Insights & News

Financial Aid Advising Missing from Local Control and Accountability in Schools

“I need to be asked if I know how to get into college. That’s where I need help.” That’s how one high school senior from Oakland puts the problem: lack of college and financial aid awareness in a system aspiring to prepare young people to succeed in higher education.

In summer 2013, the state of California transformed the way it funds public education for kindergarten to grade 12—and clearly identified college and career readiness as a primary goal. With the shift, our state traded a set of complex funding mechanisms for one of the nation’s simplest: a Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) that reinforces statewide priorities of equity, performance, and flexible local decision-making.

In response, local education agencies (districts, charter schools, and county education offices) across the state have been at work developing and carrying out their own Local Control and Accountability Plans. LCAPs, as these plans are called, show how each group will deliver desired outcomes for pupil achievement and engagement, school climate, parental involvement, basic services, and more.

To understand effective practices—including financial aid awareness—to support college readiness for low-income students, we asked WestEd to conduct an informal scan of 19 LCAPs from districts representing California’s diversity via their size, type, demographics, and region. The report, Financial Aid Advising and California’s Local Control and Accountability Plans, documents the range of local approaches to Local Control and Accountability Planning.

Local Control and Accountability Plans should build in meaningful college and career advising, including supports to pursue financial aid.

The report underscores a recommendation we deeply care about and endorse: To build into these local plans meaningful college and career advising, including supports to pursue financial aid. These supports are important to establishing a college-going culture and mindset, and to increasing college enrollment and persistence. While nearly a quarter of state Local Control Funding Formula metrics relate to college readiness, none explicitly calls for activities like financial aid advising, completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and Cal Grant application, or counseling about college and career. By including these metrics in LCAPs, our state can clearly define actions and easily measure progress on a number of the state’s priority areas of student achievement and college and career preparedness.

As a foundation with roots in providing financial aid and an ongoing commitment to college and career readiness, College Futures believes that the absence of these metrics is a missed opportunity. We are encouraging our grantees to help their local districts gather and monitor data on these metrics, complementing those codified in the LCFF legislation.

Studies in California and beyond have shown that the relationship between financial aid application completion, college enrollment, and college graduation is a strong one. It’s time to leverage this relationship in our state’s formula for student success.