About The Tracker

myFutureNC, in partnership with Carolina Demography, created the North Carolina First in FAFSA Tracker to help schools, researchers and other education stakeholders monitor the number of seniors at North Carolina’s 600+ public high schools who have completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

This Guide is designed to help school counselors, college access professionals, and community members understand how to use the FAFSA Tracker to boost FAFSA completion. This Guide includes the following information related to the FAFSA Tracker:

Toolkit: Using the FAFSA Tracker

Key Features
Available October 2021

The FAFSA Tracker for the 2021-22 academic year will be available on the myFutureNC website starting in October 2021. You can use the FAFSA Tracker to:

  • Measure what matters by tracking your school and district’s progress towards North Carolina’s FAFSA completion goal of 65%.
  • View aggregated FAFSA submission and completion data for students in your school and district.
  • Compare FAFSA data for your school or district with other similar schools based on demographics, size and more.
  • Customize your school’s graduation class size to better understand FAFSA completion rates using a manual entry calculator, if needed.
  • Know where to go for additional resources to help you reach more students and their families with completing the FAFSA.

Measure What Matters: Tracking progress towards the 2022 NC FAFSA completion goal of 65%
At myFutureNC, we believe that we must close the educational attainment gap in North Carolina. That starts with an ambitious goal: ensuring that by 2030, 2 million North Carolinians have a high-quality credential or postsecondary degree.

North Carolina First in FAFSA is a myFutureNC Collaborative that focuses on increasing the number of high school seniors who complete the FAFSA application. Increasing the FAFSA completion rate is a fundamental step in our state’s efforts to meet our postsecondary attainment goal. Our goal is to increase FAFSA completion in every high school in North Carolina by partnering with high schools to ensure students receive as much financial aid as possible.

By measuring what matters, the NC First in FAFSA Tracker provides critical data to schools, districts, and communities to better understand their FAFSA submission and completion data. We look forward to helping you celebrate reaching the 2022 65% FAFSA completion goal while also providing access to data to help you drive efforts to reach more students in your community.

Available January 2022

Starting in January 2022, when additional data are available, the FAFSA Tracker will include the following:

  • Senior total counts (grades 12 and 13) to automatically calculate FAFSA completion rates for traditional and charter schools. Data for senior total counts are from NCDPI’s Principal Monthly Report (PMR) Enrollment for Month 2.
  • Demographic data by school, including senior class size, urban/rural distinction, % of students of color, % of students from low-income families.
  • Charter schools data.
  • Tool to compare schools by demographic data.
  • Map of Local Education Agencies with data on all traditional public schools except for charters.

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Spotlight: Finish the FAFSA report

Supporting Individual Students with FAFSA Completion

The FAFSA Tracker includes the total number of students who have submitted or completed the FAFSA. The FAFSA Tracker does not have individual student-level data to determine which students have submitted, completed, or not started the FAFSA.

CFNC’s Finish the FAFSA, a password protected database report, does provide student-level information for authorized users. Authorized users are staff who work directly with seniors on FAFSA completion and college access.

For the Finish the FAFSA database report, the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority (NCSEAA) matches high school student enrollment data from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) with US Department of Education Federal Student Aid (FSA) FAFSA filing data to report student-level data regarding submissions, completions, errors, and those students selected for verification.

97% of public schools in North Carolina have the necessary data-use agreement to access Finish the FAFSA. If you have questions about whether your school has access and/or who at your school has access to Finish the FAFSA, please contact outreach@ncseaa.edu.


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FAQ: FAFSA Tracker

About the Data
How is the FAFSA completion rate calculated in the FAFSA Tracker?

School-level FAFSA completion rates in the FAFSA Tracker are calculated using data from two public sources: Federal Student Aid (FSA), an office of the U.S. Department of Education, and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI).

  • Starting in October 2021, users will be able to use a calculator to enter the total number of graduating seniors to calculate the estimated FAFSA completion rate for their school.
  • Starting in January 2022, FAFSA completion rates will be automatically calculated in the FAFSA Tracker for traditional and charter schools when senior count data is available from NCDPI. CIHS and private schools can continue to use the calculator to estimate their school’s FAFSA completion rates.
  • Federal Student Aid (FSA) provides information on total FAFSA submissions and completions by school on a weekly basis from October to June and bi-weekly thereafter.

