January 2024: Let's talk about FAFSA

Director’s Note

Happy New Year, partners! I hope you had time to rest, recharge, and plan for the year.

In this month’s newsletter, we’re talking about all things FAFSA and financial aid. You probably already know that a new FAFSA form came out at the end of December. The form has fewer questions – and more students will qualify for federal Pell grants. That’s the good news!

The not-so-good news is that people have experienced issues accessing the form and filling it out, including me and my senior! That means we have to double down on providing support for students and families as they work through the new process. Our state is 47th in the country in FAFSA completion, yet we have some of the best state financial aid programs available to help our students pay for two- and four-year degrees and apprenticeship programs.

We know students want to explore a post-high school education. To help them reach that goal, we need them to understand their financial aid options. Thanks for all you are doing to support that effort!

Angela Jones
Director, Washington State Initiative

9 financial aid facts in Washington state

Did you know: You don’t need to attend college full-time to access financial aid?

  • State and federal aid programs also provide funding for things like apprenticeships and career certifications.
  • Washington also has a grant program–Washington College Grant (WA Grant) –that could potentially fund a students’ entire college.

Why it matters: Nearly 90% of high school students in our state say they want to pursue some kind of career training or postsecondary program after high school, and many of them say cost is a significant barrier.

  • Share these nine facts to spread the word about Washington’s financial aid resources that can help our students see a clear path to success after high school graduation.

Read more: 9 Facts about financial aid in Washington state

College Success Foundation profiled in The Seattle Times

As The Seattle Times reports, the College Success Foundation (CSF) recently expanded its advising services to reach more students at 28 public high schools in Washington state. While still focusing on all students, CSF is tailoring some of its offerings to particular student groups.

  • At the Port Angeles School District, for example, counselors invited Native American students on a tour of state college campuses that have dedicated spaces for Indigenous communities, including longhouses.
  • We recently provided funding to help CSF evaluate the impact of this approach. We’re excited to see what they learn!

Why it matters: Giving students consistent access to trusted adults is key to boosting postsecondary enrollment rates.

  • Last year, around 61% of the students at high schools with CSF staff went to college within a year of graduating.
  • That’s 10 percentage points above both the statewide average and what students receiving CSF support achieved the year prior.

Read more: Nonprofit stages huge expansion to send more WA kids to college

Washington state is a leader in state financial aid

Each year, the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs (NASSGAP) completes a survey that looks at state-funded student financial aid. Their latest survey is out, and Washington state ranks high in several categories.

  • When adjusted for total undergraduate enrollment, Washington state gave out the most need-based state financial aid in the country.
  • Our state was in the top seven for total state aid as well, regardless of population size or enrollment totals.

Why it matters:  We clearly have a strong state financial aid program, but too many students aren’t accessing this money right now.

  • Washington is 47th in the country in FAFSA completion, the form students have to fill out to receive state and federal aid.
  • Just 50% of high school graduates enroll in a two- or four-year degree program.

If we can raise awareness and increase FAFSA completions, we can ensure money isn’t the biggest concern for a lot of young people who want to enroll in and complete college.

Read more: Washington state ranks first in the nation for need-based financial aid

Coming soon: Lead our Limitless Learning Network

Next month, we will release an RFP to find an organization to serve as the permanent Limitless Learning Network manager.

  • The Limitless Learning Network is bringing 25 local partnerships in Washington state together to share information and explore ideas that help more students make a successful transition from high school into a postsecondary program.

We’re grateful to Education First for successfully launching Limitless.

  • Now, we’re looking for a permanent Learning Network manager.

Could that be your organization? Head to our website to learn more and check out our next newsletter to get notified when our RFP is live.

Tacoma featured in ESG’s Cultivating Connections

Education Strategy Group wanted to know how schools, districts, and communities could help students build social capital.

  • With funding support from our national Education Pathways team, ESG worked with 10 communities over the last two years to answer this question.

ESG created a website and case studies to share what they learned.

  • Make sure you check out the case study from Tacoma, which notes how a College Success Foundation advisor at Lincoln High School built relationships inside and outside the school – and with students – to create a meaningful afterschool program focused on career development.

Learn more: Check out this great resource

What We’re Reading

Read next

October 2021 Newsletter: Helping students see a path to college

Bill Gates recently shared a success story about two bright high school seniors in Texas. The students, concerned about the admissions process and debt, had no plans to go to college. With guidance and support from a College Advising Corps member, both students found their way to higher education programs.

November 2022 Newsletter: Our new Washington state strategy

I have deep love for the state of Washington. It’s been home for most of my life, and I even recently bought my parents’ house – bringing my Washington state story full circle. Years ago, when I set my roots in Washington state, I was a shy and awkward student with big hopes and dreams about what could be for our state and world.