Did you know that 60% of Florida’s high school grads have not yet completed a FAFSA for the Fall 2012 semester?

Are they MAD? Or are their parents either crazy, lazy, foolish, or rich?

Since I know that all 60% aren’t rich (at least rich enough to pass up a five-figure discount when offered), and  I’m optimistic enough to believe that it’s not A, B, or C… please tell me why anyone (let alone 60% of us) would leave serious money on the table?

I’ve been telling families for about 5 years now that EVERYONE should complete a FAFSA, regardless of income.  This has become especially true for Floridians, who 2 years ago left $20 million on the table by not filing.  Just last summer the popular Bright Futures scholarship began requiring a submitted FAFSA in order for students to get their money.

One possiblity: fewer FL graduates are heading to college.  There is a strong correlation between completed FAFSAs and college enrollment, so these low completion numbers are cause for concern.  The Obama Administration has made college enrollment (and graduation) a key strategic goal, so they are tracking FAFSA filing info to help high schools improve their college enrollment rates. Still, 60% is a very high number.
And I can certainly understand some of the legitimate outlier reasons – some kids don’t go to college, some join the military, and some just don’t need any assistance and can afford to pay full freight.  And apparently there are a few families who feel a sense of paranoia about giving either Big Brother or the colleges their social security info.  (To whom I say: Relax.  Afterall, it’s the government WHO GIVES YOU a social security number so giving it back to them shouldn’t worry you much.  And the college gets your social when you apply for admission.  Just sayin’.)  But, 60% is a VERY high number!

And frankly it surprises me.  First, I know that guidance counselors all over the state hold FAFSA workshops for their schools (these occur throughout the US).  I can only guess that many of these workshops are poorly attended, and believe me, I feel for the hard-working guidance counselors who offer them.

But 60% tells me that the message is not being heard and FAFSA clearly remains a mystery to the great majority of US families and 60% of Floridians …  For example, at  Miami Palmetto High School, only 361 FAFSAs were completed.  Palmetto’s college counselor retired in January, so that may explain at least some of their lower number.  And at Florida’s largest high school, Cypress Bay in Weston, only 508 FAFSAs were completed.  Nearly 1,000 students graduated from Cypress Bay this past June, most of whom are college bound, so something may be wrong with the data, or the Obama Administrations correlation assumptions don’t apply to Cypress Bay; Or, maybe the message isn’t getting across to the Cypress community to complete a FAFSA.  This, despite efforts of the guidance office, the Obama and previous administrations in spreading the message, and despite my humble efforts from my corner of the earth in Weston.  (You can check your high school numbers by clicking here.)

Bottom line, financial aid is a multi-billion dollar equalizer in the college funding equasion, and FAFSA is the only way you’ll get your share.  Even if you think you make too much money or have been told you won’t qualify for financial aid, so long as you have a college bound student, make sure you complete a FAFSA.  By most estimates, nationally, 53% of families who would qualify for financial aid, still DO NOT APPLY!  And recently $22 million was left on the table here in Florida!

If you have questions about the FAFSA process, or how to pay for college in general, then you should register for my next public workshop next month in Pinecrest, (down in, er, Palmetto territory).  Here’s a sample of what I’ll cover:

  •     The FAFSA formula, including what counts against you, what counts A LOT against you, and what doesn’t count at all
  •     The 3 crucial questions you must ask of every school
  •     How a private college can cost less than a state school, even with FL Prepaid and Bright Futures
  •     Why scholarships may be the wrong answer as a college funding strategy
  •     The CSS Profile, a financial aid form that is required by most private colleges, including all Ivies
  •     Why FL Prepaid is a great thing to own but not such a great thing to buy
  •     More!

There is no cost to attend this fast-paced lecture, and I promise you that many of your questions will be answered on this critical topic for your family.  Click here to register.  Your neighbors who attended in the past have raved about these events.  I’ll see you soon.

Best,
Peter

P.S. Forward this to a friend, they’ll thank you for it.

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