The Race to Submit aims to increase financial aid applications

The Race to Submit aims to increase financial aid applications

Photo Credits: JAMIECHEN / AGGIE

California student aid commission motivates high school seniors to submit FAFSA, Cal Grant applications for the 2019-2020 school year

As high school seniors begin to choose a university to attend after graduation, one of the factors in committing tends to be tuition and other fees. A lot needs to be taken into consideration when choosing which school to attend, so the California Student Aid Commission decided to use this as a motivating factor for students to apply for financial aid.

The Race to Submit is a program run by the CSAC to inspire and give seniors that extra push to apply for Cal Grants and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. On its website, the CSAC exhibits a chart mapping how many students at every California public school have completed the forms. It uses the California Department of Education’s October 2017 census of senior enrollment to offer viewers a percentage and comparison mark to other schools in their area, including its own.

“Coming from a college-prep, private high school, we were very prepared for FAFSA applications when they came around,” said Caroline Crawford, a second-year design major at UC Davis and a former private school attendee. “I wish they would chart private high schools and their percentages because the majority of my high school is on scholarship and relies on these grants or forms of financial aid. It would be cool to see how we do in comparison to other schools in California, public or private.”

The site also incorporates a leaderboard with levels based on how many students attend a specific high school. As the levels get higher, the high schools shown possess a larger student body so that the leaderboard can compare institutions with similar populations. Within each level, the top 10 high schools are recognized for their respective number of applicants.

“We recognize the top five schools at the governor’s office, which allows high schools to reach out and be able to find those resources they may need to increase their number of applicants,” said Catalina Mistler, the deputy director of the program administration and services division. “Some schools do not have the resources to assist their students apply for FAFSA or Cal Grants, and with a leaderboard stating schools that excel in applying, it can help them get those resources. We want to help schools that do not have the funding to help their boys and girls apply, illustrating how helpful it may be for a student to look up their very own school.”

Mistler explained how the program originated in Riverside County and was such a success that they continued to expand in order to incorporate all the public schools in California.

“We used to always have high schools call us to pull out reports for FAFSA completion, so we built out this dashboard,” Mistler said.

The CSAC aims to increase the number of seniors applying for FAFSA and Cal Grants and recognize that first generation students may not be as well informed as others about these types of financial aid. The costs of attending college can add up and become very expensive, even for in-state students; therefore, the commission is reinforcing the benefits of simply submitting an application.

“Pretty much financial aid is based on the college you’re attending — it would not have to do with your admissions until you are admitted,” said Ailen Cornjo, a student administrator for the UC Davis admissions office. “It just reflects how much you’ll receive when attending.”

The Race to Submit will run until March 2 with weekly post updates. The program also offers support for other higher education outreach organizations that aim to provide more financial assistance opportunities.

Written by: Lauren Tropio — city@theaggie.org

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