Students were more likely to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and receive need-based grants when they met with high school counselors about college financial aid, according to data released by the National Center for Education Statistics.
The data point comes from the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009, a national study of more than 23,000 students who were 9th graders in 2009 and answered surveys between 2009 and 2016. Their college transcripts and financial aid records were collected in 2017–18 to determine whether students who planned to go to college met a high school counselor about financial aid and whether those enrolled received need- or merit-based aid. The report comes at a time when national school counselor shortages have led states to use pandemic relief funds to boost college and career advising programs, Higher Ed Dive reports.
Importance of financial aid counseling
Students who said they planned to go to college and met with a counselor about financial aid were more likely to complete the FAFSA than students who did not. On average, 87% of students who said they planned to go to college and met with counselors about financial aid completed their FAFSA, while only 59% of students who did not meet with counselors completed the application.
FAFSA completion rates also correlated with parental education levels. Among students whose parents had a high school diploma or less, 83% who met with a counselor completed their FAFSA, compared to 49% of those who did not meet with a counselor. Among students whose parents held at least a bachelor’s degree, 89% who met with a counselor completed the FAFSA, compared to 65% who did not meet with a counselor.
A higher percentage of students who met with counselors about financial aid received need-based grants. Just over two-thirds (67%) of college students who met with a high school counselor received need-based college grants, compared with less than half (45%) of college students who did not meet with a high school counselor. There was no significant statistical difference in merit-based receipt based on meeting high school counselors about financial aid.