Boosting FAFSA Completion in Collier County
FAFSA opens October 1!
When it comes to paying for college, there’s nothing more important for students to do than complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form, filed annually, is the gateway to virtually all federal, state, and institutional financial aid, and many private scholarship providers require it as well. Unfortunately, completion rates for the FAFSA have been low the past couple of years due to the impact of COVID-19 — in fact, the Collier County students that don’t complete the form are leaving over $8 million in financial aid on the table each year.
In the face of rising costs and spiraling student debt, those dollars are more important than ever. To help get them to the students who need them, the federal government has worked to simplify the FAFSA process in recent years — the opening date moved up to October 1, the IRS and Department of Ed worked together to allow importing of prior-year tax data, as well as several updates to simplify and expand access.
Ideally, these changes should lead to more students completing the form. But, to work as intended, FAFSA and FCAN (Florida College Access Network) also lean on organizations like Champions For Learning and Future Ready Collier to spread the word. Since we advise and support students, we’re able to directly help boost FAFSA completion rates, as well as provide a leadership role for our whole county through Future Ready Collier.
Here’s how Champions For Learning is taking a lead role with Future Ready Collier partners on FAFSA completion efforts this Fall:
- Incentives to Class of 2020 and 2021, whose FAFSA completion may have been affected by COVID-19: Collier County high school graduates of the classes of 2020 and 2021 who complete a FAFSA between June 1, 2021 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 futurereadycollier.org/cash-for-college/. Students who submit their FAFSA confirmations will be eligible for prizes including a laptop, money for textbook purchases, and Amazon gift cards. This incentive program is being promoted by mail via Collier County Public Schools, via TikTok, a video-sharing app commonly used amongst teenagers that allows users to create 15-second videos, as well as other social media channels.
- FAFSA Completion events hosted by Collier County Public Schools: Champions For Learning supports several CCPS Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Completion events throughout the month of October. Students who need help filling out their FAFSA can attend an in-person session with expert staff and receive personal assistance. Open to all Collier County Public School students and their families, this year’s FAFSA Completion Events are being held at the following locations on the listed date/time:
- October 4 at Immokalee High School at 2pm-5pm
(presented by the Guadalupe Center)
- October 9 at Gulf Coast High School at 9am-noon
(presented by Champions For Learning)
- October 9 at Florida Gulf Coast University, Lutgert Hall at 9am-noon
(presented by FutureMakers)
- October 23 at Lorenzo Walker Technical High School at 9am-noon
(presented by Boys & Girls Club of Collier County)
- October 30 at Barron Collier High School at 9am-noon
(presented by Florida Gulf Coast University)
- October 4 at Immokalee High School at 2pm-5pm
- Instant Admissions Decisions: Champions For Learning has coordinated with two of our local colleges to create an amazing opportunity for those that attend the FAFSA Completion events. Admissions officers from FSW (Florida SouthWestern State College) will be in attendance at all of the FAFSA Completion events and will be able to provide instant admissions decisions to students and their families. FGCU (Florida Gulf Coast University) is supplying an admissions application fee waiver to each of the students in attendance at the FAFSA Completion events. This means that students that attend a FAFSA Completion event have the opportunity to not only learn how much financial aid they can expect, but also be admitted to college… all in one day!
- Virtual Financial Aid Night: Champions For Learning’s Jessica Manchette, along with representatives from the Community Foundation of Collier County, FGCU, and CCPS are producing a virtual information session regarding financial aid, scholarship options, and the supports available receive both financial aid and scholarships. The presentation will air Tuesday, September 28th from 6-8pm. It will stream live on the district website www.collierschools.com and The Education Channel – Channel 99 (Comcast, CenturyLink, or Summit Broadband).
- Staff Dedicated to FAFSA Completion: Originally introduced to Champions For Learning as a Bank of America summer intern, 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.”