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Governor Lamont and Commissioner Russell-Tucker Announce Winners of 2021 FAFSA Completion Challenge, Launch FAFSA Challenge for the 2021-22 School Year

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Governor Ned Lamont

09/24/2021

Governor Lamont and Commissioner Russell-Tucker Announce Winners of 2021 FAFSA Completion Challenge, Launch FAFSA Challenge for the 2021-22 School Year

Schools Participating in the 2021 FAFSA Challenge Collectively Increased Their Completion Rates With 42 Percent Exceeding Their 2020 Rates by 5 Points or More

(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Ned Lamont and Connecticut Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker today celebrated schools and districts around the state for successfully improving Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion rates through Connecticut’s inaugural FAFSA Challenge. The officials also announced the continuation of the FAFSA Challenge during the 2021-22 school year, charging all high schools to boost completion rates by at least five percentage points over the previous year.

“Even prior to the pandemic, thousands of eligible Connecticut students failed to submit the FAFSA, leaving millions in federal student aid unclaimed each year,” Governor Lamont said. “During a particularly complicated school year, these schools – and all FAFSA Challenge participants – stepped up to the plate, recognizing the importance of helping all students access and achieve their college and career goals. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the value and importance of a higher education, and I commend the winners and all FAFSA Challenge participants for their efforts to support students in the pursuit of a higher education.”

During the 2020-21 school year, Governor Lamont and the Connecticut State Department of Education invited school communities to pursue new and innovative strategies around increasing FAFSA completion to improve college access and promote college affordability. The challenge was launched in response to the pandemic’s impact on lowering completion rates and to address issues of college access and affordability, particularly for historically marginalized subgroups. With more than 70% of jobs in Connecticut requiring some form of education beyond a high school diploma, FAFSA completion is one of the best predictors of whether seniors will enroll in college as 84% of completers are more likely to immediately enroll in postsecondary education.

Schools participating in the FAFSA Challenge collectively increased their completion rates by nearly four percentage points, while the country’s FAFSA completion rates declined by over 4% relative to 2020. Additionally, 42% of the high schools participating in the 2021 FAFSA Challenge exceeded their 2020 FAFSA completion rates in 2021 by five percentage points or more.

Governor Lamont and Commissioner Russell-Tucker are recognizing four schools for achieving the highest year-over-year improvements and the overall highest completion rates through the 2020-21 FAFSA Challenge. They include:

  • Synergy Alternative Program in East Hartford;
  • Orville H. Platt High School in Meriden;
  • West Haven High School in West Haven; and
  • P-TECH Norwalk in Norwalk.

These four schools have seen improvements in FAFSA completion rates from 2019-20 to 2020-21 between 11 to 43 percentage points, with one school achieving a rate of nearly 78% in 2020-21 FAFSA completion rates.

“We know that all of our students have big dreams for their own futures, but we also know that the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced new challenges and complexities for families,” Commissioner Russell-Tucker said. “Through initiatives like the FAFSA Challenge, we are working to ensure that all students are better able to pursue their postsecondary goals. It’s inspiring to see school communities thinking creatively to meet student and family needs.”

“Our students at West Haven High School are destined for success, but we know things like FAFSA completion can be a barrier to achieving that success,” West Haven High School Principal Dana Paredes said. “My team and I understand that it is our job as educators to remove those barriers, and were thrilled to participate in a challenge that aimed at doing just that.”

Also being recognized are six high schools that did not participate in the FAFSA Challenge but achieved high year-over-year FAFSA improvements and high completion rates. Great Path Academy at Manchester Community College, Bristol Central High School, and Middletown High School were recognized with Governor’s Awards for year-to-year improvements; and Achievement First Hartford Academy, Brookfield High School, and Cheshire High School were recognized with Commissioner’s Awards for overall completion.

Following the governor’s signing of Public Act 21-199, which requires local and regional boards of education to adopt a policy by July 1, 2022, to improve FAFSA completion rates for their Grade 12 and adult education students, the 2021-22 FAFSA Challenge invites 53 eligible high schools across 25 districts to apply for microgrants and additional resources to support their class of 2022. Participating schools are strongly encouraged to partner with a local institution of higher education or college-access nonprofit. As with last year’s challenge, winning high schools will be awarded cash prizes and recognized in the summer of 2022 for their growth and overall achievement in boosting FAFSA completion rates.

In order to achieve a statewide FAFSA completion goal of 60% by June 2022, roughly 5 points higher than the end-of-year rate in June 2021, the state is continuing its partnership with the CTCollegeBound initiative, spearheaded by Connecticut’s colleges and universities, which will offer families help from trained financial aid and FAFSA completion experts.

For more information on FAFSA in Connecticut, including a complete list of winners, application materials for the 2021-22 FAFSA Challenge, and instructions on how to register for an upcoming informational webinar, and other useful resources, visit portal.ct.gov/SDE/Performance/FAFSA-Completion.

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