Iowa College Aid reports a slight drop in the number of students filing the information that’s used to determine if they qualify for federal aid, state-funded grants, and scholarships provided by colleges and universities.

Spokesperson Elizabeth Keest Sedrel says the filing rate for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA fell from 54 to 52 percent. “We’ve been working on pumping up the FAFSA filing numbers for several years — and we’ve been very successful — we’ve been seeing year-over-year increases,” according to Sedrel. “And, along about March when COVID really became a big issue in the United States, Iowa like all of the states in the country, really saw those rates start to dip.”

She says part of the issue could be the seniors have been at home and not in school. “When K-through-12 schools closed the physical campuses, high school seniors wouldn’t have had regular personal contact with their school counselors any longer. And a lot of times these school counselors are the ones who facilitate that filing for financial aid,” Sedrel says.

She says it could also be due to uncertainty about what would happen with colleges. “We do think that there was an issue with students not being sure what was going to happen with schools in the fall,” she says. “A lot of the time period we are looking at here — physical campuses have closed for the remainder of that school year — but schools hadn’t yet announced their plans for the fall of 2020.”

Sedrel says the positive is Iowa hasn’t seen the drop that other states have. “It’s happened all across the country. Iowa has actually seen a smaller dip than most other states — so we don’t want to paint this out to be a dire situation,” Sedrel says. But we are going to have to offset the loses from this year as we do look to moving forward on these FAFSA numbers.”

She says getting financial aid for students aligns with the Future Ready Iowa goal of having 70 percent of the workforce with education or training beyond high school by 2025. Sedrel says students and families can go online and file for FAFSA to find out how much aid is available.