By Jason Gonzales, Chalkbeat Colorado
This story was originally published by Chalkbeat, a nonprofit news organization covering public education. Sign up for their newsletters here: ckbe.at/newsletters
Getting students to apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid was a problem for Colorado before the pandemic.
For those that work with students to get them to apply, the coronavirus pandemic has disconnected many counselors from students, making it difficult to get high schoolers to complete the form.
“Normally, our staff would support students to complete their FAFSA by working with them in person,” said Natasha Garfield, Denver Scholarship Foundation scholarship director. “Doing that remotely is somewhat more challenging just because, even with screen shares, it’s still a little bit more cumbersome and a slower process.”
Colorado is near the bottom in FAFSA completion numbers.
And numbers are expected to dip this year due to the pandemic. From January to the end of March, the state saw about 5,000 less FAFSA applications over the same time period as last year, according to U.S. Department of Education numbers.
Among Colorado high school seniors, the overall number of completed FAFSA applications is down about 1,000, or 3.2% over last year, according to the National College Attainment Network. And the number of FAFSA renewals is down 4%, according to the group,
High school seniors, especially, are a target area for the state, where there is usually ready access to counselors and resources about the FAFSA process.