Introduction: Why Focus on FAFSA?

 

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a mysterious yet necessary step to receive financial assistance for students hoping to attend postsecondary institutions after high school. ImpactTulsa sought to offer practical resources to high school staff to increase the number of senior students completing the FAFSA and as a result, increase the number of students who matriculate into postsecondary institutions.

 

By 2025, 77% of Oklahoma jobs will need a credential beyond a high school diploma.The majority of Oklahoma students remain in the state following graduation; therefore, postsecondary credentials will be imperative for students to become self-sufficient adults.

 

ImpactTulsa chose to tackle a low-hanging fruit in the community: use aligned resources to increase FAFSA completion addressing a barrier to postsecondary entry.  According to the National College Access Network, ninety percent of seniors who complete the FAFSA enroll directly in college, versus only fifty-five percent who don’t complete the FAFSA.2

 

  1. Prickett, A. (2016, December 29). Gov. Fallin launches goal hoping to increase Oklahomans post-secondary education. Retrieved from http://ktul.com/news/local/gov-fallin-launches-goal-hoping-to-increase-oklahomans-post-secondary-education
  2. Morgan , E. (n.d.). Why Invest in Increasing FAFSA Completion. Retrieved from http://www.collegeaccess.org/WhyInvestFAFSA

Initiative Overview

 

Beginning in late 2015, ImpactTulsa staff over the course of two school years (2015-2017) implemented a series of strategies to expand regional awareness of FAFSA such as implementing marketing awareness campaigns, hosting hands-on completion labs, and analyzing real-time school-level completion rate data given to high school counselors. We hope that you can also utilize these strategies in some way to make a difference in your community.

The Results

 

The first year was filled with lessons learned about the gradual adoption of new FAFSA strategies resulting in a decrease of 52 FAFSA forms completed comparing the Class of 2016 to the Class of 2015. However, nine out of 24 area high schools increased their rates.

 

The FAFSA completion initiative in the second year gained momentum. When comparing 2016 to 2017 enrolled high school seniors completing the FAFSA, the proportion of student filers increased by four percent (46% to 50%). One in two Tulsa area seniors completed a FAFSA form in 2017. However, the actual number of FAFSA forms completed from October 2016 to June 2017 increased by 12% compared to the prior school year (3,324 to 3,707). As a result, nineteen area high schools out of 24 increased their rates. For additional information, please visit [link to Harvard SDP Impact Story].

Tulsa area FAFSA forms completed increased by 12% from 3,324 forms in 2016 to 3,707 forms in 2017, by counting first-time filers through 18 years old.

Ninety-one percent of 2017 Tulsa area students that initially submitted their FAFSA actually were able to successfully complete all required information by the end of the school year.

Fifteen percent of 2017 Tulsa area students completed their FAFSA in the opening month of October compared to only eight percent of 2016 students in the previous opening month of January.

How can you help students “Get Off Their FAFSA”?

 

ImpactTulsa would like to share their suite of FAFSA completion strategies for you to implement within your local high schools.  There is no one size fits all approach for creating messaging and tactics that resonate with students and their families. We welcome you to tailor our suggested steps and techniques to fit your local context as appropriate.

 

Below is a resource bank of materials that you can access to learn how to implement Fueling the FAFSA strategies. There is a mix of free to low-cost strategies as well as higher cost strategies in which you may want to partner with and get sponsorships/in-kind donations from businesses, foundations, or local TV/print media.