The Effect of The Scholarship Academy's College Bound Initiative FAFSA Events on FAFSA Completion
Author ORCID Identifier
Monica Mogollon Plazas: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4135-7810
Thomas Goldring: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1289-1819
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The complexity, uncertainty, and timing of financial aid is a barrier not only to college access, but also to the effectiveness of financial aid. For over 15 years, The Scholarship Academy (TSA) has worked with families and high school students to address potential barriers in obtaining financial aid to matriculate at college. One of TSA’s initiatives, in partnership with the United Way of Greater Atlanta and Learn4Life, is the College Bound initiative. College Bound offers curated financial aid and college information to students, families, and school counselors. The program centers on FAFSA completion and college cost events for students. The events are followed by personalized counseling and coaching by TSA’s financial aid specialists.
In this report, we evaluate the impact of TSA’s FAFSA initiative events in four metro Atlanta high schools during the 2021–22 school year. We focus on whether the events caused FAFSA completion rates to rise for participating high schools. Previous evidence on financial aid support suggests that informational interventions alone have limited impacts, while interventions that provide application support show more promising results.
Based on descriptive results and the use of a more rigorous synthetic control method, we find that TSA’s FAFSA events had a positive effect on the cumulative average FAFSA completion rate of about 4.5 percentage points, although we cannot statistically rule out no effect. The impact of TSA’s FAFSA events varied substantially across the four participant schools: an event at Tri-Cities High Schools had a large positive impact on the cumulative FAFSA completion rate, and we find suggestive evidence of a smaller effect at Banneker High School, although we cannot statistically rule out that the impact was zero. Data limitations preclude us from reaching a definitive conclusion about the impacts at Lakeside and Creekside High Schools.
Our results emphasize the importance of conducting follow-up activities after FAFSA events to maintain momentum, which is part of TSA’s current approach. The pattern of our findings for Tri-Cities and Banneker High Schools using weekly data supports the idea that sustained support and counseling is necessary to build on the success of the event(s) and maintain a higher cumulative FAFSA completion rate to the end of the FAFSA cycle.
Plazas, Monica Mogollon; Mawi, Za Eng; and Goldring, Thomas, "The Effect of The Scholarship Academy's College Bound Initiative FAFSA Events on FAFSA Completion" (2023). Georgia Policy Labs Reports. 44.