High school seniors of color are behind on completing financial aid forms, a worrying sign for college enrollment

Deirdre Fernandes:

When most high school seniors were planning for college in the fall, 18-year-old Lizneida Fermin was juggling her job at a local coffee shop and making sure her grandmother and aunts who had contracted COVID-19 had the supplies and food they needed to stay safe.

The e-mails from guidance counselors reminding her to fill out her college financial aid forms kept piling up, but Fermin, a senior at Lawrence High School, was just too overwhelmed. “Every day was really hard to get up and focus on school when I was doing my own thing,” she said.

Across Massachusetts, high schools that serve predominantly Black and Latino students have seen some of the steepest declines in the number of seniors submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, during the pandemic.