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FAFSA/TASFA Completion: Strategies for Success

By: TXCAN   |   January 2022

Learn how Dallas County Promise and RGV Focus support their communities with FAFSA/TASFA completion to achieve numbers far exceeding state and national averages.

As we launch into the Spring semester, many practitioners are looking for ways to continue or improve upon FAFSA/TASFA completion for the students they serve. It is at times like these where inspiration can be found by looking at innovative approaches being undertaken by groups across the state. Two such examples can be found by examining the work of the Dallas County Promise Network and RGV FOCUS.
These two organizations are dedicated to expanding higher education access to the regions and communities they serve, and a main pillar of this commitment revolves around financial aid and specifically FAFSA/TASFA completion. Although they serve populations in vastly different settings and geographic locations, their most successful strategies share many similarities and can be broken down into four categories: Know Your Data, Support Staff, Community Engagement, and Student Involvement.

1. Know Your Data 

​​Understanding your data is key to being able to know who your students are, which still need assistance, and how to best provide them with assistance. At the beginning of the Spring semester, practitioners can begin by checking on which students have completed or requested an opt-out form and which have already completed the FAFSA/TASFA. This will narrow down the number of students they will need to focus on the rest of the semester.

RGV FOCUS took this a step further and looked to identify students who were military-bound, returning seniors, 19 years or older, undocumented, and SPED to have an even deeper understanding of their student population. These subcategories allowed practitioners to develop game plans for how to best serve these students.

2. Support Staff

You are not alone in your struggle to get students to finish/submit their financial aid applications and it is ok to ask for help or guidance for you and your staff. Organizations such as Dallas Promise and RGV FOCUS are partners you can call upon for guidance and support. Additionally, online resources and toolkits provided by Future Focused TX or Texas OnCourse can also help practitioners deepen their knowledge about the FAFSA and TASFA.
Dallas County Promise has made staff support and preparation a priority and provided practitioners in their network with Financial Aid Training throughout the year ranging in topics from FAFSA Completion, the CSS Profile, and Verification. These training opportunities have expanded capacity and allowed staff to feel better equipped to assist students with their financial aid applications.

3. Community Engagement

Dallas Promise and RGV FOCUS found partners in their local higher education institutions who were willing to connect with high school students and staff to offer their assistance. Similar connections were made by engaging parents, hosting focus groups, and using incentivizing language to host FAFSA workshops called “Super Saturdays” or “Money Mondays”.
However, do not forget that your community extends beyond higher education partners to other organizations in your community. RGV FOCUS has done a phenomenal job fostering partnerships with organizations such as LUPE to provide additional capacity and resources to students and their families. Their partnership and collaboration led to the creation of the Family Guide for DREAMers, which now helps further understanding of the financial aid process for DREAMers in the Rio Grande Valley.

4. Student Involvement

One often-overlooked resource is our student leaders. Peer-to-peer communication can be a powerful tool in spreading valuable information and encouraging other students to get motivated. Dallas County Promise was able to utilize student voice and leadership by having influential students hold town hall sessions and support innovative engagement strategies to approach financial aid applications with students in their network.

In conclusion, the next time you find yourself struggling to move the needle on FAFSA/TASFA completion this semester or just need some inspiration, take some time to review these and other inspiring initiatives and see what you can apply in your network.
The Texas College Access Network (TxCAN) connects and supports college access initiatives across Texas, with the goal of increasing access to college and certificate programs.