REQUEST TO HIGH SCHOOL EDUCATORS: Encouraging High School Seniors to Apply for Financial Aid

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Oregon Department of Education - Oregon achieves - together

REQUEST TO HIGH SCHOOL EDUCATORS: Please join us in encouraging all high school seniors considering postsecondary education or career training to apply for financial aid today.

The message below is being sent to educators across the state. We ask that you please work with your high school staff to support this important effort.

This is a Joint Message from the State of Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission and Oregon Department of Education

Do You Work With High School Seniors?

FAFSA logo

The Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) and Oregon Department of Education (ODE) request your partnership in encouraging high school seniors to fill out key financial aid forms that are used for most public and much private aid: Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or Oregon Student Aid Application (ORSAA).

There is still time for seniors to apply and take advantage of financial assistance that can make their postsecondary dreams possible and affordable. Completion of the FAFSA or ORSAA is free and keeps options open for accessing and using aid at any point in the upcoming academic year.

This time has brought many challenges and uncertainties for students and families,  potentially delaying key steps in their postsecondary education or career training plans. Oregon’s data shows a 15 percent decrease in FAFSA forms filed by high school seniors compared to February of last year. The data also demonstrates a need to focus strategic efforts on increasing FAFSA or ORSAA completion for students experiencing poverty, students of color, and students residing in rural areas. Oregon's decrease in the completion of the FAFSA and ORSAA combined is 13 percent for high school seniors, and two percent overall when compared to last year.*  This decline means that many high school seniors, continuing college students, and adults seeking to continue their education or workforce training could miss out on financial assistance that can make education more affordable. 

The information provided on the FAFSA or ORSAA will determine students' eligibility for public grant aid and numerous scholarships. The ORSAA is Oregon’s alternative to the FAFSA for students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and/or undocumented status. While these applications can be submitted throughout the academic year, it is important to file the FAFSA or ORSAA as soon as possible. Numerous Oregon programs that use the information from these forms for determining financial aid eligibility have spring deadlines, including private scholarships and some institutional aid. The deadline for more than 600 scholarships administered by the HECC Office of Student Access and Completion is March 1. In addition, some grants have limited funding and may run out of funds, so filing late could mean missing out on some forms of aid. Note that filling out the FAFSA or ORSAA does not obligate a student to do anything further, and there is no payment or penalty for not using it after it is filled out.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data shows that students who complete the FAFSA are 84% more likely to enroll in postsecondary education and are more likely to make decisions about where they enroll for higher education with the support of educators, school counselors, college access advisors, or administrators.

Helpful Tips and Resources

Seniors and their families are excited to discuss their future plans and want information to make informed decisions about their next steps. In order to help you with this important work, we have provided some tips and resources to support college and career planning:

Spotlighting Promising Practices

In January 2021, Oregon’s FAFSA/ORSAA Challenge spotlighted 4 high schools that achieved outstanding completion rates: Neah-kah-nie High School, Parkrose High School, Silverton High School and Wilson High School. Here are the strategies they say contribute to their success in helping seniors complete the FAFSA/ORSAA.

Neah-kah-nie High School:

"We require the FAFSA [or ORSAA] to be done by our seniors and it is an assignment within our advisory program. We provide multiple supports through sharing of "how to" videos and resources, letters sent home to parents and the counselor also provides one-on-one assistance to families that request it.  We schedule virtual meetings with our college partners who assist with questions and work with students as well."

Parkrose High School:

"One of the reasons Parkrose has been able to be successful reaching students for our FAFSA/ORSAA Challenge during this trying time is because our community is a small [tight-knit], relational school community, and we have three staff members who are part of our College & Career team in addition to our counseling staff. Seniors in our AVID and Elevate program also work on FAFSA/ORSAA through their class (with assistance from the College & Career Center), and we are employing a variety of creative ways to let them know we are here to support them through the process. Some of those include outreach through our College & Career Center Instagram, cross posting by our Leadership program's Instagram, classroom visits to the Government classes to promote the services we offer, targeted emails to specific seniors, posts in our parent newsletter, and working flexible hours to meet student and family needs on weekends and evenings during this time. We also hired a Spanish Bilingual Family Liaison for our College and Career Center this year, who (in addition to helping with the usual duties of a College & Career Center Coordinator), is focused on outreach specifically of our Spanish-speaking families."

Silverton High School:

"At Silverton High School, we do several outreach strategies to help students and parents complete the FAFSA [or ORSAA]. These strategies include:

  • Financial aid nights, with English and Spanish speaking presenters
  • FAFSA Lab nights, with English and Spanish speaking financial aid officers to assist
  • In-school FAFSA labs for students to get questions answered and work through the application
  • Individual student/parent outreach for students who might need extra assistance in completing the FAFSA [or ORSAA].

Our plan this year was to also host a FAFSA Family night that would have included dinner, daycare, and Spanish speaking financial aid counselors from a local university to assist with the application. Due to COVID, that hasn’t happened, but we believe that this will be something we can offer next year!"  

Wilson High School:

"I believe that our success with FAFSA/ORSAA relies historically on our ability to staff a College & Career Center with two staff members who support an ASPIRE Mentoring Program.  This has allowed us to deliver a consistent message over time that FAFSA/ORSAA is a must and provide support for filing it.

This year, not being in school, we’ve been consistently offering FAFSA/ORSAA drop in webinars with volunteer assistance at the same time each week (Wednesdays after school) and have joined with other schools in our district to host a virtual district wide FAFSA/ORSAA completion event, which will be repeated in January, February and March. Additionally we have a small AVID program at Wilson that promotes and completes the FAFSA in the classroom. Finally, we utilize FAFSA Plus+ to help identify students who have not filed and reach out to them."

If you have any questions, please reach out to:

*Sources: FAFSA data: Form Your Future FAFSA Tracker, National College Attainment Network, based on data from Federal Student Aid: US Department of Education Student Aid. February 12, 2021. FAFSA/ORSAA data: HECC-Office of Student Access and Completion, February 21, 2021.