Shared from the 2018-07-10 American Press eEdition

OUR VIEW

La. tops in students seeking financial aid

Louisiana now ranks first in the nation in terms of students applying for federal financial aid. More than 76 percent, or three out of every four, of the more than 49,000 Louisiana seniors who were enrolled in public and private high schools for the 2017-18 term have completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid application.

The deadline for priority consideration was July 1.

Most Louisiana high school graduates are eligible for some form of merit- or need-based financial aid, according to the Louisiana Department of Education, and FAFSA can be used at four-year universities, two-year community colleges and technical training programs.

“The FAFSA is used to determine the amount of money a family is expected to contribute to the price of attending a postsecondary institution, and the results of the FAFSA are used in determining student grants, work study, and educational loan amounts,” the department’s website said.

Nearly 48 percent of seniors submitted FAFSA applications in 2015, below the U.S. average of 55 percent.

In part because many eligible students did not complete the FAFSA nationwide in 2015-16 school year, an estimated $2.3 billion in Pell grant money is going unclaimed. Because the funds appropriated by Congress last year exceeded the amount handed out, the Pell grant program is running an $8.5 billion surplus.

Because of this, a new rule by the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that went into effect this school year requires seniors to apply for federal or state financial assistance as a condition of graduating. Those who do not must submit a form with a parent’s signature to receive their diploma. Just over 7,30 students opted out of submitting the application, the department said.

During the current academic year, the average tuition and fee prices are $3,570, $9,970, and $34,740 at public two-year, public four-year, and private nonprofit four-year institutions, respectively, according to the College Board’s 2017 Trends in Higher Education report.

Those price tags can be a shocker for many families. Taking advantage of grant aid and tax benefits to cover tuition and fees is a smart idea.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Crystal Stevenson, John Guidroz, Jim Beam and Mike Jones.

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