HUD's mission is ultimately about ensuring greater access to opportunity for those we serve; we aim, through our housing and other programs, to support the ability of all families, in all communities, to reach their full potential. In this way, our housing can provide a platform for upward mobility for the families we assist. A critical component of that upward mobility is education. For our housing to be a platform for success, to provide the best life chances for families and children, we need to ensure it is used to support improved educational attainment. This is true for all of our residents but none more so than the children, the largest age group we serve.
In HUD's 2014-2018 Strategic Plan, the Department committed itself to "Utilizing Housing as a Platform for Improving Quality of Life." The Strategic Plan further commits HUD to working to promote "advancements in economic prosperity for residents of HUD-assisted housing" and it noted the following: "Residents of HUD-assisted housing often face challenges such as lack of employable skills and low educational attainment levels that limit their ability to become economically self-sufficient and rise out of poverty. HUD will utilize its housing platform to expand access to employment and educational services." HUD's commitment to expand access to educational services for youth living in HUD-assisted housing is the basis of ROSS for Education.
Research shows there are large gaps in college attendance by family income that are not driven by level of preparation. Indeed, high school graduates from high-income families in the bottom quartile of academic performance are just as likely to attend college as low-income graduates in the top quartile academically.
One potentially important barrier to college attendance is that low-income youth are least likely to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) even though they are most in need of financial aid. FAFSA completion could be a useful way to close the college attendance gap because low-income families often overestimate out-of-pocket costs of college. FAFSA completion results in youth receiving information about available financial aid, which could help to change perceptions about college affordability.
One proposed approach for decreasing the college attendance gap, which is currently being tested, is to promote awareness of the FAFSA and the opportunity it provides to apply for financial assistance to help pay for postsecondary education. Outside of this NOFA, HUD is collaborating with the White House's Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (SBST) and the Department of Education's (DoED) Office of Federal Student Aid to implement an experiment to test whether various communications can increase the rate at which high school youth and recent graduates in HUD-assisted households complete the FAFSA, and to determine if increased awareness about the FAFSA results in positive outcomes.
Another potential approach, which is presented in this NOFA, is to offer high-school/college-age youth (ages 15-20) additional support in completing the necessary steps for enrolling in postsecondary education, including (but not limited to) completing the FAFSA. The FAFSA is generally considered a confusing and burdensome process, and targeted assistance could help reduce barriers to completion. This new demonstration program - ROSS for Education, also known as Project SOAR (Students + Opportunities + Achievements = Results) - will build on the FAFSA awareness experiment by giving researchers an opportunity to evaluate the impact of combining FAFSA awareness with assistance in completing the FAFSA. It will also go beyond the FAFSA by seeking to address other potential barriers to college attendance that may impact low-income youth more than their higher-income counterparts, such as limited financial literacy and college readiness; complicated postsecondary application processes; and the number of steps needed to successfully transition into first year of education after acceptance. Accordingly, ROSS for Education will also include a broader evaluation of whether providing support to youth in completing their FAFSA forms, and navigating the other aspects of the post-secondary education process (such as readiness, application, financing, adjustment, and persistence), has the potential to close gaps in college or other post-secondary attendance.
This Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) announces the availability of approximately $2 million of funding to provide grants to public housing authorities (PHAs) to deploy education navigators to provide individualized assistance to youth and their families in FAFSA completion, financial literacy and college readiness, postsecondary program applications and post-acceptance assistance.
Funding Opportunity Number: FR-6100-N-27
Opportunity Title: ROSS for Education (ROED)
CFDA No.: 14.898
OMB Approval Numbers: 2577-0229
Opening Date: July 29, 2016
Deadline Date: September 28, 2016