Alabama group works to expand college access with summer support / Public News Service

Advocates for higher education in Alabama are mobilizing to ensure students get the support they need for federal student aid applications this summer.

Delays in the release of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid have left many college students in the dark about their financial aid eligibility.

Chandra Scott, executive director of the nonprofit Alabama Possible, said only about 42% of high school students filed for FAFSA this year, a sharp drop from 2023.

“That’s still going in the right direction,” Scott acknowledged. “But there are still many students who are left behind, while that is actually a decrease of 23% compared to last year. So there is still a lot of work to be done.”

Scott explained that issues such as the delayed rollout of the FAFSA, technical issues and slower responses from universities contributed to the challenges. Some parents have even chosen not to complete the FAFSA to avoid delaying their children’s graduation. Despite these hurdles, Alabama ranks 16th in the nation in completion of the FAFSA.

With summer approaching, Scott points out that many students won’t have school counselors to lean on, but she wants families to know that it’s not too late to start the application process, and that there are help will be available.

“We want to tell those students and families that you can still go back and complete the FAFSA even if you have completed the waiver,” Scott emphasized. “Remember, that’s still possible.”

Scott outlined plans to support students over the summer. She explained that Alabama Possible is increasing collaboration with advisors and career coaches, expanding reach and offering assistance through the Alabama Goes to College helpdesk and text message system.

“We have team members who really know how to complete those questions and can really give them the support they need to complete it,” Scott noted. “When you contact us, you get a real person to support you through that process.”

She added that assistance is available for students and families statewide, including for returning students who may have questions about the FAFSA. Nationally, just over 40% of students have completed their FAFSA, a decrease of almost 16% from 2023.

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