Honors Theses

Date of Award

Spring 4-25-2023

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis



First Advisor

Bonnie VanNess

Second Advisor

Robert VanNess

Third Advisor

Martin Fisher

Relational Format



Eight states currently have policies in place that make FAFSA completion mandatory/highly incentivized at some level (Granville, 2022, and Hughes, 2022). Texas, Louisiana, and Illinois were early adopters, and were then followed by Alabama; These four states have shown significant increases in state wide completion rates. Increases in completion were recorded to be as high as 26% in the first year of policy enactment and serve as tests to see what methods encourage students to complete the FAFSA. National data shows that low income and high minority schools can have college enrollment and FAFSA completion rates up to 13 times more volatile than high income and low minority schools as well as the impact of FAFSA on the perceived affordability of college attendance (Bill DeBaun, 2021). It was found that 57% of families over estimate the cost of attendance at a four-year public university in their state by greater than 25% and that FAFSA completion could help lower this number by showing students federal and state opportunities to receive financial aid (Veles, Horn, NCES 2019-404).

From my research, I recommend that states should create financial incentives for counties, school districts, and schools supporting efforts to increase FAFSA completion, implement clear reporting guidelines, develop benchmarking tools, and increase state, non-income based, student aid programs. These recommendations are currently prevailing trends in states with the highest increases in FAFSA completion rates and those which have produced results that continue to outperform many other states.

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