The Long Beach Unified School District has partnered with a federal agency and local community organizations to open six “trusted centers” where students can receive free help completing financial aid applications.
"This is a perfect illustration of how, despite the fiscal crisis, we're bringing in extra resources without any additional cost to the district," said Christopher J. Steinhauser, superintendent of schools.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid selected Long Beach as one of three cities nationwide to participate in the pilot program. The aim in Long Beach is to increase Latino enrollment in college, though any student may use the centers. Statewide, 18 to 24-year-old Latinos are the least likely to have entered college. More than half of students in LBUSD schools are Latino.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) starts the process to qualify for all federal and government-guaranteed student aid programs, as well as for many regional, state and institutional student aid programs.
Last year, more than 1,800 seniors here completed the application. This year, the goal is to help 3,000 students complete the application. About 90 percent of students start to complete the FAFSA, but many do not complete it because of its complexity.
The pilot project aligns with the district’s Academic and Career Success Initiative, which aims to increase college and career readiness.
The FAFSA project may help college enrollment numbers rise faster than ever here. Already, between 2004 and 2007, the number of LBUSD students enrolling in four-year colleges grew by 37% — an accomplishment that bucks statewide trends.
Many Latino parents hesitate to complete the form because they don’t want to share personal financial information with institutions, said Jessica Quintana, executive director of Centro CHA, a local organization that is hosting one of the centers.
LBUSD has recruited at least 65 volunteers to staff the centers and is hosting several volunteer training sessions.
The center locations, and phone numbers to call for the days and hours they are open, are Avalon High School, (310) 510-0790; Centro CHA, Inc., 570-4722; Jordan High School Career Center, 423-1471, ext. 2255; Long Beach City College EOPS, 938-3951; Poly High School Library, 997-8000, ext. 5188; and Second Samoan UCC, 628-9282.