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Financial Aid Awareness Initiatives

Innovative Initiatives Aim to Increase Financial Aid Awareness and Access for Washington Students

March 6, 2023
Olympia—The state of Washington has some of the strongest financial aid programs in the country. Yet Washington historically ranks near the bottom in rates of financial aid application completion nationally. The Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC) is leading efforts to address this challenge by increasing awareness of financial aid and improving access to postsecondary attainment in Washington. 

As outlined in the agency’s recent brief Knowledge is Power: Ongoing Efforts to Increase Financial Aid Awareness and Access for Washington Students, WSAC leads a variety of initiatives to engage students, families and educators across the state, with a particular focus on increasing equity by reaching communities of color and students from low-income families.

“It’s an exciting time to be involved in this work and to be connecting with so many committed partners,” said Sarah Weiss, Director of College Access Initiatives at WSAC. “We’re able to innovate and try new things while building on the strong foundation of our existing programs.”

For example, the OtterBot texting tool is designed to help Washington high school students in the College Bound Scholarship program navigate the financial aid and college application processes. OtterBot was first launched in 2019 and will soon begin engaging with parents, who are instrumental in supporting students as they apply.

As in other states, Washington’s financial aid application rates got even worse during the COVID-19 pandemic, as fewer students enrolled in postsecondary education and training. 

WSAC believes that people will be more likely to apply for financial aid if they know how generous the state’s programs are. Through funding from the Legislature, the agency has launched a statewide marketing campaign to increase awareness of the Washington College Grant (WA Grant). WA Grant is a flexible option that can be used for many educational pathways beyond high school, including approved apprenticeships, certificate programs, job training or college.

The full Knowledge Is Power brief, available on the WSAC website, details these and several other efforts aimed at helping students and families access financial aid and pursue college or career training.

“These emerging strategies offer new and varied opportunities to support Washingtonians,” said Weiss. “It’s been a tough few years. I think people are ready to start looking forward and planning for the future.”