As College Application Week wraps up, the next step for many students will be to fill out and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.
This year, Jefferson County Public Schools is part of nearly 80 districts nationwide, which are piloting a U.S. Department of Education and Federal Student Aid office initiative to assist students in FAFSA completion.
Around 70 percent of JCPS seniors complete a FAFSA each year, but some applications are found deficient, according to JCPS officials.
The district currently has no way to identify these students, said Pamela Royster, the district’s college-and-career readiness specialist.
“It’s really hard for us to go in and help kids and find out what their issues might be or their challenges might be or get them the help and support they need,” she said.
Now, in mid-January, half of JCPS high schools will be able to see student level data, she said.
“We’ll actually get the student level information so they can intervene early,” Royster said.
The main problem is a missing signature, she said. Both the student and at least one parent electronically or physically sign the form. Other issues that come up include inconsistent or missing data.
“It’s usually very simple stuff, but it required follow-through,” said Royster.
But not submitting a complete FAFSA form early in the year could present a problem for students because state financial aid is on a first-come first-serve basis.
Royster said last year Kentucky’s College Access Program (CAP) grants for anyone attending undergraduate state colleges and trade schools and Kentucky Tuition Grant funding for full-time private school undergraduates ran out in early to mid-February.
“The state funds that go to support education are running out faster and faster,” she said.
Overall, the Federal Student Aid office reports 93 percent—or 3,324 of 3,568—of JCPS seniors that started a FAFSA form actually completed the application.
Royster says those numbers may be slightly different from what the state reports because the two systems use different methods for reporting the data.
All JCPS high schools are expected to have access to student level FAFSA data in the 2013-2014 school year.
Students can begin filling out their FAFSA forms January 1.