12th Year Campaign pays off in higher financial aid completion rates
(OLYMPIA)- High school seniors in the class of 2020 won’t want to miss out on Washington’s generous state financial aid programs. The Washington College Grant is the newest of these, and it will be fully funded starting fall quarter of 2020. However, many students will miss this opportunity if they don’t complete a financial aid application. There is a way for students to get help with financial aid applications.
The 12th Year Campaign, administered by the Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC), is a partnership with high schools that opens the door to more affordable paths for students’ next steps—which could be certificate programs, colleges, or apprenticeships.
“We want to ensure that all qualifying students have the opportunity to utilize state financial aid programs, including the expanded Washington College Grant,” Governor. Jay Inslee said. “The state of Washington wants to help students and their families achieve their educational goals and realize their dreams.”
National data indicates that many more Washington students would benefit from 12th Year Campaign resources. The National College Access Network ranks our state 48th in the nation for the rate of high school seniors who have completed a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)—43 percent. But in 2018-19, schools that participated in the 12th Year Campaign had completion rates that were 11 percentage points higher than schools that did not participate.
“We know that many students don’t apply for financial aid because they don’t know about the wide variety of programs available to them,” says WSAC Executive Director Michael P. Meotti. “They also don’t realize how generous Washington’s state financial aid can be in supporting them. The 12th Year Campaign and participating high schools provide young adults with the support they need to make informed decisions about their future.”
Launched in 2013, the 12th Year Campaign supports schools and organizations across the state to help students apply for financial aid and college. As of April 2019, there were nearly 200 sites participating in the campaign. Most are high schools, and about 15 percent are community organizations such as colleges, libraries, and non-profits.
Sites receive support from the 12th Year Campaign for event planning, professional development, and curriculum materials for students. The campaign’s activities and materials guide students through the process of completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) or WASFA (Washington Application for State Financial Aid). The WASFA is for students who can’t complete the FAFSA because of citizenship status, and it’s only used for state financial aid—not federal. The FAFSA is used for both federal and state financial aid.
The Workforce Education Investment Act, passed in the 2019 Legislative Session, increases the state’s investment in financial aid completion. Over the next biennium, WSAC will receive more than $1.5 million to expand the 12th Year Campaign. The new funding will support more events, training materials, and digital tools to increase engagement of high school seniors, especially those enrolled in the College Bound Scholarship.
Completing a financial aid application has become even more important because of the Washington College Grant, which Governor Inslee signed into law on May 21. A year from now, the grant will be a guarantee for eligible students from families at or less than the state’s median family income. Students will also be able to use the grant for more career paths, including apprenticeships. Families at 55 percent or lower median family income will receive the maximum award, or the full amount of tuition at the University of Washington or Washington State University.