In Which I Agree With James Kvaal

FAFSA Completion update and arguing against monolithic 'is college worth it' straw man

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FAFSA Fiasco Update: As of May 3rd

Just over three weeks ago, we published a post visualizing the drop in FAFSA completions at the state level, as of March 29th for 2023 and 2024. In a nutshell:

  • Nationwide, 39-40% fewer students had completed their FAFSA applications in 2024 than for the same period in 2023;

  • The best performing state (lowest drop in FAFSA completions) was North Dakota at 27%; and

  • The worst performing state was California at 46%.

The US Department of Education (ED) and its Federal Student Aid (FSA) office have published updated data as of May 3rd, and we are keeping track of this progress. The short answer:

  • Overall FAFSA completion drops have improved from 39% to 20%, with a fairly consistent 4% improvement per week;

  • The best performing state is Indiana at 6%;

  • The worst performing states are Alabama and Mississippi at 29%, and Florida at 28%;

  • The biggest change is for California, which moved more than 27% (from 46% to 18%, with rounding errors); and

  • The smallest changes are for Utah and Alaska, which both moved 13%.

Note that the data release is a reporting tool for high schools provided by ED and is for students 19 and younger, and thus it does not include non-traditional first-time applications, which might be in even worse situation. Also note that the data don’t take into account drops in FAFSA completions for returning students.

The following view shows both the before (as of March 29th) FAFSA drop per state as well as the after (as of May 3rd, with arrowhead), showing the improvements for each state.

Stay tuned.

James Kvaal is Right

US Undersecretary for Education James Kvaal has been the target of criticism in this newsletter for many regulatory moves, but I have to wholeheartedly agree with him for recent comments at Gallup and Lumina Foundation’s annual State of Higher Education event. The topic is the value of a postsecondary education, as described in Inside Higher Ed.

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