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College affordability

How Honors students plan to increase FAFSA completion in Utah.

Praxis Labs at the University of Utah’s Honors College are known for tackling innovative solutions to pressing societal challenges. This year, students are exploring aging well in Utah and college affordability.

“There are nine of us in our lab and we’re coming from all different majors but share a passion for making higher education more accessible,” said Grant Chang, a sophomore Games major in the College Affordability Praxis Lab. “We spent the fall 2020 semester studying the cost of higher ed in the U.S. We met with several people working on this across the country and in Utah, and one thing we noticed is that the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is really underused.”

The students found that Utah has the lowest FAFSA completion rate in the country. With only 35.5% of graduating high school seniors completing the FAFSA, an estimated $55 million in financial aid goes untouched every year.

This spring, the students are taking all they learned in the fall and applying it to a five-part project aimed at increasing FAFSA completion rates in the state. Ultimately, they hope to make FAFSA completion a graduation requirement in Utah and to increase awareness around the benefits of FAFSA completion.

“We think our project is going to bring Utah out of that bottom spot for FAFSA completion and help get more aid to students who need it most,” said Colt Robbins, a junior peace and conflict studies major in the College Affordability Praxis Lab.

The five steps of the project include:

  • Establishing a student organization called “Students Advocating for College Affordability (SACA).”
  • Distributing a survey to determine why so few students fill out the FAFSA in Utah.
  • Providing resources to populations that may encounter language barriers in coordination with the Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority.
  • Advocating for FAFSA completion as a graduation requirement at the state level.
  • Communicating about our project and the importance of FAFSA completion to enhance awareness, interest, support and involvement.

How you can help

The best way to get involved is to join SACA through its Registered Student Organization page and follow the group’s social media where you can find project progress updates as well as scholarship opportunities and ways to get to know the team.