To Increase College Enrollment, FAFSA Becomes New Graduation Requirement

One of the greatest barriers to attending university is the cost. 

The rising price of college tuition is making financial aid unavoidable for many students.

In 2019, Texas joined Louisiana as one of three states requiring that all graduating seniors complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or as it is more commonly known, a FAFSA application. This measure saw bipartisan consensus in the 86th legislative session and was included in House Bill 3, which focused on the financial reform of Texas schools.

As the graduating class of 2022 faces the FAFSA graduation requirement, some might wonder why Texas is making its students fill out the lengthy and complicated form regardless of their post-graduation plans.

Simply put, Texas is attempting to increase the number of graduating students going to college.

Louisiana was the first state to require students to submit a FAFSA application. Prior to legislation, the state had one of the lowest percentages of students filling out the federal aid application.

Since rolling out the new requirement, Louisiana has seen noticeable improvements in the number of students applying for federal grants. In 2013, prior to adopting the policy, only 44 percent of all graduating seniors filled out the form. After the legislation was passed in 2018, 79 percent of Louisiana students who graduated filled out a financial aid application.

Texas is hoping to see similar results and promote post-high school education among Texas students.

Currently, Texas’ FAFSA completion rate sits at 34.9 percent.

According to the National College Access Network, students are significantly more likely to continue their education after graduating high school if they complete the federal form.

In Texas, there is a clear relationship between school districts with higher child poverty and lower rates of completion for the federal application. This policy has the opportunity of awarding need-based aid to students who would otherwise be unable to afford the financial undertaking.

Encouraging the student completion of the FAFSA application is a critical policy goal in reducing the barriers of continued education. Instead of opting in, students now will have to opt out and this, legislators believe, will cause more students to have more opportunities after graduation.

Morgan’s Wonderland, the World’s First Accessible Theme Park Is in Texas

By Isobella Harkrider

Morgan’s Wonderland started with the inspirational story of Morgan Harman and “her ability to smile through physical and cognitive challenges.” Her parents struggled to find a place for her to play and be herself completely, and an idea was born: a unique one-of-kind theme park for all people with disabilities. That idea has since grown to become the world’s first accessible theme park for individuals with special needs, based right here in Texas. 

Since 2005, Morgan’s parents, Maggie and Gordon Hartman and The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation raised more than $50 million for the betterment of those with special needs.

Morgan’s Wonderland first opened in San Antonio in 2010, and their website shares the foundation’s wish that the park will fill a gap with endless possibility. “Morgan’s fervent hope that everyone with a special need – young and older, healthy or ailing, introspective or outgoing – will be touched in a very special way by Morgan’s Wonderland.” The park is described as “a shrine of inclusion, an oasis of friendship, an unforgettable wonderland.” 

The Morgan’s Wonderland’s butterfly symbol, visible on logos and throughout the park, represents “soaring to one success after another.”  

All guests with special needs receive free admission, and in 2019 they welcomed over 166,000 guests, families and caretakers. The park is fully accessible for so many needs, and designed around unlimited outdoor recreation. Attractions include a sensory village, butterfly playground, wonderland express train, Whirling Wonder with fully accessible amusement park rides, off road adventuring, a carousel, waterworks, wheelchair swings, pirate island and much more. A fully accessible sports complex is in the works. In 2018, Time Magazine included Morgan’s Wonderland in their “World’s Greatest Places.” 

For one of the largest competitions of the year, Morgan’s Wonderland will host the Special Olympics Texas (SOTX) for the 2020 Summer Games from April 30th to May 3rd. During that time the theme park welcomes over 3,000 athletes from across Texas.