Combining forces across the nation to #DoTheFAFSA

#DoThe FAFSA graphic

Colleagues –

This month I’ve joined forces with Angela, the director of our Washington State Initiative, for an all-hand-on-deck newsletter.

We don’t need to tell you about the problems with the FAFSA rollout this year. You’ve seen the headlines. You may have even experienced challenges with the form yourself, whether you’re embarking on an educational journey or helping someone else do so. (Like Angela is, with her son graduating high school next month!)

We—Angela and Patrick—have joined forces here not to belabor the challenges, but to shine a light on and support those that are finding real solutions. The number of FAFSA meetings, chats, and emails here at the foundation in the last few months may mimic what you’ve experienced in your own organizations—i.e. copious. But the joy of working here is that we’ve got a lot of smart people and partners, which helps us tackle a big problem like this from all different sides.

This is a good example of that:

  • Angela and the Washington State team brought this issue to the Education Roundtable and Funders Network. Students, educators, and college leaders shared powerful stories about their struggles with the FAFSA rollout, but we also talked about emerging solutions: one, nearly all Washington state four-year colleges pushed back their college decision deadlines, and two, funders helped the College Success Foundation launch a quick-response grant program to support local organizations helping students and families complete the FAFSA. Angela's proximity to regional leaders—and students—enables her to come back and tell the nationally-focused strategies at the foundation what’s really going on, what’s really needed, and what’s really working.
  • On the other side, Patrick works with national partners like the National College Attainment Network (NCAN), a leader in college access and affordability with members in almost every state in the country, which gives us insight into the large-scale efforts that are cooking in the background. NCAN has been uniquely dedicated to fixing the FAFSA problems, working with both state-specific, student-facing organizations to maximize their contextualized efforts and with national funders and leaders to plan a mega awareness play. More on that below!

To state the obvious: If students don’t fill out the FAFSA, they can’t access the financial aid they need and deserve. Without that aid, too many won’t go to college. This is incredibly consequential because the students that would most benefit from a postsecondary education are often those eligible for the most aid. That's why we’re shouting out the same message to all our audiences today.

Want to help spread the word?

  • Earlier this month NCAN announced a giant digital campaign. We’re proud to support the #DoTheFAFSA campaign, which will target those who often face the biggest barriers to accessing financial aid: 17 to 20-year-olds with family incomes of $60K or less, with an emphasis on students of color. From now through August, this campaign is going big on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Twitch, and Snapchat to directly appeal to students to take the time and do the FAFSA. Even better news? The social content is available for anyone to use. If you are interested in contributing to the campaign, please contact Elizabeth Morgan, NCAN’s Chief External Relations Officer ([email protected]).

Want to directly support students?

  • The US Department of Education has made funding available for organizations that work directly with students and families to complete the form. The “FAFSA Support Strategy” funds (administered by ECMC) will help organizations make more coaches and advisors available, extend support hours, deliver submission clinics, and communicate with families. If that sounds like work you’re well-positioned to do, apply for funding ASAP.

Let’s close with some good news from Washington: While still behind where we were at this point last year, the state is beginning to see positive momentum. According to data from the Washington Student Achievement Council, in the week between April 26 and May 3, the state saw an overall 5 percentage point increase in FAFSA completion, closing to within 9 points of the same time a year ago. Over that same week, 17 school districts who received grants in College Success Foundation’s quick-response effort saw an even bigger improvement, adding 13 percentage points on average, with two districts posting one-week gains of more than 20 points.

Readers, thank you for putting your efforts and expertise toward this problem. Spread the word, share these resources and opportunities, and all summer long, #DoTheFAFSA.

Angela & Patrick

Quick takes

  • The College Success Foundation has been hosting FAFSA workshops in the DC area that both help students and families and get leaders and journalists in conversation with students to hear about their challenges and aspirations