Why Thousands of Eligible Students Fail to Complete Their FAFSA

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Each February, thousands of students across California will learn about obscure sounding tax terminology. Too often, whether a student can piece together enough knowhow about the tax code will determine if they learn about the help available to pay for college.

“What’s our adjusted gross income?”

“How do you count how many people are in our ‘household’?”

These are just two questions that parents and adults field from students as they start their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is the application required to determine eligibility for most financial aid programs that help cover college costs, ranging from student loans to Cal Grants, the state program in California that awards over $2 billion annually to help students afford college. Students in California must complete their entire FAFSA, running more than 100 questions long, before the Cal Grant deadline (March 2) to claim any state-based assistance for which they are eligible. Unfortunately, data on who does not complete the FAFSA depicts a grim reality: many of the students that stand to most benefit from college leave their money on the table, potentially incurring greater costs themselves or even worse –  not enrolling in college altogether due to the costs they face.

In 2016, The Campaign for College Opportunity set out to quantify the amount of Pell Grant funds left unused by California students, funds that would have otherwise helped low-income students pay for college. The results were staggering. We found that in 2014, more than 144,000 California high school graduates failed to complete a FAFSA, resulting in over $340 million going unclaimed and unused by eligible students. These are not funds that need to be won in the never-ending Congressional budget debates. These dollars are already allocated towards financial aid, but we have yet to make it enough of a priority to make sure they get to their end users – students. Read More

And the Higher Education Grammy Goes to…

Champions SealSecretary of State Alex Padilla called the Campaign for College Opportunity’s Champions of Higher Education award “the equivalent of a Grammy, the equivalent of an Oscar, and maybe even the equivalent of a World Series ring all rolled into one.”

While the Recording Academy hands out Grammys for Best New Artist, Album of the Year and Song of the Year, we awarded Champions of Higher Education awards for Excellence in Transfer, our higher education version of the Grammys, as Secretary Padilla calls it.

Specifically, these “Grammys” are awarded to California Community Colleges and California State Universities (CSU) that have supported students through the Associate Degree for Transfer (ADT), a streamlined transfer pathway that offers guaranteed admission with junior standing at the CSU. The goal of the Associate Degree for Transfer pathway is to increase the number of students transferring to 4-year universities by streamlining the transfer process. Our research shows that 48% of students with an ADT graduate from the California State University within two years with their bachelor’s degree compared to only 27% of traditional transfer students. And, since its inception in 2010, more than 69,000 students have earned an Associate Degree for Transfer.

The California Community Colleges and California State Universities that received the awards produced the largest number of students earning Associate Degrees for Transfer and have demonstrated significant growth in students earning the degree year over year.

Here are the California Community College Grammy categories and winners: Read More

Our Fight Songs: A Playlist for Social Justice Champions

Music was a valuable tool in the Civil Rights Movement, motivating activists during long marches and providing emotional strength in the face of violence. Negro spirituals and soulful chants like “We Shall Overcome” and “Eyes on the Prize” were the soundtrack that encouraged activists to continue their fight for equality and justice.

Our Campaign for College Opportunity team also uses music for inspiration as we push for cultural and institutional changes to make college more accessible to all students. Unlike the civil rights activists we admire, we don’t have original compositions or impressive vocal skills, but we use the power of song to keep us pressing on in our fight for college access for all students.

In this current political climate, where students’ opportunity to attend and excel in college may be threatened by tax legislation, a lack of federal movement to protect and support undocumented students, and ill-informed narratives that attempt to devalue the opportunities a higher education provides, we often turn to music to keep us going through challenging obstacles.

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California Should Do More to Support “Non-Traditional” Low-Income Students

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By Abigail K. Bates, Senior Research Analyst at the Campaign for College Opportunity

Who comes to mind when you picture a college student?

Perhaps you think of a young adult living in a dorm on campus, taking a full load of classes, and splitting their time between studies and the activities of college social life.

While this typical image is true for many college students, it leaves out a large population of adult students who might commute to campus, live at home with their children, and juggle multiple jobs, classes, and family life. They might also attend more than one college to get the classes that fit into their demanding schedules. These students, deemed “non-traditional,” are often adults returning to school after being out of the classroom for several years.

Many students like these struggle financially, as they must sometimes make the difficult decision of deciding between paying bills to support a family and paying school fees.

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We Could Not Have Done It Without You

Thank you Index Cards

By Stacey Holderbach, Development & Administrative Manager at the Campaign for College Opportunity

In this season of thanks, we would like to share our deep gratitude to the foundations, corporations, organizations, and individuals who make our work possible. Their commitment and investment in the Campaign for College Opportunity allows us to ensure that the promise of a college education is available to this generation and future generations of California students.

Our supporters have many worthy causes to which they can invest, but year after year, they affirm their commitment to college access, completion, affordability and racial equity by investing in us.

Thanks to our funders’ investments, this year we were able to:

  • Share compelling student stories through our reports and presentations
  • Issue our first-ever California Higher Education Report Card, which measures California’s progress toward producing enough college graduates to meet our state’s economic needs by 2025
  • Publish The Transfer Maze: The High Cost to Students and the State, which highlights the critical role transfer plays in producing college graduates and providing economic opportunity, as well as the barriers students who wish to transfer still face in completing their education goals
  • Establish a coalition of leaders from higher education, philanthropy, and community organizations, and state and local policymakers to develop a proactive effort to protect California’s DACA and undocumented students
  • Advocate for funding and policies that accelerate students toward college completion by improving placement, transfer, and affordability.
  • Honor the exemplary leadership of the people and institutions crucial to ensuring student success, and highlighting these institutions as examples for best practices to inspire other colleges and universities

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