    North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) provides all other information, including school names, school type, senior enrollments, the proportion of low-income students, and the proportion of students of color (defined as students who identify as American Indian, Black, Asian or Pacific Islander, Hispanic, or Multiracial).

    Graduating Total senior counts from grades 12 and 13 (starting in January 2022) are from NCDPI’s Principal Monthly Report (PMR) Enrollment for Month 2 (for all public schools except CIHS). To ensure that the FAFSA Tracker is reporting consistent numbers from a single source, we are unable to make updates to this data point throughout the academic year; however, users can enter in the total number of graduating seniors in the FAFSA Tracker to manually calculate the FAFSA completion rate.

What is the difference between submitted and completed FAFSAs?

Submitted means that the application was sent in but may or may not have all required portions completed.

Completed means that an application was submitted and fully completed.

If a FAFSA form is submitted but not complete, the student will receive an email from the Department of Education asking them to correct their FAFSA.

A completed FAFSA is necessary to determine eligibility for federal and state student aid and is often used for other forms of financial aid, such as institutional aid.

Authorized users of CFNC’s Finish the FAFSA can see student-level data to determine which students have submitted, completed, or not started the FAFSA.

Importance of Signatures
A common explanation for a FAFSA that was “submitted but not completed” is that a signature for either the parent or the student is missing. Signatures may be completed electronically using the FSA ID or by printing, signing, and mailing the signature page.

To get an FSA ID, individuals must have a Social Security Number (SSN). Individuals without a FSA ID can sign the printed signature page. For more information: https://studentaid.gov/help/how-sign-fafsa-parent

Which students are counted in FAFSA completion totals?

FAFSA completion data represent a subset of students the US Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid (FSA) office identified as “seniors” based on how these students answered questions in their FAFSA application. For example, students who answered they have attended college before may not be identified as high school seniors in the FSA data set and would therefore not be captured in the Tracker.

FSA notes that the following students are not included in the high school data:

  • Students who report (incorrectly or otherwise) that they will receive anything other than a high school diploma.
  • Students who have filed a FAFSA in a previous cycle, regardless of whether they attended college.
  • Students who report that they will be anything but an incoming first-year undergraduate.

This is not a comprehensive list. You can find a complete list of data details and assumptions on the FAFSA completion website.

Why are some schools not included in the FAFSA Tracker?

The following schools are not included in the FAFSA Tracker:

  • Public schools with no enrollment data available.
  • Schools with less than five students who have completed the FAFSA are not listed in the Tracker due to privacy reasons. Once a school has more than five (5) FAFSA completions, their data will be included in the Tracker.

Note: The data in the Tracker comes directly from the U.S. Department of Education Federal Student Aid (FSA) weekly, and this data set has some school naming differences that can cause issues with the schools loading correctly in the Tracker.

If your school has more than five FAFSA submissions or completions, but you do not see the school listed in the FAFSA Tracker, please email ncfirstinfafsa@myfuturenc.org.

What should I do if I can't find my school on the FAFSA Tracker?

If your school has more than five FAFSA submissions or completions, but you do not see the school listed in the FAFSA Tracker, please email ncfirstinfafsa@myfuturenc.org.

The following schools are not included in the FAFSA Tracker:

  • Public schools with no enrollment data available.
  • Schools with less than five students who have completed the FAFSA are not listed in the Tracker due to privacy reasons. Once a school has more than five (5) FAFSA completions, their data will be included in the Tracker.

Note: The data in the Tracker comes directly from the U.S. Department of Education Federal Student Aid (FSA) weekly, and this data set has some school naming differences that can cause issues with the schools loading correctly in the Tracker.

Should data in the FAFSA Tracker match exactly with data on the Finish the FAFSA report?

Data in the FAFSA Tracker and Finish the FAFSA report should be similar, but they may not be identical. There are several reasons why the Tracker may not match the report in Finish the FAFSA.

Data update on different schedules. Finish the FAFSA updates every business day, while the federal data used in the Tracker updates weekly October through June. The data that populates from the federal data source, or the U.S. Department of Education Federal Student Aid, reflects FAFSA submissions and completions about one week prior to the release date, and this date is listed in the Tracker. Additionally, the First in FAFSA Tracker updates about 2 business days after the federal data release typically on Fridays.

Data include different methods to identify high school seniors in the counts.

