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State Requisite FAFSA Application Policies for High School Graduation: A Political Discourse Multiple Case Study Analysis

Justin Chase Brown, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Experts underscore many advantages of higher education as a vehicle for economic mobility, yet it continually fails to be genuinely accessible through its flaws in equity and affordability. Gaining access to higher education often begins with filing a national financial aid form known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, used to determine eligibility for need-based federal, state, and campus financial aid. Several states now require the FAFSA for high school graduation in an attempt to increase affordability, accessibility, and college enrollment. In this study, I analyze this requisite FAFSA policy phenomenon in two exemplary cases in Illinois and Nebraska through a multiple case-study political discourse analysis to understand how issues were problematized and framed as a reflection of ideas, values, and interests. Results are encouraging and cautionary as race politics and neoliberalism are powerful themes in higher education policy, especially in oppositional hostility in preserving the status quo of systemic racism. The power of invoking precedent as a means to gain momentum in policy advancement is also a relevant theme. Higher education experts committed to access and affordability should consider the influence of and address race, precedent, and neoliberalism in their approaches to research, practice, and policy rationale.

Subject Area

Higher education|Education Policy|Public policy|Secondary education|Education finance

Recommended Citation

Brown, Justin Chase, "State Requisite FAFSA Application Policies for High School Graduation: A Political Discourse Multiple Case Study Analysis" (2022). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI29318940.