Iowa College Aid Insider - November
Sign up to receive student-specific FAFSA completion data with the FAFSA Completion Initiative
2015 Iowa College Application Campaign is coming to a close
GEAR UP Iowa - Connecting to the big picture
Email campaign to notify users about FSA ID creation
Conversation on college access
Electronic announcement on FAFSA changes
Iowa College Aid Holiday Hours
Now that high schools across the state are wrapping up their Iowa College Application Campaign efforts, it is just as important to ensure that those students who just applied to college also apply for financial aid. The FAFSA Completion Initiative is step two of Iowa College Aid’s 3-Step Process to building a college-going culture, which also includes Iowa College Application Campaign and College Decision Day. Studies have shown that FAFSA completion correlates strongly with college enrollment, particularly for low-income populations. The FASFA Completion Initiative provides school counselors and high school leaders a resource to monitor FAFSA completions and better help students access higher education.
To participate, a school district or high school must enter into a Data Sharing Agreement with Iowa College Aid. Once in place, they have access to a secure, online system where FAFSA submission and completion statistics for their students can be tracked. For each student the high school or district includes in a file to Iowa College Aid, they will be able to determine the FAFSA completion status, including identifying those students who did not start the process at all. This data helps schools ensure their students are filling out the FAFSA, which determines their eligibility for federal student aid – a key factor in families’ college decisions.
With this information in hand, schools can provide targeted assistance and reminders to their senior class. For instance, counselors can compare the FAFSA completion data to the list of students who completed applications during the Iowa College Application Campaign or from their student intent survey to ensure that they follow through with completing the FAFSA. By providing schools with FAFSA completion rates for the past two graduating years, they will have a baseline for which to compare. More information on the FAFSA Completion Initiative can be found on Iowa College Aid’s website.
The fourth annual Iowa College Application Campaign had 80 participating high schools, holding events throughout the months of September, October, November and December. With only half of the final numbers accounted for, nearly 2,000 students completed almost 1,500 applications during the campaign! Each high school was able to customize their event in a format that would work best for their school and students. Ideas included: displaying pennants of students’ postsecondary education plans and signing an #Iapplied banner; encouraging staff to dress in alma mater clothing and decorating their doors or offices; planning a scavenger hunt and college bingo for the students; and scheduling College Planning and Financial Aid Nights and Senior Seminar Days during the Campaign. High schools were encouraged to use social media to showcase their events using the national hashtag #Iapplied.
The importance of completing a college application has not gone unnoticed by President Obama, who proclaimed November as National College Application Month, 2015. The proclamation states, “ A college degree is the surest ticket to the middle class, and broadening paths to education so more people have the chance to earn post-secondary degrees and credentials is the best way to make sure all our people can contribute to writing our country's next great chapters. During National College Application Month, we pledge our support for those across America who are taking steps toward earning a degree, and we continue our work to ensure all Americans can access the tools and resources necessary to make informed decisions about college... Together, we can once again secure our status as the country with the highest proportion of college graduates in the world, and we can forge a future where dreams know no bounds.”
GEAR UP Iowa provides a variety of services to prepare students and their families academically, financially and inspirationally to enroll and succeed in college. Programming for year two of this seven-year project is well underway, supporting a cohort of about 6,300 students in identified middle schools. This federal program is a key strategy for improving college readiness and access for students, particularly those from low-income backgrounds.
GEAR UP Iowa students, now 8th graders, continue to receive many of the same services as they did last year, with a greater emphasis on transitioning to high school at the end of this academic year. Upon enrollment in college, GEAR UP students will receive a scholarship in the amount equivalent to the minimum Pell Grant award for up to four years. This scholarship can be used to pay tuition, fees, room and board, books, supplies and personal living expenses while in college.
GEAR UP Iowa has adopted the three national GEAR UP objectives to assure students are college and career ready when they graduate from high school:
- Increase the academic performance and preparation for postsecondary education of participating students;
- Increase the rate of high school graduation and participation in postsecondary education of participating students; and
- Increase educational expectations for participating students and increase student and family knowledge of postsecondary education options, preparation, and financing.
To meet these objectives, GEAR UP Iowa has focused the middle school years on professional development and increasing educational expectations. Eighth grade students in the GEAR UP cohort have benefited from tutoring and mentoring sessions, college visits, STEM activities, job shadowing, career fairs and other activities. Family members have been invited to financial literacy events and family nights to learn more about GEAR UP and the college-going process. In addition, school counselors and other faculty have been able to expand their knowledge and skills by attending professional development trainings.
In addition, GEAR UP Iowa has continued its partnership with Iowa State University Extension to offer the Juntos program to Latino students and their families. These interactive workshops promote high school graduation among Latino youth and explore possible paths to postsecondary education.
College readiness is often thought of in academic terms, but non-cognitive or social-emotional skills such as resilience, problem-solving, motivation, teamwork and communication can have an even greater impact on college success. GEAR UP Iowa has developed a non-cognitive skills curriculum that has been implemented at several of the middle schools across the state.
This year GEAR UP Iowa will be conducting a parent and student survey to learn more about students’ and families’ knowledge and perceptions regarding college aspirations, college planning and financial aid. The feedback from the survey will be instrumental in identifying knowledge gaps and areas of focus as the participating students transition to high school.
The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) began an email campaign on November 2nd to encourage perspective college students and parents to create an FSA ID now, so that they are prepared to complete a FAFSA in January. The Federal Student Aid PIN was replaced with the FSA ID in May, 2015 to be used to access personal financial aid information online, such as NSLDS Student Access, StudentLoans.gov and StudentAid.gov, and to electronically sign and submit certain documents like FAFSA on the Web and the TEACH Grant. The e-mail notifications also remind users that they must create their own FSA ID and not share it with others. The notifications also highlight the requirement that a unique e-mail address be used. Students can create an FSA ID at https://fsaid.ed.gov.
Wednesday, November 18th, 2015 the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics is hosting “A Conversation on College Access with Bright Spots in Hispanic Education.” From 1:00 to 2:00 CST. It is the first in a series of monthly hangouts.
These interactive sessions will provide an opportunity to hear from programs, models, organizations, or initiatives that are helping close the achievement gap, from cradle-to-career, for Hispanic students, and for discussing ways to continue moving the needle on progress for Latino students and families forward.
The conversations are open to the public, organized as a Google+ Hangout, allowing participants from all over the country to engage in the discussion. More information is available at http://sites.ed.gov/hispanic-initiative/2510-2/.
An electronic announcement was made November 12, 2015 by the U.S. Department of Education in regards to FAFSA changes. Starting with the 2016-2017 FAFSA, institutions will be able to see the school code and housing code for their school only. This announcement is in response to concerns that some institutions have been using the school codes provided for reasons other than purposes of awarding students financial aid. Information of all schools will still be provided to state grant agencies as well as the Student Aid Report sent to students.
Iowa College Aid will be closed on Thursday November 26th and Friday November 27th for Thanksgiving. We will reopen on Monday, November 30th at 8:00 a.m.