Secretary Duncan Promotes FAFSA Completion Pilot in Denver

This pilot program, along with the amazing support of the Denver Scholarship Foundation’s Future Centers, will give our students the tools and help necessary to complete the FAFSA. It will give more and more of our students the edge they need to secure financial aid to support their college goals.

— Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg.

Duncan Promotes FAFSA Completion PilotInitiatives to simplify the free application for federal student aid (FAFSA) and the Department’s new pilot program to ensure more students and families successfully complete it were on the agenda as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined Colorado Lieutenant Governor Joe Garcia, Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg, students, parents, teachers and business and community leaders at Denver’s Manual High School for a town-hall style forum.  The community forum focused on federal, state and local efforts to help Denver public school students access and receive the financial aid necessary to reach and complete their college and career goals.

Following a tour of Manual’s renowned Future Center college counseling suite and a dialogue with students completing the online FAFSA, forum participants launched into a discussion on strategies to increase college enrollment rates and ways to maximize the number of students who apply for and subsequently obtain federal financial aid.

Research indicates that 90% of students who complete the FAFSA will enroll in postsecondary education.  Yet many students who would qualify for aid fail to successfully complete the FAFSA.  Armed with this data, last year ED launched a pilot program to provide Denver and 19 other districts across the country with information on which of their students have successfully completed the FAFSA and those that have not.  When fully implemented, the program will provide real-time updates of FAFSA completion data and enable high school counselors to follow-up with students–repeatedly, if necessary–to ensure they receive the support they need to complete the FAFSA.  In Denver, this could pay huge dividends and move the needle dramatically on the 41% of the class of 2010 that successfully completed the FAFSA, and more significantly, the 53% of graduates that enrolled in college this past fall.

The student-centric dialogue featured questions regarding the array of federal student aid programs, initiatives to improve low-performing schools and institute a college-going culture in our nation’s high schools, and the future of college access legislation for immigrant families like the DREAM Act.  Sir Martin, a first generation college-going senior, asked Secretary Duncan about the best ways to motivate students and convince them of the importance of education.  The Secretary turned the question back on Sir and asked, “What motivates you?”  In an eloquent and emotional response, Sir described a past filled with challenges, and a choice during his high school years to follow a path of uncertainty, or one of promise.  Sir chose to pursue an education and devoted himself to reaching his college and life dreams.

The opportunity to pursue a world-class education and succeed should be based on merit, not money.  To help young deserving scholars like Sir earn their college degree, the President’s 2012 budget proposal builds on what has been the largest expansion in college student aid since the GI bill and commits over $181 billion in direct student aid and tax relief.  These investments are vital to achieving the President’s goal that, by 2020, the United States will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

Todd May
Office of Communications and Outreach