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learn / 2015

LA Cash for College 4 All

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by UNITE LA

Los Angeles Cash for College is the region's largest financial aid awareness and college access campaign, informing, assisting and rewarding students, who aspire to go to college, but who think the financial barriers are too great. Each year, we reach 20,000 students through a college and career convention, over 150 free financial aid completion workshops, and a scholarship reception, empowering them to apply to college and seek financial aid. This year, we hope to increase aid students secure.

In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • County of Los Angeles

How do you plan to use these resources to make change?

  • Engage residents and stakeholders
  • Expand a pilot or a program

How will your proposal improve the following “Learn” metrics?

  • College matriculation rates

Describe in greater detail how you will make LA the best place to learn.

LA Cash for College was developed in response to a Tomas Rivera Policy Institute study which found that while the majority of Latino parents wanted their children to pursue college, their knowledge about how to get into and pay for college was objectively low. The study made clear recommendations to help address these knowledge deficits, including better informing parents about the process of accessing college, launching a long-term public services announcement campaign in English/Spanish to improve parent’s college knowledge, and increasing the scope, frequency, and visibility of college events such as college nights, open houses, and campus visits.

Since 2001, LA Cash for College has been building a college-going culture in L.A. using a three-pronged approach of 1) informing students and families about college preparation and financing their education, 2) assisting them in applying for aid, and 3) rewarding positive behaviors like applying for aid. Each step of the way, students and their parents are encouraged to pursue their college aspirations.

Inform: Beginning the campaign each year, the annual College and Career Convention is designed to help participants understand the accessibility of college, features expert-led presentations on college life and academic preparation, interactive career demonstrations, information sessions about scholarships and other financial aid, as well as an Exhibition Hall of local, state and national college and university admissions recruiters.

Assist: Then, in partnership with the California Student Aid Commission, LA Cash for College hosts over 150 free annual workshops that assist students and families complete their financial aid applications from January 1st to March 2nd. Workshops are conducted with a wide network of community partners and trained volunteers from colleges, universities and businesses to provide one-on-one assistance to help students complete the FAFSA, the California Dream Act application, Pell and Cal grants. Eligible students qualify for up to $18,000 and free financial aid they never have to pay back.

Reward: Finally, there is a scholarship reception in May, which features prominent guest speakers and local elected officials, to award a limited number of $1,000 incentive scholarships to participating students from the Convention or a Workshop.

The campaign has assisted nearly 240,000 students prepare for college, apply for financial aid and secure $3.3 million in scholarships.

Please explain how you will evaluate your work.

LA Cash for College evaluates both the Convention and the Financial Aid Completion Workshops each year in order to maintain the quality programming that has made us the region’s largest college and financial aid information program. Students who attend the Convention fill out a form with demographic and economic data in order to enter a lottery for a $1,000 scholarship. This information tells us who we are serving. In addition, we send attendees an electronic survey asking them for feedback on the convention.

Students who participate in the Financial Aid Completion Workshops must complete an Exit Survey, which is sent to the CSAC to be eligible for the $1,000 scholarship lottery. The surveys inform our program on the quality of the workshops and areas of the workshops that can be improved. The survey also allows students to request follow-up help if they were unable to complete either their FAFSA or California Dream Act application at the workshop.

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Technical infrastructure (computers, etc.)
  • Community outreach
  • Network/relationship support