Financial Aid Toolbox

HIDDEN FIGURES

A Toolbox for Increasing Access to Financial Aid

Practitioners across California are being bold and innovative about changing the lives of students. This online toolbox contains best practices for increasing Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and California Dream Act Application (CADAA) completion rates at your school and/or district.

No student should be denied the opportunity to pursue college because they were never made aware of their financial aid options. Take action today by joining the All In For Financial Aid campaign.

As part of the All in for Financial Aid campaign, The Education Trust-West (ETW) partnered with the California Student Aid Commission (CSAC) to conduct a research study to learn more about the leading financial aid application completion strategies and practices in California. This online toolbox outlines these “components of success” and provides tangible resources to implement these practices in your own school and/or district.

Prioritizing Completion Through Policy

What does it mean?

Prioritize completion by establishing FAFSA/CADAA completion as a part of a student’s graduation process, and supporting practitioners to do so equitably and efficiently.

Why does it matter?

Closing equity gaps in financial aid application completion starts with prioritizing the need to increase financial aid application completion rates. In doing so, districts and schools must create a culture where educators are supported to ensure students are aware of the financial aid that they are entitled to.

Where Is This Happening?
Val Verde Unified
When the superintendent's office in Val Verde Unified School District found that low-income students were not completing and submitting financial aid applications, the school board voted to make completing a financial aid application a key step of the graduation process in 2017. To make sure the implementation of the policy benefits the lives of the district’s students and families, district leaders provide a network of resources to support counselors and teachers. These efforts have contributed to an increase in financial aid application completion with no negative impact on graduation rates.

Collecting & Monitoring Appropriate Data

What does it mean?

Collect and use data to monitor the status of FAFSA/CADAA completion, and make adjustments to programs and delivery of services for students.

Why does it matter?

Data can serve as a catalyst to increase financial aid application completion rates. By collecting and monitoring FAFSA/CADAA information, schools and districts are able to target specific resources toward low-income students and students of color to ensure that they have what they need to complete a financial aid application.

Where Is This Happening?
Health Careers Academy
Health Careers Academy started monitoring information each student's junior year and now is a leader in utilizing data to boost financial aid application completion rates for their students. Counselors at the high school are trained to use data to monitor the state of FAFSA/CADAA completion and, in doing so, dramatically increased application completion rates.

Establishing & Maintaining Strong Partnerships

What does it mean?

Establish partnerships with community-based and education technology organizations to increase financial aid application completion rates through programming, digital tools, and additional support.

Why does it matter?

In the state of California, there are an abundance of community-based and education technology organizations working to close the financial aid awareness gap and increase college access. These organizations can provide a significant benefit to high schools and school districts through providing additional support and resources to increase the completion of financial aid applications.

Where Is This Happening?
Edison High School
At Edison High School, counselors work with Remind, a communication platform provider, to boost financial aid application completion rates. Throughout the academic year, counselors use the Remind platform to develop specific messaging and conduct broad outreach with students and families. Remind’s platform also provides access to manage engagement and message history through the administrator oversight function, which allows for counselors to perform more direct and specific outreach to students.

Building Relationships & Trust

What does it mean?

Build relationships and trust through regular communication, scheduling individual appointments with students, and authentic engagement with parents and families.

Why does it matter?

Completing a financial aid application requires students and families to provide personal information such as financial documents and personal identification numbers. Therefore, building relationships and trust with parents and communities is critical to ensure students feel comfortable filling out a form.

Where Is This Happening?
10,000 Degrees
As a community-based college access organization, 10,000 Degrees works directly with rising high school seniors from low-income backgrounds to get them into college. Through creating an agreement with specific high schools in the Bay Area, 10,000 Degrees provides support to counselors and teachers through workshops on college knowledge, awareness, and eligibility, near-peer year-round mentoring, and financial aid application coaching for students.

Programming with Students at the Center

What does it mean?

Program with students at the center by designing systems, tools, and events that provide information and advice responsive to the needs of diverse students and families.

Why does it matter?

Given the limitations of college and career counseling capacity within schools and communities, programming is vital to increasing financial aid application completion. This means designing and implementing systems, tools, and events that are responsive to the information and advising needs of students who might not otherwise complete a financial aid application.

Where Is This Happening?
CaliforniaColleges.edu
CaliforniaColleges.edu is the State of California’s official college and career planning platform, combining educational resources with tools designed to help smooth the pathway to college. Their Open Access program allows any California student to explore a curated library of information and interactive tools on career planning, college access and success, and financial aid. Students not only learn about why and how to apply for financial aid, they also can launch the online FAFSA or CADAA from within their own CaliforniaColleges.edu account.