Breaking Down Barriers to College

Posted on May 5, 2017 in Education

IMG_0858-1024x683 (1)You won’t go to college if you don’t apply. And you probably won’t apply if you can’t afford tuition. That’s why helping high school students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is proving to be a game changer. The Bold Goals FAFSA Action Network in partnership with Alabama Possible’s statewide Cash for College campaign is dramatically increasing high school students’ access to postsecondary education in Central Alabama. In fact, more than 1,000 additional FAFSAs have already been completed in our region compared to last year.

Completing the FAFSA is a key indicator of postsecondary access and success. The FAFSA qualifies students for state and federal grants, including the Pell Grant of up to $5,920 annually. This money can influence college options for students – especially low-income, minority and first-generation college-going students – who are the least likely to know about the availability of financial aid and may find the online application’s 100+ questions too difficult to complete without a computer and assistance.

This initiative is going a long way toward solving those problems. Schools participating in Cash for College have access to technical assistance, professional development, FAFSA event toolkits and other resources to equip their educators to assist students and families in completing financial aid forms for college. Schools are encouraged to provide all students the opportunity to complete the FAFSA during the school day to ensure access to computers and assistance.

During the 2016-2017 school year, 52 of the 62 high schools in the region joined the Cash for College partnership. This represents 9,377 students. Hayden High School, Ramsay High School and Tarrant High School each won one of six statewide Cash for College competitions to increase FAFSA completion, which demonstrates the positive result of a region adopting FAFSA completion as a priority.

During the 2017-2018 school year, the FAFSA Action Network and Cash for College will utilize a county-based approach to this work. In building local FAFSA Action Networks, communities will take ownership of FAFSA completion efforts by setting their own goals and selecting strategies that work best for their schools. Monthly county meetings will be hosted by a local community partner and supported by Cash for College.

For more information about FAFSA completion in Alabama, visit CashforCollegeAlabama.org.