Two years ago Platt High School in Meriden applied for a new program initiated by the Connecticut State Department of Education called the Connecticut FAFSA Challenge. This micro grant provided the school with funds to increase student FAFSA completion rates. At the time the question from Platt staff was, what is the best way to really tackle the work and utilize the funds efficiently? After a session of brainstorming, the Platt/RISE team identified a way to get more educators involved with supporting students and families with FAFSA completion; the new strategy was the FAFSA Task Force. That same year Platt High School increased their FAFSA completion rates from 43% to 68%.
The FAFSA Task Force strategy takes a personalized approach to supporting students and families with this important postsecondary milestone. Educators from within the school community apply to be FAFSA Coaches, who are assigned small caseloads of seniors to provide direct student support with completing the FAFSA. This potential approach yielded positive results the first year: Platt increased their FAFSA rate by 25%.
Fast forward to the 2021-22 school year, Brien McMahon High School also joined the Connecticut FAFSA Task Force. With support from their RISE Postsecondary Coach, Brien McMahon educators adopted the FAFSA Task Force strategy and expanded it to increase their FAFSA completion rates by 12.5%, more than doubling their 5% goal. The strategy has proven so successful that for the 2022-23 school year all network partners had the opportunity through their innovation grant to receive additional funds to implement the FAFSA Task Force strategy in their own schools. We are excited that all nine schools will be implementing this strategy led by our RISE Postsecondary Coach, Abby Marcantonio.
Recently the Postsecondary Success Team held an October Role-Alike session that focused on financial aid and the development and implementation of their FAFSA Task Force. Teams will be supported by coaches to focus on postsecondary plan identification, build caseloads of students, hold biweekly Task Force meetings (to review data) and discuss best practice strategies for the most successful outcomes for students. In addition, RISE will hold quarterly sessions with FAFSA Task Force Coordinators and teams to support successes and challenges.