RI Education Leaders Launch FAFSA Dash


December 13, 2018

Education Leaders Launch FAFSA Dash to Boost College Financial Aid Applications

State unveils a new data dashboard and competition for high schools


PROVIDENCE, RI -- Education leaders today launched FAFSA Dash, a competition to boost FAFSA completion among Rhode Island high school seniors. FAFSA stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and filling it out is the important first step to receive federal, state, and other financial aid for college. Postsecondary Education Commissioner Brenda Dann-Messier, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, Providence Chief Academic Officer Tom Flanagan, and young alumni from Providence Public Schools spoke at an event at Central High School about the importance of completing the FAFSA and the purpose of FAFSA Dash.


Postsecondary Commissioner Brenda Dann-Messier unveiled a FAFSA Completion Dashboard that shows how many students are completing the FAFSA in each Rhode Island high school. “We’re working together across K-12, postsecondary, and with our partners in business and industry, to grow the number of Rhode Islanders with the education and training they need to get a good job. The cost of college can be a barrier, but completing the FAFSA is an important first step for students of all ages to qualify for money to pay for college and career training,” said Commissioner Dann-Messier. “The new dashboard makes high school FAFSA completion data accessible to every guidance counselor, principal, and community member across the state so we can track our progress.”


Seventy percent of jobs in Rhode Island require more training and education than a high school diploma alone, yet only 47 percent of Rhode Islanders have any type of college degree. To bridge this gap, Governor Gina M. Raimondo set a goal that by 2025 70 percent of Rhode Islanders will have a college degree or credential.


“Making college affordable is a critical part of getting more students to and through postsecondary education,” said Governor Raimondo. “Last year, Rhode Island ranked eighth in the country for the highest percentage of high school students completing the FAFSA form. This year, we want to make Rhode Island number one. We know that higher education is a gateway to better jobs, and the FAFSA is a gateway to opportunity for every student.”




Nationally, 85 percent of students are eligible for federal financial aid for college, but only 45 percent of high school seniors actually complete the FAFSA before high school graduation.


“Completing the FAFSA is an important step for high school students as they prepare to continue their education,” said RI General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, who also serves as a Board Member for the RI Student Loan Authority. “With $28 billion in Pell Grants available to students nationally, we are encouraging every student in Rhode Island to take advantage of this investment in their education.”


To encourage all high school seniors to pursue postsecondary studies and highlight the availability of free federal student aid, the Board of the RI Student Loan Authority has established the FAFSA Dash competition, which will award $25,000 in scholarship prizes to Rhode Island high schools.


High schools participating in the FAFSA Dash challenge will be competing against similar-sized schools based on grade-12 enrollment numbers in two categories: highest-achieving and most-improved FAFSA completion rates. In addition to the small, medium, and large school tiers, awards will be granted to high schools of any size with 50 percent or more students receiving free or reduced price lunch and the school showing the most “FAFSA spirit.”


Following the speaking program at Thursday’s launch event, RISLA’s College Planning Center provided free FAFSA completion help to Central High School seniors and their families.


“The cost of college may seem like a deal-breaker for families who are not aware that help is available,” said Providence Superintendent Christopher N. Maher. “FAFSA events like the one hosted by the Commissioner and the College Planning Center are important because they partner with families on financial aid and walk them through the application process.”


The FAFSA Completion Dashboard can be viewed at bit.ly/fafsadashri.