This is an excerpt of On Assignment, education writer Theresa Harrington's blog on Contra Costa County schools. Read more and post comments at IBABuzz.com/onassignment. Follow her at Twitter.com/tunedtotheresa or Facebook.com/TheresaHarringtonBANG.

Feb. 28

This is your final warning: Sunday is the deadline for high school seniors to apply for federal financial aid and California state grants. Don't delay!

Students can apply by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, and submitting grade-point average information to the California Student Aid Commission.

A report released earlier this week by The Education Trust-West -- a statewide education policy, research and nonprofit advocacy organization -- found that while the number of high school seniors who completed FAFSA and Cal Grant applications across the state rose last year, many students still did not apply for financial aid.

The number of high school seniors who completed FAFSA applications grew from 54 percent to 62 percent from 2012 to 2013 while the number who applied for Cal Grants rose from 50 percent to 56 percent during the same time period, according to the report.


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However, 44 percent -- or nearly 175,000 12th graders in the class of 2013 did not complete a Cal Grant application, according to the "Equity Alert" brief titled, "Doorways to College Aid," which is a follow-up to the group's report from last year called, "The Cost of Opportunity: Access to College Financial Aid in California."

To view the report, visit www.edtrust.org/west and click on "New Analysis Finds FAFSA & Cal Grant Applications Rising; Too Many Students Across California Still Not Applying for Financial Aid."

"We are glad to see the increases in FAFSA completion and Cal Grant application rates, but there are still far too many students falling through the cracks," said Dr. Orville Jackson, senior research analyst at The Education Trust-West, in a news release. "Our research gives us a good sense of what works to get more students to apply for aid and go to college. The challenge now is to get those practices spread to schools and districts across California."

The research shows that schools and districts using an electronic GPA verification for their high school seniors outperformed other districts by 15 percent, with an average Cal Grant completion rate of 71 percent compared to 56 percent for others.

The Education Trust-West supports AB 2160, introduced earlier this month by Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, which would require all public high schools to electronically submit GPA verifications to the state Student Aid Commission.

"Education is the greatest gift we can give to our children," Ting said in a prepared statement. "California is providing more help than ever to help families pay for college, but too many students leave aid on the table. Students who apply for aid are twice as likely to enroll in college and more likely to graduate. This simple solution will ensure more students get help getting ahead."

The report includes a list of the Top 100 high schools in the state ranked according to FAFSA completions out of 1,100 schools studied. Here are the nine East Bay schools that made the list, with their FAFSA completion rates followed by their Cal Grant application completion rates.

ALAMEDA COUNTY:

MyClymonds High, Oakland Unified: 100 percent; 76 percent

Oakland School for the Arts, Oakland Unified: 88 percent; 83 percent

Aspire California College Preparatory Academy, Alameda County: 87 percent; 91 percent

Impact Academy of Arts and Technology, Hayward Unified: 87 percent; 87 percent

KIPP King Collegiate High, San Lorenzo Unified: 83 percent; 90 percent

American Indian Public High, Oakland Unified: 82 percent; 73 percent

Leadership Public Schools -- Hayward, Hayward Unified: 79 percent; 92 percent

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY:

Deer Valley High, Antioch Unified: 100 percent; 28 percent

Middle College High, West Contra Costa Unified: 81 percent; 85 percent

To see the Education Trust-West California Financial Aid Tracker, which shows how well schools and districts are doing in college financial aid applications, visit http://financialaid.edtrustwest.org.