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Low FAFSA Completion Numbers Not Hitting Tech Hard

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Low FAFSA Completion Numbers Not Hitting Tech Hard

Tennessee Tech has seen little impact from a statewide decline in FAFSA completion numbers, caused in part by confusion and negative press.

That according to Tennessee Tech Financial Aid Director Mary McCaskey, who said Tech’s FAFSA numbers are only down some five percent compared to last year. She said recent changes to the FAFSA have created uncertainty and made families hesitant to begin the process.

“I think some families, just being nervous that it’s going to be difficult because they’ve heard so much about it, that they’re just nervous to even get started,” McCaskey said. “Or get started and have issues and don’t finish.”

McCaskey said She said Tech was prepared for that apprehension and was proactive in providing resources for families looking for clarity. Some counties across the state reporting FAFSA applications down as much as 40 percent over last year.

She said students in low-income areas with greater need may have missed out on resources like “FAFSA night” at school because universities were not sure what the adjusted FAFSA would look like. McCaskey said now that changes like the direct data exchange function are in place, the FAFSA is easier than ever. She said she does not expect the downward trend to be a long-term problem.

“Even though this year has been challenging with all of the changes, the overall application process will be more beneficial to students in the long run,” McCaskey said.

She said students who completed the FAFSA without complications did so in about 10 minutes this year, much faster than in years past. McCaskey said the school has more Pell Grant-eligible students than ever this year. Tennessee students are required to fill out the FAFSA to receive any state or federal financial aid, so she feels that those who fill out the form are typically glad they did, regardless of initial apprehension.

“This is free money,” McCaskey said. “This is an opportunity, especially for students that have need, to go to college and to have assistance in doing so that they may not have otherwise had. So, I’d just say, you’ll never regret finishing it and filling it out, but you may regret not doing it.”


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