Change Your Future in Under One Hour: FAFSA Opens Doors
LaunchNW, a regional community initiative of Innovia Foundation, convenes leaders across our community to collaborate and ensure every child has the opportunity and support to access their post-high school education or career of choice.
We know that completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a key milestone along the pathway to post-high school education, and we are working to increase awareness about how FAFSA can help students and families in our community. Explore with us why FAFSA is so important.
Change Your Future in Under One Hour: FAFSA Opens Doors
The future you always dreamed of — or may not have thought was possible — is possible and can become your reality. The only catch? Most futures require some form of post-high school education or training. In fact, 74% of available jobs in Washington require some form of post-high school education, but only 39% of Spokane County students have completed a degree within eight years of graduating high school.
So, if the future requires education or training, you may face the challenge of how to pay for it. Is it possible for everyone to have access to opportunities that seem impossible due to the expense? The answer is, yes: there are resources to help you pursue the training and education you want.
That is where the FAFSA or WASFA can help.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the Washington Application for State Financial Aid (WASFA) are key to accessing resources for going on to apprenticeships, credentials, technical and community colleges, and four-year colleges and universities. Students in Washington State can submit either a FAFSA or WASFA — the WASFA is available for students and families who are undocumented and do not qualify for federal aid because of their immigration status. Both the FAFSA and WASFA provide opportunities to support students and families in our community to pursue their dreams through further education and training beyond high school in a career of their choice.
Seem too good to be true? Or maybe the funding is limited and competitive and therefore there is not enough to go around? Neither is the case. In fact, Washington State has one of the most generous state financial aid programs in the country, and millions of unclaimed federal dollars are left on the table year after year — more than $68 million in 2021, to be exact. How is that possible?
There are several misunderstandings about FAFSA or WASFA that get in the way of helping you access these resources. The following are some of these common misconceptions:
- Students are already aware of FAFSA. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily true. If seniors are aware of FAFSA, some may still not understand what it is and what opportunities it can unlock for their future. In Washington State, about 61% of eligible high school seniors have still not completed their FAFSA application for the coming academic year. This means that only one third of our high school seniors are accessing federal and state funds allocated to assist them in pursuing post-high school education.
- FAFSA is only helpful for those attending four-year college. This is simply not true. FAFSA and WASFA are available to assist students who are applying for any number of different programs, from apprenticeships, technical, and certificate programs to 2- and 4-year degrees. No matter the desired training or career path, funding is available to help.
- Applying for the FAFSA is hard, complicated and takes too long. According to the FAFSA website, the process should take one hour or less to complete. There are step-by-step guides, as well as various ways to access support through chat, phone, and email to help with any questions.
- It is risky to fill out the FAFSA or WASFA because my personal information might get into the wrong hands. The FAFSA/WASFA have strong commitments to data privacy. All personal information, including immigration status for families submitting the WASFA, is only used to determine your eligibility for financial aid for the post-high school education of your choice.
Why is filling out the FAFSA or WASFA So Important?
Filing a FAFSA or WASFA is the single most important thing you can do to get money for your post-high school education. The FAFSA unlocks many different financial opportunities for a student, including college grants, work-study funds, federal student loans, as well as certain state-related funds, aid from colleges and educational programs and many private scholarship providers. Some post-high school programs won’t even consider granting you additional scholarship money until you’ve filed your FAFSA or WASFA.
Think of FAFSA as the key that unlocks the door to options and offers you didn’t even know you had access to. Once opened, you are not obligated to accept them, but knowing what is available to you could change your life. Take that hour, fill out the FAFSA, and see what could be offered to you.
Join the community-wide effort to increase FAFSA and WASFA completion.
Over the past several months, LaunchNW conducted surveys in Spokane and Bonner Counties this year and convened partners from higher education, K-12, community-based organizations and businesses to launch the FAFSA Opens Doors campaign. To share the incredible opportunities that FAFSA or WASFA offers for students in Eastern Washington, local students are sharing their stories about how FAFSA opens doors.
We all have a role in this effort! Learn more and hear from local students how FAFSA opened doors for them at LaunchNW.org/FAFSAopensdoors.