Students who are college ready have better employment and earning potential later in life. 

But we know that it isn’t enough to be prepared in the classroom to access post-secondary education. The cost of higher education is a significant barrier for the kids and families we serve in our partner communities.FAFSA and college advisors assist students filling out the FAFSA application

Increasing college access is one of the primary tasks of the Promise Partnership Post-secondary Readiness Initiative Team, which is made up of professionals from higher education, school districts, and other community organizations. Funding the group’s work was made possible by the generous support of Goldman Sachs and Comenity Bank.

The group is working with six high schools in Ogden, Davis, Salt Lake and Granite school districts to increase college access from several perspectives — chief among them being increasing completion rates for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.  

FAFSA is a key driver for accessing post-secondary education at colleges and universities and for longer certification programs at technical schools. Utah currently ranks 50th in the nation for FAFSA completion rates and upward of $30 Million of Pell grant funds — which function like a scholarship — are left on the table by Utah high school students. 

FAFSA CompletionThe six school teams in the Impact and Improvement Network have been trained on and are using well-known improvement science techniques to test interventions that might increase FAFSA completion, such as offering Saturday morning childcare to parents of high school seniors, to afternoon group coaching sessions with the students themselves.  

The Impact & Improvement school teams will meet monthly between October and March, with the support of UWSL staff,  to share key learnings and problem-solve around their interventions. The five school teams focused on FAFSA completion have set a goal of increasing their rates by at least 5 percent within their school.

In addition, the Post-Secondary Initiative Team worked with the Utah Higher Education Authority and the Woodward Hines Foundation to secure the rights to use the FAFSA completion campaign tagline, “First U Hafta FAFSA”.  

Each school in the Promise Partnership region will receive a vinyl banner and buttons for their counseling staff to promote the “First You Hafta FAFSA” campaign. If you run a local business where we can hang a poster, please contact our Post-Secondary Readiness Network Director at alexis {at}



By: Alexis Bucknam, Post-Secondary Readiness Network Director at United Way of Salt Lake