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“Cash for College” Supports Collier County Class of 2020 and 2021 High School Graduates

“Cash for College” Supports Collier County Class of 2020 and 2021 High School Graduates

Champions For Learning and Future Ready Collier Partner with Florida College Access Network to Support Students

Collier County high school graduates of the classes of 2020 and 2021 who completed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid—more commonly known by its acronym, FAFSA—between now and October 31, 2021 can enter to win prizes through the Florida College Access Network’s Cash for College program. Entries are accepted through October 31, 2021 at Students who submit their FAFSA confirmations will be eligible for prizes including a laptop, money for textbook purchases, and Amazon gift cards.

Champions For Learning and Future Ready Collier (FRC), an education collective impact network, have partnered with Florida College Access Network (FCAN) to administer Cash for College locally. FRC tracks annual student achievement indicators, including rates of FAFSA completion, which strongly correlate with students pursuing post-high school education or career training. FAFSA is a prerequisite for most financial aid, including athletic and merit scholarship. FCAN is a state partner to FRC, and is aligned in efforts to increase overall FAFSA completions and career progression.

Data show that, for the high school classes of 2020 and 2021, FAFSA completion was considerably lower than in prior years. As of June 2019, approximately 52.3% of graduating high school seniors had completed a FAFSA. For 2020, that figure is 49.8%, and 46% for 2021.

The implications are significant. As measured by FCAN, across the classes of 2020 and 2021, 3778 students in Collier County did not complete the FAFSA, which equates to $8,207,242 in available Pell grants left unused. Those who did complete the FAFSA collectively earned $7,234,017 in financial aid, which directly contributes to the Collier County workforce and economy. In Collier County, only 35.2% of adults age 25 to 34 have a technical certificate or college degree, which dramatically limits their earning opportunities. By 2030, it is estimated that 60% of Florida jobs will require some education or training beyond high school.

Jessica Manchette, the Chief Information Officer for Champions For Learning, FRC’s administrative backbone organization, and a team lead for FRC’s FAFSA-related efforts, comments, “It is key to help recent graduates understand that it’s not too late to submit a FAFSA and make a plan for their education. We hope that this helps generate awareness, and encourages students who perhaps were negatively affected by COVID or other life events to believe in their ability to achieve their career goals.”

Maria Primucci is a recent high school graduate working with Champions For Learning before attending the University of South Florida in the spring of 2022. As a daughter of immigrants, Maria was uncertain about how she would obtain the resources to go to college. After attending a financial aid session hosted by her high school, Maria was able to complete her FAFSA, and subsequently heard from friends and classmates who were struggling with their applications. Maria observes, “FAFSA can seem intimidating, especially in homes where there are language barriers. I feel privileged to be able to help others like me. FAFSA helps open doors that students may have assumed were closed to them.”