Fast Track FAFSA: Strategies in Action

Five Strategy Spotlights highlighting effective practices for increasing FAFSA completion rates.

Earlier this year, ESG released Fast Track FAFSA Completion, a report on the highest impact strategies for increasing FAFSA completion. Building on the lessons from this report, we have created a series of five case studies that highlight the impressive efforts of local communities across the country to support students and families in completing the FAFSA. 

Click on each of the tabs below to read more about how communities are taking action to ensure that the FAFSA is a springboard, not a barrier, to postsecondary access and success.

Additionally, as they have faced monumental changes resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, state agencies, local school districts, higher education institutions, and community organizations across the country have quickly pivoted to providing support virtually. In addition to the strategies we have outlined in the case studies below, we have also published a new post on our blog detailing some of the creative and effective approaches we have seen emerge since the start of the outbreak.

Strategy Spotlight: Cross-Sector Collaboration

open tab

While much of the responsibility for high school students completing the FAFSA has fallen on the K-12 sector, the higher education sector also is invested in supporting FAFSA completion to promote enrollment and attainment. To truly move the needle, the K-12 and higher education sectors need to come together to align their work to support students and families with completing the FAFSA.

Learn Morearrow
close tab

Strategy Spotlight: Data

open tab

One of the highest impact strategies for increasing FAFSA completion is providing access to student-level data for high school counselors and administrators. This enables schools to target outreach and support to the students and families who need it most. Whether led by a state, district, or partner organization, developing a system for tracking and reporting data should be at the center of any FAFSA completion strategy.

Learn Morearrow
close tab

Strategy Spotlight: Equity

open tab

The students who stand to benefit most from completing the FAFSA, including low-income and first-generation students, are the least likely to complete the form. School districts see a three percent decrease in FAFSA completion rates, on average, for every 10 percentage point increase in the proportion of students from low-income families. Students of color are also less likely to complete the FAFSA than their white peers. For this reason, increasing FAFSA completion is not simply a postsecondary success issue—it is an equity issue.

Learn Morearrow
close tab

Strategy Spotlight: Family Engagement

open tab

Because parents need to provide financial information and sign the form, engaging families around the importance of completing the FAFSA is essential. Yet, parents are one of the most frequent barriers cited by schools and districts in their efforts to increase FAFSA completion rates. Much of this challenge stems from a lack of awareness about the importance of the FAFSA, as well as misconceptions among parents about how the form will be used. It is up to schools and districts to address these misconceptions, build awareness, and provide direct support to families in completing the FAFSA.

Learn Morearrow
close tab

Strategy Spotlight: Partners

open tab

Driving improvement on FAFSA completion is capacity-heavy. It requires targeted, on-the-ground support to move the needle. Yet many schools and districts have limited resources to rely upon to help students and families in completing the FAFSA. External partnerships—with community-based organizations, college access networks, and higher education institutions and systems—can play an important role in filling these gaps.

Learn Morearrow
close tab