Workshop: Answering the Call: Effective FAFSA Outreach and Completion Strategies


July 14, 2016 | Atlanta, GA

Contact Alice Anne Bailey, Go Alliance Director, for information on attending.

Completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is critical to access to, and completion of, education after high school. The FAFSA is the only way for students to access to the $150 billion available in federal student aid for higher education. Research suggests that 85-90 percent of U.S. high school graduates who complete the FAFSA enroll in postsecondary education within six months. Yet each year, approximately two million eligible undergraduates do not apply for low-interest federal financial aid or maximize the full amount they qualify for.

On Sept. 14, 2015, significant changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) process were announced that will impact millions of students. Students seeking financial aid will have the ability to Submit a FAFSA® Earlier (starting Oct. 1, 2016) and Use Earlier Income Information (report their 2015 income information, rather than their 2016 income information). These changes will greatly impact your college access messaging and programming. Are you ready?

Come learn from Go Alliance representatives in West Virginia and Tennessee, two states that have a strong foundation in FAFSA Outreach and Completion, in a day-long workshop that will provide participants with effective strategies in answering this call to improve FAFSA completion in their state. Go Alliance members are encouraged to bring colleagues from your state that could serve as an advisory and collaborative capacity to advance your efforts.

West Virginia: To encourage FAFSA completion, West Virginia has developed extensive partnerships to provide 12th graders, current college and increase awareness of the importance of filing a FAFSA in advance of state financial aid deadlines. These efforts include partnerships with high schools, nonprofit organizations, higher education institutions, business representatives and government leaders including the Governor. This session will discuss activities outreach, hundreds of coordinated financial aid workshops, and share option. 

Tennessee: TN FAFSA Frenzy is Tennessee’s response to the new FAFSA timeline and the use of -prior year” tax information. This collaborative initiative is designed to collect FAFSA completion best practices across the state and share them with all school counselors. TN FAFSA Frenzy includes regional counselor meetings, a comprehensive toolkit for educators and a statewide campaign to be launched in October 2016. During the session, presenters will share how Tennessee organized and mobilized partners to advance this with specific tools and strategies that can be replicated in their state.


Jessica Kennedy serves as Director of Communications and Outreach for the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission. She is responsible for developing and implementing community outreach and public information campaigns for the Commission’s college access and student success programs. Additionally, Jessica assists in the administration of state and federal programs and services focusing on increasing the number of students entering and succeeding in postsecondary education. Prior to joining the Commission, Jessica was a member of the creative department at The Arnold Agency, an advertising and communications company in Charleston, W.Va. She earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations at Marshall University and a Master of Public Administration degree at the University of Colorado Denver.

Troy Grant serves as Assistant Executive Director for P-16 Initiatives at the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. In this capacity, he oversees THEC’s Office of P-16 Initiatives which is charged with the development and implementation of statewide college access and success programs, including GEAR UP TN, Path to College Events, Tennessee’s College Access Challenge Grant,, Tennessee’s electronic transcript exchange, and the Memphis-based Latino Student Success program. The Office of P-16 Initiatives also works closely with the Governor’s Office on implementation of the Drive to 55, particularly on outreach around Tennessee Promise and other programs to increase the college-going rate in the state. Troy has eight years of higher education administration, admissions, and college access policy experience and serves on the National GEAR UP Advisory Commission and the executive committee of the College and Career Readiness Evaluation Consortium. Mr. Grant earned the Bachelor of Business Administration and a Master of Business Administration from Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, TN.=

Mary Laphen is the Statewide Services Coordinator for the Office of P-16 Initiatives at the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. Her role includes implementation of the Path to College events suite, which includes College App Week and College Signing Day as well as working with Tennessee’s GEAR UP grant to plan professional development, statewide meetings and the annual Youth Summit. Mary has five years of experience in college access and has worked at the high school and state level. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Gettysburg College and Master of Education from Vanderbilt University.