This summer, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a milestone policy change into law, ensuring that each year, entire classes of high school seniors will sit down to complete either the federal student aid, or FAFSA, form or a California Dream Act application, making a rule out of what used to be the exception — one districts should plan for now.

College does the same for many low-income students of color like me. California’s state colleges are not only premier institutions, but also boast some of the highest mobility rates in the country, meaning students who come from low-income families can attain greater financial stability as a result of having attended.

Yet that ladder to economic prosperity is out of reach for many of the students who would benefit most from it. One of the largest barriers to college enrollment for low-income students and students of color is affordability: precisely what federal and state financial aid is designed to address. But alarmingly, thousands of eligible low-income students and students of color attend high schools with some of the lowest financial aid application rates. This is especially harmful to Black students, whose average completion rates of these crucial applications lag behind the state average.

With thoughtful implementation, this can change. When Val Verde Unified School District Superintendent Mike McCormick discovered that his low-income students were not completing and submitting financial aid applications back in 2017, his district mobilized to change that. They provided an abundance of training to counselors and teachers. They marshaled their entire administrative staff to call students with outstanding applications. They answered questions from skeptical parents and walked kids through the forms question by question. Now, their high schools boast some of the highest financial aid application completion rates in California.

Read the full article about helping students with financial aid in California by Christopher J. Nellum at EdSource.