October isn’t just for Halloween, it also means filing for financial aid.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is officially open for high school seniors considering going to college next year. And this time around, Oregon is hoping to boost completion numbers.

In August, the Oregon Department of Education and other partners rolled out a challenge for high schools to try and get as many students to fill out the FAFSA — or the ORSAA for undocumented or deferred action students — as possible. The goal is to increase completion rates by 5%.

“This can be a really stressful time for students and their parents,” said Liz Marvin, who is the College Bound coordinator at Hermiston High School. “I would recommend they have conversations about who is going to pay and how.”

Hermiston High School and other area schools are participating in the statewide challenge.

A press release from the ODE states that Oregon’s class of 2019 had a combined completion rate of almost 60%, which lags behind other states. The state education department hopes to bump that number to 64% of the class of 2020 filling out one of the forms.

According to data released in August from the National College Access Network, the number of completed FAFSA applications in Oregon for the 2019-20 school year was just over 26,000, up by 1.3% from the year prior.

The network also stated that seniors who fill out FAFSA are 84% more likely to immediately enter college. Completion of the form is also associated with a 100% increase in the amount of lowest income students who enroll into college out of high school.

Marvin said parents who worry they won’t qualify for aid should fill out the application, which is often required for application to other scholarships.

At Hermiston High School, a financial aid day will be hosted on campus on Oct. 19. Marvin said the school usually has financial aid experts on hand and opens up computer labs so students will have support filling out their aid applications.

“We would like everybody to do everything they can so they have options after high school. We’re busy all throughout that day,” she said.

Filling out the FAFSA application can be completed online at studentaid.gov/fafsa or via the myStudentAid app released last year. Students and their families will need Social Security numbers, recent tax returns, some basic financial information, as well as a list of schools they are interested in and other basic information.

Marvin said although she’s not a fan of student loans, filling out the federal application is the only way to become eligible for many of them, if that’s how a student has to pay for college.

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