Best Partnership Finalist: Citi
Citi with the National Community Tax Coalition: Expanding access to higher education
Combining philanthropic dollars with volunteer hours and expert training, Citi and the National Community Tax Coalition make financial aid accessible to low-income families. Learning and greater opportunity are just around the corner.
A college degree is critical to upward mobility in the United States. College graduates can expect to earn 84 percent more than their counterparts with only a high school diploma. As the job market grows more competitive, those without a college degree will be left further behind.
Fewer than 10 percent of students from low-income families graduate from college by their mid 20's. Scholarships alone are not enough to support low-income students in this undertaking. Financial aid is crucial to their ability to pursue a college degree. Although government financial aid is available, lack of awareness and the complexity of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) prevent many from seeking the aid that they are eligible to receive.
Recognizing that a college degree is critical to enabling low-income students and their families to improve their circumstances and participate in the financial mainstream, the Citi Foundation supports programs that dramatically increase the number of low-income students who obtain a college degree.
Financial Aid U (FAU) is one such intervention. Created by the National Community Tax Coalition (NCTC) and funded solely by the Citi Foundation, FAU provides free tax preparation for low-income families alongside financial aid education and assistance in completing the FAFSA. This innovative national program ensures that low-income students and their families can easily access financial aid to cover the cost of higher education.
What The Partnership Has Accomplished
Since 2008, the Citi Foundation has provided more than $4 million in funding for FAU. In addition to supporting on-the-ground efforts that have helped more than 8,000 students across nine states, these funds have been directed at driving federal policy and changing systems to simplify the financial aid process. Further, the Citi Foundation leverages the expertise of Citi employees as volunteers at tax sites and school events.
Through FAU students visit a local community-based tax prep site or targeted high schools where trained financial counselors and corporate volunteers help them understand and complete tax and financial aid forms.
In addition to completing the FAFSA with students, volunteers provide follow-up services on topics related to college financing, including school billing cycles, understanding the components of financial aid, cost comparisons, and budgeting.
Thus far, more than 65 Citi employees have delivered in excess of 1,300 hours of service. These volunteers receive intensive training on tax preparation and FAFSA completion and work alongside professional counselors.
Why This Project Makes Sense
Key stakeholders, like Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark, NJ, and participating community tax preparation services have voiced support for the program.
Since its inception, FAU has helped put more than 8,000 students on the path to earning a college degree. Of the 3,390 students who received FAFSA services during the 2012 tax season, 54 percent enrolled in college by November 2012. FAU provided these students with access to an estimated $23.5 million in federal and state grant and loan funding.
Past results also demonstrate program success. In 2011, 55 percent of the students that received FAFSA services enrolled in college the same year. That was up from the 41 percent who enrolled in 2010. In subsequent years, additional students from each cohort enrolled and FAU found that, of those 2010 enrolled students, a staggering 62 percent remained in college through November 2012. The persistence rate for the 2011 cohort through November 2012 is even higher at 83 percent, showing an increasing number of students both enrolling and staying in college. These students were awarded $18,263,000 and $19,212,885 in financial aid in 2010 and 2011, respectively.