Tennessee Continues To Lead in FAFSA Filings

Thursday, August 18, 2016 | 02:54pm

70.3 percent of Tennessee’s class of 2016 filed a FAFSA

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) Executive Director Mike Krause announced today that for a second year in a row, Tennessee leads the nation in Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) filings, an important indicator of a growing college-going culture in Tennessee.

THEC, using data from the U.S. Department of Education, estimates that 70.3 percent of 2015-16 high school seniors in Tennessee filed a FAFSA. That rate is up slightly from one year ago, when the rate stood at 69.5 percent for the class of 2015, the first class eligible for Tennessee Promise. Tennessee was No. 1 in the U.S. in 2015 as well, comprising 40 percent of the nation’s total growth in FAFSA completions.

“Through the Drive to 55, Tennessee has set ambitious goals for higher education. We have a long way to go, but these FAFSA numbers, combined with a 25 percent increase in first-time freshmen enrollment in community colleges and a 20 percent increase at TCATs, reflect a growing college-going culture in Tennessee,” Haslam said. “More and more Tennessee students know that college isn’t only an option for them, it’s an expectation.”

“Tennessee has found a FAFSA formula that works,” Krause said. “Our financial aid programs require students to file the FAFSA to be eligible, but that’s a small part of the success story. Schools, districts and communities are giving students the support and information they need to file the FAFSA, get aid and go to college.”

In 2016, 27 Tennessee counties had FAFSA filing rates of 80 percent or above. The counties with the highest FAFSA filing rates include:

1. Trousdale (96.0 percent)

2. Overton (94.4 percent)

3. Lewis (90.2 percent)

4. Meigs (89.6 percent)

5. Perry (88.9 percent) and Chester (88.9 percent)

7. Carroll (88.6 percent)

8. Van Buren (87.9 percent)

9. Decatur (86.5 percent)

10. Wilson (86.0 percent)

According to THEC’s calculations, New Jersey is the state with the second highest rate of FAFSA submissions at 60.7 percent, followed by Delaware at 59.9 percent, Massachusetts at 59.6 percent and New York in fifth at 57.5 percent.

All Tennessee students applying for state-based funding for higher education, including the Tennessee Promise, HOPE Lottery Scholarship, and Tennessee Student Assistance Award, must complete the FAFSA.

Students will be able to file the FAFSA for the 2017-18 school year on October 1, 2016. The Tennessee Promise FAFSA deadline will be January 17, 2017, giving students a three-month window to file the financial aid application. For more information, visit http://www.tn.gov/collegepays.

About the Drive to 55

In 2013, Governor Haslam launched the Drive to 55 to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or certificate to 55 percent by 2025. As a result, the Drive to 55 has established the Tennessee Promise program, the nation’s first scholarship and mentorship program that provides high school graduates last-dollar scholarships to attend two years of community or technical college free of tuition and fees; reduced the number of college freshmen requiring remediation through the SAILS (Seamless Alignment and Integrated Learning Support) program; provided free technical college for adults through TCAT Reconnect Grants; created Tennessee Reconnect + Complete to help more adults return to college to complete unfinished degrees; developed a more comprehensive state approach to serving student veterans; and leveraged technology to enhance classroom instruction and college advising.