Arizona ranks among worst for FAFSA completion. Gov. Katie Hobbs wants to change that

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After a rocky launch to this year’s new FAFSA application, Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs announced Wednesday that $500,000 will go toward helping more students access college aid.

Only around 23% of high school seniors have completed the application required to unlock thousands in potential financial aid. Over the last three years, Arizonans have missed out on $300 million in Pell Grant money by not applying, according to Hobbs.

The funding comes from the Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools federal funding and will be distributed by the Arizona Board of Regents, the body overseeing the state’s public university system. It will be invested in statewide resources guiding students and their families through the federal aid application.

“FAFSA has helped millions of families, and for many can be the final piece that makes their child’s dream of attending college a reality,” Hobbs said in a Wednesday release.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application is critical for recieving scholarships and grants. But many low-income students need encouragement and help to fill it out.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application is critical for recieving scholarships and grants. But many low-income students need encouragement and help to fill it out.

Arizona this year falls at the bottom of the FAFSA completion rankings, sitting at 49th nationally. Last year, the state landed in the same exact spot — even though completion was higher.

Julie Sainz, the director of FAFSA and College Access Initiatives with the board, said Arizona saw a 5% increase in completion last year. But with the numerous delays and glitches happening under the U.S. Department of Education, that growth could be stunted.

“We made great progress last year,” Sainz said in a board meeting earlier this month. "And then this happened."

In that same meeting, officials pointed out the state’s previous lack of funding for FAFSA completion. Culture also plays a role, Sainz said, noting many first-time college students in the state who might get less support than their peers.

Some of the issues with this year’s FAFSA hit the state harder than others. One glitch stopped many students with parents who immigrated to the U.S. from applying. While officials said the issue was resolved in March, numerous students are still hitting similar glitches, Sainz said.

Earlier this month, Hobbs declared April “Finish Line to the FAFSA” month in an effort to put more attention on the low FAFSA completion. Since this year’s application was delayed by several months and experienced more issues than normal, officials are anticipating their work will continue into the summer months. This will require more community engagement as many students rely on help from their schools.

Several scholarship deadlines have been extended to accommodate students, including the Arizona Promise Program, which offers financial assistance for residents whose Pell Grants or other scholarships don’t cover all educational costs. That deadline is now May 1.

Resources for FAFSA completion are available on the board’s College Ready AZ website. Enrolled and incoming Arizona college students can also attend university drop-ins hosted weekly.

“As a state, we must make every effort to support our students as they navigate the FAFSA and embark on their education journeys,” Board Chair Cecilia Mata said in a statement.

Helen Rummel covers higher education for The Arizona Republic. Reach her at Follow her on X, formerly Twitter: @helenrummel.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona FAFSA applications: Hobbs dedicates $500K to boost completion