Calling all seniors: apply for financial aid to graduate


March 2 was the deadline to receive California priority for a chance to receive more financial aid. Photo by: Weston Blackburn

 Only 60 percent of seniors have applied for financial aid, despite it being a requirement to graduate

As of the 2022-23 school year, seniors at VHS must apply for financial aid in order to graduate. However, only 60 percent of VHS seniors have applied as of Feb. 27, meaning that only 60 percent of seniors are eligible to graduate, and the other 40 percent are at risk of not graduating. Seniors had to turn the application in before the deadline of March 2 to receive California priority for a chance to get more money. 

Ella Bartlett ‘23, a financial aid applicant, said, “I think [making the application a graduation requirement] is not good. Some people aren’t planning to go to college, so for it to be a requirement to actually graduate high school and to have that high school diploma is a little dumb.”.

There were three financial aid workshops this school year that were taught and led by different instructors in order to show students how to fill out the application. The first workshop, Cash 4 College, took place from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.  Feb. 11 at the Ventura College Main Campus. From 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Feb. 25, another Cash 4 College workshop was held at the Ventura College East Campus in Santa Paula.

Like last year, a competition is being held between the VHS government and economics classes to see who can turn in more financial aid applications. Last year, Christian Gallo’s economics class won the competition and a burrito party. 

In the 2021-22’s California state budget, California Gov. Newsom and the state legislature included a new policy which requires public, private and charter schools to confirm that all of their high school graduating class have applied to financial aid or that they have filled out an opt-out waiver, which came into effect for the 2022-23 academic school year. The period to apply spanned from Oct. 2, 2022 to March 2, giving students exactly five months to apply to the Free Application for Federal Aid and the California Dream Act Application to ensure that they will graduate high school. 

The VHS College and Careers Center ran three financial aid workshops. Photo by: Weston Blackburn

College and career counselor Patricia Roberts said, “About 60 percent of our seniors have applied for financial aid. Assembly Bill 132 was passed which requires school districts in California to confirm seniors have completed the FAFSA or California Dream Act application before graduating, or opt-out of the process.” 

The opting out option allows a student to opt-out of receiving financial aid. In order to do so, they must be 18 years or older to sign the form or have a parent or guardian to sign the form. Then, a school counselor must authorize the known risks of opting out of financial aid.

Roberts said, “Completion of a financial aid application is strongly associated with postsecondary enrollment. And education after high school is associated with all manner of positive outcomes, including financial, health and civic, among others. So, I think the new requirement is a step in the right direction. But I think it will take a lot of outreach and support from our school district to successfully implement.”