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OVER 90 MILLION REASONS TO SUBMIT A FAFSA

Michigan priority deadline is March 1!

Kalamazoo, Mich., (February 9, 2015) – With more than $90 million in Pell Grant money unclaimed in Michigan during a recent academic year*, The Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo urges high school seniors and college students to file their FAFSA by March 1.

“There’s no question that a college education is a strong foundation for economic and career achievement,” says Amy Slancik, director of The Learning Network. “But the cost of college can be overwhelming for any family. That’s why it’s so important to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It’s free, it’s easy to do online, and it’s the basis for all federal grant and loan awards, as well as those of nearly all colleges.”

Despite this, many students choose not to submit a FAFSA, possibly because of misperceptions such as believing financial aid is only for students whose parents are poor, or only for those with good grades, or only for traditional students and not adult students. The reality is, many financial aid opportunities are available to a broad range of students – and the only access to them is through submitting a FAFSA.

Missed Opportunities in Michigan

According to a NerdScholar* study, 47 percent of 2013 high school graduates didn’t complete a FAFSA, which could have earned them Pell Grant money. More than $2.9 billion in free federal grant money was reportedly left on the table last year.

Here in Michigan, that same study reports:
•    51,885 high school graduates didn’t complete a FAFSA
•    26,295 Pell-eligible graduates didn’t complete a FAFSA

•    $90,758,241 in Pell Grant money was unclaimed

“The more high school seniors and college students in Kalamazoo County who submit a FAFSA, the more chance we have for financial aid to benefit our community,” says Slancik. “The financial incentive to individual’s and their families is obvious. But the community also benefits. When more local students attend college, we gain a pool of talent that is available to fill local, in-demand jobs.”

A college education is important not just for the next academic year, but for long-term achievement. A 2014 Pew Research Center report found that college graduates ages 25 to 32 who are working full time earn about $17,500 more than their peers with only a high school diploma. They are also less likely to be unemployed, with 3.8% of those with a bachelor's degree being unemployed versus 12.2% of those who only graduated high school.**

These are among the reasons the College and Career Action Network of The Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo has made FAFSA completion a strategic priority for the past four years. In that time, the number of FAFSA applications completed for the county has gone from 40% to 67.8%.

Help is Available!

Here in Kalamazoo County, there are trained volunteers available throughout February to help with FAFSA submission. Events are being held by: Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo Central High School, Loy Norrix High School, the Hispanic American Council (including help in Spanish), Parchment High School, the Douglass Community Association, Comstock/Compass High School, Youth Opportunities (including help in Spanish), Portage Community High School, Vicksburg High School, Barclay Hills High School and Phoenix High School.

The Michigan priority date for FAFSA submission is March 1. But don’t wait! The first students to submit their FAFSA have the best chance of getting aid. Later, schools may run out of funds or grants may already have been awarded.

Find out more at http://cacanonline.org/fafsa-events/ and https://studentaid.ed.gov/fafsa

The Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo is a unifying force to ensure that all children in the county are ready for school, ready for post-secondary education, ready for a career and ready for the world. Learn more and stay connected at www.thelearningnetwork.org. The College and Career Action Network is focused specifically on getting more Kalamazoo County high school students to and through college. Learn more and stay connected at www.cacanonline.org.

* http://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/nerdscholar/2015/fafsa-college-money-left-on-table/ Extrapolated based on income data, The Learning Network estimates this number to be $1.3 million in unclaimed grants for Kalamazoo County   
 ** http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2014/02/SDT-higher-ed-FINAL-02-11-2014.pdf