Jackson County high school seniors behind on FAFSA filing

Only a third of high school seniors in Jackson County have applied for federal aid for higher education less than a week before the deadline.

A report from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education shows only 33.2 percent of high school seniors from the county’s six high schools have applied for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

That figure is below the state average, which shows 49.9 percent, according to the report.

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The deadline for application is April 15.

The agency reported 196 of 590 Jackson County high school seniors have applied so far.

The county has the lowest percentage among surrounding counties, as each has reported greater than 43 percent. That puts Jackson County in the bottom 20 counties in the state.

The 50 percent of seniors at Trinity Lutheran High School and Sandy Creek Christian Academy ranks the highest in the county by percentage. Seniors at Crothersville High School have reported the lowest with 20.8 percent filing.

Brownstown Central High School reported 39.1 percent, while Seymour High School reported 30.8 percent and Medora High School was at 27.8 percent.

To apply for federal student aid, such as federal grants, work-study and loans, students need to complete the application. Completing and submitting the FAFSA is free and gives students access to the largest source of financial aid to pay for college or career school.

Anyone who is pursuing higher education should apply, said Jess Nejad, a spokesperson for the commission. The application opens the door for assistance that could be available, she said.

Students on average forgo $9,741 each year, according to “Research in Higher Education” by Michael S. Kofoed.

Nejad said there is more than $300 million in state aid to seniors who file the application.

“Students can be eligible for grants such as the state’s Frank O’Bannon Grant, the federal Pell Grant and/or merit-based aid as determined by their institution,” Nejad said. “Grants, unlike loans, don’t require being paid back; however, you can also receive federal student loans as needed, which typically have a lower interest rate than private loans.”

Greg Prange, principal at Seymour High School, said school counselors have sent emails to students, parents and faculty to remind them about the deadline. Staff members also include the deadline and information in morning announcements.

“If you don’t turn in the FAFSA, you cannot get a scholarship and you can’t even get a stinkin’ loan,” Prange said. “I do not understand how or why, and it drives teachers, administrators and counselors crazy how last-minute they are, but they are.”

Still, the majority have not applied.

He said students nowadays seem more and more likely to wait until the last minute ahead of a deadline.

It’s not just limited to something like filling out an application. It’s also deadlines for social events, Prange said.

“We used to sell prom tickets for three weeks, but we only sell two weeks now,” he said. “We will sell 100 tickets on the final day we offer the tickets.”

Prange said he expects the school’s numbers to increase as the deadline approaches.

Nejad said her agency assumes people either forget, procrastinate, think it will take too much time or are intimidated by the process. She said it is easier than ever to submit an application.

“We’ve received feedback that people are intimidated by the process and assume it will take a very long time, when in reality, it only takes about 30 minutes,” she said.

Jami Stuckwisch, a counselor at Brownstown Central High School, said her department compiles a senior newsletter each month with information about college visits, scholarship and financial aid information.

The newsletter is emailed to parents and students and shared on the school’s website.

Staff members also helped provide information, such as tax forms and FAFSA worksheets.

She and counselor Derrick Koch also provide individual assistance to families when it’s needed.

The two also meet with 21st Century Scholars multiple times to make sure each has filled out.

Trinity Lutheran High School Principal Clayton Darlage said counselor Lori Moses leads the school’s seniors through the process of college preparation. He said that includes FAFSA and other scholarship opportunities.

The school offers STAR curriculum where each grade meets together for 25 minutes every week to go over important items for each level.

“Freshmen may be working on study skills, but seniors will be working on scholarships, college prep or remediation,” Darlage said. “Sophomores and juniors will typically work on SAT preparation.”

Moses also helps with applications, college preparation and more as seniors begin the transition out of the school and into higher education.

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The percentage of high school seniors who have applied for FAFSA, which has a deadline of April 15.

Jackson County;33.2 percent

Trinity Lutheran High School;50 percent

Sandy Creek Christian Academy;50 percent

Brownstown Central High School;39.1 percent

Seymour High School;30.8 percent

Medora High School;27.8 percent

Crothersville High School;20.8 percent

Surrounding counties

Bartholomew County;43 percent

Brown County;52 percent

Jennings County;50 percent

Lawrence County;45 percent

Monroe County;46 percent

Scott County;45 percent

Washington County;46 percent

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Don’t miss the deadline your FAFSA application.

Apply online at studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa.