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unnamed 94A grant from the New Mexico Higher Education Department’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid Initiative will help New Mexico State University improve FAFSA application completion rates for New Mexico students. (NMSU photo by Josh Bachman)New Mexico State University has received a grant from the New Mexico Higher Education Department’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid Initiative to increase FAFSA application completion rates in the state.

The $45,250, 12-month grant is a collaboration between NMSU’s Student Engagement, University Financial Aid and Scholarship Services and University Admissions and New Student Orientation units.

In 2019, about 50 percent of New Mexico high school graduates completed the FAFSA, and 65 percent of NMSU students completed the application in the 2018-2019 academic year.

The NMHED’s FAFSA Initiative aligns with three of NMSU’s LEADS 2025 goals: to advance student success and social mobility; elevate research and creativity; and amplify extension and outreach, according to Tony Marin, assistant vice president of student engagement and lead principal investigator on the grant. Vandeen McKenzie, director of University Financial Aid and Scholarship Services, and Seth Miner, director of University Admissions and New Student Orientation, are co-principal investigators.

“The pillars of grant activities are grounded in awareness, complexity, trust, language and resources, which aim to demystify not only the misperceptions of the federal student aid eligibility but also the FAFSA process that can prove challenging to complete,” Marin said.

The funds will support in-person, digital and virtual activities to address barriers to FAFSA completion to help more New Mexicans access higher education. The activities will build on the work that NMSU’s University Financial Aid and Scholarship Services Office currently conducts and will add to the capacity to expand their outreach into southern New Mexico and beyond through digital and virtual formats. The activities will be in partnership and collaboration with the public schools, state agencies and non-profits dedicated to furthering social mobility through higher education.

“The NMHED FAFSA Completion Initiative grant is significant in aiding future Aggies with achieving their dream of earning a college degree,” McKenzie said. “One of the major concerns as it relates to attending college is ‘how will I pay for it?’ The federal and state government has provided financial aid to assist our students but they are required to complete the FAFSA to be able to access the funds.

“Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions and fear associated with completing the FAFSA,” she said. “We know our graduates are going to change the future, and this grant will assist us in helping our future Aggies be bold in the FAFSA completion step of their journey.”

To learn more about the FAFSA visit https://fa.nmsu.edu.  

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