Grant could boost financial aid applications

June 29th, 2018

By Linda Lipp | Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly

Fort Wayne Community Schools, Purdue University Fort Wayne and the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership have received a $35,000 National College Access Network grant for a program to help FWCS seniors and their families apply for college financial aid.

The Form Your Future program assists with the completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Colleges use FAFSA to determine the kind of financial assistance they offer students.

In northeast Indiana, the program will start in September with a goal of increasing the number of students in the region filling out the FAFSA form. By connecting more students with educational opportunities to prepare them for professional and higher-skilled vocational employment, the program will help the region meet its Vision 2030 goal of boosting the share of its workforce with a degree other post-secondary credential to 60 percent.

NCAN awarded grants of up to $40,000 to 25 organizations across the country to implement similar programs at school systems with below-average completion rates.

In addition to help with the FAFSA application, Form Your Future will share information with students and their families about college courses, campuses and admission. The program also will make Purdue Fort Wayne students and administrators available to talk with high school students about college.

“We are excited for the possibilities this program will offer high school seniors in Fort Wayne,” Krissy Creager, associate vice chancellor of enrollment management and student success at Purdue Fort Wayne, said in a statement.

“Many students and their families don’t realize that filing a FAFSA is a win-win; it can lead to free financial support, scholarships, grants, work-study, and loans to help fund a college education.”

Filling out the FAFSA is a relatively quick process and the information on it is kept private and secure, Creager said, And applying for the federal college assistance is an important part of transitioning from high school to any university.

At FWCS, K-12, college and career readiness manager Shenita Bolton said some families don’t fill out FAFSA because they don’t expect to qualify for the federal assistance.

“But a recent study found that half of the students graduating from high school who did not complete the FAFSA could have received a Pell Grant if they had filed the form,” she said in the statement on Form Your Future.

The federal government awards Pell Grants to students to help them with college costs and unlike federal guaranteed loans students can take out for that purpose, they do not require repayment.

Form Your Future will sponsor friendly competitions among high schools and the chance to win prizes such as Visa gift cards and backpacks filled with school supplies to motivate students to fill out the FAFSA. And it will hold parties to celebrate student goal setting.

“Completing the FAFSA doesn’t mean you’ve made a definite decision. It ensures the option is there,” Ryan Twiss, NIRP’s vice president of regional initiatives, said in the statement. “We believe that every student should complete high school with a range of good options in front of him or her. Completing the FAFSA removes a barrier for a student who chooses to pursue a trade or degree as a possible next step toward a career.”