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AZ FAFSA completion rates among lowest in country; education officials aim to change that

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the form college-bound students and their families use to get federal funds to help pay for school.

Arizona’s FAFSA completion rates are near the lowest in the country, so the state is taking new steps to change that.

The Arizona Board of Regents, in partnership with Helios Education Foundation and the Arizona Department of Education, has launched Arizona College Connect. ABOR Chair Fred DuVal said it's a platform that allows high school counselors to see which students have filled out the FAFSA. 

“So they can target their energy and resources on those students who haven’t yet responded," he said. "The website also provides linkages to all of the array of financial aid that exists at our universities.”

DuVal said Arizona is a poorer state that actually has more kids eligible for federal aid, yet FAFSA completion rates remain low.

“There are a lot of theories about it, but I think in the end it really is a direct correlation that the percentage of counselors per thousand students is among the lowest in the country," he said. "I’m sure most of our counselors are superb at what they do, there’s just not enough of them.” 

According to the National College Attainment Network, just by finishing the FAFSA, a student is 84% more likely to enroll in a college or trade school immediately after high school.

DuVal said that explains why Arizona is also behind in the number of students who pursue higher education.

Senior field correspondent Bridget Dowd has a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.