KENOSHA — Wisconsin college-bound students are falling behind when it comes to an important barometer.
Fewer students are applying for financial aid and government loans. It is called FAFSA, which stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
“The federal loans are at a much lower interest rate than a private loan would be. Even right now students are all automatically put into deferment so they are able to focus on surviving the pandemic,” said Pamela Lowrey, Director of Financial Aid at Gateway Technical College.
Lowrey says deferment would not be possible with a private loan.
Unfortunately, many 2021 Wisconsin high school graduates did not take advantage. The non-profit organization National College Attainment Network found Wisconsin was 8 percent below the national average for FAFSA applications.
Lowrey replied, “Some may not have access to internet in some areas."
MorraLee Keller with National College Attainment Network added, “If you had not done or been successful in high school, the concept of moving to a virtual college was not attractive.”
Lowrey says her team would also go into schools and hold FAFSA workshops in Walworth, Racine and Kenosha counties. But with the pandemic Lowrey says, “That was all gone.”
“Some of the largest drops were in the urban area,” said Keller.
Milwaukee schools saw a 25 percent drop in FAFSA completions at the end of last school year. But if you look at surrounding areas like North Fond du Lac Schools or Bigfoot High School in Walworth County, the decline is even higher.
“Particularly in rural places you have to judge how far is the closest college,” said Keller. “That just may not have been attractive to students to go pay residence hall fees to have to stay in your room.”
“Completing the financial aid application, it's intimidating. It can be a barrier to pursuing your education, all the questions that are listed on there, so it's very concerning,” said Lowrey.
One way to get help is by going to College Goal Wisconsin. There you can receive free and expert advice by attending an in-person or virtual FAFSA completion event.