FAFSA Fueled Education Opportunities
Postsecondary education is a key pillar of professional and financial achievement. ImpactTulsa’s postsecondary education FAFSA program aims to encourage and support students to graduate from high school and access postsecondary education programs, all the while making use of the various financial tools and funding programs available in Tulsa County.
Why It Matters
Academic preparedness represents the minimum requirement for students to participate in an increasingly complex labor market, particularly for those aspiring to earn a middle-class income. Additionally, unemployment rates are higher for students who have not pursued postsecondary education, and even more so for those who have not graduated high school.
The technological boom we are witnessing raises questions of redundancy and adaptability: while numerous jobs will be made obsolete by the rise of machine learning, AI, and robotics, there is an increasing demand for tech-savvy professionals within both the regional and global workforce. For this reason, fostering and supporting postsecondary ambitions, particularly among economically disadvantaged students and students of color, will serve to develop a competitive workforce and to improve economic opportunity for historically underserved demographics.
Most students require some form of financial aid to attend college. Completing the Free Application for Financial Student Aid is the first step towards accessing a multitude of grants, scholarships, and loans that can subsidize postsecondary education and implicitly bolster career readiness. Unfortunately, these resources are not properly utilized, with millions in federal grant funds being overlooked by the general population because of the perceived difficulty in accessing them.
What the Data Says
The Tulsa region’s economic competitiveness depends on its ability to develop and retain a highly skilled and knowledgeable labor pool. While high-school completion and college enrollment rates are on a slight upward trend, we’ve just begun bridging opportunity gaps and fixing deep systemic disparities.
Earning an on-time high school diploma is only one indicator of a student’s readiness for college and career, however. Another is how well students do on common postsecondary entry exams. During their junior year, Oklahoma students take the ACT or SAT to assess their academic readiness. In the Tulsa area, 5,147 students took the ACT and 1,308 students took the SAT.
Of the students who took the ACT, only 19% met all four benchmarks. Fifty-four percent met the English benchmark, 43% reading, 29% science, and 32% math. On the SAT, 21% of participating students met all benchmarks. 45% percent met reading and writing, and 23% met math.
Furthermore, 42% of Tulsa area graduates were required to participate in remediation classes when they enrolled in Oklahoma college during 2017-2018, a much higher rate than the state average of 37%. These rates are concerning and coupled with the low SAT/ACT outcomes (particularly in ELA and math), they emphasize that improving college and career preparedness must be a high priority for our region.
Completing the FAFSA form is the passport to help a graduate pursue postsecondary education.
Join us in raising awareness about how students can receive financial aid for a better, more accomplished future.
The U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid, is the largest provider of financial aid for college in the United States. The Customer Outreach Group provides educational information about FSA programs, tools, and resources.
Big Changes Coming to FAFSA This Year
Every year, helping students and their families complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is a vital step to ensure that postsecondary education is financially accessible in our community. This year, though, will be different. In response to legislation enacted by the US Congress, the FAFSA is getting its first major overhaul in 40 years with the intent of streamlining the application process and making it easier for more students to complete it. Here are a few things to know about the new 2024-25 “Better FAFSA,” as it has been branded by the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA).
First, the Better FAFSA is set for a delayed launch in December 2023 instead of October 1st. FSA has not yet announced an exact date. This change means that the fall 2023 college application process for high school seniors will unfold on a different timeline, and high schools should consider how to rearrange schedules for college application and financial aid assistance. For instance, organizations can start planning FSA ID creation events before the Better FAFSA actually opens, because everyone inputting information into the new application will need an FSA ID. The FAFSA opening date will revert to October 1st in 2024.
Second, the Better FAFSA will increase the number of students with lower family incomes who are eligible to receive a Pell Grant. The US Department of Education estimates that the new FAFSA will increase Pell Grant recipients by nearly 15%. The maximum Pell Grant will automatically become available to students from households earning less than around twice the federal poverty level for their household size. The maximum Pell Grant award for 2024-25 is $7,395– that’s a lot of money that doesn’t have to be paid back!
Just a few additional highlights of the many Better FAFSA changes include:
- The number of application questions will be reduced significantly.
- Students will be able to list up to 20 colleges on the application (up from 10).
- Everyone will need an FSA ID to input information into the new application.
- The new application is role-based, and each person will only be able to see questions assigned to them based on their role.
- There is a new process for individuals without Social Security numbers to obtain an FSA ID.
- New policies will streamline assistance for students in foster care or experiencing homelessness.
