An analysis of newly available FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and Cal Grant application data by Oakland-based Education Trust–West finds that low-income California students may be missing out on potentially hundreds of millions of student aid dollars.
ET-W calculated FAFSA completion rates and Cal Grant completion and award rates both statewide and for individual California high schools. The findings are presented in a report released today,
The data reveal that only 54 percent of high school seniors in California’s public high schools completed the FAFSA in the 2012-13 financial aid year. Only 50 percent of seniors completed the Cal Grant application.
“Too many California students never get the opportunity to attend college because their families believe they can’t afford the tuition,” said Orville Jackson, ET-W senior research analyst who authored the report. “Our analysis suggests that thousands of academically qualified, low-income students are losing out ... because they weren’t given the information and encouragement they needed to fill out a financial aid application.”
(This situation isn't fast-tracked to improvement. Only yesterday, a BusinessWeek story about women's job losses due to cuts in federal and state budgets highlighted the plight of a laid-off guidance counselor in Santa Cruz.) Below, a video from a recent protest against cutting school counselors as part of the '13-'14 budget; vid and more info on this subject from the website of the Duarte-based California Association of School Counselors. California has the lowest counselor-to-student ratio in the nation.)
The Ed Trust-West analysis lists California high schools with high rates of FAFSA and Cal Grant completion: Mira Mesa High School in San Diego Unified and Segerstrom High School in Santa Ana Unified over 70 percent of seniors completed FAFSA and Cal Grant applications. At Fairfax Senior High School in Los Angeles Unified, Edison High in Fresno Unified, and Oakland School of the Arts in Oakland Unified, approximately 75 percent of seniors completed the FAFSA and Cal Grant application...
The report also recommends ways by which policymakers and educators can increase FAFSA and Cal Grant completion rates and accelerate access to college, all of which boil down to better communication, both in informing school personnel and proviing necessary materials.
The FAFSA is the application needed to be considered for financial aid such as grants, work-study jobs, and student loans. California’s Cal Grant program is the largest state-funded financial aid program in the U.S. It provides guaranteed awards to high school graduates with at least a 2.0 GPA, who apply by the March 2 deadline, and who meet other eligibility requirements, including financial need.