Thousands of students missing out on aid as Washington has third-lowest FAFSA completion rate in US

OLYMPIA, Wash. — State legislators are speaking out after 14,700 Washington students missed out on receiving financial assistance for college or career training last year.

Only 41.7% of 12th-grade students in Washington complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, the third-lowest rate in the country, according to a news release from the Washington State Governor’s Office.

“Any education after high school will advance you economically. You might go for a credential, a certification, or a degree — it’s not just four years of college or nothing,” said Sarah Weiss, Washington Student Achievement Council’s director of college access initiatives. “There’s a huge array of financial aid programs that can help you — but you need to apply.”

WSAC and several state legislators are now working to find ways to solicit more FAFSA applications, including a campaign to help school districts organize financial aid advising events and a free texting service that sends reminders to high school seniors.

The legislature also passed a bill earlier this year that allocates funds for WSAC to conduct a statewide marketing campaign to promote these programs.

“If we want to fix this, we’ve got to run it like a campaign. We’ve got to run some ads,” said Rep. Drew Hansen. “Some of it’s going to be in high schools, and some of it’s going to be partnering with libraries. And then we’re going to prequalify people and do direct outreach to people who are receiving other state benefits.”

The FAFSA form for the 2023-2024 school year opened Oct. 1. While there is no immediate deadline to apply, applying early can maximize a student’s opportunities for receiving aid.

“Most private colleges and many public colleges these days offer a much different price than the one you see on the website, once you account for aid,” said James Miller, associate provost and dean of admission at Seattle University. “The no. 1 thing that students can do for themselves is to sit down with their families and complete the FAFSA.”