Simplifying communications can help high school students navigate college costs and the Cal Grant program

POLICY BRIEF: Simplifying communications can help high school students navigate college costs and the Cal Grant program

WORKING PAPER: Demystifying College Costs: How Nudges Can and Can’t Help

PRESS RELEASE: Study: Simplifying Financial Aid Letters Pays Big Dividends

Over 150,000 low- and moderate-income California high school graduates each year are eligible for Cal Grant entitlement awards, which can cover full tuition and most fees at any of the three public higher education segments in the state, or can make substantial contributions toward tuition at private colleges. Unfortunately, many eligible students don’t take up the awards. Many may not be aware of their eligibility, know how to navigate the system, or feel like these funds are truly meant for them.  In 2017-18 and 2018-19, the California Policy Lab and the People Lab at UC Berkeley worked with the California Student Aid Commission to design and test more effective notifications to eligible high school seniors. The redesigned letters were clearer, shorter, and encouraged students to think of themselves as college-bound. One letter also included personalized information about the total amount of financial aid available, and how that would impact the net costs of attending the colleges and universities to which a student had already applied



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