Thanks to a small grant from StriveTogether, Mission: Graduate is partnering with five Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) high schools to explore and document best practices for getting students and families to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) while still in school. The goal is to share these practices with other high schools in APS and across the four-county region of central New Mexico in order to increase college enrollment rates.
“Sometimes students aren’t really thinking about college so they don’t request assistance,” explains Teri Wimborne, Mission: Graduate’s Director of Collective Impact. “However, data shows that students who fill out a FAFSA are more likely to attend school in the fall.”
School counselors at Highland, Valley, Manzano, Del Norte and West Mesa high schools are in their second year of participating in this pilot project where they are hosting events and experimenting with different ways to motivate both students and parents to participate. They are also tracking their activity and using U.S. Department of Education data to track weekly trends in FAFSA completion. In the end, Mission: Graduate will work with APS and the schools to develop a guide with best practices that can be shared with other schools.
Teri explains that students should fill out the FAFSA, regardless of whether or not they think they qualify for assistance, because it may qualify them for some types of employment at the school. Also, while undocumented students do not qualify for financial assistance, they are eligible for the New Mexico Legislative Lottery and Bridge Scholarships if they meet the criteria.
Visit the U.S. Department of Education’s FAFSA site to get started.