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ALABAMA – A major change is coming to graduation requirements in Alabama.

During Thursday’s Alabama State Department of Education meeting, the state Board of Education voted to require a completed Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for graduating high school seniors statewide.

The requirement will begin with seniors graduating next year – 2022.

However, students can opt-out of the FAFSA requirement by submitting a waiver to their local superintendent, signed by their parent, legal guardian, or themselves if they are considered emancipated or of legal age.

Board Members Stephanie Bell and Dr. Wayne Reynolds spoke out against the requirement and later voted no, joined by board member Jackie Ziegler – a final tally of 6-3 in favor of adding the requirement.

Bell, citing a previous amendment that removed the requirement for students to provide their Social Security Numbers, expressed concern that the FAFSA requires one, adding that the opt out procedure adds an extra burden to students.

Reynolds called the FAFSA a “invasion of privacy,” saying “Once all that data is put online and available, it will be much more available for government intrusion and it’s an unfunded mandate.”

State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey said the requirement can help fulfill a goal set by Governor Kay Ivey’s Success Plan – 500,000 credentialed workers in the workforce by 2025 – and stated the other states who have adopted the requirement have seen an influx of students applying for the FAFSA.

Alabama joins Illinois, Louisiana, and Texas as the fourth state to require a completed FAFSA for graduation.