Call to Action – Upload Student Records for FAFSA Completion
Beginning with the 2020-21 academic year, P. A. 101-180 now requires all Illinois public high school students to complete either the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) or the Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid (Alternative Application) as a prerequisite to receiving a high school diploma. Additionally, high schools are expected to provide students and their families with any support or guidance necessary to comply with the requirement. For students who choose not to file an application, a waiver may be completed by their parent. The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) makes available through their website a FAFSA Nonparticipation Form (English and Spanish) for this purpose. High school counselors are encouraged to contact the ISBE for guidance on using the waiver and accessibility.
Student Record Upload Needed for FAFSA Completion Initiative
The new FAFSA completion requirement creates a need to monitor application completion even more closely than in the past. To aid school districts across the state in identifying which of their students have completed a FAFSA or Alternative Application, ISAC has for several years made data available through the FAFSA Completion Initiative. In previous years, students' college entrance exam (i.e., SAT and ACT) records were used to create each high school's student list, against which student FAFSA filings were matched. Because the spring 2020 exams were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that student information is not currently available. Rather than delaying the match process until those exam results can be obtained, we have implemented a new procedure that uses an existing file upload function in the ISAC Gift Assistance Programs (GAP) Access portal.
The FAFSA Upload process will be opened for high schools to upload current student lists in early October. The student list file must be formatted in Microsoft Excel 2003 or above, or in CSV, and follow ISAC's prescribed file layout. The data elements that will need to be uploaded for the high school's current senior class are:
- last name
- first name
- middle initial
- date of birth
Instructions for the file upload process are provided in the FAFSA Completion Initiative User Guide, which is accessed via the GAP Access User Guides area. Once uploaded, those lists will then be used to match FAFSA and Alternative Application completion data. It is important to note that the FAFSA Upload function is separate from the State Scholar Program File Upload process.
An announcement will be made through our normal communication methods (the Counselor Message Board and this e-Messaging service) when the FAFSA Upload component of GAP Access is open to accept student lists.
FAFSA Completion Data Available Following Upload
Anticipated for mid-October is the availability of the 2021-22 FAFSA Completion data in the GAP Access portal. Following the October 1 opening of application processing, and once the FAFSA Upload process described above has been completed, 2021-22 data by individual high school will be available. Please be aware that FAFSA completion data for an individual high school will not be available until student lists have been uploaded. Only then can those lists be matched against FAFSA and Alternative Application records. New 2021-22 match data will be available weekly on Monday mornings.
If not already a participant, principals can sign up their respective high school for ISAC's FAFSA Completion Initiative through our automated system at the GAP Access portal. Additional participation information, and the terms and conditions, are available on page 5 of the FAFSA Completion Initiative User Guide.
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