RCOE Highlights

April 27, 2016

Riverside County “Race to Submit” Initiative Drives Increase in Financial Aid Applications for Students in Class of 2016

collage of district FAFSA event photos

Local high schools launched creative campaigns to increase students’ FAFSA submissions as part of the Riverside County Education Collaborative’s Race to Submit initiative.

More Riverside County high school graduates will be eligible to receive federal and state financial aid when they start college this fall thanks to the Riverside County Education Collaborative’s (RCEC) Race to Submit initiative aimed at ensuring students submit financial aid applications before the priority deadline of March 2.

“The graduates from the class of 2016 will have a significantly higher chance of starting their college careers this fall because they have federal or state financial aid already secured before they graduate from high school,” said Kenneth M. Young, Riverside County Superintendent of Schools. “Race to Submit has elicited a schoolwide commitment that includes counselors, teachers, classified staff, and administrators that should also be replicated in the larger community. The commitment to push the sense of urgency related to financial aid extends far beyond the school campus and our hope is that mayors, city council members, and business leaders in the community can see the direct connection to economic prosperity that comes with a more educated population.”

A year-long focus on increasing the number of local students that apply for financial aid began in September with the College Kickoff. High schools throughout the county have found creative methods to motivate students to take action to fund their educational future. Ideas from counselors, principals, and teachers included: “FAFSA Fiestas”, pizza parties, parent nights, T-shirt giveaways, and even coveted extra tickets to graduation for students who complete FAFSA.

Throughout the year, the Riverside County Office of Education has kept a running scoreboard for high schools in the county to track their progress compared to high schools via the “Race to Submit” website. (www.rcoe.us/racetosubmit).

Highlights from this year’s competition include:

  • 92 comprehensive, charter, continuation and alternative high schools participated in the 2015-2016 Race to Submit
  • 615 more applications submitted by this time last year (19,025 applications)
  • Multiple schools achieved a 10% or greater increase in FAFSA completion rates from 2014-2015 to 2015-2016
  • A first in Riverside County occurred when 100% of San Jacinto Valley Academy (100% completion rate, 46 senior class enrollment) from San Jacinto USD and Nuview Bridge Early College High School (100% completion rate, 127 senior class enrollment) from Nuview Union SD finished in a tie in the Charter School division.
  • La Familia High School (62% completion rate, 69 senior class enrollment) from Coachella Valley USD was named as the winner in the Alternative High School division.
  • John F. Kennedy Middle College High School (76% completion rate, 172 senior class enrollment) from Corona-Norco USD was named the Small Public High School divisional winner.
  • John W. North High School (84% completion rate, 493 senior class enrollment) from Riverside USD was named the Medium Public High School divisional winner.
  • Heritage High School (87% completion rate, 625 senior class enrollment) from Perris Union HSD was named as the Large Public High School divisional winner.

Schools that finished first in each category will be honored with honorary banners at the start of the 2016-2017 school year as part of the Riverside County Office of Education’s College Kickoff festivities.

“This year, we’ve seen more schoolwide involvement beyond counselors,” said Catalina Cifuentes, College and Career Coordinator at the Riverside County Office of Education. “In some districts, district administrators—even the superintendent—joined in to the effort and called every senior who had not yet submitted their application. They called 597 families in one night which is far more than any school’s counseling staff could accomplish on their own.”

The federal government provides more than $150 billion in grants, loans and work-study funds each year for students to attend college or career school. The RCEC was founded on the belief that too much of that money goes unused. Graduating seniors from the class of 2014 in California lost out on $396,401,205 in federal Pell Grant funds in 2013-2014 because students failed to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the accompanying Cal Grant application.

The Riverside County Education Collaborative (RCEC) is the network partnership of higher education, local government, and K-12 stakeholders dedicated to expanding college and career readiness in Riverside County. The RCEC was formed in July 2014 in response to a request by the U.S. Department of Education to help more students prepare for, and graduate from, college. The goals of the RCEC are focused on growing the percentage of FAFSA (Free Applications for Federal Student Aid) completions, increasing the percentage of students applying to three or more colleges, raising the percentage of students who enroll in post-secondary education, and ensuring that more students are academically prepared for college after completing high school.

Riverside County Education Collaborative members include:

  • Aaron Adams, City Manager, City of Temecula
  • Diana Asseier, Chief Academic Officer, Riverside County Office of Education
  • Jacques Bordeaux, Education Manager, K-12 College Board
  • Greg Butler, Assistant City Manager, City of Temecula
  • Kaitlin Chell, Director of Federal Relations Governmental & Community Relations, University of California, Riverside
  • Catalina Cifuentes, College and Career Coordinator, Riverside County Office of Education
  • Darren Daniels, Assistant Superintendent, Murrieta Valley Unified School District
  • MaryAnn Edwards, Mayor, City of Temecula
  • Jonathan Greenberg, Superintendent, Perris Union High School District
  • Pat Kelley, Superintendent, Murrieta Valley Unified School District
  • Robyn Kisinger, California Division Director / AVID Center, State AVID
  • Penny Kubly, Principal in Residence, Riverside County Office of Education
  • Mark LeNoir, Assistant Superintendent, Val Verde Unified School District
  • Chun-Wu Li, Administrator, Riverside County Office of Education
  • Sandra Mayo, President, Moreno Valley College
  • Michael R. McCormick, Superintendent, Val Verde Unified School District
  • Patricia Prado-Olmos, California State University, San Marcos
  • Timothy Ritter, Superintendent, Temecula Valley Unified School District
  • Thomas Smith, Dean, Graduate School of Education, University of California, Riverside
  • Tom Spillman, Dean of Student Services, Mt. San Jacinto College
  • Charles Walker, Manager of Economic Development, City of Temecula
  • Mary Walters, Director of Educational Services, Murrieta Valley Unified School District
  • Cherise Wickham, Grant Development Manager, Riverside County Office of Education
  • Kim Wilcox, Chancellor, University of California, Riverside
  • Judy D. White, Superintendent, Moreno Valley Unified School District
  • Kenneth M. Young, Riverside County Superintendent of Schools