  • Finish the FAFSA identifies all grade 12 and 13 students as potential seniors using a name match, which may lead to larger senior class sizes reported than those identified as seniors by FSA based on student answers in their FAFSA application.
  • Finish the FAFSA is intended to help counselors assist specific seniors at their schools, rather than serve as a basis for comparison among schools. Therefore, the list of seniors in Finish the FAFSA is updated for the second semester to show any seniors at that school who were not there in the fall semester. The senior count data used in the Tracker is from Month 2 enrollment rates, provided by NCDPI, and is not updated during the academic year.

Data have different privacy limitations. Even if a school has fewer than five (5) FAFSA filers, the authorized school-based users of Finish the FAFSA will see the FAFSA completion status for those students listed in the report. This is because data in the Finish the FAFSA is private and only available to authorized recipients. Data in the Tracker is public so is limited due to privacy.

How can I compare FAFSA completion progress this year to how our school was doing this time last year?

From October 2021 to January 2022, the FAFSA Tracker displays information on FAFSA submissions and completions for the current year and for last year at the same time. To calculate completion rates for the current academic year, you should enter the graduating senior class size into the calculator provided.

Due to the disruptive impacts of COVID-19, the First in FAFSA Tracker only shows current FAFSA completion and completion for last year. Data for the last two FAFSA cycles is available for download here (excel file).

Cooperative Innovative High Schools (CIHS)
How is data for CIHS schools included in the FAFSA Tracker?

Data for CIHS in the FAFSA Tracker is included in the “CIHS” tab.

To calculate your school’s estimated FAFSA completion rate, use the calculator on the FAFSA Tracker to enter the total graduating seniors for your school.

Note: Auto-calculations for FAFSA completion rate for CIHS in the Tracker are not listed because the total number of graduating seniors in these schools is not systematically categorized across schools (which leads to FAFSA completion rates that may not be accurate). Please use the calculator to manually enter the number of graduating seniors for your school to estimate the FAFSA completion rate.

Private Schools
How is data for private schools included in the FAFSA Tracker?

Data on private schools FAFSA submissions and completions is included in the “Private Schools” tab.

Data is presented for the current school year and last year for schools with at least five FAFSA completions.

Note: FAFSA completion rates for private schools cannot be calculated because we are unable to access senior enrollment data for private schools from a single source. Please use the calculator to manually enter the number of graduating seniors for your school to estimate the FAFSA completion rate.


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How To: Strategies to Boost FAFSA Completion

There are many ways to boost FAFSA completion rates in your community and help students take an important step towards postsecondary success.

Know where to go for additional FAFSA completion resources:

Engage in the 2022 NC First in FAFSA Challenge
All North Carolina public high schools will be enrolled in the 2022 Challenge to promote FAFSA completion and the chance to win $500 for their school! The 2022 Challenge will run January 1 – March 31. More details will be announced early November.

Collaborate with partners
Looking to plan a FAFSA completion event at your school? The success of FAFSA completion events relies heavily on schools and volunteers working together to organize an event to assist students and their families complete the FAFSA.

Contact outreach@ncseaa.edu to be connected to resources year round. For specific events, reach out to your CFNC.org regional representative.

Additional resources:
FAFSA completion event tools and downloadable posters (Federal Student Aid)

Event planning resources guides (Reach Higher)

Incorporate Innovative Practices
Additional FAFSA completion innovative practices include:

  • Partnering with the local community college to offer virtual, drive-thru, and/or in-person FAFSA completion events
  • Work with other community partners such as libraries, faith-based community, and community-based youth serving organizations to build awareness about the FAFSA and, when appropriate, to host FAFSA completion events
  • Offer incentives for students to complete the FAFSA – some creative ideas include offering free prom tickets, entering a contest for a prize (like an iPad), and free ice cream at a local store. Reach out to businesses in your community to see what prizes they may be willing to donate!
  • Create a senior newsletter that includes information about FAFSA, RDS (Residency Determination Service), and college applications
  • Encourage your seniors who have submitted their FAFSA to use their voice to encourage their peers to do the same

Share what works
Let us know what’s working in your district, school or community to boost FAFSA completion rates for your students! We’d love to feature your work in upcoming newsletters, social media posts, webinars, and more. Email us at ncfirstinfafsa@myfuturenc.org

Stay in touch
To provide regular updates, share promising practices, resources, and learning opportunities, myFutureNC emails a monthly First in FAFSA newsletter to all superintendents, principals, and school counselors on the second Tuesday of each month.

Sign-up to receive newsletters!


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