The Potluck

Minnesota students are missing out on federal aid for college

By: - January 16, 2020 5:41 pm

On average, nearly half of 12th graders at most Minnesota high schools didn’t submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid last year, according to data from the University of Wisconsin.

The FAFSA — a lengthy, complicated form required to receive federal aid for higher education, as well as to access aid from many states and institutions — is a critical step toward attending college, but each year, as many as one in seven college-going, aid-eligible students in the United States don’t complete it.

Research shows low-income students and first-generation students are less likely to file the FAFSA because of a number of barriers, including the form’s complicated financial questions and the confusing nature of the aid process.

Some face additional obstacles when their applications are marked by the Department of Education for verification, a process that disproportionately involves low-income students and requires them to submit additional financial information. Experts have raised concerns over “verification melt” in recent years, since many students flagged for verification abandon the cumbersome application altogether.

Among Minnesota’s college students, the FAFSA filing rate has remained steady, at roughly 80% between 2010 and 2018, according to data from the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. FAFSA completion rates are higher among the state’s students of color, compared to their white peers.

Explore the map below to see how many students completed the FAFSA at Minnesota high schools last year, according to records compiled by the University of Wisconsin’s Student Success Through Applied Research Lab.

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Rilyn Eischens
Rilyn Eischens

Rilyn Eischens is a former data reporter for the Minnesota Reformer. Rilyn was born and raised in Minnesota and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily. When Rilyn isn't in the newsroom, she likes to read, add to her plant collection and try new recipes.