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92 New School Districts Selected for Project to Help More Students Complete the FAFSA and Access Higher Education

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The U.S. Department of Education today announced that 92 additional school districts will now have access to individualized data to help their students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Completing the FAFSA--which is used to determine eligibility for federal aid and is the gateway to other student aid--is a critical factor in helping students access higher education.

Selected school districts, which span 30 states, will be able to track whether high school seniors have completed the FAFSA starting in the 2012-13 school year. This information will help school college guidance counselors focus efforts and resources on students who have not yet completed the process. These 92 new sites join 18 other districts that received data for the 2011-12 school year as part of the FAFSA Completion Project's initial pilot. Since the project launched, the Department has received requests from districts and high schools to expand the pilot.

"If students don't think they can pay for college, they won't apply for college. Giving more young people access to the tools they need to apply for federal student aid is a key part of our strategy to make America number one in the world for college graduates by 2020." said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "Our hope is that this will help dramatically boost the number of high schoolers going on to college. That's good for the economy, good for the kids, and good for the country."

Sites announced today were randomly selected and consist of 80 school districts with multiple high schools, and 12 districts with a single high school. To evaluate the effectiveness of local level counseling, districts with multiple high schools will have a staggered roll out. The districts will establish an experimental group and a control group by giving half of participating schools access to the FAFSA data in year one of the project, then adding the remaining half of schools the following year. The Department's Institute of Education Statistics will publish a report that summarizes the findings of the 80 multi-high school districts.

Simplifying the FAFSA to make it shorter and more user-friendly has been a key part of the Administration's efforts to increase access to college. The FAFSA determines whether a student qualifies for Pell grants as well as other federal grants, loans and work-study opportunities and helps families figure out how to afford higher education.

The Administration launched a tool earlier this year that gives all schools access to school-wide statistics on FAFSA submissions. This regularly updated data allows school counselors to compare FAFSA submissions with the number of seniors in the school in order to better target their efforts to assist students and families.


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