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Increasing College Access with FAFSA Completion


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The strong relationship between FAFSA completion and college attendance has many schools putting a great emphasis on ensuring that students, especially those from underrepresented populations or first-generation households, are armed with all of the tools necessary to complete the FAFSA with their families. Join us as we highlight best practices from schools and districts who are showing measurable increases in FAFSA submissions and who are taking innovative approaches to working with students and families to decrease barriers to get students to college.

Published in: Education
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Increasing College Access with FAFSA Completion

  1. 1. Increasing Access with FAFSA Completion R h o n d a R a m i r e z • G a r l a n d I S D ( T X ) K e v i n S a l k a s • M i n n e a p o l i s P u b l i c S c h o o l s ( M N )
  2. 2. Self-Discovery Career Exploration Academic Planning College Preparation College and career readiness for all
  3. 3. Panelists Rhonda Ramirez Counselor Naaman Forest High School Garland ISD (TX) Kevin Salkas Manager of College and Career Centers AchieveMpls Minneapolis Public Schools (MN) Increasing Access with FAFSA Completion Please submit your questions via your webinar dashboard
  4. 4. FAFSA in the Forest: FAFSA Completion at NFHS Rhonda Ramirez
  5. 5. Demographics: Naaman Forest High School Garland, Texas
  6. 6. Naaman Forest High School is located in Garland, Texas, a northeastern suburb of Dallas. Garland Independent School District has seven high schools where students have “freedom of choice” to attend whichever school they wish. Naaman Forest has a current enrollment of 2,135. The enrollment is as follows: .4% American Indian; .3% Pacific Islander; 2% Two or More Races; 16% Asian; 19% Black; 25% White; and 37% Hispanic. As a Title I school, 51% of the students are on Free or Reduced Lunch. In 2016, only 31% of graduating seniors completed the FAFSA. No documentation was kept on TAFSA. In 2017, 67% percent of graduating seniors completed the FAFSA and 6% completed the TAFSA. 70% of graduating seniors applied to college.
  7. 7. FAFSA Submission: Hurdles to Overcome
  8. 8. First Generation College Students Lack of Resource Organization Computer Availability Counselor Training Student Procrastination FAFSASubmissionHurdlesinTheForest 1 2 3 4 5 6 Haphazard Communication Many of the NFHS students were the first to aspire to go to college. They did not have the support from home, nor did parents know the terms and processes for completing the FAFSA. NFHS students did not have ready access to the computer. They were not able to research colleges, scholarshps, or complete the on-line FAFSA. Internet was also not widely available at student homes. Counselors were not receiving FAFSA training or updates. So many new issues have risen since many counselors completed the FAFSA for their own education. Links, handouts, and Powerpoints were not easily accessible to students. Students needed a one-stop shop in order to research their options. Because students did not fully understand financial aid, there was no sense of urgency. Myths were widespread about financial aid. Students listened to the advice of other students and faculty regarding financial aid. These factors led to many not completing the FAFSA. Students saw counselors as “schedule changers” only. Communication was inconsistent from the Counseling Office. This lack of organization weakened the perception of the counselor.
  9. 9. FAFSA Submission: Overcoming the HURDLES!
