February 28, 2011
Chicago Public Schools officials announced today that 86.4 percent of eligible high school graduates completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms in 2010, up from just 64.5 percent four years ago. CPS credits the jump to an aggressive FAFSA completion campaign to mounted by the CPS Office of College and Career Preparation.
Approximately 73 percent of CPS’s 19,000 high school graduates from the Class of 2010 were eligible for $5,000 Pell grants and $5,000 MAP grants. By completing FAFSA forms, CPS students qualified for more than $100 million in federal and state aid to help them pay for college.
The state allocates limited funds for these grants and those funds are distributed to eligible students on a first come, first served basis. Students who put off submitting the FAFSA form risk that the state will run out of money before their application is processed. For that reason, CPS developed strategies to help students fill out FAFSA forms as early as possible.
Chicago Public Schools Interim Chief Executive Officer Terry Mazany made the announcement at John Hancock College Prep High School, 4034 W 56th Street, which increased its FAFSA completion rate from 66.3 in 2009 to 90.6 in 2010.
“We focused additional resources on helping our students complete the FAFSA forms last year because we knew that students who complete them are more likely to enroll in college,” said Mazany. “In these difficult economic times, it is critical that all of our eligible students complete these forms as soon as possible.”
As the FAFSA completion rate for CPS graduates increased steadily over the last four years, the CPS college enrollment rate has also increased by 2 percent per year. CPS students who completed the FAFSA by May and had been accepted into a four-year college were more than 50 percent more likely to enroll than students who had not completed the FAFSA, according to a report by The Consortium on Chicago School Research.
Last year, CPS began providing incentives to schools with the highest overall FAFSA completion rate. School staff are offered additional supports including a FAFSA Completion Hotline.
A weekly monitoring system tracks the progress of each high school. CPS has developed a strong relationship with the Illinois Student Assistance Commission which allows the district to collect and analyze data on FAFSA completion. The district has used this data to bring additional supports to schools with low FAFSA completion rates.
As a result, seven high schools achieved 100 percent FAFSA completion last year. In 2010, 63.4 percent of eligible seniors completed their FAFSA forms by March 31st. Fifteen schools achieved a FAFSA completion rate of 85 percent or above by the end of March. An increase in early completion of the forms by eligible students translates directly into an increase in students receiving funds for college. For that reason, CPS is working to increase the early FAFSA completion rate again this year.
“We encourage parents and students to get started right now—the sooner you fill out the FAFSA form, the more likely you are to receive federal aid. We want every student to take full advantage of the money that is available for college,” Mazany added.
The deadline to complete the FAFSA is June 30. For more information visit: www.chooseyourfuture.org
Chicago Public Schools serves 409,279 students in 675 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.