EdTrust–NY Launches The New York FAFSA Challenge


As seen on Politico

New data tool allows educators, parents, and the public to track progress of high schools in their region.

NEW YORK – While low-income high school students are more likely than their wealthier peers to attend schools with low rates of completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), dozens of New York high schools that serve large shares of low-income seniors are models of success for the rest of the state, according to analysis by The Education Trust–New York as part of its New York FAFSA Completion Project.

The New York FAFSA Completion Project aims to build on this success by providing easily accessible resources including:

  • An interactive data tool that allows users to track the progress of New York high schools, with new FAFSA completion estimates updated weekly and comparisons to similar schools and top performers.
  • Resources for schools and educators on how they can assist more eligible students in completing the FAFSA, drawing on national research and best practices already being used in New York schools.
  • A compilation of stories, updated throughout the remainder of the school year, highlighting strategies being used by schools across the state that are top-performers and that enroll a high share of low-income students.
  • The New York FAFSA Completion Challenge, which will recognize schools for high FAFSA completion rates and for improvements in FAFSA completion rates. Twelve awards will be granted to schools across the state. Each award will consist of $750 granted to the winning high schools for the purpose of providing a scholarship to one of its students.

“Access to financial aid is a key factor in whether low-income students have the opportunity to attend college,” said Ian Rosenblum, Executive Director of The Education Trust–New York. “We hope this project spotlights the hard work that many schools are already doing to support their students in completing the FAFSA and inspires even more schools to take steps that research shows will help students realize the dream of a higher education.”

“We know that completing the FAFSA is a critical first step to accessing financial aid and making the dream of a college degree a reality,” said Dr. Guillermo Linares, Acting President of the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation.  “I am proud to partner with The Education Trust–New York in the launch of their FAFSA Completion Project as we work together to build awareness of the importance of completing the FAFSA, particularly for students from low-income families.”

As of February 1, some of the top-performing schools that serve at least 40 percent low-income students in each region include:

  • New York City: Through the New York City Department of Education’s College Access for All Initiative, many schools have access to support and resources that help them assist families in completing the FAFSA. The district’s efforts have helped bolster some schools’ completion rates to among the highest in the state. For example, Bronx River High School’s 94 percent estimated completion rate was among the highest of New York State’s district-run high schools. Read more.
  • Western New York: Buffalo’s Leonardo DaVinci High School has the highest FAFSA completion rate (68 percent) among similar schools in Western New York. The school tracks completions using student level-data provided through a partnership with Say Yes to Education Buffalo, and uses that to target direct follow-ups with students and families. Read more.
  • Mid-Hudson: With a 63 percent completion rate, Yonkers Montessori Academy is the top-performer among schools in the Mid-Hudson region where at least 40 percent of students are low-income. Yonkers Montessori and the other Yonkers schools benefit from a systemic districtwide approach to helping students complete the FAFSA. The district works with Yonkers Partners in Education (YPIE) to host events such as an annual college fair, where district and YPIE staff assist parents in completing the FAFSA. Read more.
  • Finger Lakes: Schools in Rochester receive support from the Rochester College Access Network, which sponsors events throughout the city to help families complete the FAFSA. That support has helped Young Women’s College Prep Charter School (50 percent completion rate) become one of the highest in the Finger Lakes Region among schools where the majority of students are low-income. Read more.
  • Long Island: Malverne High School has a dedicated space with resources and workspace in its guidance center, and works with students to schedule workshops where counselors can help small groups of seniors complete the FAFSA. They also offer a financial aid night where representatives from local colleges guide parents line by line through the FAFSA. With an estimated 51 percent completion rate, Malverne ranks as one of the top-performers among Long Island high schools where the majority of students are low-income. Read more.
  • Southern Tier: South Kortright Central School in the Southern Tier hosts an annual FAFSA completion night, where representatives from SUNY Delhi’s financial aid department are available to answer questions and assist families with the process. Those efforts have helped drive an estimated 74 percent FAFSA completion rate, among the highest in its region. Read more.
  • North Country: Crown Point Central School makes a point to encourage all students – including those who think they want to enter the workforce – to complete the forms. In some cases, students aren’t aware of what aid they might be eligible. Crown Point had an estimated 67 percent completion rate, among the highest of schools in the region. Read more.

Explore the data, read more about FAFSA completion strategies being used at New York schools, and find additional resources at

This project is made possible thanks in part to the generous support of the Heckscher Foundation for Children.

“Underserved students and their families have a fundamental civil right to make informed decisions about college choices, and we’re committed to funding tools that help them do that,” said Peter Sloane, chairman and CEO of the Heckscher Foundation for Children.

About The Education Trust–New York:

The Education Trust–New York works to eliminate the gaps in equity, opportunity and achievement that hold back too many students from reaching their full potential, especially those who are low-income or students of color, in order to enable all students in New York State to achieve at high levels — from early childhood through college. Learn more at

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