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Get2College, a program of the Woodward Hines Education Foundation (WHEF), has hosted FAFSA completion events across the state since 2006. These events are held in the high schools and offer students and their families hands-on completion of the FAFSA and the Mississippi aid application along with the opportunity for individual counseling on financial aid processes. Due to the increase in demand for these FAFSA day events from high school counselors, Get2College is partnering with and training community college admissions and financial aid staff to provide support in their districts.
Annual FAFSA Training
Community college partners are connected to all of their district high school counselors through joint annual training sessions on FAFSA completion hosted by Get2College. Topics include utilizing and accessing student level data, leveraging staff for FAFSA completion support, and creating and supporting a college culture.
To assist in planning and promoting FASFA completion events, Get2College provides online toolkits that include print materials, webinars, and screencasts for both high schools and community college partners.
Get2College Corps is an innovative internship scholarship program for Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society Scholars that works to increase the number of low-income, first-generation college students who enter and complete postsecondary education. These scholars are trained in FAFSA completion and commit 10-15 hours a week in high schools or their colleges’ financial aid offices. For the 2019-2020 academic year, Get2College Corps members came from 11 community colleges and provided over 3,193 hours of college planning assistance. This group of students served 88 high schools, attended 113 FAFSA events and met with 1,304 FAFSA appointments. Each were awarded $2500 scholarships for completing 10 weeks of service.
Completing federal financial aid paperwork, of the FAFSA is the first step towards qualifying for financial aid in the form of need-based aid or federal student loans. FAFSA completion is also required for a student to qualify for many institutional or state need-based scholarships. Yet, the complexities of the financial aid application process deter many students from completing FAFSA and other financial aid paperwork. Our goal for FAFSA completion is to increase in Mississippi by the March 31, HELP Grant deadline. The HELP Grant is a grant from the State of Mississippi that pays full tuition and fees for public colleges.
In 2016, with the opening of the FAFSA 3 months earlier, we recognized that the FAFSA needs of the state were exceeding the capacity of our staff. A partnership model was built on working with community colleges around the state to support early FAFSA completion for high school students.
In summer 2019, the Woodward Hines Education Foundation hired Higher Ed Insight to evaluate the FAFSA Completion Partnership program. This evaluation was based on data from two sources: interviews with community college leaders and a survey to the high school counselors. All nine of the community college partners were interviewed and the counselor survey had a high response rate of 35%.
2019 SUCCESSES WITH SCALING SERVICES AND PROVIDING TRAINING
Established FAFSA completion partnerships with all 15 community colleges in Mississippi
Increased FAFSA Trainings by 33%, reaching a total of 339 partners
All three years of the FAFSA completion partnerships there has been an increase in FAFSA completion, thanks to partner efforts.
Community colleges and high school counselors are utilizing the resources provided by Get2College.
The Get2College Corps helped increase capacity for most community college partners.
Get2College plays an important role as a “neutral” third party expert on financial aid and building awareness. There are ongoing needs across the state surrounding generating buy-in about the importance of financial aid among (a) students and parents, (b) high school counselors, and (c) community college staff including upper level administration.
More high schools hosted additional FAFSA days due to the FAFSA completion partnership and increase capacity and time.
A strong partnership has been established between high schools and community colleges.
Higher Ed Insight's FAFSA Completion Project Evaluation