To make the transition to the Better FAFSA as smooth as possible, this is a great time to get informed about all the changes. FSA’s FAFSA Simplification page has a number of informative documents with more to come throughout the fall. The National College Attainment Network’s Better FAFSA page is also a one-stop shop for all things Better FAFSA and is updated regularly. Content includes FAQ’s, state policy and advocacy toolkit, a training toolkit, important dates and training, and relevant news articles.
Counselors: Step-by-step Guide to a Successful FAFSA Season
August: Get Ready for FAFSA Season
As the school year begins, it is important to educate students on the opportunities awaiting them after high school. If students are unaware of federal student aid, they may not even be interested in continuing their schooling. We’ve created an interactive, step-by-step calendar for you to use for promoting FAFSA completion in your school.
First Week of School
The first week of school, advertisement is key! This is the time to begin promoting financial aid opportunities and start creating a college-bound ecosystem within your school. Here’s where to start:
- Promote your FAFSA campaign. Download/print this great poster to motivate your students to get on board. It’s a colorable thermometer!
- Keep up with your school’s progress here.
- Decorate your hallways! Click here for great information to remind students to apply for aid.
- Pack your offices with information! Download these resources to help answer complicated questions.
Promotion is the key to success.
Remind 101 is a powerful resource that can connect you to your students. Help your students sign up to receive reminders and whenever you send a message out, they will receive an individual text. You can send links, surveys, and reminders. This tool is not only beneficial to increase your FAFSA completion rates, it can also be used for widespread communication between faculty and students. For more information, see below:
Late August: Time for a FAFSA Event
FAFSA season is approaching, keep up the promotion!
FAFSA events are a great way to directly help your students. The federal student aid form is intimidating for many students, but events are a great way to assist families in the process of applying.
We suggest planning your first FAFSA event now so that when the form opens, you can get the ball rolling. Keeping scrolling through our calendar for helpful information on how to be successful in assisting students.
For help planning your FAFSA event, visit this website.
September: Beginning of FAFSA Season
It’s the most wonderful time of the (financial aid) year! Show your seniors these FAFSA videos! We suggest sending them out over Remind 101, emailing them to parents, OR have them ready to give to students per request.
Prepare your students for the opening of the FAFSA application. Have we mentioned advertising? It’s so valuable!
- Announcements over the intercom:
Seniors! Need free money for college? FAFSA is your passport to receiving help to get to college. If you have any questions, your college counselor has answers. The application opens October 1 and money runs out fast, so get off your FAFSA.
- Remind 101 alerts:
Have you heard of the FAFSA? It’s your chance to get free money for college! Anyone who wants financial aid for their education beyond high school will need to fill out this form. It’s used to determine the dollar amount you or your family will be expected to contribute towards college. So, get ready to fill it out when the FAFSA is released on October 1st!
Don’t be afraid to send the same message twice! Reminders are valuable and if spaced out over a couple of weeks, repetitive information is better remembered.
October: FAFSA Season is Open
Are your students informed that the FAFSA form opens for submission on October 1? With the FAFSA, the early bird gets the worm. Encourage them to fill it out as soon as possible.
Announcement (when FAFSA is officially open):
The FAFSA is the opportunity to receive free money for college! Don’t forget to fill it out! This form for your graduating class is available as of October 1st. You could save thousands of dollars through the FAFSA.
Hey students, get off your FAFSA! Take the first step by creating your FSA ID. Next, get your social security number, federal income tax return, and records of investments of untaxed income (if applicable). Plus, you’ll need any applicable disability information and a list of up to 10 schools that you want to receive the results of your FAFSA.
Remind 101 (1 week after FAFSA is out):
Are you wondering how to fill out your FSA ID? Here’s a helpful link: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/filling-out/fsaid.
November: Mid-FAFSA Season
Have you checked your FAFSA progress? Make sure to be keeping close tabs on your school’s success this year. The best way to improve is to keep track of where you are now.
Announcement (repeat every week):
Hey Seniors, don’t forget to fill out the FAFSA! It’s the best way to get free money for college!
Remind 101 (2 weeks after FAFSA is out):
If you have created your FSA I.D., you’re ready to fill out your FAFSA! Get free money for college! If you have questions, check out the FAQ and Interactive Question Board on Impact Tulsa’s website at https://impacttulsa1.wpengine.com/fafsa/.
Remind 101 (3 weeks after FAFSA is out):
For additional information on how to fill out the FAFSA visit this YouTube playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL23B9A23CD8DD82DD. Get off your FAFSA!
