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The California Student Aid Commission (CSAC), the nation’s largest financial aid administrator, partnered with LPA in 2019 to roll out the revival of the Student Expenses and Resources Survey (SEARS), a research tool used in building the statewide Student Expense Budget that until then had not drawn much awareness from students and other key stakeholder groups.

Strategic Approach

Working hand in hand with CSAC, LPA swiftly developed a new framework for redefining students’ financial aid needs that included developing and arming champions to create an echo chamber of support – particularly student leaders whose stories could bring the data to life.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, we changed gears quickly to focus on protecting current aid and advocating for emergency grants for students. Simultaneously, we led the charge to revamp and redesign the CSAC website to ensure it reflected new branding, streamlined navigation for students to apply for aid and an overhaul of outdated website copy.

LPA | CSAC | Website Mockup


With LPA as its partner, CSAC has emerged as the leading voice on Cal Grant Modernization, simplification and equity guiding a diverse coalition that bolstered the case for reform via AB 1456 – a long term solution that eliminated barriers to financial aid. CSAC’s commitment, coupled with a robust strategic public affairs communications campaign executed by LPA, resulted in unprecedented investments by state leadership that may not have been made to this degree otherwise.

Our work helped build an infrastructure for CSAC to continue research that would better pinpoint students’ financial needs, create a higher education system that is financially accessible/affordable to all and obtain additional funds for students during the COVID-19 pandemic through strategic partnerships, vigorous social media outreach and legislative tactics.

SEARS’ revival created visibility for CSAC – an administrator that historically attracted little attention – to emerge as a leader and partner in reforming financial aid to better serve all students.

Since the SEARS survey release, LPA has served as CSAC’s lead public affairs partner in rolling out ambitious legislative proposals and data projects. Our team led a strategy for CSAC’s Cal Grant Modernization proposal seeking to reform the state’s financial aid system to better reach low-income students.

LPA | CSAC | Social Media