fafsa challenge Archives | UnidosNow

An Unprecedented FAFSA Challenge Success

Since the Manatee College Access Network (MCAN) formally organized last fall to improve student access and entry into post-secondary education, its member agencies jumped into the FAFSA challenge in late 2016.  This resulted in a significant accomplishment for the community: $658, 625 additional Pell grant dollars to Manatee students over the prior year.

With a capacity-building grant from the Florida College Access Network, the MCAN will begin its strategic planning process this summer, using a collective impact model. UnidosNow will serve as the MCAN’s backbone organization over the next year to help facilitate this process for the community.

Participating MCAN organizations include: Manatee Technical College, University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, State College of Florida, Boys and Girls Club, Manatee Chamber of Commerce, Goodwill, Career Edge Funders, Career Source, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast, Education Foundation, Manatee Technical College, Manatee County Library, Manatee County Government, Manatee Community Foundation, United Way of Manatee, School District of Manatee County, and Bradenton Area Economic Development.

UnidosNow’s presence in the schools, working with students to complete their FAFSA application, also made a difference in Sarasota county, which won “MVP for Large Districts” from the Florida College Access Network. We are proud to be part of the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership that helped to get 45.5% of Sarasota County high school seniors to complete their FAFSA, resulting in an estimated increase of $513,000 of Pell Grants being accessed by Sarasota County students.





Ongoing FAFSA Outreach & Support Efforts

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The UnidosNow education team and partners have been crisscrossing Manatee and Sarasota counties in the last month, working to ensure high school seniors have the critical information needed to complete their FAFSA. We conducted numerous outreach activities to inform students and families about FAFSA labs, where volunteers help families fill out their FAFSA forms. Our outreach efforts included, for example, classes or lunch hours where seniors were in attendance at Palmetto and Bayshore high schools, a college fair at Palmetto High, an information session at Sacred Heart Church, the Hispanic Festival at Holy Cross Church, an info table at the Remote Area Medical event at MTC, and electronic outreach via our Remind system, which sends text notifications to students who are registered with us. UnidosNow engaged over 1,000 seniors through this outreach. Find pictures of all these events in our Facebook page.

Subsequently, in partnership with our community partners, FAFSA labs were offered at Sarasota Military Academy, North Port, Sarasota, Booker, Palmetto, Lakewood Ranch and Bayshore high schools, where trained volunteers assisted approximately 254 families to complete the FAFSA. Our invaluable partners include Talent for Tomorrow in Sarasota County – comprised of United Way SuncoastSarasota Education FoundationGreater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, Gulf Coast Community Foundation and CareerEdge. – and the Local College Access Network (LCAN) in Manatee County – comprised ofthe Manatee Community FoundationUnited Way of ManateeThe School District of Manateethe Manatee Chamber of Commerce, USF Sarasota-Manatee, Manatee Technical College, Take Stock in Children of Manatee County, and CareerEdge. UnidosNow is a member of both collaboratives.

We believe these partnership efforts are significantly impacting FAFSA completion rates in our area, as evidenced in the below data charts from the US Department of Education for Manatee and Sarasota counties:

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For information on upcoming FAFSA labs or information sessions, click here.

FAFSA Prep Workshops: Start Building your Future

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If you’re a senior planning to attend a post-secondary school, it’s important for you and your parents to complete a FAFSA form, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Federal student aid includes Federal Pell Grants, federal student loans, and work-study opportunities. In addition to determining eligibility for federal student aid, many states, private organizations, colleges, and career schools rely on information from the FAFSA to determine eligibility for non federal sources of aid.

There are two major changes to the FAFSA taking effect for the 2017–18 school year, which runs from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018:

  1. The FAFSA will be available earlier (October 1 of the previous year instead of January 1 of the upcoming school year).
  2. The FAFSA will collect income information from an earlier tax year.

To help students and parents prepare the form, UnidosNow is partnering with Talent4Tomorrow and the Manatee Education Collaborative to offer workshops at high schools in both Sarasota and Manatee counties, respectively, from October through February. Click here to see the calendar of dates and locations, and check the posters above.

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