HONOLULU — The Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) is launching a campaign to boost the number of Hawai‘i students completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), a critical component needed for students to receive financial aid and scholarships for college.
Last year, Hawaii left $10 million in unclaimed federal Pell Grants on the table — enough to send roughly 2,500 students to a University of Hawaii Community College tuition-free.
FAFSA is used by the federal government, states, colleges, and scholarship organizations to determine eligibility for both need-based and merit-based financial aid, such as federal and state grants, scholarships, student loans, and work study programs. To qualify for these types of financial aid, students are often required to complete the FAFSA.
Each year in Hawai‘i, over $70 million dollars in scholarships and grants are awarded to help students attend college, regardless of family income. Even if a student doesn’t qualify for need-based aid, meaning their family has a take-home salary that does not reflect need, many private scholarships still require a completed FAFSA as part of their screening for competitive scholarships.
“Data shows FAFSA completion rates translate directly to increased college enrollment,” said Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto. “90 percent of high school seniors who complete the FAFSA attend college directly from high school, compared to just 55 percent for those who don’t.”
The earlier a student completes the FAFSA, the sooner they may know what type of aid they are eligible for, including scholarships, financial aid and work study programs.
“Typically, colleges have financial aid priority deadlines to determine how they will award available scholarship funds,” said Stephen Schatz, Executive Director of Hawaii P-20. “Students filing their FAFSA before these deadlines increase their chances of qualifying for support”
To make the process as simple and streamlined as possible, high schools across the state offer various supports, including Financial Aid Education Nights, FAFSA Completion Workshops, College Planning Nights, and even one-on-one help for students and families. Students and parents are encouraged to contact their high school counselor if they need help completing the FAFSA.