Driving Postsecondary Attainment for All: Highlights from the National College Access Network (NCAN) Annual Conference
By Cyekeia Lee, Director of Higher Education Initiatives
Last week the National College Access Network (NCAN) made its way to Detroit, MI, for its 2016 national Conference. Over 1,100 attendees from secondary education, higher education, community-based organizations and foundations came together to learn more about college access under the theme “Driving Postsecondary Attainment for All.” NAEHCY’s Director of Higher Education Initiatives was in attendance to learn more about the latest resources and supports to best help homeless students.
The conference agenda was filled with over 80 sessions, with many of the sessions having one common theme: changes to the Free Applications for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Those sessions highlighted the new October 1, 2016 release date for the FAFSA; prior-prior tax year information when completing the new FAFSA; and obtaining a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID for parents and students to complete and sign the FAFSA. The implications of these new FAFSA changes for homeless students were discussed in this article in our May newsletter.
Other sessions at the NCAN conference centered on strategies to engage students and parents to complete the FAFSA, as well as the steps that many states are taking to streamline FAFSA completion for the most vulnerable students. The Professional Learning Community (PLC) partnered by the Colorado Department of Education, the Colorado Department of Higher Education, and the Kresge Foundation hosted a special FAFSA Completion Collective Impact Initiative convening where representatives from 20 states discussed statewide frameworks to share FAFSA completion data and focus on student success. The PLC highlighted that the FAFSA is one of the most predictive measures for a student attending college, citing that 90% of high school seniors who complete the FAFSA go on to enroll in a postsecondary education program within twelve months of graduation (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002 ELS:2002/06). This means assisting students who are homeless, in foster care, low income, or the first person in their family to attend college, is vital so they can break cycles of poverty. The PLC shared a toolkit with best practices for FAFSA completion from around the country as well as ways that data could be shared about FAFSA completion with education agencies, designated entities, and other non-profit organizations.
Aside from FAFSA completion, other conference sessions focused on forming partnerships to better support college students, early college awareness, equity in education, best practices to support minority students, and engaging students and parents via text message. Our partners at Get Schooled were on hand to share how the 1 million text messages they received via their text line have been used to leverage student voice and change FAFSA polices. To find out more about our partnership with Get Schooled, be sure to check out our NAEHCY Higher Education Text Line.
Lastly, many resources and tools were shared to aid students with completing college applications and scholarship searches. One of the most impressive tools was Scholar Snapp, which allows students to take standard scholarship application information such as their name, date of birth, and academic transcripts and transfer that information to other scholarship applications in a snap. Through its online portal, Scholar Snapp helps students streamline the college scholarship search process and save time when doing so.
It was exciting to see so many educators, administrators, and community-based organizations come together to streamline higher education access for students.
What are you doing to help your students with college access, FAFSA and scholarship completion for the upcoming 2017-28 academic year?
Find new and updated resources on NAEHCY’s Higher Education page.