Tennessee continues to lead U.S. in FAFSA Filings

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Tennessee continues to lead U.S. in Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA filings. More than 70% of Tennessee's class of 2016 filed a FAFSA.

That's according to the Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Higher Education Commission. Leaders say it's an important indicator of a growing college-going culture in Tennessee.

THEC, using data from the U.S. Department of Education, estimates that 70.3 % of 2015-16 high school seniors in Tennessee filed a FAFSA. That rate is up slightly from one year ago, when the rate stood at 69.5 percent for the class of 2015, the first class eligible for Tennessee Promise. Tennessee was No. 1 in the U.S. in 2015 as well, comprising 40 percent of the nation’s total growth in FAFSA completions.

“Through the Drive to 55, Tennessee has set ambitious goals for higher education. We have a long way to go, but these FAFSA numbers, combined with a 25 percent increase in first-time freshmen enrollment in community colleges and a 20 percent increase at TCATs, reflect a growing college-going culture in Tennessee,” Haslam said. “More and more Tennessee students know that college isn’t only an option for them, it’s an expectation.”

In 2016, 27 Tennessee counties had FAFSA filing rates of 80 percent or above. The counties with the highest FAFSA filing rates include:

1. Trousdale (96.0 percent)
2. Overton (94.4 percent)
3. Lewis (90.2 percent)
4. Meigs (89.6 percent)
5. Perry (88.9 percent) and Chester (88.9 percent)
7. Carroll (88.6 percent)
8. Van Buren (87.9 percent)
9. Decatur (86.5 percent)
10. Wilson (86.0 percent)

According to THEC’s calculations, New Jersey is the state with the second highest rate of FAFSA submissions at 60.7 percent, followed by Delaware at 59.9 percent, Massachusetts at 59.6 percent and New York in fifth at 57.5 percent.

All Tennessee students applying for state-based funding for higher education, including the Tennessee Promise, HOPE Lottery Scholarship, and Tennessee Student Assistance Award, must complete the FAFSA.

Students will be able to file the FAFSA for the 2017-18 school year on October 1, 2016. The Tennessee Promise FAFSA deadline will be January 17, 2017, giving students a three-month window to file the financial aid application.