Indiana lawmakers are working on a bill to increase the number of Hoosier students who file the federal application for college financial aid, and a recent change to the legislation would create an incentive for K-12 schools to get more students to do so.
Initially, Senate Bill 54 would have required students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA – unless a parent, guardian, or school staff member opted them out.
But a change made in the House Education Committee means instead of requiring it, the state would offer schools more funding if enough students complete the form.
Committee Chair Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) said he and other key lawmakers support the change.
"I think it meets the intended goal and has just changed it from a mandate to an opportunity for schools to exercise and receive extra funding for it," he said.
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Lawmakers still have to sort out where the funding will come from, but Behning and others say it could be built into the state's school funding formula, similar to funding for honors students, and career and technical education.
The bill, proposed by Sen. Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg) for a second year in a row, aims to boost the number of students who file the application, as the average filing rate in the state and across the country lags behind previous years.
Indiana uses the FAFSA for state scholarship eligibility, including the 21st Century Scholarship program and the Frank O'Bannon Grant. As the state's Commission for Higher Education focuses more on closing equity gaps in college completion and preparation, officials and lawmakers say filing the application is a critical step for college-bound high school graduates.
About 36 percent of Hoosiers have completed the form so far this year, with the application deadline on April 15.