How College Goal Sunday Sites Boosted FAFSA Completion Last Year

September 16, 2016

By Courtney Argenti, Graduate Research Intern 

NCAN is committed to providing effective and digestible tools for education professionals to ensure that students are aware of the FAFSA and have the necessary assistance to complete it. In June 2015, NCAN assumed full responsibility for College Goal Sunday, a well-developed and mature volunteer program across 40 states and the District of Columbia committed to helping students complete the FAFSA. The reports from the final grant cycle of the 2015-16 academic year are back, and reveal some impressive strategies for improving FAFSA completion rates. 

Rhode Island Student Loan Authority, Finance Authority of Maine, and The University of New Mexico Foundation all utilized innovative and comprehensive strategies to increase the number of FAFSA completions and combat difficulties inherent in the application process. Great cooperation among organizations, departments, officials, education professionals, community organizers, and volunteers produced viral social media campaigns, trainings for education professionals, and – most importantly – assistance for high school students and families. 

College Goal Rhode Island

College Goal Rhode Island, organized by NCAN member Rhode Island Student Loan Authority (RISLA), made great steps toward overcoming the difficulties associated with the new FSA ID launched in spring 2015. RISLA launched a communication campaign to inform students of the changes to the FSA login process by utilizing and distributing the public information materials developed by FSA to elected officials, the media, high school counselors, and other FAFSA completion advocates across Rhode Island. 

RSLA’s effort to prevent and guide the challenge of the new FSA ID was successful. Most of the students and families who attended the College Goal Rhode Island events were able to obtain their FSA ID prior to attending (71.43 percent of 282 students). Those who could not get their FSA ID prior to the event received on-site assistance in a designated computer lab. Attendees then proceeded to a second presentation on completing the FAFSA. 

Ultimately, Rhode Island Student Loan Authority helped 84.52 percent of attendees complete the FAFSA, and helped 57.32 percent of those who came without an FSA ID secure one at the event.

College Goal Vermont

College Goal Vermont, sponsored by NCAN member Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC)  mobilized a great effort to help all high school students – not just juniors and seniors—realize that postsecondary education is a possibility. Their unique four-part series of events stems from their research regarding postsecondary aspirations of 5,853 out of 6,985 high school graduates from Vermont’s Class of 2012. Data from the VSAC Senior Survey demonstrate that among the 2,319 students who did not enroll in postsecondary education in the fall of 2012, 77 percent said there was a time when they thought that they would continue their education immediately after high school. But 89 percent of them decided to forego a postsecondary education in high school. 

College Goal Vermont’s VSAC worked to stymie this idea that postsecondary education is not an option for students through three annual events: a College Pathways Workshop, Paying for College Workshop, and Financial Aid Forms Night. Through partnerships with Vermont colleges, Vermont State GEAR UP, Vermont Talent Search, and other content area experts, students and their families were introduced to strategies for planning and paying for postsecondary education; provided with an overview of postsecondary costs and net prices, as well as federal and state financial aid opportunities, scholarships, and affordable budgeting; and ultimately, received individual assistance in completing the FAFSA and Vermont grant application. 

In total, College Goal Vermont served 1,699 students and helped 544 high school seniors complete the FAFSA within their events. 

The University of New Mexico Office of Student Academic Success – Unidos Project 

The University of New Mexico Foundation boosted great response and student FAFSA completion through their state-wide collaboration, partnerships, grassroots organizing, and incentivizing five $500 regional scholarships. The University of New Mexico Office of Student Academic Success—Unidos Project teamed up with 207 of the 277 public schools in New Mexico to host FAFSA workshops in each school. Community organizations helped at the workshops by providing bilingual staff to serve as presenters or to assist with one-on-one guidance.

Their far-reaching strategies reached students and families within large and small, traditional and non-traditional public gatherings to promote education and financial aid information in places like a community resource fair and Quincinera Fashion Show. The University of New Mexico Foundation also partnered with the City of Albuquerque and Workforce Solutions in their Summer Melt initiative to secure a mobile unit during from May through August to provide FAFSA assistance and information directly to communities.

Together, they assisted 7,859 students in completing the FAFSA. Based on WICHE’s 2013 projections of high school graduates from their Knocking at the College Door report, this is roughly 41 percent of the graduating class of 2016 within all of New Mexico’s public high schools. 

All of the organizations participating in College Goal Sunday have contributed extraordinarily to our students nationwide. We want to thank each participant for your commitment to college access through FAFSA awareness and completion! 

As the 2016-17 FAFSA season rolls in, we’d love to hear your success stories too! Please send your innovative strategies, goals, and student stories, to Graduate Policy Intern Courtney Argenti.

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