HU Receives Grant to Increase Financial Aid Application Completion

July 14, 2020

photo of Roxanne Gonzales

Roxanne Gonzales

Las Vegas, N.M. – New Mexico Highlands University will help more people in the state complete FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, thanks to a grant from the New Mexico Higher Education Department.

The NMHED FAFSA initiative grant award to Highlands totals $45,750. It began July 1 and continues through June 2021.

“As we stated in the grant application, FAFSA frequently means the difference between college enrollment and a dream denied,” said Roxanne Gonzales, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Highlands. “This project specifically addresses the opportunities denied for those potential or existing students who, for various reasons, fail to complete the FAFSA application process.”

Gonzales said one highlight of the grant funding is that it involves a close partnership with Luna Community College in Las Vegas, New Mexico.

“The idea behind this grant is to help adult students returning to college to finish a credential that will provide entry into the workforce. This collaboration encourages students to attend Luna and then Highlands,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales said the grant focuses on three objectives:

  • Analyze and implement effective means to identify, communication with, and improve FAFSA participation by adult learners.
  • Expand and increase outreach to high school students and counselors, teachers, schools and other entities that serve them.
  • Ensure that transfer students are effectively included in FAFSA application outreach and support.

Gonzales said adult learners often do not know they qualify for federal financial aid.

“Based on my career working with adult learners, they often feel they aren’t eligible for financial aid. In reality, because they have families and other commitments, more often than not they are eligible,” Gonzales said.

Some of the strategies for the grant project include identifying veterans as a key learning population, providing incentives for completing the FAFSA application, and jointly developing marketing materials with Luna Community College aimed specifically at adult learners.

Gonzales said that while Highlands University data from fall semester 2019 shows its students average an 84.3% completion rate for FAFSA, there is room for improvement in reaching the adult learner.

“Financial aid provides opportunities for adult learners to seek certificates and bachelor’s degree programs in areas of high workforce need,” Gonzales said.

Entities besides Luna Community College who wrote letters of support for the Highlands grant application include West Las Vegas School District, Las Vegas City Schools, Mora Independent School District and Las Vegas Rotary Club.

Highlands works in partnership with these school districts and others to raise awareness about higher education opportunities at the university.