Indiana has passed a law that requires its students to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) from next school year. The requirement came from both the Indiana Senate and House and was signed by Governor Eric Holcomb last Thursday.
Although exceptions exist, the new law makes filling out the FAFSA a deliberate decision, rather than a chance event. This will allow students to have a clearer understanding of the financial aid available to them for college, possibly persuading more students to pursue postsecondary education. Indiana officials are concerned about the declining rate of students enrolling in college, with only 53% of the Class of 2020 continuing on to higher education, according to state data.
FAFSA is the crucial form that students need to complete in order to be considered for federal financial aid programs such as grants, loans, and scholarships. Furthermore, its completion is also considered a significant predictor of college attendance. The new law requires students to submit their FAFSA by April 15 of their senior year, which is the deadline to be eligible for state aid, in addition to federal aid.
The benefits of the FAFSA extend beyond just two- and four-year institutions, as filling it out can also provide funding for students who want to attain short- or long-term credentials through the Next Level Jobs Workforce Ready Grant. Unfortunately, perceptions of the unaffordability of higher education have resulted in Indiana students leaving nearly $70 million in Pell Grants on the table.
Indiana officials have attempted for years to pass this FAFSA requirement, and it was only through increasing the number of exceptions that the bill garnered the widespread support it needed to pass. Certain nonpublic schools and students with parent or guardian waivers are among those who are exempt from the requirement. In addition, the requirement will expire in ten years, giving lawmakers an opportunity to reassess it. Indiana is now one of at least eight other states that have enacted such a law.
It’s worth noting that this year’s deadline for state aid was extended to May 15 for students in seven counties affected by recent natural disasters: Benton, Johnson, Monroe, Morgan, Owen, Sullivan, and White. As we look towards the future of education in Indiana, this new law is a crucial step towards making college more accessible to all Hoosier students.