Money Doesn't Grow on Trees: How 22 Cities Helped High School Students Complete More FAFSAs and Get More Financial Aid Dollars

Money Doesn't Grow on Trees: How 22 Cities Helped High School Students Complete More FAFSAs and Get More Financial Aid Dollars

A Kresge Foundation initiative launched in partnership with the National College Access Network yielded tangible and meaningful increases in the completion rates of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), an evaluation by Higher Ed Insight finds. The report, Money Doesn't Grow on Trees: How 22 Cities Helped High School Students Complete More FAFSAs and Get More Financial Aid Dollars (40 pages, PDF), examined the outcomes of the FAFSA Completion Challenge Grant Initiative, which required the twenty-two participating cities to form cross-sector partnerships involving at least one school district, one college or university, and several nonprofits. The evaluation found that between June 2015 and June 2017, FAFSA completion rates increased in eighteen cities, including ten that saw increases of 5 percentage points or more. Factors contributing to the initiative's success included coordinating the work in ways that adapted existing strategies to specific community contexts; adopting a tiered approach that began with citywide outreach, followed by large-scale events, smaller group interventions, and one-on-one assistance; providing training and toolkits for high school counselors and volunteers; and using student-level data when possible.