Members Host “Arriba FAFSA Family Night” in Colorado
Members Host “Arriba FAFSA Family Night” in ColoradoAbby Hexter, Director, Communications
This fall, Deb Thyng Schmidt, college advisor at Longmont High School in Colorado, and Tom Biedscheid, director of student financial services at Colorado State University (CSU), worked together to make the transition to the 2017-18 FAFSA easier for families in their community.
They spoke to All Access about why K–12 and higher education partnerships are so valuable.
All Access: What is the FAFSA Family Night?
Deb Thyng Schmidt: Longmont High School’s Arriba FAFSA Family Night is a pilot program that takes advantage of the new early availability of the FAFSA. A workshop to get parents to complete the FAFSA at an earlier stage in the process removes a major barrier for our Hispanic students. Financial aid officers from Colorado State University (CSU), including Spanish speakers, lead parents through the process of completing the 2017-18 FAFSA online using Longmont High Chromebooks. To make it possible for more of our parents to attend, we offer childcare through our Arriba student organization and a meal through a local restaurant.
AA: What are the top three goals for the event?
- Build on our relationships with parents and work with them on what can be a very intimidating part of the college application process.
- Raise parents’ sights for their students by telling them how financial aid can make college affordable.
- Ensure that our Hispanic students have a Student Aid Report in hand as they enter the college application process.
- Be proactive in our work with students and families every chance we get. Help families avoid mistakes on the FAFSA to speed up the process.
- Amplify our efforts to create clear pathways to higher education by coming together. While Longmont High School works to develop relationships with parents, CSU’s Office of Financial Aid works to develop relationships with high school counselors and administrators.
- Show, firsthand, how financial aid can eliminate the barrier of the cost of higher education.
AA: Tell us how this partnership between Longmont High School and CSU came about. What are the benefits of a partnership between K–12 and higher education institutions?
DTS: Because I was a former writer and consultant for the College Board and familiar with ther programs and services, I expected to find useful resources about the new FAFSA timeline on their website, and I did. I contacted Anne Sturtevant, executive director of higher education at the College Board, and asked if she could recommend staff to help with our FAFSA Night. My request was extended to Tom, and I was delighted that he was enthusiastic about joining us.
There are many benefits of this type of partnership, too many to list. But a major benefit is that parents and students always come away inspired — and their sights raised — by positive exposure to the people who represent higher education.
Also, when students see this type of collaboration, they become more comfortable with the experience they’ll have after high school. College is seen as a natural extension of their intellectual and personal growth.
TB: The College Board is uniquely positioned to bring K–12 and higher education together in a way that shows how much more effective we can be when we work together. My experience attending College Board events has honestly spilled over into my day-to-day work and is constantly at the top of my mind. When Anne and Deborah reached out to ask me to contribute to Longmont High School’s event, my response was an automatic “yes.”
AA: Why is it important to hold an event like this now?
DTS: The change to the FAFSA calendar provides the ideal opportunity to get information out to parents in a new way, at an earlier time in the process. We’re always looking for ways to build relationships with parents and students, and the timing is perfect this year.
TB: The early FAFSA adds months to the college and financial aid application process. It gives students much more time to choose an institution that’s the best fit. Creating an earlier opportunity for underrepresented students to leverage the FAFSA change is the right thing to do.
AA: What are the top five things you hope students and parents take away from this event?
DTS and TB:
- The FAFSA may seem intimidating, but it can be completed.
- The FAFSA is a crucial first step to enable students to afford college. It’s the primary document for eligibility for need-based and scholarship aid.
- Concerns about affording college shouldn’t keep students from applying. There’s assistance out there and a process for making college possible.
- Colleges and universities like CSU have staff members ready and willing to share their expertise so that students and their families can afford college.
- High schools like Longmont have staff members ready and willing to encourage students to explore postsecondary education and make it happen.