  10. 10. FirstGenerationCollegeStudents • Counselors visited each Senior English class (third week of school) to give an overview of the Individual Senior Conference. • Students were given a checklist of items they needed to complete prior to their conference (FSA ID, Career Interest Profiler, SAT/ACT registration, etc.) • Students had been advised to complete the Career Interest Profiler their junior year (we are currently starting Year 3 with Naviance). INDIVIDUAL SENIOR CONFERENCE • Each senior has a scheduled 45-minute conference with his counselor. • Counselors review graduation requirements, but it quickly segues into their post-secondary plans. • Through the Senior Conference Worksheet and the Senior Conference Guidebook, counselors determine each senior’s pathway. • Charts are created in the Senior Conference Guidebook with step-by-step instructions for completing each task in the process. • Counselors also review scholarships, FAFSA, letters of recommendation, requesting transcripts, resumes, and writing essays. • Seniors then go to The Lookout to complete at least one task through Naviance (FSA ID, Apply Texas, uploading colleges into Naviance). This gets them started in the process and experience the ease of the tasks. • The NFHS Naviance Home Page has all of the necessary links readily available. 8
  11. 11. ComputerAvailability • Students were issued district iPads and were instructed to save Naviance to their home screen. (Garland ISD uses Clever, so we are excited about Naviance being added to this feature.) • The Lookout, our College & Career Readiness Center, was created in a workroom of the Counseling Office. Six computers were installed, as well as, a fax machine and printer. SAT and ACT registration information and study guides are readily available. A job posting bulletin board has local business openings, and a chalkboard sign highlights a college each month. The Lookout is open 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday for students and parents. • Local businesses that provide free WiFi for students posted stickers denoting the accessibility. • After each Senior Conference, students are sent to The Lookout to continue the conference on their own. Counselors are able to check progress and answer questions. Students are tasked to complete at least one of the targeted items mentioned in the conference. • A 45” TV and Apple TV were installed in the waiting area of the Counseling Office. Powerpoints, RoadTrip Nation, and videos are running. Students can view and work on their iPads following along with the instruction as they wait. FAFSA Fun Fridays are planned during the lunch hour for students or parents to get additional assistance while they eat lunch. • Students frequently use The Lookout during their lunch period. Everyone is welcome!!
  12. 12. CounselorTraining • Counselors were trained by Financial Aid Specialists on the FAFSA. • The counselors logins were utilized so that they have a better understanding of the specific questions. • Several connections were made with local university Financial Aid Offices as a resource for the unusual questions. • FAFSA has become a verb in the Counseling Office. The terms and vocabulary have to be used on a daily basis. • A FAFSA Fun Night for families to complete the FAFSA was planned in November. Counselors were there to assist families one-on-one as well as Financial Aid Specialists. This was an added bonus as counselors were able to see different scenarios and solutions to various questions that arise. • Counselors were trained on the TAFSA, how to obtain it, who qualifies for it, what schools in Texas accept it, and how to return it. The TAFSA was highly publicized for our immigrant students. All are included in the effort to obtain higher education.
  13. 13. LackofResourceOrganization • The college application and financial aid process are incredibly complex! There are so many websites, logins/passwords, and search engines. On top of that, the Counseling Office, with good intention, was distributing multiple handouts to try to explain everything. The typical student, however, only remembered half and most handouts did not make it home. • Hello, Naviance! • Naviance became the on-line file cabinet for the Naaman Forest Counseling Office. Every link that was shared was on the Home page. Every handout was uploaded in the Documents Folder. Every announcement or reminder was on the Home page. Every scholarship was listed under Scholarships as well as emailed to students through Naviance. Instructional videos on how to do the steps were created to be viewed on Naviance. College Rep visits were posted as well as emailed to interested students. • Students would be trained to fully explore Naviance and the resources that are readily available.
  14. 14. StudentProcrastination • The Naaman Forest Counseling Office signed up with the GenTX Challenge to increase FAFSA submissions. They sent #iapplied stickers for each student that submitted the FAFSA. • Students were asked to bring in their submission email and were photographed to upload on the NFHS Counselors Twitter page and Counselor Bulletin Board. • To speak the student’s language, the Netflix blockbuster Stranger Things had just been released. Students were talking continuously about it. A Stranger Things display with wallpaper, Christmas lights, and the the word “FAFSA” scrawled on the paper was hung on the Counseling Office front window. When students submitted their FAFSA, their picture was placed on the window as “Will” trying to breaking through the wall. ***This year we have incorporated the movie, IT, with red balloon and the caption “Have you completed your FAFSA?---Don’t be scared, just do IT!” During the month of October, we will have red balloons in random places of the school with that wording. • The word “FAFSA” was asked every single time a student came into the Counseling Office. Every time we saw a student in the hall, a game, a scheduled event, or a class visit. Students knew when we saw them we wanted to know about their FAFSA submission. • In Naviance under “colleges I’m applying to”, students were monitored. If students did not have a college added, counselors called them down, took them to The Lookout, and walked them through the FAFSA. • Field trips were planned to five local community colleges and universities. These were chosen from the top college applications the prior year. The admission ticket was a completed FAFSA submission email. • Emails were sent to faculty to remind their seniors about FAFSA submissions.
