DES MOINES, IA — Nearly half of Iowa high school seniors in the class of 2022 applied for college financial aid via the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, halting a four-year trend of declining FAFSA completion rates in the state. However, despite the FAFSA completion rate stabilizing, the rate has not rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, and significant equity gaps remain between gender, race, and income levels.
During the 2022-23 FAFSA cycle, 49 percent of Iowa high school seniors completed the FAFSA, equaling last year’s percentage, which was the first FAFSA cycle to occur entirely during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the percentage of Iowa high school seniors completing the FAFSA remained the same, it is a four percentage point decline from the 53 percent FAFSA completion rate achieved in the 2018-19 FAFSA cycle.
“Even though we have yet to return to our pre-pandemic FAFSA completion rate, we are encouraged that this year’s FAFSA completion rate has remained steady and hope this is an opportunity to drive those rates upward,” said Dr. Mark Wiederspan, Executive Director of Iowa College Aid. “Focusing on increasing our FAFSA completion rate is critical to help Iowa achieve its goal that 70 percent of the workforce have some form of postsecondary education and training. Our research also indicates students are more likely to attend and complete college if they complete the FAFSA.”
When separated by race and ethnicity, Asian, Hispanic, and Black students all experienced modest increases in FAFSA completion rates during the most recent FAFSA cycle. However, Hispanic and Black students still have the lowest FAFSA completion rates of any race/ethnicity, lagging the completion rate of White students by approximately 20 percentage points.
Significant gaps in FAFSA completion rates also remain between female and male public high school seniors, as male students complete the FAFSA at a rate that trails their female counterparts by 15 percentage points. This rate remains consistent with results from the previous four FAFSA cycles.
These numbers underscore the importance of efforts to increase Iowa’s rates for filing the FAFSA, which is required for all federal and state financial aid and most forms of aid from colleges and universities. This summer, in partnership with the Iowa College Access Network, Iowa College Aid hired 11 FAFSA associates to help students file their applications and follow through on plans to seek postsecondary education.
Iowa College Aid is also hosting a FAFSA Learning Day Oct. 11 as part of FAFSA Awareness Week Oct. 10-14. The week is a statewide initiative to educate and inform Iowans with step-by-step strategies and information on completing the FAFSA and securing aid to finance postsecondary education.