College Enrollment and Mandatory FAFSA Applications: Evidence from Louisiana

Research Rundown Issue: August '21
Publisher: Annenberg Institute at Brown University
Date Published: June '21


In 2018, Louisiana passed a law requiring all students to fill out FAFSA—with options for parental opt-out or good cause exemptions—for high school graduation. To gauge the impact of this law and whether FAFSA completion was a barrier for high school students in accessing financial aid and matriculating to college, researchers used FAFSA completion data from Louisiana. In the short term, researchers found that the policy was highly successful in increasing FAFSA completion. The average Louisiana high school increased its FAFSA completion rate amongst graduating seniors by about 19 percentage points—and college admission increased as well.

The researchers found that the effects of the policy were more concentrated amongst schools that had larger populations of low-income students, and uncovered no evidence that the policy created a barrier to high school graduation. On the contrary, they found that high school graduation rates increased.

Why This Matters in Minnesota

Minnesota has large gaps between students of color and white students in college matriculation and graduation rates, as well as remedial education enrollment. As we work to address these gaps and ensure that all students who graduate from Minnesota’s schools are prepared for college and career, it’s important to ensure that we are removing barriers to their success. A better sense of financial aid available can go a long way towards helping students identify a path to postsecondary education they may have previously written off. At the same time, policymakers must continue working to remove academic barriers through strategies such as increasing access to advanced coursework.

Read the research