Panel Paper: How Late Is Too Late? Summer Outreach, Fafsa Completion, and College Enrollment for High-School Graduates

Saturday, November 10, 2012 : 8:50 AM
Carroll (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Eric Bettinger, Stanford University, Bridget Terry Long, Harvard University, Philip Oreopoulos, University of Toronto and Laura Owen, Johns Hopkins University

Despite increases in postsecondary enrollments at American universities and colleges, there are still significant gaps in who matriculates to college and persists through graduation. Low-income, African American, Hispanic and Native American populations continue to be underrepresented in institutions of higher education. For many of these students the issue of financial aid creates the difference between going to college and not. Concerns about the low visibility of aid programs and the complexity of the aid process have spurred calls to provide more assistance in filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form and to enhance the visibility of programs by educating students and their families about the availability of financial aid. Research indicates many families lack access to information about college prices and financial aid and additional research is required to comprehend how awareness, understanding and predictions of college prices and financial aid influence the formation of college aspirations, plans, and eventual enrollment. Little is known on how to implement school wide awareness and outreach efforts in a practical manner and whether such efforts truly improve outcomes of college enrollment and financial aid receipt. Questions have also been raised regarding which students should be targeted to receive additional support over the summer.  This quantitative study utilized the US Department of Education's Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Completion Database and the National Clearinghouse Database to quantify the impact of district-wide, school counselor driven summer outreach campaigns aimed to increase college enrollment and FAFSA completion for students who graduated from high school uncommitted to attend college.  We will report on the work of one large urban school district in 2011 and 3 large urban school districts during the 2012 summer break.  Approximately 8000 graduates were randomly selected to receive additional school counselor summer outreach (phone calls, assistance with FAFSA and college enrollment forms, transition to college seminars, etc.) to support their transition from high school to college. We will report the FAFSA completion and college enrollment results for 2011 and 2012 with average effects of the program overall as well as the effects for important subgroups (e.g. minority students, free/reduced lunch participants, and low-achieving students).