In Texas, you now have to file the FAFSA to graduate from high school

By Rajkamal Rao  

Image Courtesy: The U.S. Department of Education

A quick trivia for Texas high school seniors and families: Approximately what percentage of graduating students enroll in some form of postsecondary education?

By postsecondary, we mean any Title IV institution - that is, one which participates in Federal Financial Aid. This includes career schools, vocational schools, 2-year community colleges, 4-year degree colleges, public research universities - any institution which awards a certificate or degree.

If you answered 60%, you're a little too high. In fact, the Governor's strategic plan for the state is to get to 60% by 2030, so we're still some ways away.

There are many reasons for students deciding not to pursue postsecondary education but research has shown that lack of awareness is an important factor. Many first-generation families are too scared to even attempt college concluding that it is too expensive.

Our nation's retail-store system of publishing the sticker price for colleges - and then discounting the price to those who apply - is one reason for this confusion. Most families do not know that the actual price they will pay will likely be a lot less than the sticker price. In fact, as we often repeat in our seminars and on this website, families who make $65,000 or less don't have to pay one dime for all four years at many need-blind colleges, with tuition, fees, boarding, and meals all paid for by the institution.

But colleges don't know to award these kinds of grants and need-based aid if you don't apply. That is, if you don't tell colleges your financial situation. So, starting for students graduating from high school in 2020, Texas is requiring every high school student to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form - or else, students won't graduate. This requirement is no different from mandating that students take a Health, Tech, Arts, or PE credit prior to graduation.

Draconian step? Too much government interference? Not at all. It doesn't cost the state one penny to enforce this requirement. No tax dollars are being spent. It doesn't cost families one penny because the FAFSA form is free. The idea is that if students are forced to file the FAFSA, maybe, just maybe, they will find the Net Price to be so low that they might consider going to a postsecondary institution after all.

We think this new rule is a really smart move.

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