Last year at this time, I shared with you an area that needed some significant work — FAFSA completion. But, I’m happy to report that local and statewide efforts are paying off and Washington students are benefiting.
The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It’s the one application students need to access federal grants and work study programs, and it determines eligibility for state programs and some scholarships. When students don’t fill it out, they are not claiming the financial aid they deserve. This is real money that is not going to Washington students.
In 2022, Washington was ranked the 44th worst in the country for FAFSA completion. Today, for 2023, Washington has moved up to 41st place. It’s not a huge jump in rankings, but only because nationally more students are completing the FAFSA. Six percent more students nationwide filled it out since it opened in October.
The state data is more impressive, however. Through the end of January, 30.5 percent of Washington state high school seniors completed a FAFSA. That’s 9.7 percent more than this time last year. This is very likely the result of efforts in our high schools and colleges to get more students to fill out the application and get the college help they deserve. (See all the rankings at formyourfuture.org/fafsa-tracker.)
I bring this up again now because FAFSA season is here. The 2023-24 application opened in October and now is the perfect time to complete the FAFSA online to claim your share of federal financial aid. The earlier you apply, the more money you’ll likely receive. We advise all Centralia College students to apply by March 1 for maximum funding. That’s a solid deadline no matter where you or your graduate is planning to be in September.
The FAFSA is submitted online at fafsa.gov. It now includes an online tool that pulls your IRS tax information (if you filed taxes in 2021) directly into the FAFSA, saving a ton of time and extra steps. For undocumented students who are Washington State residents, you can submit a WASFA (Washington Application for State Financial Aid) online to apply for state financial aid. The WASFA is available at wsac.wa.gov/wasfa.
If you need help completing a FAFSA or WASFA, whether you plan to come to Centralia College or not, our Financial Aid staff are happy to help. We are hosting FAFSA Fridays on campus on March 3 and March 10. Come by the Financial Aid Office (second floor of the TransAlta Commons) from 3-5 p.m. on those Fridays and one of our amazing staff will help you complete the form. Everything is confidential. Just bring your 2021 tax returns and any nontaxable income information you have.
If you can’t attend one of those events, you can contact CC’s Financial Aid Office at 360-623-8975 or email@example.com.
Bob Mohrbacher is the president of Centralia College.