Ed Trust–NY releases updated toolkit for high schools to help students access financial aid for college, launches the 2022 New York FAFSA Completion Challenge to highlight successes

by | Oct 5, 2021 | Press Release

Education organizations across New York partner to support high schools in helping students complete financial aid forms for college

NEW YORK – As New York high school students begin the new school year in-person, full-time since the start of the pandemic, The Education Trust–New York and education organizations across the state are releasing the latest Financial Aid for College: High School Toolkit to support high schools in helping all students complete financial aid applications.

The Financial Aid for College: High School Toolkit highlights 10 evidence-based strategies schools can use either remotely or in-person to help students with financial aid application completion, tips for tracking progress, and materials in English and Spanish that can be used to communicate with students and families.

As students and educators continue to adjust and adapt to schooling during a global pandemic, and New York looks to rebuild its economy, supporting students in their postsecondary transitions – including improving access to financial aid – is a critical step to put students on the path to college and ultimately the workforce.

The resources – created in partnership with the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC), New York State Council of School Superintendents, the Options Center at Goddard Riverside, Hispanic Federation, New York Immigration Coalition, New York State Association for College Admission Counseling, and New York State School Counselors Association – include:

  • Monthly checklists for schools on activities to support students in financial aid application completion;
  • How-to guides for hosting financial aid completion nights – remote or in person, scheduling office hours, and using class time to help students complete financial aid forms;
  • Sample lesson plans for using class time to complete financial aid forms;
  • Sample social media posts, newsletter items, and correspondence with families in English and Spanish;
  • Tips on how to use data to track progress;
  • Answers to frequently asked questions about financial aid completion.

The organizations releasing the toolkit will also hold a virtual training session for high school educators in how they can best use the resources in the toolkit to assist their students with financial aid application completion. Learn more about the sessions here.

“Now more than ever, our students need support navigating the college admissions and financial aid processes that will help ensure they have access to a high-quality, affordable higher education,” said Dia Bryant, executive director of The Education Trust–New York. “We know that students have experienced incredible stress and trauma these past 18 months, and it is imperative that we do not allow the many barriers that have been exacerbated the pandemic to not stand in the way of all New York students having the opportunity to realize the dream of a higher education.”

Completing the FAFSA matters because, according to the National College Access Network, 90% of high school seniors who complete the FAFSA go to college immediately after graduation — compared to just 55% of seniors who do not complete the FAFSA.

The toolkit is part of The New York Financial Aid for College Completion Project, which also includes:

  • An interactive FAFSA completion tracker data tool that allows the public to track the progress of each New York high school, with new FAFSA completion estimates updated weekly starting in early 2022 and comparisons to similar schools and top performers.
  • The fourth-annual FAFSA Completion Challenge, which will recognize schools for high FAFSA completion rates and for improvements in FAFSA completion rates. Twelve awards will be granted to schools across the state. Each award will consist of $750 granted to the winning high schools for the purpose of providing a scholarship to one of its students.

“We are proud to partner with The Education Trust–New York to release this valuable resource,” said Dr. Guillermo Linares, president of the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation. “Pursuing a higher education remains a challenge to many students, especially for those from low-income families or first-generation college students who often face barriers to college.  Arming our schools with the tools to assist students in completing the steps to college entry plays a critical role in improving their likelihood of enrolling.”

“It is not good enough to simply help our students get into college. Students also need help in order to pay their college tuition,” said Sandy Jimenez, assistant director of training at the Options Center at Goddard Riverside. “This toolkit helps counselors and advisors provide targeted help, virtually or in person, with financial aid application completion. There are so many moving parts for this process and for everything else educators have to juggle. This toolkit is essential.”

“For the past few years, Latinos drove college and university enrollment rates across the country. With financial burdens brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a stark decrease in Latino enrollment,” said Frankie Miranda, president and chief executive officer of Hispanic Federation. “Higher education has unlocked vast opportunities for so many Latinos. As leaders in the education space, we must support resources that increase access to opportunities to gain financial assistance for higher education. This valuable toolkit will enable guidance counselors and other school staff to help students navigate this sometimes complicated process. Hispanic Federation is proud to work alongside The Education Trust–New York to give Latino students access to these critical resources.”

“We are happy to partner once again with The Education Trust–New York on this crucial resource to help schools better support some of our most vulnerable students — our students experiencing homelessness or living in foster care and those who are undocumented — in completing the FAFSA and other state financial aid applications,” said Andrea Ortiz, senior manager of education policy at the New York Immigration Coalition. “Now more than ever, schools need comprehensive plans to help students and their families complete financial aid applications regardless of their immigration status. In addition to assistance on how to support students to successfully apply for the NYS DREAM Act and all state financial aid applications, this toolkit gives best practices around collaborating with community-based organizations to ensure college access initiatives are culturally responsive.”

Explore data from past years for each high school in the state, read more about FAFSA completion strategies being used at New York schools, and find additional resources at NYFAFSAChallenge.org. Complete Challenge rules can be found here.