Cash for College Dashboard Frequently Asked Questions

What is Cash for College? 

Cash for College is one component of the Alabama Goes to College Campaign. Cash for College supports educators so that every graduating senior can complete their FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) in order to access federal, state, and institutional aid to pay for their education after high school.

Why is my school not included in data dashboard? 

The Alabama Cash for College Data Dashboard primarily includes Alabama public high schools with 12th grade enrollment available from the Alabama State Department of Education and FAFSA completion data from the U.S. Department of Education. It also includes specific private, charter, career, virtual, alternative, or statewide schools that choose to sign up to participate in the Alabama Goes to College campaign, self-report enrollment data, and have FAFSA completion data from the U.S. Department of Education. It otherwise does not include private schools, virtual schools, schools primarily serving adults, or schools lacking official U.S. Department of Education FAFSA data. Whenever possible, the dashboard uses the official name listed in Alabama Department of Education enrollment data. Double check that the school may not be listed under a variation of its commonly used name.   

How can I view information about my school? 

Access the dashboard and click on the top tab labeled “School Detail.” Use the dropdown box labeled “Select School” to scroll and find your school or start entering the name of the school for it to appear.

How can I view information about my district? 

Access the dashboard and click on the top tab labeled “District Detail.” Use the dropdown box labeled “Select District” to scroll and find your district or start entering the district’s name for it to appear.

Why does the 12th grade enrollment data not match current enrollment? 

The dashboard features the most recently published data available. The Alabama State Department of Education does not release current year enrollment data until later in the fall and therefore current year 12th grade enrollment cannot be updated until the new FAFSA cycle has already begun. The FAFSA Completion Percentage and Improvement Rate will automatically recalculate with the new data once it is uploaded.

Enrollment data may still not be accurate due to limitations of official data sources. Enrollment data comes directly from the Alabama State Department of Education and is not continuously updated. The Data Addendum discusses in detail how the dashboard cannot account for all possible changes in enrollment data such as student migration.  

Why does the FAFSA completion data I have collected at my school not match the data dashboard? 

There are various reasons why data may not match. One reason is the dashboard uses federally reported data of completed FAFSAs. A completed FAFSA is one that has been submitted with correct information and can be processed to determine a student’s eligibility. Sometimes a student has only submitted a FAFSA, and it is not determined to be complete by the government’s Central Processing System. We do not include submitted FAFSAs in the completion percentage. Other reasons that are listed in the Data Addendum’s limitations include that schools may have 12th graders ages 19-21 whose FAFSAs are not counted in the federal data.   

How do you calculate the Completion Percentage? 

The completion percentage is calculated by dividing the number of completed FAFSAs by the number of enrolled 12th graders and multiplying by 100%. 

How do you calculate the Improvement Rate?  

The Improvement Rate is calculated using a percent change formula to determine the percent that FAFSA completion has increased or decreased over one year. We therefore use the following formula: 

Current Year Completion Percentage – Previous Year Completion Percentage 

______________________________________________________     x 100 

Previous Year Completion Percentage 

Why is my Completion Percentage and/or Improvement Rate showing as N/A? 

For schools with less than five FAFSAs completed, we are unable to calculate the Completion Percentage or Improvement Rate because the U.S. Department of Education does not provide a precise number. As soon as a school has 5 or more submitted applications reported, the dashboard will do the calculations.  

Why is my Improvement Rate a negative number? 

The Improvement Rate is a percent change calculation that compares the current year Completion Percentage to last year. If your current Completion Percentage is less than last year’s Completion Percentage over the same time period, the calculation will show a negative number.  

How often do you update the data dashboard? 

The dashboard is updated with the most current data available between October 1 and June 30. The availability of data varies based on the source. School enrollment and free- or reduced-price lunch data for the current year are not released by the Alabama State Department of Education until later in the academic year, usually between October and December. FAFSA completion data is updated weekly beginning in October as soon as the first week of FAFSA data is released from the U.S. Department of Education.

Why isn’t my school listed as a Cash for College participating school?

Registration for the Alabama Goes to College Campaign is on a rolling basis over the summer and into the fall. Schools that have not registered before the October 1 deadline will be added to the dashboard on a weekly basis.

How can my school participate in the Cash for College initiative? 

We welcome your school’s participation! Annual sign up for the Alabama Goes to College Campaign opens each summer before the next academic year. All schools are eligible to participate, including alternative, private, and religious schools. Schools that lack specific key data such as FAFSA completion data will not be included in the dashboard and are not eligible for the awards, but may still receive resources and technical assistance.  Learn more and sign up at alabamagoes2college.org. 

How can I learn more about how the data dashboard works? 

Review our Data Addendum.

How can I contact you with questions or concerns about the data dashboard or Cash for College? 

Please contact us at algoestocollege@alabamapossible.org