- Associated Press - Monday, December 7, 2015

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved a new policy that will require the state’s roughly 35,000 high school seniors to apply for education aid for college or submit a signed form indicating that they won’t.

The board approved the policy last week, The Advocate (http://bit.ly/1XVbXlN) reported. About 15,000 seniors currently do not seek federal aid.

“We have two problems,” said state Superintendent of Education John White. “First, we are leaving tens of millions of dollars every year because we are not applying for financial aid that will fund not just universities but community colleges and technical training. That problem is compounded by the fact that it is really the kids that need the aid the most that are applying the least.”

Starting 2018, students will be required to apply for aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or the Louisiana Office for Student Financial Assistance. Applications will be required for graduation.

However, students also can submit a form with a parent’s signature that says they are opting out of any financial requests.

FAFSA applications allow students to be eligible for a wide range of federal assistance, including Pell Grants, work-study programs and student loans, including technical training. They also serve as applications for TOPS, which provides state assistance for tuition and other costs.

LOFSA applications pave the way for state aid.

However, some students and families are put off by the applications themselves, including the required income information.

“I think, for some parents, it is overwhelming,” said Ashley Aucoin, a counselor at Lutcher High School. “But it is definitely not something they can’t get through.”

How much students typically miss out on is unclear, mostly because each case is heavily dependent on a family’s financial situation.

But White said even raising the percentage of Louisiana students who seek federal aid to the national average - about 55 percent - could generate $50 million. If all students sought those dollars, it could bring in about $250 million, he said.

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Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com

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