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Rowan, Kannapolis students below state average for federal aid applications

SALISBURY – The percentage of students applying for federal money to go to college in Rowan-Salisbury Schools and Kannapolis City Schools falls short of the state average.

In KCS, 46% of students fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Only 39% do so in RSS. The state average is 51.4%.

In the U.S., going to college takes a lot of paperwork, and a major part of that for most students is the FAFSA. Students looking to get money for college submit the applications to determine if they qualify for federal student loans and grants.

Application figures in North Carolina are tracked by myFutureNC’s First in FAFSA program. The nonprofit has set a goal for at least 65% of students in the state to complete the application and  for 2 million North Carolinians obtain a “high-quality credential or postsecondary degree in the 25-44 age range by 2030.”

The rationale for myFutureNC’s campaigns is the demands of new jobs, with 67% in the state projected to require education beyond high school and only 49% of North Carolinians meeting that criteria. By 2019 the nonprofit recorded 1.3 million residents who meet that definition.

In RSS, Rowan-County Early College has the highest FAFSA completion rate — 57.14%. South Rowan High School has the lowest — 30.73%. In KCS, A.L. Brown is the only high school.

The only neighboring school district with a lower FAFSA completion rate than RSS is Stanly County at 36%. Mooresville City Schools has the highest at 59%. It’s followed by Davie County Schools — 57%.

Cabarrus County Schools has a 51% completion rate, Iredell-Statesville Schools has a 45% rate. Davidson County has a 47% rate. Davie and Lexington ranked in the top five counties in completion rate growth from April to May, adding 4.5% and 5.1% to their completion rates, respectively.

Yancey County Schools had the highest FAFSA completion rate in the state — 65.9%

RSS Director of Marketing and Communications Tracey Lewis said most people who complete the application are planning to go on to either a community college or four-year institution immediately after they graduate.

Other factors can affect the number as well. Some students take “gap years” or plan to pursue higher education later on. Some students enlist in the military or enter the workforce immediately. Lewis also noted RSS students are able to earn college credit through Rowan-Cabarrus Community College while they are still in high school. Some students finish associate degrees by the time they finish high school.

Lewis said the district would love for as many students as possible to get post-secondary education, but there is value in paths such as military service.

The district’s directional system for renewal emphasizes students graduating with a plan, whether they are enrolled in higher education, enlisted in the military or employed.

“We do continue to encourage them through college liaisons at the high schools, counselors, announcements and promoting it in schools,” Lewis said. “At the end of the day it is up to the students and their families to complete that. We can assist them, but ultimately they have to be the ones to do that.”

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