Chief Operating Officer, Federal Student Aid
Each year, the office of Federal Student Aid in the U.S. Department of Education provides more than $115 billion in federal grants, loans, and work-study funds to help millions of students fulfill their potential at more than 5,600 postsecondary schools.
The United States leads the world today in promoting opportunity through broad access to higher education. And access to federal student aid begins with the free application for federal student aid form, known as the FAFSA form for short. The FAFSA form can also unlock opportunities for grants and scholarships from states, schools, and private organizations. Because some sources of aid have limited funds, it makes sense to submit the FAFSA form as early as possible for the year ahead.
Completing the FAFSA form — whether for first-time or returning applicants — is a key step to prepare for educational opportunities beyond high school. In many ways, the COVID-19 crisis has made these choices even harder than before. Higher education certainly can help pave the way to prosperity, but many students and families face tough decisions about the cost of college or career school, especially right now.
We are concerned to see a notable decline in the number of new students who have completed the 2021–22 FAFSA form. Compared to the same time last year, first-time FAFSA submissions by high school seniors have declined by almost six percent.[I]That means nearly 113,000 fewer high school seniors will be pursuing their dreams of higher education. They are missing out on the financial aid that is available to help make their dreams a reality.
To reverse this trend, we are aggressively promoting FAFSA completion, knowing that each student counts. We have asked education leaders in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to join us in making FAFSA completion a priority for high school seniors. Many have responded in the spirit we intended; one state is even using TikTok, the popular video-sharing platform, to engage and encourage students.
We are also doing our part to make it easier for students and parents to get trusted information about federal student aid programs and submit the FAFSA form.
Today, anyone can learn about and apply for federal student aid at StudentAid.gov. This enhanced website provides general information about all aspects of federal student aid. Visitors who log in with their username and password (FSA ID) can also access a personalized dashboard that summarizes their aid information and gives them relevant content and checklists to help navigate the financial aid process.
One of the newest features on StudentAid.gov is Aidan®, our virtual assistant that can answer more than 3,000 variations of frequently asked questions about federal student aid. Aidan is now available to all StudentAid.gov visitors — whether they are logged in or not — to help guide them to trusted information and resources.
Likewise, our myStudentAid mobile app can supply students and parents with trusted information about applying for federal student aid. From the convenience of a mobile device, students and parents can create an account, complete the 2021–22 FAFSA form, and access personalized dashboards and checklists. They can also receive helpful push notifications and access Aidan, which we just added to the mobile app.
We have also built-in enhanced help topics throughout the FAFSA form. In addition, students and parents can get help filling out the FAFSA form in a variety of ways:
- Visit StudentAid.gov/resources.
- Connect with us on Twitter (@FAFSA).
- Speak with a customer service representative at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).
We are eager to help students and families more easily navigate their path to higher education. The life-changing decision to submit the FAFSA form can open new doors to the future.
[i] Data as of May 21, 2021.