VOICES: Your future is too important to skip the FAFSA

Congratulations to the Class of 2024! This is a proud and momentous time for Ohio’s graduating seniors as they participate in commencement ceremonies and prepare for their next chapter.

We know this is already a stressful time for families, and this year’s problems with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) are a tempting reason to avoid completing it. We are here to say: Your future is too important to skip the FAFSA!

Completing the FAFSA takes less than one hour, but it can unlock significant financial opportunities. And Ohio students can still complete the FAFSA this spring or even this summer, often in the time it takes to watch an episode of your favorite show.

The FAFSA can be the key to a debt-free college education for many families who might otherwise miss out on this opportunity. The FAFSA enables up to $7,395 per year in federal Pell grants, up to $5,000 in Ohio College Opportunity Grants from the State of Ohio, and access to other grants from colleges or foundations. Ohio’s student aid has been dramatically increased by Governor Mike DeWine.

But even with such an increase, the National College Attainment Network reports the number of FAFSA completions from Ohio high school seniors is down by more than 14,000 students through late April compared to the prior year. Just 36.8% of Ohio’s class of 2024 had completed a FAFSA, compared to about 49% last year.

By not completing the FAFSA, far too many students leave money on the table when it comes to their college education. In Ohio alone, more than $100 million in student aid goes unclaimed each year. Quite simply, we can’t let this happen.

If you’re an Ohio student who’s ready to complete your FAFSA, there are numerous resources to help. Start with your school counselor, principal, or the financial aid office at any of Ohio’s colleges, universities, or technical centers. Our state also has great nonprofits such as I Know I Can, Toledo Tomorrow, and College Now Greater Cleveland that directly support students through their FAFSA completion.

If you are a school official who wants to start a FAFSA completion campaign or simply learn more, visit itsforyou.org to learn about steps you can take in your community.

Completing the FAFSA may be a challenging process this year, but the benefits – and your future – are totally worth it.

Mike Duffey is Chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education

Stephen D. Dackin is the Director of the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce

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