Departments of Higher Education, Education collaborate on FAFSA initiative

COLUMBUS – A new statewide initiative aims to improve the number of students who complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

The Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) and the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) have announced FAFSA 21, an initiative launched to ensure that Ohio’s students have the support they need to complete the FAFSA. ODHE and ODE will invest $2.85 million in federal Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funding for FAFSA completion projects over the next year and a half. These funds will be used to support direct intervention, data system upgrades, and professional development.

The FAFSA allows students to qualify for federal Pell grants, state grants, and most scholarships. Historically, it has been one of the best predictors of enrollment in colleges, universities, and training centers. High school seniors who complete the FAFSA are 84% more likely to enroll in postsecondary education.

FAFSA completion rates have declined dramatically – both in Ohio and across the country – in the time of COVID-19. Recent data suggest that FAFSA completion rates in Ohio have declined 8.9% compared to the same period last year. This change represents funding for postsecondary education that goes unclaimed and may also contribute to a decline in postsecondary enrollment in Ohio. FAFSA 21 aims to reverse that decline.

“When Ohio students complete the FAFSA, they are opening not only the door to financial aid, but also the door to their futures,” said ODHE Chancellor Randy Gardner. “On average, 52% of students who complete the FAFSA qualify for Pell and the average grant is worth $4,418. Many will qualify for more, up to the maximum Pell grant amount of $6,495 in the 2021-2022 academic year. FAFSA completion plays an important role in helping students realize their goals.”

Efforts supporting FAFSA 21 also complement the One Goal of Each Child, Our Future, Ohio’s strategic plan for education, which states that “Ohio will increase annually the percentage of its high school graduates who, one year after graduation, are enrolled and succeeding in a post-high school learning experience.”

“Each Child, Our Future casts a vision in which each child is challenged to discover and learn, prepared to pursue a fulfilling post-high school path and empowered to become a resilient, lifelong learner who contributes to society,” said ODE Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria. “For many students, that vision includes continuing their education beyond high school to attain industry credentials or postsecondary degrees. Knowing about and taking advantage of available financial aid can be an important part of their success.”

More information about the FAFSA 21 initiative is available at