More than half a million high school seniors have already completed a FAFSA this year, up more than 10 percent from the same time period last year. In D.C. public schools, however, the number of students completing a FAFSA is down 3.2 percent from a year ago. (You can download the data for your local high schools here.)
D.C. students are progressing, but they appear to be behind last year’s pace. In the last two weeks, 276 out of 3,500 D.C. public high school seniors completed their FAFSA. This is an eight percentage point increase from two weeks ago, and it means that about 20 percent of D.C. public high school seniors* have now completed the application they’ll need to complete to receive federal financial aid.
The chart below, an update to January’s data, shows the progress for every DC public high school. Each vertical bar (or a space where a bar should be) represents one D.C. public school. The blue bars represent their completion rates as of January 25, and the red bars indicate the additional students completing the FAFSA by February 11. The dotted vertical line separates traditional public schools operated by the District of Columbia Public Schools from public charter schools. At this point, the charter schools have a slight edge—23.6 percent versus 19.0 percent—but neither sector is performing very well. For some context, the final District-wide average last year was 63 percent.
Individual school rates vary widely. Banneker High School, a magnet school in Ward 1, continues to lead the pack, as nearly 60 percent of its students have already completed the FAFSA. Two charter schools—Booker T. Washington and Washington Latin—all saw more than 20 percent of their senior class complete the FAFSA in the last two weeks alone. For Washington Latin, these were the first students completing the FAFSA in this cycle. Ellington School of the Arts is also doing well, with nearly half of its students having already completed their submissions.
On the other end, not a single student at Moore, National Collegiate, Next Step, or Options has completed a FAFSA. This is a smaller list than last month and, again, their students have some time still, but it’s troubling that these schools still have so far to go. Most colleges and universities have February or March deadlines for completing the FAFSA and filing for financial aid; those deadlines are fast approaching.
The really concerning news is that D.C. high school seniors appear to be behind the pace of where they were last yearin some cases, to a remarkable extent. Seven schools are more than 10 percentage points behind their 2012 figures. Those schools— School Without Walls, Moore, Woodson, Roosevelt, Perry Street Prep, Washington Latin, and Coolidge—all have significant work to do.
This is the first year the FAFSA completion data are available in real time, and the U.S. Department of Education will be updating the data regularly throughout the spring as more students complete the FAFSA and apply to college. Check back at the Quick and the Ed in March for another update on how D.C. students and schools are faring in this important task.
*For details on the FAFSA completion numbers, see here. To calculate the FAFSA Completion Rate by high school, I used the number of 11th grade students enrolled in DC public high schools in 2011-12 (link: http://osse.dc.gov/service/data) as the denominator. This is the most recent, publicly available data on DC student enrollment, but, because it assumes last year’s 11th- graders become this year’s 12th- graders, it means that any enrollment changes (such as students dropping out between 11th and 12th grade) will affect the calculations used here. The charts also exclude very small schools with fewer than ten students.