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Michigan May Make FAFSA a High School Graduation Requirement

Proposed legislation would make it mandatory for students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form, which is necessary to secure federal grants, work-study jobs and loans, to graduate high school.

FILE: Graduates of Grand Rapids Innovation Central High School and Grand Rapids Montessori throw their caps in the air at their graduation at Houseman Field on June 3, 2021.
(Hope Davison |
A Free Application for Federal Student Aid, the form for prospective college students, would be required to graduate high school under a bill advancing in the Michigan Legislature.

Senate Bill 463 says students won’t be able to receive a high school diploma unless they completed the FAFSA form, necessary to secure federal grants, work-study jobs and loans. Students can obtain waivers if they’re ineligible to submit a FAFSA or if their parents or guardians do not respond to the school’s efforts to send them the form.

In that latter case, the student would also have to opt out of completing the FAFSA and be on track to graduate.

The goal of SB 463 is to “shift the culture around FAFSA completion” and make it easier for schools to administer, sponsoring Sen. Darrin Camilleri, D- Brownstown Township, said Tuesday.

The Senate Education Committee heard the bill last week and passed it along party lines Tuesday to the full Senate. The requirement would begin in the 2024-2025 school year.

“In 2023, only about one half of graduating seniors completed a FAFSA in Michigan,” Camilleri said last week. “… On average, Michigan students are leaving about $100 million in federal aid on the table simply because this form is not filled out.”

Filling out the form can make a student realize for the first time they can afford college, Camilleri said, whether it’s trade school or a four-year university.

Twelve other states, including Indiana and Illinois, either require FAFSA for high school graduation or are considering it. Graduation rates in those dozen states haven’t been harmed by increased FAFSA completion, Camilleri said.

FAFSA is “unbelievably good” for high schoolers, Sen. John Damoose, R- Harbor Springs, said last week, but he noted school districts in his area are opposed to the requirement. He and the other education committee Republican, Ruth Johnson of Groveland Township, voted no on Tuesday.

The State Board of Education is also opposed. Its concerns include staffing shortages at schools. In a resolution, the board said this lone nonacademic requirement could “create an unintended barrier to graduation for those students whose parents are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the FAFSA.”

The Board instead wants the legislature to give schools more money to hire guidance counselors and other college access professionals to advise students and families on opportunities after high school.

Other opponents to SB 463 include Michigan’s state associations of superintendents and school counselors. The state association for college admission counseling supports the bill.

If it becomes law, the FAFSA requirement would be overseen by Michigan’s new Michigan Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement, and Potential or MiLEAP, which Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a few months ago to take early and higher education duties from the education department.

MiLEAP would create informational packets for school districts and public school academies to give to students before 12th grade. The packet would guide them through the FAFSA application process.

Schools would report to MiLEAP the percentage of students who filled out a FAFSA and the percentage of parental waivers it received. Those figures would be posted publicly to the department website.

©2023 Advance Local Media LLC. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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