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Implementing a Financial Aid Campaign
Financial Aid at a Glance
Pell Grants provide need-based grants to low-income undergraduates. These funds do not need to be repaid by the student unless they withdraw from or stop attending classes within an enrollment period. Grant amounts are dependent on the student’s expected family contribution. Filing the FAFSA is the only way to access Pell Grants.
State aid may be available to students who attend a college in their state of residence. Some examples of state aid in Michigan are the Tuition Incentive Program (TIP), the Michigan Competitive Scholarship, and the Michigan Tuition Grant. State aid typically requires the FAFSA and does not need to be repaid.
Institutional aid may be provided by public and private colleges and universities to help their students pay for tuition and fees. Institutional aid does not need to be repaid, and aid amounts can vary based on many factors such as school selectivity, institutional endowments, and individual need of students. Institutional aid typically requires a filed FAFSA.
Federal Work-Study Programs are offered by colleges to help some students pay for college by working part-time. Students may be employed by: the institution itself; a federal, state, or local public agency; a private nonprofit organization; or a private for-profit organization. Students must file the FAFSA as part of the Federal Work-Study application process and are required to show a certain amount of financial need to be eligible.
Federal Perkins Loans are for undergraduate and graduate students with exceptional financial need (however, not all colleges participate in this program. Check with individual schools if students believe they are eligible). These loans will need to be repaid. Funds for Perkins Loans are limited, so not everyone who applies will receive this type of aid – the earlier a student files their FAFSA (which is required to receive a Perkins Loan), the more likely they are to receive this type of aid. Perkins Loans are meant to provide aid when all other sources of financial aid have been exhausted.
Federal Direct Stafford Loans (subsidized and unsubsidized) are available to undergraduate and graduate students attending college at least half-time. These loans will need to be repaid. To apply for a Federal Direct Loan, a student will need to file the FAFSA. All students with a valid FAFSA on file are eligible for unsubsidized student loans (within yearly and overall loan limits), no matter their family income. Subsidized loans require that students show a certain amount of financial need on the FAFSA in order to be eligible.
PLUS Loans are federal loans that parents of dependent undergraduate students can use to help pay their student’s education expenses. These credit-based loans require the FAFSA and an application and will need to be repaid.
Scholarships are awarded based on varying criteria and do not need to be repaid. Filling out the FAFSA does not automatically act as a scholarship application, but many scholarships require an EFC calculated from the FAFSA in the application.
Publicly track progress toward your FAFSA goal somewhere highly visible in the school. Keep track of your increasing percentages or track your students individually.
- Use the name by name FAFSA lookups to track your students’ FAFSA completion. You can also request that students bring in a copy of their confirmation page to prove that they have completed the FAFSA (you will want them to black out any personal information, such as social security number, before you store it in your office).
- Measure your progress creatively! For example, use a prominent bulletin board and put dollar sign stickers next to each student’s name once they complete the FAFSA.
- Use prizes and competition as incentive. Students will encourage each other to complete the FAFSA and provide reminders so that they are more likely to receive the prize.
Create a competition between groups of seniors to complete the highest percentage of FAFSA by a given deadline.
- Provide a prize for the group that has the most completions by the end of October.
- Examples of group prizes are pizza parties, ice cream socials, donuts, etc.
- Determine how to separate out the groups. You can either do a random drawing of names, make groups from a required class, or use homeroom groups. The more evenly balanced the group, the more likely students will feel like they have a chance of winning.
- Once you have your groups, keep track of who has completed the FAFSA. We recommend using well-placed bulletin boards. List the names of each person in the group and have a way to mark who has completed the FAFSA in each group so students can keep track.
- Determine how you want students to let you know they have completed the FAFSA. You can have them turn in the confirmation page (make sure they black out their SSN), and you can check via the name-by-name FAFSA lookups.
- Announce the groupings to all students and explain the rules, how to win, and what the prize will be (make sure this stays in the announcements too so students remember).
- Update the bulletin board continually, either daily or weekly so students can see their progress and know who is in the lead. The more exciting it is for them to have completed the FAFSA, the better.
- Announce the winning group and give the prize at the end of the campaign.
Treats and Giveaways
One college adviser’s strategy is, “If you complete you get a treat!”
- Students who schedule an appointment to meet with her and work on the FAFSA or bring in their confirmation page from a successfully completed FAFSA get a candy bar, Skittles, etc.
- Three seniors’ names will also be drawn from a raffle on October 31 for a gift card.
- To help students prepare, she went into each senior English class to present the campaign idea and hand
- out FAFSA packets and worksheets outlining all the information students would need in order to complete their FAFSA.
Another counselor’s theme is, “FAFSA is sweet!”
- FAFSA season coincides with Halloween so use this theme when promoting your events.
- She uses incentives such as fast food gift cards, gas cards, college apparel, and huge candy bouquets – hence the sweet!
