A nonprofit organization is mobilizing peer leaders to use their influence in helping low-income students plan for life after high school and college success, The New York Times reports. That program, known as PeerForward, trains and coaches students to help other students with applying to college and completing FAFSA forms, as well as providing development opportunities and emotional support.
“School reform movements and education innovations almost always lack the component of leveraging the power of peer influence.” Keith Frome, co-founder of PeerForward, told The Times. “But the peer effect is like putting in a high speed computer chip. Anything you want to do with kids, if you leverage peer influence, it will go faster and better.” Recognizing how powerful other students can be in encouraging their peers to aim higher after graduating high school, PeerForward trains students to run campaigns with three goals, which correlate with increased likelihood of college attendance:
- Increasing the number of seniors applying to three or more colleges;
- Increasing the number of seniors completing FAFSA before March 1; and
- Increasing the number of students with a post-graduation plan and who see the connection between college graduation and achieving their career goals.
A 2017 study comparing schools that participate in PeerForward with similar schools that do not found that FAFSA form completion increased to 35 percent from 28 percent. In addition, 1,400 PeerForward students received around $13 million in federal aid that they may not have otherwise received.