Federal Student Aid (FSA) College.gov
Aligned to goals:
- 1.5: Maintain up-to-date information on the Department's website about Department offices and key programs.
- 2.1: Provide more insight into the agency's decision-making process.
- 2.3: Collect and use input from the public and other stakeholders in decision-making.
College.gov conveys the Department's strong belief that postsecondary education is an achievable goal for anyone, regardless of income, ethnicity, age, or gender. With students' input and participation, College.gov was created for high school students and their families as a comprehensive online resource with help features and other tools they need to start the process that leads to college attendance. College.gov seeks to build an online community that fosters hope for getting to college, highlights the opportunity of education beyond high school, and empowers users with clearly defined resources to reach their college dreams.
The College.gov team has worked to bring transparency, participation, and collaboration to this online experience. Before beginning work on the project, a "listening tour" was held to gauge the needs of the public. Students and families from across the country revealed that they needed answers to the most basic questions on attaining education beyond high school. Students said they wanted to hear from and be inspired by others like them. Through focus groups and usability testing, the target audience's voice is continuously heard on matters of site design, content, and features. We consider user feedback extremely valuable. Every user-submitted suggestion is logged, discussed by the team, and then considered during the change management process. A short survey on the site allows the team to monitor satisfaction levels, and these responses always trend favorable. All survey data and site metrics are documented and analyzed each month to identify areas for improvement.
Site features that encourage participation include:
"I'm Going" Billboards
College.gov allows users to submit their inspirational messages and pictures, or "billboards," that are posted on the home page to remind them that this site is for students and by students. Users can then e-mail their billboards to friends and family or embed their billboards into their own sites or blogs. All users are able to browse through student-made "I'm going" billboards on the home page, that creates a sense of unity and joint purpose.
College.gov features inspirational videos and profiles of current college students and their parents, describing the paths they took to get to college, despite the obstacles they faced. This feature demonstrates that the dream of going to college is possible.
Building a community on Facebook allows students to share College.gov in an easy way that connects with their peers. The fan base is growing, with almost 13,000 followers. They receive biweekly wall posts on new features, relevant content, and interesting links.
This is an interactive tool for students to create an "I'm going" personalized roadmap, that details the steps to take to obtain a college education. These can be printed out as a single page or a wall-sized poster, or saved as the desktop on a user's computer.
Content is organized and presented in a way for students to easily find the answers to their higher education questions: Why Go? What to Do? and How to Pay? Links to valuable online resources, such as College Navigator (school search site), Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and FAFSA4caster, are prevalent throughout the site.