FAFSA Hawaiʻi Hotline extends hours for local families

March 26, 2024
Big Island Now

To further provide direct support to local families with the many challenges surrounding the current Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form and submission process, Hawaiʻi P-20 Partnerships for Education (Hawaiʻi P-20) and GEAR UP Hawaiʻi are extending the duration of the FAFSA Hawaiʻi Hotline and is now operating with new hours.

The FAFSA Hawaiʻi Hotline is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through May 31. By dialing 808-842-2540 callers will be able to speak directly with counselors and financial aid specialists to assist with any FAFSA questions they may have.

“We understand there are many uncertainties surrounding the FAFSA, so it is wonderful that local families are utilizing this free resource to have their questions answered and to complete their form,” said Frank Green, financial aid and FAFSA outreach specialist for Hawaiʻi P-20. “We encourage all students seeking financial aid to complete the FAFSA every year, even if they do not think they will receive any funds, simply because there are many scholarships that require the FAFSA to be submitted for eligibility. We want to make sure that anyone planning to further their education is awarded as much funding as possible, and completing the FAFSA is the way to make that happen.”

Hawaiʻi P-20 will continue its Virtual FAFSA Completion Workshops on Wednesday evenings through April to allow families to ask financial aid questions and get individual assistance with creating their FSA ID, or work directly with an expert online to submit their FAFSA. During these sessions, attendees are placed with a representative to receive individualized feedback.

Online FAFSA Submission Summary (FSS) Review Workshops are also scheduled for the evenings of Thursday, March 28, and Thursday, April 4. The FSS Review Workshops will offer families details on what they can expect in the months following their FAFSA submission, including how to review their FSS and Student Aid Report.

For a complete listing of upcoming FAFSA and college planning webinars or to register, visit CollegeIsWithinReachHawaii.com.

Report: Class of 2023 high school graduates persist amid pandemic obstacles

March 19, 2024
Kaua’i Now

Findings from the newly released College and Career Readiness Indicator report sheds light on the accomplishments and unprecedented challenges faced by high school graduates who were in high school during pandemic shut down.

Produced annually by Hawaiʻi P–20 Partnerships for Education, in collaboration with the Hawai‘i State Department of Education and the University of Hawaiʻi, the Class of 2023 report details the achievements of 11,538 students across 65 public schools including public charters.

Despite facing the hurdles of distance learning for approximately half of their high school years, 33% of students from the Class of 2023 graduated with honors and 86% of the cohort graduated on time.

Additionally, participation in the dual credit program reached all-time highs, with 24% of graduates taking at least one dual credit University of Hawai‘i college class, and 16% earning six or more college credits by graduation. Seventeen percent of graduates earned advanced placement scores of three or better, the highest level since the start of the pandemic.

In 2017, the first year the Seal of Biliteracy was offered, only 37 graduates earned the Seal. The Class of 2023 had 557 graduates earning this honor, representing a 15-fold increase. Completion of Career and Technical Education programs remained steady with 64% of Hawai‘i State Department of Education graduates taking at least two courses in a Career Pathway. The top three Class of 2023 Career Pathways were Hospitality, Tourism and Recreation (23%); Cultural Arts, Media and Entertainment (21%); and Health Services (19%).

The college going rate for the Class of 2023 remains flat from the prior year with only 51% of the graduates attending college the first fall after high school graduation. Of particular concern is the post-pandemic drop in college access among economically disadvantaged graduates: Only 40% of these Class of 2023 graduates went to college immediately after high school, down from 44% for the Class of 2019.

“While the college going rate to four-year schools is slowly recovering from the pandemic, we are concerned that fewer graduates are going to community college, especially at UH’s seven campuses. UH Community Colleges are affordable on-ramps to four-year universities, and offer two-year and certificate programs that enable graduates to find great jobs right here at home,” said Stephen Schatz, the executive director of Hawaiʻi P–20 Partnerships for Education. “While it’s popular in 2024 to say that college isn’t worth it, that’s just not true. Most jobs in Hawaiʻi that pay a life-sustaining wage require more education or training than a high school diploma.”

In a study that evaluated the workforce earnings of University of Hawai‘i students who earned two- and four-year degrees, the University of Hawaiʻi Economic Research Organization found that nine years after completing a college degree, students who received Pell grants (i.e., proxy for socio-economic status) earned wages similar to their non-economically disadvantaged peers, mitigating the effects of intergenerational poverty.

Throughout their lifetimes, a college degree holder earns a 27% higher income, or $2.8 million more in wages for a bachelor’s degree and $2.7 million more, or a 22% higher income, for an Associate of Science and Associate of Applied Science degree, when compared to students who stopped out and did not earn a degree.
“The data is clear that there is significant value to earning a college degree,” said David Lassner, University of Hawai‘i president. “College graduates, even those who have been economically disadvantaged, enjoy increased earnings over their lifetimes and many other benefits. Higher education is the most effective pathway to break generational poverty and create opportunities for thriving families and communities.”