- A local credit union sponsors the events and purchases.
- Many of these giveaways depend on a budget or donations but you can also give away prizes that do not cost you a penny. Here are some examples:
- Get out of detention free card
- Get out of one homework assignment (this might take some coordination with teachers)
- Front of the lunch line pass
- Tickets into a sporting event or dance
- Offer a raffle for prizes for students who complete the FAFSA by a certain date.
- Prizes can include college t-shirts, gift certificates, college supplies and technology like an e- reader or iPad. One or a few large prizes can be very helpful.
- Advertising the raffle is essential. Make sure students know of resources to complete the FAFSA in time and make sure they are excited about the raffle.
- Start to secure prizes. You should start this as early as possible so you can have a confirmed list of prizes before you start the campaign.
- Contact college admissions staff, explain the event, and ask if they would be willing to send college gear.
- Contact local businesses to explain your idea and the importance of the FAFSA to your students. Ask that they donate gift certificates or other prizes to the cause.
- Work with your high school to see if there is funding or donors you could contact about securing a larger prize.
- Determine an end date for the raffle.
- Determine how students will notify you of completing the FAFSA.
- They can turn in the confirmation page or you can use the name by name look up, or both.
- Advertise the raffle.
- Make sure students know the types of prizes they could possibly win.
- Going to classrooms to talk about the raffle, class announcements, flyers or letters sent home are options for advertising.
- Keep track of who has completed the FAFSA by the deadline.
- If possible, do the drawing in public or announce the winners publicly after the end of the campaign.
Set aside time during the school day each Friday (or another day of your choosing) throughout the campaign to help support students as they fill out the FAFSA online.
- Reserve a computer lab and call students down in groups by last name or by English class.
- Bring in volunteers to help support your students as they fill out the FAFSA.
- Financial aid officers at local colleges
- Parents/PTO members
- Nonprofit organizations
- The Student Scholarships and Grants office
- Teachers and other school staff
- Have volunteers complete a quick tutorial so they are prepared to help students with tough questions: http://www.nerdwallet.com/nerdscholar/fafsa/tutorial
- Set at least one computer to the FAFSA FAQs page and make sure volunteers know this is available: https://fafsa.ed.gov/help.htm
- Advertise these events in your announcements, by making posters, posting on social media, and sending letters home to parents.
Financial Aid Presentations
- It’s best to give presentations during the school day. Try coordinating with a teacher to do a presentation during class time. If you cannot find time during the school day, have something right after school.
- Local colleges often are willing to send a financial aid officer to give a presentation to students. If you do not already have a relationship with a local financial aid office, try to contact the local community college or a nearby four year college to see if they are willing to come to your school.
- You can choose to do an overall financial aid presentation, one specific to the FAFSA, or a mixture of the two. If someone external is coming, make sure to mention what you would like included – they will likely have something already prepared for such presentations.
- You can also choose to have multiple presentations, focusing on different portions.
- Make sure to advertise this well ahead of time,
- Provide fliers with other papers being sent home.
- Post information on your website and in your college related material.
- Give out flyers at home sports games.
- Put event info in school announcements and have automated calls sent home.
- It is important that the message reaches the parents as much as possible because they will in most cases need to be involved in the process.
Parent Information/FAFSA Nights
To remove barriers students sometimes face (work, after-school clubs and sports, babysitting, transportation issues), the majority of your FAFSA campaign should take place during the school day. However, parent information is essential to completing the FAFSA, so you might want to engage parents directly as well. Do this in the evening to try and avoid work conflicts.
- Invite local financial aid officers to come in and provide assistance on an evening or weekend.
- Providing as much incentive and convenience as possible for parents is essential for this activity.
- Consider raffling gas cards or providing food, like pizza, to parents who attend.
- If at all possible, provide activities for smaller children or day care so the parents can bring their younger children and still be able to focus on the FAFSA.
- Meet the Parents where they are – Consider opening computer labs or doing presentations during home basketball games or other sports outings
Steps for hosting a FAFSA night:
- Contact financial aid experts from your local community college or university to determine their availability to come to assist with one or multiple FAFSA nights.
- After you determine their availability, set a date and get a computer lab for the event.
- Find other volunteers to assist with sign in, food, and general FAFSA help.
- Advertise the event to students and their parents a least a few weeks before the event, with an extra push a few days before the event.
- Letters home, mass calls home, posters in the hallways, handouts at sporting events, and in person announcements are good options.
- Don’t call it “FAFSA Night” – Many schools report considerably higher attendance when they call it “Paying for College” rather than “FAFSA Night”
- Order food for the event if you’re providing it.
- Prepare volunteers if they will be assisting with the FAFSA by having a quick volunteer orientation/meeting or sending out the information ahead of time.
- Provide handouts a week or so ahead of time to parents and students interested in attending outlining what information they should bring with them. Make sure to update them about PPY.
- Do a final push of announcements to encourage families to show up.