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Thoughts from UW-Madison’s Bruecker on FAFSA featured on WPR, EdSource

November 22, 2019

Thoughts on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form from UW-Madison’s Ellie Bruecker were featured on Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) and in an EdSource.com report.  

Bruecker, a doctoral student with the School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, researches student loan borrowing and repayment, FAFSA filing, and the impact of high schools on college access. Bruecker is also a project assistant with UW-Madison’s Student Success Through Applied Research (SSTAR) Lab.

FAFSA can help families pay for a college education. Bruecker reports that after three weeks of the FAFSA being available, 13 percent of 12th graders nation-wide have filed. She explains that by the end of the year, 62 percent of twelfth graders nation-wide will have filed. 

However, Bruecker tells WPR that filing rates in Wisconsin are usually lower. Last year, the overall filing rate in the state was 55 percent, which is below average compared to other states. 

Bruecker reports that this may be related to low-income or underserved schools, particularly rural schools. She explains that this is likely because there are less resources to go around and lower college enrollment rates. She also points out that rural schools’ distance from post-secondary institutions may be a factor in filing and enrollment rates. 

Researchers are looking for ways to increase filing rates, including efforts at the federal level to simplify the form. Some states have even instituted a mandate to complete the FAFSA application, according to the EdSource.com article.  

While Louisiana, Texas, and Illinois have already gone forward with this mandate, other states, like California, are still considering the idea. Proponents of the mandate say it will encourage those not already on the college-track to enroll, but Bruecker reminds that a requirements’ impact on college attendance remains uncertain. She adds that implementing a mandate should come with bolstered counseling to help students and their families understand their aid offers and make informed decisions. 

Listen to the WPR segment here, and read the EdSource.com article here

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