to the support they need to enroll in college
WHAT IS COLLEGE MATTERS?
College Matters, an initiative of the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, seeks to increase college enrollment rates among Marion County high school seniors, especially among students from low-income households who are less likely than their higher-income peers to enroll.
College affordability represents a significant barrier for increasing college enrollment. Through grants to schools, community-based organizations and the Indiana Commission For Higher Education, College Matters seeks to connect high school students – and their families – with the support they need to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, access financial aid and enroll in college.
The nearly $4 million in multi-year College Matters grants awarded to schools and community-based organizations will allow them to add capacity by hiring staff or expanding programs. These grants are intentionally short-term to provide temporary enhanced capacity as schools and other student-serving organizations adjust to the new Indiana requirement that all high school seniors complete the FAFSA, which is in the process of being updated and will not be released until December 2023, two months later than it is typically available.
Additionally, the $363,000 grant to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education will allow them to implement a variety of strategies to boost Marion County FAFSA completion, including hosting convenings for organizations serving students and their families, hiring additional Indianapolis-focused staff, and expanding mentorship programs focused on financial aid opportunities. This will help strengthen the connection between CHE and schools and community-based organizations to ensure all organizations are maximizing the resources made available by the state.
1 Indiana College Readiness Report 2022, 2 FAFSA Completion Dashboard
A NEED FOR COLLEGE GRADS
The critical need for more college graduates
The significant decrease in the number of high school graduates who enroll in college, both in Indianapolis and the entire state, not only threatens the livelihoods of many individuals who would greatly benefit from earning a college degree, but it poses an existential threat to our city and state.
Low college enrollment is a challenge for the economic vitality of our city and state. Employers continue to report challenges finding talent with the education and skills needed to fill open positions. Additionally, fewer Hoosiers have college degrees than many of our peer states and cities, which puts Indiana and Indianapolis at a competitive disadvantage for attracting new businesses and better jobs.
For individuals, education beyond high school contributes to significant monetary and non-monetary benefits. Hoosier adults with a bachelor’s degree earn $1 million more in their career lifetime than adults with only a high school diploma. Further, increased educational attainment is associated with better health, happiness, quality of life and civic engagement.
COLLEGE MATTERS STRATEGIES
College Matters: Increasing college enrollment
In the spring of 2023, the Indiana General Assembly enacted new laws to address financial barriers to college enrollment, one of which was making completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) a high school graduation requirement. An increase in the FAFSA completion rate means more students will be connected to the financial aid they need to make college more affordable and accessible.
Now that FAFSA completion is mandatory in Indiana, College Matters seeks to assist students and their families in completing the application. To do so, the initiative includes three strategies:
- Supporting schools
- Supporting community-based organizations
- Supporting the Indiana Commission for Higher Education
Supporting schools: Adding capacity to increase FAFSA completion and college enrollment
In the spring of 2023, the Indiana General Assembly enacted new laws to address financial barriers to college enrollment, one of which was making completion of the FAFSA a high school graduation requirement. While this new requirement is a positive step toward increasing college enrollment rates, schools may need some additional short-term capacity to serve additional seniors as they are adjusting to this policy change.
To help add short-term capacity during the initial implementation of Indiana’s new FAFSA mandate, the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation invited eligible Marion County public high schools to participate in a Request for Proposals process for non-competitive grants for the 2023-24 and 2024-25 school years. As a result of that process, College Matters awarded $2.6 million in grants to allow 26 Marion County public high schools within 14 school corporations to assist students and their families in meeting this new requirement.
For a school to be eligible for a grant, its administration must have agreed to participate in related convenings and report disaggregated data on FAFSA completion and college enrollment to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education and the Fairbanks Foundation. The amount of funding was awarded based on a school’s organization type and total enrollment of high school seniors.
The following schools are recipients of College Matters grants:
|School corporation||Grant amount|
|Beech Grove City Schools||$160,000|
|Christel House Indianapolis||$160,000|
|Herron Classical Schools||$200,000|
|Indianapolis Public Schools||$240,000|
|Irvington Community Schools||$145,500|
|KIPP Indy Public Schools||$150,000|
|MSD of Lawrence Township||$240,000|
|MSD of Pike Township||$200,000|
|MSD of Warren Township||$240,000|
|MSD of Washington Township||$177,750|
|MSD of Wayne Township||$240,000|
|Phalen Leadership Academies||$150,000|
|Purdue Polytechnic High School||$160,000|
|Victory College Prep||$150,000|
Supporting community-based organizations: Adding capacity to assist in FAFSA completion and college enrollment
Community-based organizations play an important, trusted role in engaging and supporting families, and they are often looked to for college-related information and resources. To help reach more students and families, the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation invited four such Marion County organizations to submit proposals for grants that would allow them to expand their staff and programmatic capacity to support students in exploring, enrolling in and financing college.
The following community-based organizations are recipients of College Matters grants totaling $1.35 million over three years:
With the grant funding, these community-based organizations will implement a variety of strategies to encourage students and their families to complete the FAFSA and enroll in college. Examples of these strategies include implementing college preparation curricula either in schools or in the community, conducting outreach at community events, encouraging students and their families to engage in programming related to FAFSA completion and college enrollment, and partnering with schools to host college-related events. Additionally, as part of College Matters, these organizations will work directly with the Indiana Commission for Higher Education and INvestEd, an Indiana nonprofit organization whose mission is to help students and their families with the education planning process. This collaboration will help ensure timely and accurate information related to federal financial aid opportunities and requirements is shared with the students and families they serve.
Supporting the Indiana Commission for Higher Education: Providing accurate, timely information on state and federal financial aid to schools, CBOs and students
To ensure school and community organization personnel have the information they need to engage with students and their families to increase FAFSA completion and college enrollment, the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation awarded a three-year $363,000 College Matters grant to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.
In fall 2023, CHE will invite College Matters grantees as well as other Marion County organizations to a convening to share information and resources that may be helpful in their work to increase college enrollment. Topics will include available state and federal financial aid, the ins and outs of the FAFSA, information about the simplified FAFSA form the U.S. Department of Education plans to roll out in December 2023, and information about the state’s available college enrollment supports.
For more information on College Matters, contact Foundation staff at college@RMFF.org.