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Far More Students Here Seek College Aid

The number of Long Beach students applying for federal student aid has increased by 49 percent over last year, the result of a goal set by the Latino FAFSA Initiative in Long Beach, a pilot program spearheaded by Federal Student Aid, an office of the U.S. Department of Education, and supported by the Long Beach Unified School District, community-based organizations and local colleges.

Last year, 2,155 out of approximately 5,000 graduating Long Beach seniors completed the FAFSA.  This year, 3,215 students have completed the form.

“We tackled this ambitious goal because we knew that 90 percent of our seniors typically start the FAFSA.  But many just don't finish because they often perceive the application as more complex than filing taxes,” said Christopher J. Steinhauser, superintendent of schools for LBUSD.  “With help from the FAFSA pilot, we saw more families actually completing the form and becoming eligible for federal and state financial aid.”

The increased completion rate of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as FAFSA, was a goal set by the initiative, which focused on helping Latino and other youth and their families to fill out the FAFSA at established community centers, called “trusted centers.”  The students and their parents were encouraged to go to the centers for help completing the free federal financial aid form online.

“These funds can open the door of opportunity to college,” said Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster.  “The success of the Latino FAFSA Initiative is another example of the Mayor’s Office, the City and the school district working together on behalf of our students.”

The Long Beach initiative will serve as a model for other jurisdictions with large Latino populations, but low rates of continuing education beyond high school.  

The program is targeted for Latinos in 11th and 12th grades and also encourages them to view two-year and technical colleges, as well as four-year education institutions, as real possibilities to pursue after high school. Students from other ethnic groups also benefit from the services.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid office has more than $100 billion to help students pay for education beyond high school.  Many eligible students—especially those from minority, first-generation and low-income families—don’t know about these funds or fail to complete the form to take advantage of the funds.

Federal Student Aid began its grassroots outreach campaign program in Philadelphia and Charlotte in September of 2006, targeting underrepresented minority students and their families. The pilot came to Long Beach this academic school year because of its large Hispanic population, which accounts for 35.8 percent of all residents, and its high graduation rates.

The trusted centers will remain open to assist college students and adults in filling out the FAFSA online at www.fafsa.ed.gov .  The nine trusted centers include: Academic Up-Rise, Inc.; Centro CHA, Inc.; Avalon High School; Long Beach City College; Jordan High School; Polytechnic High School; Second Samoan United Church of Christ; CSULB: Educational Opportunity Center (EOC); and City of Long Beach - Central Facility Center.