Our gap was defined through data from the National Clearinghouse and our goal of college persistence. It was in our Area Educational Agency’s Counselor Academy that we were given the opportunity to look at all of our district’s data from the National Clearinghouse. What we discovered is that there was a large gap between our students who identify as white or Asian and our students who identify as Black, Hispanic, or 2 more races. Our students who identify as White or Asian tend to be more successful completing their FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) as well as attending and persisting at college than our students who identify as Black, Hispanic and 2 or more races.
The major intervention that we chose to use in order to close our gap was research based. Research shows that the best indicator of if a student was going to enroll and attend college is completion of the FAFSA. If a FAFSA is completed, the odds of that student attending college is good. The activities that we use in order to help our students complete the FAFSA are what we consider best practice. We teach our students what the FAFSA is, why it is important to them and commons myths about the FAFSA. Then we offer them numerous opportunities for our students to talk with college financial aid officers and also sit with a college financial aid officer to actually complete their FAFSA.
The data that we have collected will help us to hone in on our target group. We will be able to find more efficient ways to reach this population. As one of our major behaviors that we focus on in our program is transitions, this data fully supports this. We have had discussion on if there are certain places in our community that we should hold meetings in which our target group would be in attendance. A member of our advisory council suggested that we go to a local church that is predominately Black and either spread the word of our FAFSA initiative or have Fill Out the FAFSA nights there. This year we called the parents of our target group to invite them to numerous Fill Out the FAFSA nights. By the end of the school year we had 74.5% of the seniors in our target group who had filed their FAFSA. One area we need to improve on is pinpointing the barriers that our parents and students are experiencing when it come to completing the FAFSA and/or attending our FAFSA related activities. We need to have more intentional conversations with our parents and students. Simply giving them the information and inviting them to our events is not enough.