June 30 is the unofficial end of Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) season, and we have great news to share:

Alabama had the nation’s fourth-largest increase in FAFSA completions, according to the National College Access Network’s #FormYourFuture FAFSA Tracker. Alabama FAFSA completions increased 4.8 percent over last year, while the national average was just 1.9 percent.

As a result, Alabama’s 2018 high school graduates unlocked access to approximately $60.4 million in Pell Grants. Students can use Pell Grants to pay for a broad range of technical and academic programs after high school. The maximum Pell Grant is $6,195/year*, and they do not have to be repaid.

FAFSA completion also gives students and families access to billions of dollars in additional financial aid, including scholarships, college work-study jobs, and subsidized student loans, which makes education after high school more affordable.

The 304 high schools participating in Cash for College Alabama via the Alabama College Campaign saw bigger increases than the state as a whole. College is the attainment of valuable postsecondary credentials beyond high school, including professional/technical certificates and academic degrees, and the Alabama College Campaign promotes a school-wide college-going culture through College Application Week, Cash for College, and College Signing Day. Participating schools had an improvement rate of 6 percent as opposed to 4 percent for public schools which did not participate in the campaign.

However, work remains. Alabama’s overall completion rate ranked 31st in the nation, and Alabama families left approximately $57.5 million in Pell Grant aid on the table to pay for education after high school.

Even families who think they make too much money to qualify for grants should complete the FAFSA, according to the Wall Street Journal and Forbes. Students and families must also renew their FAFSA for each year the student will enroll in postsecondary education.

Families who have someone who will go to college in August can still complete their FAFSA at fafsa.gov. For more information, please visit cashforcollegealabama.org or call the Alabama Possible office at 205-939-1408.

Cash for College Alabama is a partnership of Alabama Possible, the Alabama State Department of Education, Bold Goals Coalition of Central Alabama, and the Alabama Media Group. Additional collaborators include the Alabama Commission on Higher Education and the Alabama Community College System.

Above: Educators gathered at Lawson State Community College in June to celebrate their FAFSA completion successes during the 2017-18 school year.

* The text was updated to reflect a $100 increase in the maximum Pell Grant award for the 2019-2020 academic year.