In 1989, the Indiana Student Financial Aid Association (ISFAA) and the State Student Assistance Commission of Indiana (SSACI) started the program now known as “College Goal Sunday.” The financial aid community in Indiana recognized that information and direct assistance with completing the financial aid forms were key factors in helping children from minority, low income, and first generation families go to college.
Despite the fact that there were millions of dollars of financial aid available to many of these families, the perception that higher education was too expensive was a huge barrier to large numbers of students who never even applied.
Funding from the Lilly Endowment, Inc. (and later the Lumina Foundation), made it possible to create this program that relied heavily on the expertise of financial aid administrators across the state. They chose a Sunday during February, Financial Aid Awareness Month, and named it “College Goal Sunday.” On this day, financial aid volunteers helped families complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in various locations throughout the state.
The promotion of the College Goal SundaySM event was instrumental in not only encouraging attendance at the multiple sites across the state, but also publicizing awareness. The information campaign is designed to reach low-income Indiana residents. The campaign uses news media, direct mail and celebrity appearances to inform the public about the importance of higher education, the availability of funds to assist in paying for this education and the existence of College Goal SundaySM to help get the ball rolling by helping them complete the FAFSA.
Over the years, there has been continued financial support from the Lilly Endowment and beyond. USA Group Foundation has co-funded the program for several years and provided matching grants to replicate the College Goal SundaySM program in Arizona (1997), Kansas (1999), Kentucky (2001), Washington, D.C./Baltimore area, Hawaii and California (2002).
In 2004, NASFAA was awarded a grant to manage the College Goal SundaySM program that served 20,000 students and families in 2003. College Goal SundaySM programs have increased the number of sites and have served more than 100,000 students and families in 2007.