The California College Promise Grant (CCPG) provides annual tuition and fee waivers to nearly one million students across the California Community Colleges. But far too many students still think they are not eligible for financial aid or don’t know how to start the process. As a result, many do not even apply. In an effort to continually increase students’ awareness of and access to financial aid opportunities, the Chancellor’s Office partnered with the Student Centered Design Lab to redesign the California College Promise Grant application.

The project centered on a design sprint, a user experience methodology for solving design challenges with key stakeholders in a compressed amount of time. Conducted remotely by the Student Centered Design Lab team, the design sprint team also included a CCPG student recipient from Santa Monica College and financial aid experts from Butte College, the Chancellor’s Office, the California Student Aid Commission, the Success Center for California Community Colleges and a foster youth advocate from the Foundation’s Equity department. Feedback from CCPG recipients at Compton College, Sacramento City College, Saddleback College and Santa Monica College was also used to inform the empathy-driven solution design.

As a result of the design sprint, the CCPG PDF application was redesigned, reducing the content from four pages to two pages and including more student-friendly language and a clearer pathway guiding students to completion. Additionally, the ability to allow colleges to add customized information including a college or district logo, submission instructions and contact information for the financial aid office was added to the application for the first time. 

The previous CCPG application and the simplified CCPG application were then tested remotely with current CCC students across the state that had never previously completed the application. User testing data show that students were able to complete the simplified application in approximately half the time of the previous application, and they preferred the simplified application on every metric assessed, including layout and instructions. According to Danielle R., a student tester at El Camino College, “If there were more documents like that—simple, straight to the point—I feel like a lot of people would submit their documents on time instead of waiting until the last minute, or not even doing it at all.”

Tammera Shinar, director of financial aid and veterans services at Butte College, echoed Danielle’s sentiment: “We’re always looking for ways to reduce barriers and simplify the financial aid process for students. The redesign of the California College Promise Grant application is not only easier for students to navigate, but it also removes a barrier to college affordability. I’m excited to see how many more students we can reach to make higher education their reality!”

The simplified CCPG PDF application will be released systemwide in late summer for colleges’ immediate use, and plans for updating the online CCPG application within CCCApply are in development. Marketing resources for colleges are available on the I Can Afford College website to help increase student awareness of the CCPG. 

Learn more about the design and research services offered by the Student Centered Design Lab now by visiting the Lab website.

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