Hawai‘i P-20 supports efforts to increase FAFSA completion and continues to be a priority for HIDOE.
This past Spring, Hawai‘i P-20 coordinated a statewide Cash for College Challenge through the generous support from the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, American Savings Bank and Bank of Hawai‘i. The focus of the challenge was to mobilize schools to encourage their students to complete the FAFSA.
The Cash for College FAFSA challenge was significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The abrupt closing of Hawai‘i’s high schools in March impeded the schools’ abilities to support their seniors in FAFSA completion during the final weeks of the contest which ended on March 27. Despite these challenges, however, there were still some positive results:
- More than 5,000 HIDOE Class of 2020 seniors completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which resulted in a 53% completion rate. (2019: 54.3%).
- 18 high schools received cash prizes for their senior class for increasing their FAFSA completion rates and/or having the highest number of seniors completing their applications.
- 21 high schools had higher completion rates than the statewide average. On average, 8 percentage points higher than statewide average (61% vs. 53%).
- 12 high schools increased their rates over the previous year by an average of 4 percentage points.
Understanding these are unprecedented times and many students may be rethinking their college decisions and whether to go at all, Hawai‘i P-20 launched a statewide effort to continue encouraging students to complete the FAFSA even after the Cash for College Challenge ended.
A FAFSA email hotline was created – FAFSA@Hawaii.edu – to help make the financial aid process easier and more accessible for all students by providing personal assistance & virtual support to answer questions. This email address was promoted throughout the state via radio spots, live TV morning show interviews and a television PSA
Hawai‘i P-20 also co-hosted with the Chamber of Commerce Hawai‘i a webinar for families that provided guidance and insight on how college can be affordable even during this COVID-19 crisis. This session provided answers to questions regarding college admissions and affordability, as well as what steps families could take to see if they qualify for financial aid, including completing the FAFSA.
Hawai‘i P-20 also supported students over the summer in FAFSA completion through its Next Steps to Your Future initiative by providing dedicated and experienced counselors to Class of 2020 graduates through free personalized guidance to help them step forward and achieve their post-high school goals.