FutureMakers calling on schools to report FAFSA completion

$150 billion offered annually to help millions of students pay for college or career school.

Filing for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is essential for graduating high school seniors planning on attending college or career school.

With high school graduations upon us, it’s not too late for students to still fill out the FAFSA to receive funding, whether they have decided upon the secondary school they plan to attend or not.

FAFSA is the only way for students to apply for federal student aid and is the largest provider of student financial aid in the nation with $150 billion offered annually to help millions of students pay for college or career school. The Florida Financial Aid application is also important for students to complete and stu-dents must complete this application for state scholarships and grants including but not limited to Bright Futures, First Generation Matching grants and the Benacquisto Scholarship.

Unfortunately, many students do not fill out the FAFSA each year and leave millions of available dollars in funding on the table.

FutureMakers Coalition’s FAFSA first! is available to help make the application process as easy as possible. FutureMakers has a robust team of cross-sector partners leading the FAFSA first! campaign in-cluding the United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades and Okeechobee; Lee and Collier’s school foundations; FGCU; FSW; and Future Ready Collier.

“We are here to help no matter where a student plans to attend college or career school,” said Patrice Cunningham, Volunteer Center Director, FutureMaker, United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades, and Okee-chobee. “We have already assisted over 100 students in the first few weeks of May with completing their FAFSA in completions, trouble-shooting and any problems they may have in finishing the Florida finan-cial aid application for ensuring they have access to additional grant money that they may qualify for. Our team is here to not be a burden but offer relief to the schools and counselors.”

According to Cunningham, students, parents and counselors with questions can reach out to [email protected] and a financial aid representative from the team will assist them. Additional resources including a step by step FAFSA guide are available at https://www.futuremakerscoalition.com/fafsafirst/
Regionally, FAFSA completion goals have been down since 2017. Several factors have played a role in in the decline including the economic impact of Hurricane Irma, the blue/green algae and red tide events, and most recently the COVID-19 pandemic. Regionally, funding was lacking to amplify the FAFSA first! campaign, which had a positive impact on completion prior to 2017.
FAFSA first! was recently awarded a $30,000 Local Access Network FAFSA & Enrollment Grant by Florida College Access Network to encourage FAFSA completion. Part of the grant will be used for in-centives for schools with the biggest increase in FAFSA completions for each county.

“In a year-end push, local high school counselors and administrators have been allowing us to reach stu-dents through some key graduation touchpoints, such as graduation material pick-ups,” Cunningham said. “We are also working with school counselor pulled reports that indicate if the FAFSA application is com-plete, missing tax or social security information, etc. so we can assist the students with completing their application.”

She added that many times the students do not realize that their application is not complete due to missing information and errors.

FAFSA first! is also gearing up for this fall’s incoming senior classes and plan to assist in county-wide Financial Aid Nights with the purpose of simplifying the complex financial aid process for prospec-tive college and career students.

“Our FAFSA first! team of financial aid experts and partners are here to help each school in whatever capacity they need with a menu of options such as Financial Aid 101 for Fall Senior nights or FAFSA walkthrough sessions,” Cunningham said.

FutureMakers Coalition is a regional collective impact initiative that has been designated a Talent Hub by Lumina Foundation in partnership with The Kresge Foundation to support local efforts to increase educa-tional attainment. Formed in 2015 around existing regional collaborations, the goal of FutureMakers Coa-lition is to transform the workforce by increasing the number of Southwest Florida residents with degrees, certificates and other high-quality credentials to 55% by 2025. The Coalition is committed to creating a cradle-to-career pathway to ensure success for traditional students and adult learners. FutureMakers Coa-lition was one of Lumina Foundation’s 75 national Community Partners in Attainment and is a member of the National Talent Network. Collaboratory provides backbone/administrative support to FutureMak-ers Coalition. The Coalition has grown to over 300 FutureMakers representing business, education, gov-ernment, nonprofits, philanthropy, residents, and students across Glades, Hendry, Collier, Lee, and Char-lotte counties.

FutureMakers Coalition encourages businesses to join and invest in sustaining this community-changing initiative by visiting https://www.futuremakerscoalition.com or emailing Tessa LeSage at [email protected].