Students entering college this fall faced challenges unlike any class before. While we know the emotional and economic pressures on them were unprecedented, it is more important than ever that our state’s students did not put their college dreams on hold.
In education, we look to the completion rate of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as one of the key predictors of college attendance and success. For the 2021-2022 academic year, the number of students completing the FAFSA fell by 3%, which is remarkable considering that many students were learning remotely for most of their senior year.
One reason for this success is the college advisers and coaches who are working within our schools to create paths to higher education for lower-income, first-generation and underrepresented students. Thanks to myFutureNC’s Collaborative partner College Advising Corps, recent college graduates are working full-time in schools to supplement the work of counselors.
Our school counselors’ plates are overflowing and for good reason. On average, they are supporting 355 students each year, or approximately 100 students more than the national recommended ratios. This elevates the important role our college advisers and coaches play in the state’s ability to meet our 2 million by 2030 educational attainment goal. They provide additional capacity in our schools to help ensure students take the classes they need to get into college and assist families and students with securing financial aid by assisting them with completing the FAFSA.
This year, College Advising Corps’ advisers led the FAFSA efforts at the five schools that won the First in FAFSA Innovation Grant. The advisers have shown that a focus on assisting students with gaining financial aid pays dividends.
College advisers are critical to growing the number of students who complete the FAFSA and ultimately continue their education after high school. FAFSA completion rates must improve to increase our students’ education levels and provide them with the skills necessary to meet the growing needs of North Carolina’s changing economy.
As our high school seniors begin filling out college applications and applying for aid that will help make college more affordable, the need for additional college advisers becomes even more clear. These additional resources in our schools will serve as crucial supports to help prepare our students for success in a changing economy. This begins with providing opportunity – including the creation of a college-
going environment for every student in every school.
President and CEO