Updated: Jan 23
During the last few months of junior year for the class of 2023, they were told that completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) became a new graduation requirement. Although many students were confused about this fact, they were still required to have a FAFSA ID before starting a new school year at Rialto High School.
At the end of June 2022, California joined the Universal FAFSA policy along with other states. This policy is what caused the new graduation requirement. Therefore, the mandatory FAFSA graduation requirement became a state mandate.
The purpose of the new universal policy is to encourage more students to apply for FAFSA in hopes that they will be approved for financial aid to attend colleges and universities.
However, is making such a requirement fair to students?
As many should know, pursuing post-education is the student’s choice. They may be influenced or persuaded by teachers, counselors, and administrators to continue their education but it isn’t a requirement to actually do so.
Many schools focus on making sure their students are college bound, meaning that schools prioritize sending their students to colleges. They convince students to complete the A-G requirements in order to attend college. Most often, graduation and A-G requirements are similar or the same as shown on the website of the California Department of Education.
Since many students aren’t aware they don't have to complete all A-G requirements to graduate high school, they are still convinced that they have to go to college because they attend college-bound schools.
They have been taught that college is the only path to success after high school. When really it is not.
Although it doesn’t seem like it, there are different versions of success for other people. Such examples can be joining the military, finding work, and other pathways mentioned here.
So what does this have to do with completing the FAFSA?
The point is that FAFSA should be completed if the student wants to attend college and not because the state tells them they have to.
Deciding to be college-bound is an important choice and requires lots of time and thought to choose what's best for the student. So limiting students’ choices to only college is inconsiderate.
To add on, completing the FAFSA and graduating high school are two different matters. Although they may interconnect, they are separate subjects since they both provide different goals, one a high school diploma and the other financial aid for a degree.
Many people claim that this policy can bring more awareness to federal aid, however, there are other ways to bring awareness to students about federal aid than making them complete the FAFSA.
For those of you who are unaware, there is an opt-out form that students can fill out in order to avoid that graduation requirement.
Either way, completion of the FAFSA should not be one of the factors that determine whether a student is able to graduate and/or should go to college.