2021 Grants Challenge

100% Financial Aid for PUSD

90% of students who complete financial aid applications enroll in a postsecondary institution upon high school graduation versus 50% of their non-completing peers. Our community collaborative aims to creatively achieve 100% FAFSA/California Dream Act application completion for all eligible Pasadena Unified 12th graders to increase college matriculation among underrepresented groups in our diverse community.


In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

San Gabriel Valley

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

A 2017 NCAN-commissioned study found that students in “higher-poverty school districts are less likely to complete the FAFSA than students in wealthier districts” and that billions in funding for eligible students is left on the table annually. These data ring true in Pasadena, where 74% of high school students are “socioeconomically disadvantaged” according to the CDE, and 86% come from racial/ethnic groups that are underrepresented in our nation’s colleges; however, only 44% of students completed one of these forms in 2019-2020. This collaborative effort will draw from proven best practices and local community initiatives to increase financial aid access and, therefore, increase college matriculation and graduation rates. In this historically Black and Latinx community, the effort to reach 100% FAFSA/Dream Act completion aims to maintain our rich, local diversity while ensuring the people who live, work, and learn here can thrive.

Describe the project, program, or initiative that this grant will support to address the problem identified.

This community-wide effort to achieve 100% FAFSA/CADAA completion will: -Create an engaged and energized committee of site, district, and community leaders that meets regularly and involves partners from a variety of sectors -Rely on student-level data to identify 12th graders who may need additional support completing forms and to track those who have started, submitted, and completed -Use these data to identify students who are A-G eligible and must submit by the state’s March 2nd Cal Grant deadline for four-year colleges -Build capacity of staff across the district and in community partnerships to share the skills and knowledge to implement and continue financial aid application completion assistance -Provide in-person and Zoom presentations across schools and the community in Spanish and English -Coordinate across the district to inspire healthy competition between schools through prizes and kudos focused on those with the greatest percent of students meeting key benchmarks -Use positive messaging to build excitement around financial aid goal, including a completion thermometer at the district and school sites, community-focused marketing and celebrations, etc. -Through workshops, town halls, and marketing, leverage resources provided by a grant from the federal Office of Minority Health to Day One and Young & Healthy in order to provide free tax preparation support and key information about available tax credits and financial aid forms to low-income community members

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Pilot or new project, program, or initiative

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 1,300

Indirect Impact: 5,000

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

The community served by PUSD covers Pasadena, Altadena, and Sierra Madre -- a geographical area that is wildly economically, ethnically, and culturally diverse and home to one of the largest historically Black populations in the county. Our area serves as a manageably-sized microcosm of Los Angeles County itself. Financial aid completion is a key indicator of college enrollment and success, and, in the current year and pandemic crisis, our FAFSA/CADAA completion rates lag behind those of LAUSD and the county, at 59% and 52% respectively to our 40%, according to the California Student Aid Commission. If successful, our community-wide and multi-sector effort can serve as a blueprint for others in our county. If our financial aid form completion rates can increase dramatically next year, closing the gap from 40% to nearly 100%, the practices we test can be adapted and adopted by partnering districts and improved upon by our own community efforts in the coming years.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

While PUSD and related partners each have their own internal FAFSA/CADAA goals, the key members of this collaborative (CAP, PUSD, and PEF) have never shared a plan for financial aid attainment for all students. Measurement of this goal is straightforward as financial aid form completion data are updated regularly by the California Student Aid Commission (CSAC). We will measure success via two key outcome measures: 1- % of A-G eligible students who complete one of these forms by the March 2nd deadline 2- Percent of A-G non-eligible students who complete one of these forms by the end of the school year Secondary measures include: 1- Number of students who are identified and receive additional support through student-level data 2- Success of marketing and social media campaigns based on traffic, shares, likes, etc. 3- Qualitative impact of collaboration as measured by surveys of steering committee members, counselors, teachers, and stakeholders

Describe the role of collaborating organizations on this project.

CAP will liaison between key collaborators and CBO partnerships that support tax form completion and spread the word to our community’s most vulnerable families. CAP will serve as content experts alongside PUSD counselors and provide the bulk of dedicated staffing and curriculum development. PUSD is where the action happens. They will lead the effort on the ground, provide key data, and drive the district-wide vision for financial aid form completion. PEF will support key school site partners to spread the word about FAFSA/CADAA completion to students and families. They will ensure messaging is included in all communication about graduation, require FAFSA/CADAA completion for scholarship awards, and solicit new donors to increase the size and number of scholarships.

Which of the LEARN metrics will you impact?​

Enrollment in afterschool programs

College graduates

College matriculation

Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.

LA is the best place to CREATE

LA is the best place to CONNECT

LA is the healthiest place to LIVE