West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice declared a state of emergency in response to ongoing problems related to the FAFSA, the first state in the country to do so. [Higher Ed Dive]

According to the National College Attainment Network (NCAN), West Virginia’s FAFSA completion rate amongst college seniors is down over 30% compared to 2023. West Virginia has also experienced some of the greatest year-over-year change in the country, ranking 49th out of 52 (includes U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico).

The state of emergency also removes the requirement for students to complete the FAFSA to qualify for state financial aid programs, including the Promise Scholarship and the Higher Education Grant program. These programs, which have historically relied on FAFSA data to determine eligibility, will assess student need based on the 2023 FAFSA and/or eligibility for state Department of Human Services or Department of Health programs including SNAP, TANF, and Medicaid. [Coal Valley News]

“I simply cannot and will not stand by as money sits on the table that could be helping our students continue their education.”

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, in an official statement on April 30, 2024.

West Virginia isn’t alone: The eight states that include FAFSA completion as a high school graduation requirement (Alabama, California, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Texas) are considering – or already making – policy changes amid FAFSA challenges.

  • In March, Louisiana rolled back its FAFSA completion graduation requirement, which has been in place since the 2017-18 school year, effective the 2024-25 graduation cohort. Last month, the Illinois Senate filed an amendment to SB0998 in hopes of removing the FAFSA as a graduation requirement for this school year.

Why it matters: The fewer students who file the FAFSA, the more federal dollars (including federal grants, loans, and work-study funds) get left on the table. Access to federal funding often makes the difference between going to college and not, especially for students from low-income backgrounds. [CNBC Make It]