Hidden Figures: A Framework to Increase Access to Financial Aid


One of the largest barriers to attaining a degree is college affordability – but it doesn’t have to be. California educates approximately 1 out of every 10 K-12 students in the nation. Alarmingly, thousands of eligible low-income students and students of color attend high schools with some of the lowest financial aid application rates in the state.

Hidden Figures: A Framework to Increase Access to Financial Aid identifies five “components of success” – insights from diverse, cutting-edge districts and schools about best practices and strategies that are helping to close equity gaps. These components of success include:

  • Prioritizing Completion Through Policy
  • Collecting & Monitoring Appropriate Data
  • Establishing & Maintaining Strong Partnerships
  • Building Relationships & Trust
  • Programming with Students at the Center

Educators, from superintendents to counselors, and teachers, in many schools and districts across the state are already engaging in a variety of practices to help improve financial aid awareness and completion. Take a look at our Hidden Figures brief and accompanying toolkit to explore these success strategies.


Hidden Figures: A Framework to Increase Access to Financial Aid is part of the All in for Financial Aid campaign. Learn more about actions you can take to increase access to financial aid.


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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.