The Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, in collaboration with Purdue University Fort Wayne and Fort Wayne Community Schools (FWCS), has received a $35,000 grant from the National College Access Network (NCAN) for a program that will help FWCS seniors and their families complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is used by colleges to determine the financial help offered to students.
The Form Your Future program will begin in September with the goal to increase the number of students in Northeast Indiana completing the FAFSA, which will connect more individuals to post-secondary (college and career) opportunities and help the region meet its Vision 2030 goal of 60 percent post-secondary credential and degree attainment by the year 2030.
NCAN awarded grants of up to $40,000 to 25 organizations throughout the country to implement FAFSA completion programs among school systems with lower than average rates of completion. In addition to providing free help in completing the FAFSA, the Form Your Future program in Fort Wayne will provide students and families with information about college admission, courses and campuses. Purdue Fort Wayne administrators and students will be available to speak with FWCS students about college.
“We are excited for the possibilities this program will offer high school seniors in Fort Wayne,” said Krissy Creager, associate vice chancellor of enrollment management and student success at Purdue Fort Wayne. “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.” Creager explained the FAFSA is free, secure, relatively quick and an important part of transitioning from high school to any college.
Shenita Bolton, K-12 college and career readiness manager for FWCS, said some families do not file the FAFSA because they do not expect to qualify for assistance with college costs. “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. A Pell Grant is money given to students by the federal government to help pay for college. Unlike a loan, a Pell Grant does not have to be repaid.
Even if students have not made plans to attend college, filing the FAFSA is important in case they eventually decide to pursue education after high school. “Completing the FAFSA doesn’t mean you’ve made a definite decision. It ensures the option is there,” said Ryan Twiss, vice president of Regional Initiatives for the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership. “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.”
To add some fun and motivation to file the FAFSA, the Form Your Future program will have friendly competition between schools, offer the chance for rewards like Visa gift cards and backpacks full of school supplies, and hold parties to celebrate all students setting individualized goals for their future.
“We want to ensure that all students who might consider college are prepared to take that step if they decide it’s right for them,” said Eric Hoover, facilitator for the Allen County Education and Career Coalition. “Filing the FAFSA helps open that door.”