Remind 101 (repeat every week):
Don’t forget to fill out the FAFSA! It’s the best way to get money for college!
Early November: Early Action Deadline Approaches
The early action deadline is approaching. Get your money before it runs out! FAFSA has been open for a month, so the likelihood of money being on the table for applicants starts to decrease. Therefore, to increase your chances of getting money from completing the FAFSA, you must complete it as soon as possible. The FAFSA works on a first-come, first-serve basis. Also, some colleges have their own deadline for the completion of the FAFSA since they can look at the form to determine how much money they can give to you out of their own funds.
Today is the early action deadline for your FAFSA. Remember, the early bird gets the worm! Fill it out before time runs out!
Seniors, take advantage of all that your future has to offer! Today is the early action deadline!
Mid-November to End of Year
As the school year continues, it is incredibly important to continue to help your students complete the FAFSA. Here are some ideas to finish the FAFSA season strong!
- Allow your students to fill out FSA IDs during school time. This increases the likelihood they will finish the process.
- Host several FAFSA events throughout the entirety of FAFSA season.
- Make FAFSA a challenge. Encourage your students by posting the school’s progress in the hallway.
- Help yourself by using the many available resources we have provided, like pamphlets and posters.
- Join a FAFSA community. Ask other counselors in your city what is effective for them in FAFSA season. FAFSA-centered communities are most effective.
- Never stop sending reminders out. Students will catch on!
What is FAFSA?
FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and is essentially your passport for going to college.
Why should I complete the FAFSA?
Completing a postsecondary degree or credential is crucial. By 2025, 77 percent of Oklahoma jobs will require a credential beyond high school, yet only 39 percent of Tulsa’s adult population holds an associate degree or higher.
The FAFSA is required for Tulsa Achieves, which offers full tuition to Tulsa Community College for graduating seniors in Tulsa County and Accelerating Independence, which offers a scholarship to cover unmet Tulsa Tech tuition costs. All federal grant and loan awards are determined by the FAFSA application, and nearly all colleges use the FAFSA as the basis for their own financial aid awards. What are you waiting for? Fill out the FAFSA today!
What if my family doesn’t qualify?
When should I complete my FAFSA?
The filing date opens October 1. The sooner you fill it out, the better your chances of getting financial aid. Don’t wait!
I need help completing my FAFSA. Who should I talk to?
We have many resources right here in Tulsa to help you get to college. Start with your school counselor or the financial aid office at the college applying to get in-person help filling out your FAFSA application. Look for FAFSA events at your school and in your community. Follow ImpactTulsa on social media to find out when there is an event near you.
I completed my FAFSA. Now what do I do?
Congrats! You took a big step toward postsecondary enrollment next year. Now you need to check your email and student portal at your college frequently for updates and forms.
My FAFSA is flagged for verification. What is that and how can I tell?
The government selects one-third of submitted FAFSAs for review, but this does not mean that the forms are wrong. You can see if your form is selected by looking for the asterisk * symbol next to your EFC on your Student Aid Report. If your form is not flagged for verification through the federal government, still check your student portal for any forms about financial aid.
If selected for verification by the government or school, until the forms are complete the schools will not provide a financial aid letter, so it is important to do the forms quickly and accurately.
I have a financial aid letter, but I do not know all the terms used. Where can I find out more?
OKCollegeStart provides a financial aid dictionary.
I think I have to take out some federal loans for college. How do I know which to take?
While we are not the experts in your finances, here are some sources that can help you walk through the loan acceptance process.
Calculate how much you will need in loans and which loans to borrow.
The order you want to accept financial aid:
- Scholarships and grants
- Federal student loans
- Loans from your state government or college
- Private loans
Go through loan exit counseling:
- This process takes about 20-30 minutes and is for first-time borrowers of Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans.
Sign your MPN:
- A legal document that has you promise to pay your loan and any accrued interest and fees.
- There is one for your subsidized/unsubsidized loans and a different one for a Direct PLUS loan.
- The process usually takes less than 30 minutes.
- You will need your FSAID and password.
- This will require reference information for two people with different U.S. addresses who have known you for at least 3 years. One can have the address you live in, but the other cannot.- References are not responsible financially for any part of your loan. These are individuals that would be contacted if you quit paying your loan.- You will need their name, address, email (optional), relationship to you, and phone number.
Accept that amount on your school portal:
- You will have to let the school know the amount you are accepting.
- Find out when the loans will be added to your account.
- School financial aid offices will let you know when to expect the loans to go through. They will not go through though, until you go through the loan entrance counseling, sign the MPN, and accept them on the portal.