For many students, preparing for college can be a daunting task. From navigating college preparation courses to applying for financial aid, the process is difficult, particularly for students who will be the first in their family to attend college.
If you have completed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or have helped a student complete this application, you know that there are many complex questions. Yet filing a FAFSA is essential for securing all types of financial aid, (grants, loans, work-study, and even scholarships from colleges and universities) which make college possible for the 85 percent of applicants who receive some type of aid.
Two months ago we were concerned when we learned that financial aid submission rates were down across the state, particularly among students who file a separate California Dream Act application. Through our Cash for College program, we quickly mobilized our partners across the state, including counselors, administrators,college access program providers, community-based organizations, local elected officials and the media to raise awareness about the low completion numbers and to direct students and families to free workshops where they could receive free assistance to file their applications.
Those collective efforts had a significant impact, with filing rates rising steadily throughout the month of February, eventually surpassing last year’s application numbers by California’s March 2 priority deadline.
In L.A. County, the 160 Cash for College workshops sponsored by the Chamber helped more than 5,000 Los Angeles students complete their FAFSAs and California Dream Act applications this year. In past years, the students we helped at these workshops secured as much as $35 million dollars in state and federal financial aid.
The Chamber is proud of the investments we are making in our young people and the partnerships we have developed to ensure a prepared workforce for our state and our employers in Los Angeles County. We also recognize the need to continue these critical investments at the state and federal level, which is why we include this funding as a priority during our ACCESS Sacramento and ACCESS Washington, D.C advocacy trips. College financial aid is not only essential to student success and workforce preparation, it is paramount to the health and competitiveness of the United States in a global economy.
And that’s The Business Perspective.
The Business Perspective is a weekly column by Gary Toebben, President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, produced with the input of Public Policy staff.
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