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Connecticut State Department of Education News

01/12/2021

CSDE Launches Statewide FAFSA Data Dashboard; Announces 16 Districts Competing for FAFSA Completion Challenge Prize

New dashboard provides school districts with additional tool to help increase FAFSA Completion; 16 districts join FAFSA Learning Community

(HARTFORD, CT) – The Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) today launched a new data dashboard providing all district and school-level completion rates for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) which is an important step in the path to postsecondary education and associated with higher rates of college enrollment. The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated the obstacles many Connecticut students and families face when completing the FAFSA with form completions down 16 percent at the beginning of this year compared to last year.

In December, Governor Ned Lamont announced the Statewide FAFSA Completion Challenge aimed at strengthening postsecondary access and enrollment by raising FAFSA completion rates among high school seniors. Since the announcement of the statewide challenge, FAFSA completion rates have improved by seven percent.

“Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, we remain committed to building on our state’s educational progress and recovery to ensure that all of our students graduate prepared to fill the 21st century jobs available to them while strengthening our workforce and economy,” said Governor Lamont. “That’s why we continue to prioritize improved educational outcomes and making sure every student in Connecticut has equitable access to opportunities for postsecondary success.”

Additionally, 16 school districts were selected to join the FAFSA Learning Cohort and compete for prizes through Governor Ned Lamont’s Statewide FAFSA Completion Challenge designed to help those districts in most need overcome the obstacles to completion while providing targeted support based on national best practices. The 16 districts selected to join the FAFSA Learning Community based on their applications are: Ansonia, Bridgeport, Danbury, East Hartford, East Haven, Hartford, Meriden, Naugatuck, New Britain, New Haven, New London, Norwalk, Norwich Free Academy, Putnam, Waterbury, and West Haven.

“We were thrilled to see the excitement from districts around state to join the Challenge and commit to raising FAFSA Completion rates among their high school students. Now the real work begins as we uncover best practices, replicate strategies, and foster a renewed focus on college readiness – particularly for our students who need it most. Our new dashboard will now provide school districts real-time data to identify areas of focus to support student success and their pursuit of a higher education experience,” said Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona.

In September 2021, Governor Lamont and Commissioner of Education will publicly recognize four school districts who have demonstrated the greatest percentage point growth in high school FAFSA completions for the Class of 2021, compared to the Class of 2020. Two winning districts and two runners-up will be publicly recognized, with the winning district from a cohort of 16 receiving a grant award.

“Increasing FAFSA completion opens up opportunities to Connecticut students and their families,” said Tim Larson, Executive Director of the Office of Higher Education, the state agency charged with administering the Roberta Willis Scholarship Program (RWSP) that awards scholarships to Connecticut students attending Connecticut colleges and universities.  “FAFSA completion is the very first step in reducing the cost of higher education/college degree in addition to being a leading indicator for participation in RWSP.”

FAFSA completion is strongly associated with postsecondary enrollment and outcomes given that 90 percent of high school seniors who complete the FAFSA attend college directly from high school, compared to just 55 percent of FAFSA non-completers. Yet, thousands of Connecticut students who are eligible for college aid fail to file the FAFSA each year and in doing so, leave millions of unclaimed dollars that could support their postsecondary education. A recent analysis by the financial media company NerdWallet found that approximately 12,000 Connecticut seniors in the graduating Class of 2018 failed to complete the form and slightly less than half of those FAFSA non-completers would have been eligible for Pell Grants totaling $17 million.

The FAFSA Completion data dashboard on EdSight provides FAFSA completion rates for all high schools and programs in the state. This interactive report allows the user to filter the data based on a variety of criteria, and export to CSV/excel as necessary. The data in this report will be updated on a weekly basis.

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