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Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees

Education, Learning and Evaluation

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the primary mechanism through which postsecondary students gain access to federal, state, and institutional financial aid. In order to encourage cities to take advantage of recent changes in the FAFSA, The Kresge Foundation partnered with the National College Access Network (NCAN) to launch the FAFSA Completion Challenge Grant Initiative during the 2016-17 school year. The grant program was designed to support metro-wide efforts to increase FAFSA completion among high school seniors, and 22 cities were selected for the initiative. Ten of the 22 participating cities saw their completion rates increase by more than 5 percentage points compared to June 2015, and only four cities had a drop in the completion rate. Three cities—Greensboro, North Carolina; Charleston, West Virginia; and Los Angeles, California—had FAFSA-completion rates above 60%. This external evaluation from consulting firm Higher Ed Insight examined the outcomes and lessons learned from the full cohort of cities, with a special focus on what worked in six of the higher performing cities.

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