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News Releases

SCHEV Insights: Financial Aid Applications down 22% at low-income Virginia schools, three times lower than the national average

Aug 25, 2021, 16:00 PM

Contact: Laura Osberger
(804) 387-5191 (cell)

August 25, 2021

For immediate release

RICHMOND — The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) released analysis surrounding the decline in Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) applications at low-income schools in Virginia.

Every year, over 25,000 students graduate from a Virginia high school but don't enroll in some sort of college program within 16 months. Only 54% of low-income students enroll in college or training, 15 points below the overall state rate of 69%. These disparities impede Virginia’s path to be the best state for education with 70% of its working-age population earning a degree or credential by 2030.

One way to increase the number of students enrolling is for students to complete the FAFSA. FAFSA completion is required to access thousands of dollars of federal and state aid, not to mention getting on the radar of potential institutions, which then send information to prospective students.

Nationally, FAFSA completions are down 4.4% from this time last year; Virginia isn’t too far behind, with a 4.9% decline. Nationally at Title I schools, schools with high concentrations of low-income students, FAFSA completion is down 5.9%. Virginia’s Title I schools have seen a 22.3% decline, three times lower than the national average. Virginia’s high schools with high concentrations of racial minorities also are down more than the national average, which should serve as a wake up call for policymakers; Virginia’s low-income students already enroll in college at lower rates, and these data indicate they are likely to fall further behind.

FAFSA Completions

Multiple state efforts are underway to improve the numbers, according to the analysis. Said Tom Allison, SCHEV’s senior associate for finance policy & innovation and the post's author, “Improving Virginia’s FAFSA completions will require a sustained and coordinated effort combining of both statewide strategy and on-the-ground assistance. We are challenged by long-term demographic trends and disparate resources at the local level. We hope that recent initiatives will address those challenges and push those FAFSA numbers up."


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The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia is the state’s coordinating agency for higher education. With Pathways to Opportunity: The Virginia Plan for Higher Education, SCHEV is dedicated to making Virginia the best state for education by 2030. For more on this statewide strategic plan, visit

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