McKinney ISD seniors will be required to apply for federal financial aid prior to graduating under new state law

Image description
MCK_10-19_Lead1-2
Image description
MCK_10-19_Lead1-3
The cost of college continues to increase, but too often, financial aid officials say, students fail to tap into existing resources, resulting in “money left on the table.”

A new state law could help. Included in House Bill 3, which focused on school finance reform, is a requirement that all high school students fill out and submit a free application for federal student aid, or FAFSA, prior to graduating. Current high school sophomores who graduate in 2022 will be the first class to fall under the new law.

“People feel that if you complete the FAFSA, you’d be more inclined to want to go to college [and] to learn more about financial aid,” said Jerel Booker, assistant commissioner for college readiness and success with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. “A lot of people feel the biggest reason … students aren’t going is because of costs.”

Students who apply for federal aid could become eligible for grants, scholarships, loans, study-abroad aid, work-study jobs or tax benefits. Many colleges and universities also use the completed form to determine the financial aid they will provide to students.

Jennifer Akins, McKinney ISD’s senior director of guidance and counseling, said the district plans to increase the number of financial aid information sessions offered for parents and students. Collin College also plans to offer more assistance for parents, students and high school counselors.

Cindy Monogue, a college adviser at McKinney Boyd High School, estimates about half of MISD students complete federal financial aid forms each year. The new law will make the submission a requirement for all Texas students. Students will also have the option to fill out the Texas application for state financial aid, or TASFA, instead. Those who choose not to apply for either federal or state aid must submit a waiver signed by a parent or school counselor.

Akins said the district expects the new law to yield positive results.

“There’s obviously a benefit to students and families to have access to higher education, and financial tools are a part of that journey,” Akins said. “There is a good body of research that shows that students that complete a FAFSA or participate in other types of financial planning are a lot more likely to make a smooth transition into a post-secondary environment.”

Law to require applications

McKinney resident Mariah Zagorsky has a daughter at McKinney High School and a son in college.

“So many families don’t realize there is money available,” Zagorsky said. “In that aspect, I would think [the state] would have made it more required by high school [students]. But a law? I was kind of surprised.”

The Texas Education Agency mandated the federal aid application to make sure people would submit the form, Booker said. Mandating the application also allows the state to spend time, effort and money to track it, he said.

Louisiana was the first state to pass a similar law, called the Financial Aid Access Policy. It began with the graduating class of 2018. Louisiana officials said they have already seen benefits.

In 2018, the number of high school graduates in Louisiana who enrolled in college hit an all-time high of 25,083 students, according to an email from Sydni Dunn, press secretary with the Louisiana Department of Education. That number represented an increase of about 1,500 graduates from the previous year.

“We cannot definitively say these gains are a result of our Financial Aid Access Policy,” Dunn said in the email. “But we are hopeful the policy has positively influenced college enrollment and will continue to do so.”

Much like Texas, Louisiana requires all public high school students to complete and submit either a federal or state aid application. Students may also opt out with a letter, form or waiver. If students in Louisiana do not complete one of these steps, they will not graduate with a high school diploma, Dunn said in the email.

Some families may see the application as a hassle or a burden, but the pros outweigh the cons, said Alan Pixley, district director of financial aid and veterans’ services at Collin College.

“Each person’s situation is unique,” Pixley said. “The only way to know if you qualify for something is to apply, and it’s free to do.”

How to enforce the law

It is too early to tell exactly how the Texas Education Agency will enforce this law or track which students do not complete the application. Booker said he expects Texas’ process to resemble Louisiana’s.

A Texas Education Agency advisory committee will present plans to the state Legislature about tracking and enforcing the law by January 2021.

Federal aid applications are available every year beginning Oct. 1, according to the Federal Student Aid website.

“Because of the variation in state and college deadlines, it is highly recommended that you fill out the FAFSA as soon as you can after Oct. 1 to ensure that you do not miss out on available aid,” the website states.

Dunn recommends Texas counselors offer “clear communication and strong partnerships” in implementing this new law. Dunn said the Louisiana Department of Education created additional resources and events  to help.

Financial aid assistance

Zagorsky said the application can be frustrating for someone who has never completed one, she said.

To assist families, MISD offers two college financial aid nights a year as well as workshops on federal aid applications. Monogue said the next workshop will be held at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 4 at Boyd High School.

MISD also recommends the use of various resources, including Naviance, a software program with college and career planning tools for students.

Collin College will host a financial aid night Nov. 13 to help parents and students fill out federal forms. The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Preston Ridge Campus in Frisco. The college will also host a workshop for high school counselors Oct. 18.

Pixley said Collin College is ready to help districts and students fill out the federal forms because “we want residents of Collin County to be successful.”


MOST RECENT

Hidden Springs of McKinney Senior Living opened in March of 2020. (Courtesy Hidden Springs of McKinney Senior Living)
Hidden Springs of McKinney Senior Living celebrates 1st anniversary

The community opened in March 2020 with 130 independent-living apartments and has grown since then.

Restaurateur Dale Wamstad's new eatery Rooster Town Wafflery opened in Richardson on April 21. (William C. Wadsack/Community Impact Newspaper)
Breakfast, lunch spot opens in Richardson; Ono Poke coming to Southlake and more DFW-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Frisco ISD has plans to launch a new virtual learning school for the 2021-22 school year. (Courtesy Canva)
Frisco ISD to launch virtual school for 2021-22

The Virtual School will be offered to families with students in grades 3-12 who wish to have their students continue to learn virtually.

(Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Local air conditioning company looks to relocate to new facility in McKinney

The company will be able to expand its operations in the new facility, documents stated.

Empty Bowls has connected people and artists over the past nine years. (Courtesy Empty Bowls McKinney)
Empty Bowls event marks 10 years of fighting hunger in McKinney

The event has become so successful over the years that it now covers a large portion of Community Lifeline Center’s annual food costs.

Romeo's Pizza is looking to open in Frisco. (Courtesy Romeo's Pizza)
Romeo's Pizza coming to Frisco; steak, seafood lounge returning to Plano and more DFW-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

As part of President Joe Biden’s plan to reopen schools safely nationwide, the department’s National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option is being expanded beyond the summertime. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
USDA extends free school meals provision through 2021-22 school year

Schools nationwide will be able to serve nutritious meals to all students free of charge regardless of eligibility through June 30, 2022, officials announced.

McKinney City Council approved zoning for an apartment complex in McKinney. (Courtesy city of McKinney)
McKinney City Council amends zoning for future apartment development

The complex will be located on about 9 acres south of the intersection at Heritage Drive and Pearson Avenue.

The company also has plans for another location in Northeast Fort Worth. (Courtesy Starbucks)
Starbucks coming to Fort Worth; Makers Gym opens in Frisco and more DFW-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Continued growth at Legacy West in Plano is helping to boost the local economy, according to the county’s 2020 comprehensive annual financial report. (Courtesy Legacy West)
Collin County finances healthy despite pandemic, report shows

Considering challenges officials faced last year, Collin County’s bottom line is “extremely healthy,” an independent auditor told county commissioners at their April 19 meeting.

vaccine vial
Looking to get a COVID-19 vaccine? Collin County has thousands of openings this week

Thousands of doses of COVID-19 vaccines are sitting in Collin County freezers waiting to be claimed.

Independent Financial is expanding its McKinney headquarters. (Courtesy Independent Financial)
Independent Financial sets up future expansion with 17-acre buy in McKinney

The purchase brings Independent Financial’s corporate campus to nearly 30 acres, tripling the business’s original footprint.