Tennessee Leads Nation for Third Time in Students Applying for Federal Student Aid
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam Thursday announced the state has set a new record and for the third year in a row has led the nation in the number of students filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Nearly three quarters of all Tennessee high school seniors—73.5 percent—filed the FAFSA for the 2017-18 academic year, a requirement for Tennessee students to be eligible for both federal and state aid, including Tennessee Promise and the HOPE Lottery Scholarship.
The FAFSA filing rate is important because it is a key indicator of the number of students planning to enroll in postsecondary education as the state pursues the Drive to 55, which aims to have 55 percent of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or certificate by 2025.
“The continued surge in FAFSA filing rates shows the Drive to 55 is changing the college-going culture in Tennessee,” Haslam said. “First-time freshman enrollment in Tennessee has grown 13 percent in the past two years and more students than ever are going to college. As a state, we have invested in making college accessible and open to everyone and students are hearing the message.”
The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) calculated the filing rate using data provided through June 30 from the U.S. Department of Education. The rate is an increase from last year when 70.3 percent of seniors filed a FAFSA. This year also marked the first time students could file the FAFSA as early as October 1, a departure from past years when the FAFSA opened on January 1.
“From the statewide initiatives to the hard work of individual educators across Tennessee, our focus on college access and success is making a difference and paying off for our students,” THEC/TSAC Executive Director Mike Krause said.
According to THEC’s calculations, Tennessee leads the nation in FAFSA filing by large margins. The District of Columbia comes in second with a 64.8 percent, followed by Delaware (61.6%), New Jersey (61.0%), and Massachusetts (60.4%).
The U.S. Department of Education is moving to a new method for tracking FAFSA filing rates that includes some 19 year-old high school seniors. Using the new method for calculating the FAFSA filing rate, Tennessee would still lead the nation with 81.5 percent.
About the Drive to 55
In 2013, Governor Haslam launched the Drive to 55 to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or certificate to 55 percent by 2025. As a result, the Drive to 55 has established the Tennessee Promise program, the nation’s first scholarship and mentorship program that provides high school graduates last-dollar scholarships to attend two years of community or technical college free of tuition and fees; reduced the number of college freshmen requiring remediation through the SAILS (Seamless Alignment and Integrated Learning Support) program; provided free technical college for adults through TCAT Reconnect Grants; created Tennessee Reconnect + Complete to help more adults return to college to complete unfinished degrees; developed a more comprehensive state approach to serving student veterans; and leveraged technology to enhance classroom instruction and college advising.