Louisiana now leads the nation when it comes to student applications for federal aid to attend college. Louisiana had one of the lowest FAFSA completion rates in the nation in 2015, and Stephanie Markham with the Louisiana Department of Education says there's now a policy requiring all graduating high schoolers to fill out financial aid forms.

"There were literally hundreds of millions of dollars of free aid that were being left on the table," explains Markham.

FAFSA allows high school seniors to get access to grants and loans to pursue higher education. Markham says the program is helping students from working-class families get access to hundreds of millions of dollars in grants to help pay for school

"Often times, it's money for kids who are of the highest need," said Markham. "You see the sparkle in that kid's eyes for a possibility they didn't have before."

After 2015, BESE began recommending that districts set aside flexible schedules at schools to allow students and their parents to fill out the forms with the help of professionals and school officials familiar with the sometimes intimidating process. Markham says these meetings take the stress out of completing the paperwork.

"It's really not as difficult as it seems," explains Markham, saying that some applicants are getting through the paperwork in as little as twelve minutes.

The report was written by the National College Access Network.

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