SUNY Students Join Chancellor King and State Leaders for Virtual Roundtable on the Universal FAFSA Proposal’s Power to Unlock Financial Aid for Higher Education

March 7, 2024

Discussion Underscores the Need for Governor Hochul's Universal FAFSA Proposal in 2024-25 State Budget

Albany, NY – Underscoring the importance of Governor Hochul's proposal to make completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) universal for high school seniors, SUNY students from across the state today sat down with Chancellor John B. King, Jr. and state leaders to share how access to financial aid has made their academic path possible.

As SUNY drives efforts to increase FAFSA completion, students from SUNY Morrisville, SUNY Brockport, SUNY Old Westbury, and Jamestown Community College said, at the virtual roundtable, that completing the FAFSA was the first step to ensuring they could afford to attend and ultimately complete college.

According to an analysis by the National College Attainment Network, the high school class of 2023 left more than $4 billion in Pell Grants nationwide unclaimed by not completing the FAFSA. In New York State, $226 million was left unclaimed.

Their stories highlight the power of Governor Kathy Hochul's efforts to make FAFSA completion universal for all high school seniors to help more New Yorkers access high-quality, affordable college education at SUNY. Thirteen other states have already taken this important step, resulting in double-digit increases in FAFSA completion. Studies show that 90% of high school seniors who complete the form go to college directly after graduation, compared to just 55% of seniors who do not fill out the aid application.

"Governor Hochul's universal FAFSA proposal will open the door to a college education for students across New York State," said SUNY Chancellor King. "Current and prospective students need look no further than to their peers to learn why the FAFSA is so critical to getting on the path to the degree which will set them up for lifelong success. By assisting more New Yorkers in obtaining the financial aid they deserve, we can make education more affordable and accessible to all."

The push to make the FAFSA universal comes as the U.S. Department of Education's launch of the new "Better FAFSA" has led to delays for students and families filling out the form and for campuses to receive the information they need to assemble financial aid packages. These hurdles reinforce the importance of supporting all students to complete the FAFSA and unlock financial aid. SUNY is committed to providing support to high school seniors, including through expanded information sessions on all campuses and the launch of the SUNY FAFSA Completion Corps to help prospective students complete the new federal application for college financial aid.

SUNY Morrisville senior Emely Cabrera said, "FAFSA allowed me to attend college at a reasonable cost to achieve my goal of completing a degree in journalism. With financial aid, I was able to focus on my coursework and not worry about the financial burden it would've been without it. FAFSA has made the college experience a successful one, and I will be graduating in May feeling prepared to enter my career."

SUNY Old Westbury student Nahiyan Islam said, "Coming from a first-generation immigrant family, filling out the FAFSA was essential for me, but difficult for my family to navigate. My older sister initially didn't pursue a degree because of worries about having to pay entirely out of pocket, because she did not know what aid was available. Accessing financial aid has been so important for my family, which is why as a SUNY FAFSA Completion Corps member, I'm passionate about helping students attain the support they need to pursue and complete their degree."

SUNY Brockport student Nesrine Ramadan said, "Having financial aid has made it possible for me to attend college as a first-generation woman of color who was raised in poverty. It allows me to give back to my community and influence others. I'm going to be the first in my family to attend college and earn my bachelor's degree in psychology after I received my associate degree in applied science. Filing the FAFSA out was an essential first step in my journey."

Jamestown Community College student Marissa Snyder said, "Accessing financial aid was essential in being able to pursue a high-quality education close to home in Western New York. I was lucky that my older sister went through the FAFSA completion process before me, so I had a better handle on what I needed to do to access support for school. That is why I joined the SUNY FAFSA Completion Corps, to help prospective students complete the application and access the degree programs that will help them turn their passions into lifelong careers."

In an effort to boost completion rates, Governor Hochul proposed crucial legislation as a part of her 2024 State of the State to make the FAFSA universal for high school seniors. Additional information about universal FAFSA can be found here.

Deputy Secretary for Education for Governor Kathy Hochul Maria Fernandez said, "For many New Yorkers who want to continue their education, access to financial aid can make all the difference. Governor Hochul is working to ensure every New Yorker has the opportunity and resources to pursue a high equality and affordable college degree. The FAFSA is a critical component in making sure students have the support and resources they need to succeed."

New York State Senate Higher Education Committee Chair Toby Ann Stavisky said, "These student testimonials highlight the FAFSA impact on limited income students and their families. I strongly support Governor Hochul's proposal to make the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) a requirement for high school seniors throughout the state. Federal Student Aid is being left untapped by thousands of high school seniors who simply don't know it exists. This initiative will hopefully increase college enrollment and help countless young people reach their full potential and improve their career trajectory."

New York State Senator Andrew Gounardes said, "The math is simple: when more students fill out the FAFSA, more students attend college, because they've learned they can actually afford it. That's why I've proposed legislation to create universal FAFSA access, ensuring every high school senior who wants to can access higher education. This is about expanding opportunity to all New Yorkers. I'm grateful to these SUNY students for sharing their stories, and Chancellor King for his work to make universal FAFSA a reality."

New York State Assembly Higher Education Committee Chair Patricia Fahy said, "I'm grateful to Chancellor John King for his leadership and his shared priority of streamlining the high school-to-college transition and the financial aid experience. New York students left more than $226 million in aid on the table last year, and investments in universal FAFSA completion in this year's proposed budget means that hopefully, more students will access the aid they're eligible for and use it to help them attain a higher education. Many of the student stories shared today emphasized the importance of moving New York towards universal FAFSA completion and I look forward to continuing to work the Governor and Chancellor King to make that a reality this year."

New York State Assembly Member Jonathan G. Jacobson said, "The biggest obstacle for people going to college is the cost. And the way to get the cost down is to get scholarships and grants. Unfortunately, you have to complete the FAFSA to get this financial aid, and that's very difficult to do. Students in New York left over $200 million of aid on the table in 2022. Education can be the great equalizer, but only if it's accessible and affordable. By requiring and assisting high school students to complete the FAFSA, we are fulfilling our obligation to expand opportunity to all by making college more affordable, and therefore available to all."

For additional resources on completing the application, please see the National College Attainment Network's Better FAFSA resource page.

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2022, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit suny.edu.


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