In 2021, Texas high school seniors will be required to fill out an application for federal financial aid to make sure students don’t leave free college money unclaimed.
Texas and Louisiana are the only states that will now require high school students to apply for financial aid.
Earlier this summer Governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill 3 into law to increase school funding and approve teacher raises.
Abbott also approved a requirement for all Texas high school seniors to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA for college.
“All high school seniors are highly encouraged to complete it so that they can be awarded potential grants, scholarships, work study, and federal loans,” said Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi financial aid outreach advisor Kayla Lopez.
Kayla Lopez, who works in the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi financial aid office, says many high students don’t want to fill out that application.
“So a lot of the times I think students are intimidated by the FAFSA because of its length, because of all the questions, and the type of questions. Parents, as well sometimes," Lopez said. "I mean it just looks really intimidating so I think that is definitely a factor.”
Students who don’t fill out the applications are missing out on a lot of money, specifically from Federal Pell Grants which don’t have to be paid back.
“Your FAFSA application could be thousands of dollars in free money that you elsewise would have never received. These are separate from private scholarships and students are also encouraged to apply for as many private scholarships as they possibly can to increase the money they are going to have for college,” said Lopez.
The 2018 high school class nationwide missed out on $2.6 billion in free money for college.
“Financial aid is a great opportunity for everybody; again, it’s a free application, and you never know what you qualify for till you apply, and there is a lot of resources in the community that can help you out in completing your application if you need it,” said Lopez.
School districts across the state will need help and require a lot of planning to prepare for the 2020-2021 school year when the law goes into effect to meet this mandate.
Last year only about 5 percent of Texas high school seniors completed the FAFSA application.