FAFSA filing could be mandatory in Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Indiana is looking to increase the number of high school seniors filing for federal student aid.

It’s called the FAFSA and right now, it’s optional. Some states require the application; Indiana lawmakers may consider doing the same in 2020.

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce made the FAFSA mandate part of its legislative priorities next session.

Its press release reads, “Indiana currently lags behind its Midwestern peers in FAFSA filings, ranking 34th among all states. Louisiana, the first among several states to establish a high school FAFSA requirement, now leads the nation in FAFSA completion.”

Michelle Hernandez went to nonprofit INvestEd on Wednesday to get help filing the FAFSA for her child.

“I don’t want to make any mistakes when I’m doing this and it’s kind of, you have to know a lot of stuff, you have to give a lot of information,” said Hernandez. “I just felt so much better coming in with a professional that can sit down with me and walk me through every step of the way, so everything is correct.”

Hernandez thinks the state should mandate the application.

“It’s not going to hurt you,” said Hernandez. “You might as well be prepared so if anything happens or whatever or there is more money you don’t know about, it’s a good thing to do.”

Not everyone agrees.

“Often our parents do not want to share that financial information fearing that it may cause issues or concerns,” said Indianapolis Public Schools Post-Secondary Readiness Director Flora Jones.

That’s why states with this law include an opt-out option. It requires the high school senior to confirm they know what FAFSA is and don’t want to participate.

Jones said she thinks the law would be good for Indiana.

“Because it’s mandatory that gives it a level of importance, it gives it a level of I have to do this so therefore I need to understand it better,” said Jones.

We asked INvestED if it would create more competition for aid.

“There’s so many types of aid that have different rules,” said VP of Marketing Bill Wozniak.

He said some categories are competitive, others aren’t. It all depends on what type you qualify for.

“Families often tell us, ‘I didn’t think I was going to get any aid at all’ and ‘I am going to get some aid,’” said Wozniak.

Jones hopes lawmakers are open to suggestions when it comes to this potential law.

“I think it’s necessary that we all have a part in the conversation prior to the legislation,” said Jones.

Hernandez can’t think of a reason not to pass it.

“I would say it’s not going to hurt anything,” said Hernandez.

If you need help filing the FAFSA, click here for INvestEd resources.

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