FAFSA CHALLENGE EFFORT
Increasing FAFSA Completion
Every year, the federal government provides more than $150 billion in financial aid (grants, work-study, and loans) for college or career schools. The FAFSA application not only gives students access to the aid; but it also allows students and families to find a better path toward college affordability and earning a degree. Although these resources are available for anyone who applies, too few of our seniors apply for FAFSA due to lack of awareness.
Our Plan in Milwaukee
Since March 2016, community members, including representatives from K-12 schools, from institutions of higher education, and from youth-serving organizations, have come together to develop a plan to support students toward greater FAFSA completion. MPS representatives, including school counselors and others, have been instrumental in developing the plan.
Why FAFSA & Why Now?
- FAFSA is necessary to qualify for federal, state and institutional aid.
- More likely to enroll in postsecondary if you complete the FAFSA.
- More likely to attend full-time if receive aid => More likely to complete a degree if full-time.
- Students who file early (in October and November each year) receive on average more than twice the funding from federal, state and college sources as those who file later in the year.
Getting It Done: The Strategy
From the collective experience of our members, our strategy focuses on removing barriers and embedding FAFSA completion into school culture through a three-pronged approach:
- Leading the Charge: School level leadership
- Easing the Process: Facilitate targeted professional development for the community of staff that interact with seniors
- Building Excitement Around the Initiative: Citywide
By partnering with 30 pilot schools (public, choice, and charter), the community was able to increase awareness of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), an essential resource for college affordability.
In 2017, the year following the awareness campaign, the rate of FAFSA completion for high school seniors in Milwaukee increased 8 percent to nearly 59 percent, exceeding the state average.
In total, 3,279 seniors applied; 535 more than the year prior to the campaign.
In September 2017, we shared what we learned about the FAFSA project to nearly 60 people/organizations. They were engaged, excited, and ready to improve upon their effort for the upcoming FAFSA cycle. We will continue to gather key learnings that we can share and use to sustain this work.
For more information, we would encourage you to explore the National College Access Network website, where the FAFSA campaign is available. They have created many campaign materials to assist with your efforts, which include three helpful toolkits: Get Educated (A Guide to Everything FAFSA), Spread the Word (An Outreach Toolkit, that includes dynamic files for social media), and Host an Event (Event Toolkit).