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Money on their minds

Valerie Barr will tell any student she encounters that the cost of their time to fill out financial aid applications is worth the awards they could reap.

The Oregon Promise is one example that the advisor in the Scholars program at Logos Public Charter School points to. That scholarship, which recent high school graduates and GED certificate holders can put toward any Oregon community college, ranges in size from $1,000 to $3,834 per year.

“When you calculate a per-hour benefit, that’s pretty good,” Barr said, noting that the application can take about 10 minutes to complete.

Useful for an even wider range of postsecondary institutions and certifications is the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid.

To reduce the number of students who might miss out on money for school, Barr signed Logos on to a statewide challenge set by the Oregon Goes to College initiative this year. Several other schools in Jackson County have also registered with the program, which seeks to boost participation rates among graduating seniors in two government administered financial aid programs: FAFSA and the Oregon Student Aid Application.

“We’re doing whatever we can to get any student applying for that,” said John Everitt, an academic advisor at Eagle Point High School. “Whether it’s a backup or the first and foremost thing they need to do.”

Schools participating in the challenge set a goal to raise their FAFSA and ORSAA completion rates. The minimum is 5%.

Crater School of Business, Innovation and Science, Butte Falls High School, St. Mary’s School and the Southern Oregon Education Service District’s migrant education program are also participating.

Last year, about 65% of Logos’ graduating class completed the application, Barr said. The school set a goal of 75% completion this year.

A diagram tracking progress showed 7% of Logos’ 77 enrolled seniors had completed the application by Friday afternoon. That’s almost 2% of the graduating class since the application for the 2020-2021 school year opened Oct. 1.

Barr prefers students to fill out forms early.

“If we can get families to do the FAFSA in October, it helps them to plan for the next step,” she said.

Makenna Gaylor, a senior at Logos who hopes to study diesel technology at Montana State University, said she plans to start this weekend.

“It’s a little stressful,” she said. “But I’m super grateful, the school has been super thorough, they’ve given me a list of what everything will cost.”

Makenna said she and her mother, also an advisor in the Logos Scholars program, are looking into other scholarships, including those for women pursuing STEAM careers, the shorthand for science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

They have a spreadsheet set up to track the scholarships she’s eligible for, which they update regularly.

“I just like to do it together, so she sees what we’re doing as a family and how much she could qualify for,” her mother, Kristin Gaylor, said.

Both of Makenna’s parents attended college, and her family saw an older sibling through to college three years ago. She’ll also graduate from Logos with an associate degree in diesel technology, as part of the Scholars program.

For many first-generation students, whose parents may have never navigated college and financial aid applications before, the process can be overwhelming, Everitt said.

“A lot of students, they don’t have that confidence that they can do it,” he said.

He and Barr both spoke about the need to approach post-graduation plans with students in a relational way.

“They’re more than just a number,” Everitt said. “There’s a story behind them, and a lot of times the more we get to know that student the more we get to help them bring that out in their essays.”

Eagle Point High School has an ambitious goal set for FAFSA completion this coming year, Everitt said: as close to 100% as they can get.

Academic advisors and counselors also wrap parents into the process, to try to increase students’ chances of reaching their goals after they leave public school.

Each has planned parent outreach evenings, which they’ll publicize through their respective communication channels in the coming weeks.

Find out more about FAFSA by visiting https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa.

More information about the Oregon Student Aid Application is at https://oregonstudentaid.gov/oregon-promise.aspx, including a tool that will report your eligibility for awards.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at ktornay@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497. Follow her on Twitter @ka_tornay.

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