Fa la la la LOSFA Days 2020
This year has been challenging, but it has also provided an opportunity to acquire and master new ways to reach students. During the coronavirus pandemic, the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance (LOSFA) steadily provided services through a combination of remote and in-office work. We transitioned to virtual assistance to serve students, developed new and innovative strategies to engage with students, and continued to provide services to promote student success.
Here are some of LOSFA’s highlights from 2020.
Financial Literacy for You (FLY) Tour:
In February, more than 1,900 students attended the 2020 Spring Financial Literacy for You (FLY) Tour. FLY Tour is a theatrical performance that exposes middle and high school students to college life, while teaching them to pursue an education beyond high school – whether that is a two-year or four-year degree, joining the military, or a technical certificate to become workforce ready. During each performance, students learned: 1) how to determine which college is the best fit for their needs, 2) what it takes to be college ready, and 3) how to pay for it all.
This year the FLY Tour, Meet Your Match: The Game Show, made stops at Grambling State University, SOWELA Technical Community College, Southern University Shreveport, Northwestern State University, Southern University Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University, Louisiana Tech University, and Dillard University.
FAFSA Now Campaign:
In the midst of COVID-19, LOSFA launched its FAFSA Now Initiative, in April, to urge the class of 2020 to complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) – even if they were unsure about their enrollment status for the fall semester. LOSFA staff reminded high school seniors that even though things were uncertain, it was critical to focus on what they could control. Completing the FAFSA to maximize the amount of aid received is within the reach and control of students and their families. To ensure that students received the necessary assistance, LOSFA offered virtual FAFSA assistance. Students and parents could also text the word ‘LOSFA’ to 50065 for help, use the #GeauxFAFSA on social media, and/or email GeauxFAFSA@la.gov.
In order to capitalize on FAFSA completion along with FAFSA renewals, LOSFA reached out to our post-secondary partners to enlist their help in making sure that high school seniors completed the FAFSA, to secure more aid for college, and encourage continuing students to renew their FAFSA applications. Some university presidents recorded a short video, others shared information and graphics from LOSFA’s FAFSA Now Press Kit on their social media, and some sent out press releases in support of LOSFA’s efforts.
In 2019-2020, Louisiana had a total of 47,669 seniors. As a result of our efforts, the National College Attainment Network’s (NCAN) FAFSA Tracker showed 35,372 seniors completed their FAFSA by the state’s priority deadline in July. As of September 11, 2020, Louisiana ranked #2, with 37,623 students (78.9%) completing the FAFSA (see below).
In the spring, LOSFA used print and television interviews to inform students to create a Student Hub account to track eligibility for their Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) award.
The TOPS Processing Error campaign began early, to ensure minimal processing delays. As a result, LOSFA’s Scholarships & Grants division reported 98% of all TOPS applications processed during the first week of the processing cycle in June.
529 Week Campaign:
During 529 Week, LOSFA engaged with parents on social media with scavenger hunts, essay contests, and trivia questions about Louisiana’s 529 program, the Student Tuition Assistance & Revenue Trust, more commonly referred to as START. Those who participated had their name entered for a chance to win the grand prize: a $529 contribution to their START account.
Addressing the Digital Divide:
LOSFA remained committed to meeting the needs of students in Louisiana. Through partnerships and with state and federal dollars, LOSFA Programs addressed the digital divide in Louisiana by providing varying levels of college and career readiness support to middle, high and postsecondary students and families through several modes of delivery, such as: social media, texting, emails, phone calls, and one-on-one, small or large group Zoom meetings/workshops.
A total of 289 Louisiana GEAR UP students attended the summer learning camps. State funding allowed another 41 students, who were supported by LOSFA’s Field Outreach Services, to participate in a summer camp experience as well.
- Through a partnership with Grambling State University, 30 hotspots were distributed to provide internet access to students wishing to participate in summer activities; and 30 Microsoft Surface Go Devices.* Microsoft Teams** was used to reach students.
- Through a partnership with Southeastern Louisiana University, 30 Chromebooks were disseminated for summer programming and other activities.
- Through a partnership with Northwestern State University, 92 Microsoft Surface Go Devices* were distributed and Microsoft Teams** was used to reach students.
*The Microsoft Surface Go Devices and the Microsoft Teams online platform are both Microsoft products to simplify and enhance usability. Teachers used the same devices to prevent issues and help with trouble shooting.
**MS Teams is similar to Zoom, Google Meet, and Webex. However, it also allows for synchronous chats and the permanent posting of PDFs Microsoft word docs, PowerPoint slide shows, and Videos (live and recorded) all in one place. The lessons and material will be recorded and posted on MS Teams* for reference by students unable to log in synchronously.
STUDENT NETWORK GROUPS
The goal of the “Virtual Student Network Groups” is to support, encourage, and retain cohorts of students matriculating through rigorous programs of study (I.e., nursing, engineering, and accounting majors) by addressing the psycho-social and emotional needs through group and/or peer mentoring. We seek to achieve this by offering a relaxed, safe “virtual” environment where students connect and network with peers within the same major and professionals in related career fields.
- Accounting Majors: 5
- Nursing Majors: 33
- Engineering Majors: 18
BREAKOUT OF CONNECT2SUCCESS
Connect2Success (C2S) expands and promotes credentialing opportunities and dual-enrollment to support non-academic credentials of value tied to high-demand, high wage jobs, and aligned to an occupation with 3-, 4-, or 5-star ratings as defined by the Louisiana Workforce Commission.
C2S also develops skills for success in the classroom and in the career of their choice, and supports students through:
- Comprehensive mentoring
- Credential course/training
- Professional development
- Summer learning camps/programs
- Cyber security education awareness
- Experiential learning activities
- Career planning
New Partnership with Miss Louisiana USA 2020:
This year, LOSFA established a partnership with Mariah Clayton, Miss Louisiana USA 2020. Clayton has helped promote LOSFA’s services and initiatives, with a goal of expanding our reach to Louisiana’s students by highlighting the importance of a postsecondary education.
My LOSFA College Advocate: A High Schooler’s Guide to College:
Based on a high school grade-level checklist, with tips from LOSFA and the U.S. Department of Education, LOSFA produced its My LOSFA College Advocate video series to share informational videos and checklists for each high school grade level to make your college admissions process more accessible..
In the fall of 2020, LOSFA premiered its new video series My LOSFA College Advocate: A High Schooler’s Guide to College. In the first video, 9th through 12th grade students are introduced to their advocates who will assist students in staying on track throughout their high school matriculation.
Click on the button below to view the My LOSFA College Advocate series premiere.