  15. 15. HaphazardCommunication • The Naaman Forest Counseling Office utilized the email system in Naviance to remind students about FAFSA submission. • Emails were also sent to parents so that they could be supporting their students at home. Notifications were posted on the district gradebook system. • A monthly S’more flyer was created to keep a calendar of lists to accomplish each month. • As counselors became more involved in the FAFSA process, they were seen as experts in their field, not only schedule changers, but a valuable resource for students and families. • The Department of Education FAFSA submission site was monitored each cycle. Submission percentages were emailed to seniors and their families to give them updates. Percentages were also tweeted on the Twitter page. Phrasing was worded to challenge them and to reach for increases. • Counselors presented in the Path to Success class, a newly created college & career readiness class, to promote the FAFSA and assist students. • English teachers were asked to bring their students to The Lookout to familiarize them with the resources.
  16. 16. FAFSA Completion at MPS Kevin Salkas
  17. 17. Overview FAFSACompletioninMPS ● Context ● Activities ● Tools ● Challenges ● Next Steps/Best Practices ● Questions
  18. 18. Context FAFSACompletioninMPS 50% 58% 52% 68% 68% 34% 68% 59% 44% 49% 51% 47% 59% 61% 33% 68% 55% 40% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% AMER INDIAN AFRICAN AMER (ALL) AFRICAN AMER (ENG HL) AFRICAN AMER (NON ENG HL) ASIAN HISPANIC WHITE COMP HS TOTAL DIST GR12 ALL PCT Submitted Apps FAFSA Apps by Ethnic CLASS of 2016 CLASS of 2017
  19. 19. Context FAFSACompletioninMPS
  20. 20. Context FAFSACompletioninMPS The relationship between FAFSA completions and fall college enrollment* •81% of MPS FAFSA completers in 2015 had a fall college enrollment •61% of students in the class of 2015 who earned a diploma but did NOT complete a FAFSA did NOT enroll in college in the fall
  21. 21. Activities FAFSACompletioninMPS Activities Ø School promotion Ø FAFSA/Financial Aid Nights Ø Completion Events Ø Partnering with classes, CBO’s, school events Ø 1:1 support at any time
  22. 22. Challenges FAFSACompletioninMPS Challenges Ø Currently centralized in our CCC and counselors Ø FAFSA Components (FSA ID, DRT Tool, lag in 1st Gen) Ø Misinformation in the community Ø Data Mismatches
  23. 23. Tools FAFSACompletioninMPS Tools Ø Experienced and Knowledgeable Staff Ø Average coordinator tenure is 5 years, training every year Ø Real Time Data Ø MPS Research and Evaluation, Career and College Readiness and Office of Higher Education Ø Office of Higher Education Database Ø Local Institution Partnerships
  24. 24. Goals & Best Practices FAFSACompletioninMSP Goals/Best Practices Ø Building awareness of FAFSA importance (school and community) Ø Decentralization of FAFSA Completion in schools Ø Leveraging Administrative Buy In Ø Incentivizing, Competing, Social Media, etc.
  25. 25. Panelists Rhonda Ramirez Counselor Naaman Forest High School Garland ISD (TX) Kevin Salkas Manager of College and Career Centers AchieveMpls Minneapolis Public Schools (MN) Fostering Future-Ready Students Please submit your questions via your webinar dashboard
  26. 26. Thank you!