Algonquin student applications for Federal Student Aid up (and down) this year

The Northborough Patch posted a story on FAFSA – Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The post focused on applications that were down in 2021 from prior years both nationwide and in Massachusetts.* But the potential correlation for what the stats mean doesn’t seem to follow for Algonquin’s Class of 2021 vs Class of 2020.

The story links the FAFSA decline with potential decline of enrolled freshman in colleges and universities this fall.

A decline in the FAFSA completion rate could be a harbinger of lower enrollment in the fall. The class of 2020 had 3.7 percent fewer FAFSA applications than the class of 2019; postsecondary enrollment dropped 6.8 percent between the class of 2020 and 2019, according to the National College Attainment Network.

In Massachusetts, 40,353 FAFSA applications were completed as of June 25, compared with 42,105 completions at the same point last year. That is a 4.2 percent decrease.

Scrolling down in the story, readers may have concluded from stats shared that Algonquin’s college attendance will go up this fall. That appears to be likely, just not for the rationale posted in the story.

For the Northborough-Southborough regional high school, the Patch posted stats that shows an increase in applications this year over last:

Total FAFSA completions as of June 25, 2021: 271
Total FAFSA completions as of June 25, 2020: 249
Percent change: 8.84

It’s worth noting that the actual percentage of graduating students who completed FAFSA declined.

Following the potetntial correlation in the Patch’s report, you might then reason that fewer students are planning to attend college this fall. However, based on “self-reported” data shared by the school newspaper this year and last, it appears the reverse is true.

The Harbinger’s senior issues have highlighted data it collected on where students report they plan to attend college in the fall. Based on those reports, the graduation figures from the school, and the Patch’s data:

  • In 2020 — 73% of the 339 member class completed FAFSA applications. 264 students (78%) planned to attend college in the fall.
  • In 2021 — 70% of the 386 member class completed FAFSA applications. 318 students (82%) planned to attend college in the fall.

The Patch story also notes that decreases in applications were steeper in Title 1 schools (schools with over 40% of students from low-income households), which Algonquin is not.

*It looks like the Patch used generic text for the many municipalities it covers in the state and simply inserted Algonquin’s FAFSA data at the end for the Northborough Patch post.

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