Results in Students Accessing College

Posted on May 11, 2016 in CEO Updates

Dear Friends –

This fall we began working with two ready and willing high schools in Multnomah County to increase the number of seniors who complete federal financial aid forms (FAFSA)–a key predictor of whether a student will enroll in any kind of post-secondary program, and the only way a student can access federal financial aid. Each year in Oregon our students leave nearly $36 million on the table in unclaimed federal aid.

The staff at these two high schools, Franklin High School and Gresham High School, were already collaborating to enhance practices this year. And they knew that working together, we could better measure specific practices that directly correlate with improved FAFSA completion rates.

There is good news. As of April 8, 67.7% of the senior class at Franklin have completed the FAFSA forms, a 13.1% increase over last year and the highest completion rate in the county. At Gresham 46.7% of the senior class have completed the forms, an 8.6% increase.* 
Behind the data, there are targeted practices being implemented by amazing counselors, teachers, staff members and community partners who are aligning their efforts to ensure more of their students are able to complete these complicated and necessary forms. At Franklin, one such teacher, Kate Moore made adjustments to her curriculum, shifting the timing of the personal finance unit in her seniors-only Economics class from May to February. As part of their school wide outreach, the school’s college and career counselors, as well as financial aid advisers from local colleges, then volunteered in her classroom to work directly with her students to complete the FAFSA .

When we talked to Kate about this shift she reflected, “The majority of students were able to begin, and many completed, the FAFSA as a result of this in-class push. For those who did not complete, I encouraged them to use additional class time to work with our college counselors to get the forms filled out. As of today, more than 80% of my seniors have completed the FAFSA.”

Practices like these are also being implemented at Gresham, including: improved alignment of community partners, like College Possible and Mt Hood Community College, to reach more students and families; use of existing assemblies as a time to work in a focused way with seniors; and targeted help for those students who need to garner more clarity around their plans after high school and to better understand how the FAFSA plays a role in those plans.The teams at Franklin and Gresham are examples of the progress of we can make when we commit to improvement, use data as a tool, and make changes that make sense for our students.


P.S. – You can monitor the continued weekly progress of FAFSA completion rates at all of our community’s high schools on our website.

Earlier this week FAFSA teams from both Franklin and Gresham attended the All Hands Raised Leadership Council where they shared their promising practices and received feedback on how they might think about their work moving forward.

* Source: Federal Student Aid Data Center. School-level data shows significantly higher completion rates due to how seniors are counted in federal data.