School closures and the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus propelled a decrease in FAFSA applications nationally, according to an Associated Press analysis of federal data.
As of mid-June, 70,000 fewer students had filed for federal aid compared to the same time period in 2019. The decline represents a 3.7 percent drop overall.
The pandemic undoubtedly played a role in the decrease, according to the report, with the number of applications dropping by 45 percent from mid-March to mid-April. But it’s still too early to predict the impact of the decline on college access moving forward.
For instance, the drop could in part be explained by an increase in students planning to attend community colleges. Those schools’ application deadlines often fall later in the year, and, as such, students also file their FAFSA later.
Still, the numbers are troubling. Educators worry they may indicate a jump in the number of students choosing to delay or forgo college. And many of those decisions may have been made at a time when students were disconnected from the support of school counselors and other educators.
“Separated from their schools, students lost touch with counselors who typically guide them through the complex financial aid process,” the AP reported. “Families without reliable internet struggled to complete the online form. And amid economic turmoil, some students took jobs and put their college plans on hold.”
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