Through the New York City Department of Education’s College Access for All Initiative, schools have access to support and resources that help them assist families in completing the FAFSA.

The district’s efforts have helped bolster some schools’ completion rates to among the highest in the state. For example, as of September 1, Bronx River High School’s 94 percent completion rate was among the highest of New York’s high schools. Bronx River High School also partners with the non-profit Blue Engine, which focuses on supporting teams of teachers and students to prepare them for postsecondary success.

The district’s strategies including providing all schools with access to the Higher Education Services Corporation data portal, which allows administrators and counselors to not only see which students have submitted their FAFSA, but also whether they did so completely and correctly.

District leaders monitor the data so they can direct support to schools that may need additional assistance helping families complete the process.

“College Access for All means making sure our schools are able to access the data and resources they need to support their students,” said Melanie Mac, the district’s Executive Director of College and Career Planning.

The district participates in Financial Aid Awareness Month each November, hosting workshops and events throughout the city to encourage schools and students to complete their applications early. Schools have access toolkits and other resources for how they can help families navigate the process.

Schools also receive designated funding to support their college-going efforts, and Bronx River and other top-performers allocate some of those funds to FAFSA completion. In some cases, that might be an event where students can complete the application on site.

Some of the district’s top-performers also schedule individual appointments with students during the school day to provide them with individualized assistance completing the form.

And schools are engaging families earlier in the high school years, in some case collecting financial information in students’ junior year.

“Financial aid sometimes has been left to parents and families to figure out on their own,” Mac said. “That paradigm is shifting.”