The number of students who applied for federal aid dropped nationwide since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last March, prompting Delaware organizations to create a public dashboard that monitors completed applications in the First State.
The new, interactive dashboard was created by the Delaware Data Innovation Lab and TeenSHARP, a Wilmington-based nonprofit that prepares black, Latino and low-income students for colleges and community-centered leadership.
“We want to help Delawareans make better — and informed — decisions using data, both during the pandemic and in the future,” said Ryan Harrington, the lead data scientist for the DDIL, in a press release. “By tracking FAFSA completion rates and sharing them on an easy-to-use platform, we can help parents and students think ahead during the pandemic.”
The dashboard tracked the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion numbers for high school seniors in Delaware public and traditional charter schools between October 2018 and December 2020.
Data scientists found that FAFSA completion declined by 4% between the two school years, from 63% to 59%, and schools with lower completion rates had a higher percentage of low-income students and students of color.
The dashboard also has resources for high school seniors looking to edit applications or receive help with starting one.
FAFSA is essential for many college-bound students, especially those who face economic barriers: In the 2017-2018 school year, undergraduate students at four-year institutions were charged an average of $27,357 in tuition, fees and room and board, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Through FAFSA, students can receive up to $6,345 in Federal Pell grants for the 2020-2021 academic cycle.
“It’s critical that we’re all able to see how students are progressing with FAFSA completion so that we can support families,” said Atnre Alleyne, co-founder of TeenSHARP, in the press release. “The pandemic has presented new challenges to students and families who are pursuing higher education. It’s important they know that there are great resources in Delaware to assist them in the process.”
See the dashboard here.