Iowa is the first state to identify students who need help with the form at this level

Through a new one-of-a-kind partnership, Iowa College Aid is providing all public high schools in the state with information to identify students who need assistance with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Automated weekly reports list students who have “not filed” or “not completed” the FAFSA. In the case of “not completed” FAFSAs, the reports detail what information is missing. The reports do not include students’ personal data, but they give school counselors and support staff enough information to target students who would benefit from one-on-one assistance.

“Less than two-thirds of Iowa’s high school seniors file the FAFSA each year,” said Karen Misjak, Executive Director of Iowa College Aid. “That means more than one-third of them never find out what kind of aid they might receive to continue their education beyond high school. We hope this initiative will help more students take advantage of the many opportunities for financial aid for college and other postsecondary training.”

Although the reports became available last fall, each school was required to complete an authorization form to begin receiving them. As of January 25, all 343 public high schools in Iowa are signed up and receiving the data.

The initiative is a partnership between Iowa College Aid, the U.S. Department of Education, the Iowa Department of Education and Iowa’s Area Education Agencies. It is the only one of its kind in the nation, and it works like this:

Iowa College Aid receives processed FAFSA data from the U.S. Department of Education.

Iowa College Aid also receives a list of current high school seniors from the Iowa Department of Education.

The Iowa College Aid research team compares these lists to determine which students haven’t completed or filed a FAFSA.

Iowa College Aid uploads the data into an automated system and runs a weekly report.

Iowa College Aid notifies each AEA postsecondary readiness lead, who then sends an automated email to high schools in that region.

“It’s an intricate system,” said Jamie Covell, the Iowa College Aid Community Engagement Consultant who leads the agency’s FAFSA Completion Initiative. “It took months to get every public high school on board, but we’re thrilled that we’ve accomplished this. We’re grateful to our partners, and we expect this initiative to be a model for other states.”

As of January 24, 41 percent of current seniors at Iowa’s public high schools have filed the FAFSA for 2019-20. The cycle officially runs through July 1, although many deadlines fall earlier. At the end of the last cycle, 57 percent of Iowa’s public high school seniors had filed a FAFSA for 2018-19.

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