This year, CGS!Florida, or College Goal Sunday, a statewide initiative that provides free, on-site professional assistance for students and families completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), was spearheaded by the Florida Department of Education Office of Student Financial Assistance (OSFA). Last month, at the 2014 Florida Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators Conference in St. Petersburg, OSFA released new figures showing a large increase in students and families benefiting from the personalized financial aid assistance program.
At 44 host sites spread throughout the state, including colleges, high schools and non-profit organizations, 1,141 students received one-on-one assistance with completing their financial aid forms. According to Lori Auxier, director of outreach services for OSFA, that’s a 222% increase from 2013, when just 354 students were served by 28 host sites. Cumulatively, CGS!Florida is responsible for initiating 866 new FAFSA forms, either partially or fully completed. (Some students arrive at the site without sufficient information to begin the form.)
While any student can get help with the FAFSA at a CGS!Florida event, the program primarily targets high school seniors who are interested in attending college but need help with initiating the financial aid process. Because of the importance financial aid has on college enrollment, having more high schools participating this year in CGS!Florida sites was a positive for event organizers. “We really encouraged high schools to get involved, which was really different from last year. The school districts really bought into the process,” said Auxier.
Some of the increase can also be attributed to the well-staffed events. 703 volunteers lent their time, either providing trained, personalized assistance with completing the FAFSA or by staffing the sites to keep them open for families over the weekend. That’s an average of 15 volunteers per site.
“The Florida Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators was really instrumental in getting more volunteers through their listserv,” added Auxier. “We got a lot of new faces involved in the process. There were definitely a lot of volunteers who took advantage of our line-by-line training on the FAFSA.”
The chart below breaks down 2014 participation by county, clearly demonstrating that four key counties—Hillsborough, Palm Beach, Duval and Collier—provided the bulk of attendees.
Students Served at 2014 CGS!Florida Host Sites by County
Site registration for the next College Goal Sunday in February 2015 opened last month, and OSFA welcomes applications until the September 30 deadline. As only twenty counties had sites this year, achieving more coverage throughout the state is a priority. Click here to register a site or to review marketing materials, training manuals and site checklists.
Officials from the Office of Student Financial Assistance will soon be attending the College Goal Sunday Forum, a national event taking place at the end of this moth in Charleston, South Carolina, where they will return with new ideas and strategies for effectively reaching more families.