Academic readiness is a key predictor of college access and success, and academic readiness as measured by the ACT will continue to be monitored. The percentage of students who completed the ACT increased to 74%, a 13% increase from last year. The ACT metrics illustrate that overall test-taking is on the rise but has not yet reached pre-COVID pandemic levels.

“This year’s CCRI [College and Career Readiness Indicator report] for the graduating class of 2023 showcases the progress that our students have made across the state in the past year, and impresses upon us the urgency of the academic recovery from the pandemic,” said Tammi Chun, deputy superintendent of Hawaiʻi State Department of Education. “While we are seeing academic achievement nearing return to pre-pandemic levels, as measured by test scores, our post-high outcomes continue to be impacted.

“College — whether pursuing a career and technical field at community college or a bachelor’s degree at a university — is one pathway for graduates to pursue their career and community aspirations. We want all graduates to have the skills and knowledge for post-high success,” Chun continued. “Although the Class of 2023 were faced with challenges of the pandemic, the data demonstrates various positive outcomes such as more graduates earning college credit, earning the Seal of Biliteracy and earning CTE [Career and Technical Education] honors.”

Join a virtual webinar to more thoroughly review the Class of 2023 College and Career Readiness Indicator results on March 27 at 9 a.m. to find opportunities to strengthen the high school to postsecondary pipeline.

Register for the webinar at: hawaiip20.link/Class-of-2023-CCRI-Webinar

Hawai‘i’s College and Career Readiness Indicator reports are continuously recognized by national organizations, including the Data Quality Campaign, Achieve and the National Governors Association, as a leading example of collaboration between K-12 and higher education and for providing useful information on college readiness.

To view additional metrics online:

Full College and Career Readiness Indicator Reports

College and Career Readiness Indicator web metrics

College Completion by graduated class

College Progress by graduated class

First Fall Enrollments by graduated classes

Student aid hotline to open March 18-22 for federal college financial assistance

March 11, 2024

Local assistance will be available during the public schools spring break for families seeking help with applications for federal financial aid for students entering or attending college.

Hawaiʻi P–20 and GEAR UP Hawaiʻi announced that a hotline will be available March 18-22, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., to answer questions about the 2024-2025 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application. The hotline phone number will be 808-842-2540.

Callers to the FAFSA Hawaiʻi Hotline will be able to speak directly with counselors and financial aid specialists to assist with any questions they may have regarding the FAFSA process.

Additionally, virtual FAFSA Submission Summary Review Workshops have been scheduled for the evenings of March 28 and April 4. The workshops will offer families details on what they can expect in the months following their FAFSA submission, including how to review their FSS and Student Aid Report. Registration for these free webinars is available at CollegeIsWithinReachHawaii.com.

“With so many uncertainties surrounding the current FAFSA, we want people to know that we are here to help with the process,” said Gus Cobb-Adams, Hawaiʻi P–20 College Application and Transition specialist. “Completing the FAFSA is necessary whether you plan to attend a two-year or a four-year college, and it must be completed each year.”

It is anticipated that the FSS will be available by Federal Student Aid and sent directly to students this month. Scholarship providers understand there is a delay in processing the FAFSA form and awarding financial aid funding. Families should confirm with scholarship providers regarding any deadlines for applications in addition to verifying any college tuition deadlines.

Hawaiʻi P–20 will continue its Virtual FAFSA Completion Workshops on Wednesday evenings through April to allow families to ask financial aid questions, get individual assistance with creating their FSA ID, or work directly with an expert to submit their FAFSA. During these sessions, attendees are placed with a representative to receive individualized feedback. Families may also email FAFSA@Hawaii.edu to directly contact University of Hawaiʻi System financial aid officers and FAFSA experts year round.

Additional efforts to reach families statewide include Hawaiʻi P–20’s recent collaboration with the Native Hawaiian Education Association for the Native Hawaiian Scholarship ʻAha Series. Nearly 1,000 local families gathered to attend these in-person events across six Neighbor Islands. The Scholarship ʻAha Series aims to provide students an opportunity to discover scholarships that are available to Native Hawaiians in one place. During each event, multiple $500 scholarships were awarded by event co-sponsors and matched by the UH System, in addition to FAFSA and financial aid representatives available on site to ask questions or complete their FSA ID.

“For many in our Native Hawaiian communities, participating in Scholarship ʻAha opens doors to opportunities that may seem out of reach,” said Loea Akiona, NHEA president. “Scholarship ʻAha brings financial aid information and resources directly to our communities, increasing awareness, confidence, and application success. This is important work as we believe that an educated lāhui is a healthier, stronger lāhui.”

The Native Hawaiian Scholarship ʻAha Series was a joint effort made possible by ALU LIKE Inc., Hawaiʻi Community Foundation, Kamehameha Schools, KūPono Educational Foundation, Native Hawaiian Health Scholarship Program, Pauahi Foundation and UH Foundation.

For information about upcoming events for high school juniors and seniors, or to register for free upcoming FAFSA workshops or Junior JumpStart Financial Aid Planning webinars starting in April, visit CollegeIsWithinReachHawaii.com.