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College Access

Financial Aid Workshop Attendees Qualify for $511,000 in Pell Grant Funds

Debt. The dreaded four-letter word of paying for college. So much so, one of the four state goals for increasing Texas’ postsecondary completion rates is to maintain a moderate ratio of student loan debt to first-year earnings.

This fear of taking out any loans is one reason some families don’t complete the FAFSA/TASFA application. But this misunderstanding of the financial aid process also prevents students from receiving grant aid that doesn’t have to be repaid. Last year low-income seniors missed out on $30 million in Pell Grant funds alone.

Commit! partners have long recognized the link between college affordability and degree completion. Over the past three years, Dallas County school districts and higher education partners have come together to promote a better understanding of how and why to pay for higher education.

2016 partner accomplishments to date include:

  • Increasing awareness of college affordability through news coverage, in-school marketing materials, YouCanAffordCollege.org and the HelpChris.org campaign thanks to the support of Ad2Dallas;
  • Creating grassroots support by training 100 high school juniors and seniors to serve as peer-to-peer campus ambassadors for college affordability and to inform marketing messages;
  • Empowering 140 high school counselors, advisors, and after school providers through training from uAspire, a national leader on coaching families to make wise college financial decisions;
  • Assisting 431 families at five community-wide financial aid workshops, 218 of whom submitted their FAFSA application the day of the workshop and accessed just over half a million dollars in Pell Grant aid.

The Dallas County Financial Aid Action Network is preparing for two big changes to the financial aid process in 2016-17. Next year the FAFSA application will be available three months earlier than usual and will be able to be submitted using previous year’s tax information. These changes will eliminate barriers for families but will also require additional awareness and marketing efforts. Dallas County will align on a common FAFSA awareness month for next year to ensure information and support is widely available.

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