. Arizona can’t afford stagnant attainment rates and cannot leave underrepresented students behind. Ensuring FAFSA completion is one key tool that can be used to move education forward in Arizona.

To meet the statewide goal of 52% FAFSA completion it’s going to take all Arizonans. It’s key to meeting the Achieve60 goal, it’s key to the future quality of life in the state and key to creating a workforce with 21st-century skills to ensure a strong economy for decades to come.

Governor Doug Ducey provided remarks at the recent FAFSA Kick-Off event acknowledging the important role the FAFSA plays in Arizona’s future.

Ask Benji

Benji is Arizona’s free digital FAFSA assistant. Text Benji with your questions about FAFSA and financial aid. Get started by texting “Hi Benji” to 602-786-8171.

If you would like to bring Ask Benji to your school or district visit bit.ly/AskBenji.