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A new requirement may be on the horizon for students who are looking to graduate high school within the next few years. On November 5, State Representative Regina Huff (R-Williamsburg) and State Representative Deanna Frazier (R-Richmond) pre-filed bill request 817, which, if passed, would make completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid a high school graduation requirement.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is a form that both future and current college students complete in order to determine the distribution of federal and state funding for financial aid.

Many colleges ask, if not require, students to fill out the form. However, many students and parents do not complete the FAFSA.

There is often money allocated for the FAFSA that is left on the table. Representative Frazier said this was particularly troubling for her and her colleague because they want to see Kentucky's students taking full advantage of the financial aid.

Representative Frazier believes that, even if students had no plans to attend college, they may change their minds once they see how much financial help is available to them after completing the FAFSA. By seeing those future savings, college seems more attainable for those who were unsure about the possibility of attending before.

This proposed legislation would not make completion of the FAFSA entirely binding to a student. If the student, for some reason, could not meet the requirement, a student would be able to get a waiver for any reason as long as he or she is of the age of 18 or if a parent or guardian signs a waiver.

Students who are under the age of 18 and cannot get a parent's signature can be granted a hardship waiver. The hardship waiver would be approved by the local school board.

"So they're (the school board) the ultimate decision-makers of what constitutes a hardship," said Representative Huff.

Some schools already offer services that help its students who want to fill out the FAFSA. However, having higher number of students filling it out could possibly be more time consuming and costly.

When asked about the state's role in helping schools implement services to help fulfill the requirement, Representative Huff said that, "Schools probably shouldn't count on additional funding."

But, she did point to Louisiana school districts who received assistance from the national non-profit, Kresge Foundation and the state of Texas who created an advisory committee to find ways to help their school districts. She said those are both things that the Kentucky Department of Education could consider.

"As this is the interim, I look forward to speaking with other stakeholders in regards to completing and accountability," added Representative Frazier.

As mentioned before, this bill is pre-filled for the 2020 legislative session in January. To follow along with this initiative and others, go to https://legislature.ky.gov.

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