College Goal Sunday Representatives Learn About ‘Sizzle and Substance’ of Reaching Students

USA Funds® recently hosted representatives from 30 states and the District of Columbia for the annual College Goal SundaySM Forum in Scottsdale, Ariz. 

In 2012 USA Funds assumed ownership of and administrative responsibility for College Goal Sunday, a nationwide program that helps college-bound students and their families complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

The annual College Goal Sunday Forum is an opportunity for College Goal Sunday volunteer leaders to come together to interact with representatives from other states, and to discuss best practices and ways to increase participation and funding. 

Marie Groark, executive director, Get Schooled Foundation, was among the event’s presenters. She described her organization’s efforts to encourage FAFSA completion.

Get Schooled uses celebrity messengers and methods, such as text messaging, social media and the Web, to provide students with information that promotes Get Schooled’s efforts:

  • Helping students to be successful in their educational pursuits.
  • Improving high school graduation rates.
  • Empowering more students to go to and succeed in college.

In addition, Get Schooled sponsors a Get Schooled challenge, a friendly competition to motivate an entire school to improve educational outcomes. Every Get Schooled challenge offers all students in a school multiple ways to engage.

“We use what we call sizzle and substance to reach students, sizzle being the celebrity tie-ins and substance being our message,” said Groark. “The end result is more youth exploring their postsecondary options and being more successful on their educational path.”

USA Funds partners with Get Schooled in activities that — along with College Goal Sunday — are among the efforts in USA Funds’ overall FAFSA completion initiative.

As the ways of reaching today’s students continue to change, organizations such as Get Schooled are offering opportunities for organizations to partner to reach even more students, to ensure that they complete the FAFSA and are aware of their postsecondary options.

“Our goal for this Forum was to share opportunities and ideas on how best to reach students and their families and encourage them to complete their FAFSAs,” said Bob Ballard, USA Funds senior vice president, Access and Outreach. “We have states doing some great things, and our partner organizations are as well. This Forum was an opportunity to bring all those ideas together to share across the states.”

The main topics of the College Goal Sunday Forum included:

  • Improving student outcomes.
  • Creating effective collaborations and partnerships.
  • Urban and rural outreach.
  • Best practices: improving program design.
  • Performance evaluations.

Since 2002 USA Funds has provided grants totaling more than $3.1 million to support College Goal Sunday programs. USA Funds’ support helped establish College Goal Sunday in several states, including Arizona, Hawaii, Kansas, Maryland and Mississippi.
In 2013 more than 38,300 individuals attended a College Goal Sunday event. 

“We are excited for 2014 as we build on past successes and evaluate new opportunities and potential partnerships to grow the College Goal Sunday program,” Ballard said.