State financial aid completion rates stalled


School districts urged to increase participation

OAKLAND, CA (February 24, 2015) – After jumps in college financial aid application rates among California’s high school seniors from 2012 to 2013, completion rates of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and Cal Grant remained relatively unchanged for the Class of 2014. FAFSA completion rates increased one percentage point to 60 percent and the Cal Grant application completion rate remained flat at 58 percent.

“While many districts have made improvements, or maintained high levels of financial aid applications, many districts are falling behind on this important issue,” said Ryan J. Smith, executive director of The Education Trust–West, a statewide education advocacy organization that works to close gaps in opportunity and achievement for students of color and students in poverty. “Students will miss out on financial aid as a result.”

With high cost often cited by students as a major reason for not pursuing higher education, state leaders increased access to financial aid with the passage of Assembly Bill 2160. The Education Trust-West sponsored bill was carried by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) and signed by Governor Jerry Brown in September 2014. AB 2160 designates all high school seniors as applicants for the Cal Grant unless they choose to opt out. The bill requires all public high schools to electronically submit verifications of student GPAs to the California Student Aid Commission (CSAC) for every 12th grader in support of their Cal Grant application. The law goes into effect in the 2015-16 school year.

The deadline for students to apply for financial aid is Monday, March 2, 2015.

Local schools and districts can support greater access to financial aid for their students to attend college by including FAFSA completion as a measure in their Local Control and Accountability Plan or LCAP, expanding college counseling, and incorporating financial aid and college access supports into the regular school day.

To assist school districts and local policymakers, The Education Trust—West has updated the California Financial Aid Tracker, an online tool with data from the state’s high school class of 2014, to help districts and others gauge completion rates for each of California’s high schools.

The new, updated tool includes:

  • Maps of FAFSA and Cal Grant completion rates for schools and districts viewable at the statewide and county level;
  • Tables of completion rates by school, school district, and state legislative district (Assembly and Senate);
  • Statewide 3-year trend data to track progress.

Click here to visit the California Financial Aid Tracker.

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 About The Education Trust–West

The Education Trust–West works for the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, pre-k through college. We expose opportunity and achievement gaps that separate students of color and low-income students from other youth, and we identify and advocate for the strategies that will forever close those gaps.

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Karla Fernandez

Communications Manager

Karla Fernandez (she/her/hers) joins Ed Trust–West as a Communications Manager with over 11 years of experience advancing social impact initiatives.

Karla started her career as a teacher at Chicago Public Schools and UIC College Prep. After teaching, Karla joined United Friends of the Children to support LA County’s youth in foster care as a college counselor. Through Leadership for Educational Equity, Karla also served as a Policy Advisor Fellow for the office of a Los Angeles Unified School Board Member. She solidified her interests in policy analysis and quantitative research during her time with the Price Center for Social Innovation, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, and the USC Presidential Working Group on Sustainability. Before joining The Education Trust–West, Karla was the Associate Director for the Southeast Los Angeles (SELA) Collaborative, a network of nonprofits advocating for communities in SELA.

Karla holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology from the University of Chicago, a Master of Public Policy from the USC Price School of Public Policy, and a Graduate Certificate in Policy Advocacy from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Karla is based out of southern California and is passionate about using data analysis, communications, and digital strategies for policy advocacy and social justice efforts.