Updates: FAFSA Completion and Scholarship Resources

Do the FAFSA | Future Ready Collier - Naples, Florida

Every year, on October 1, fafsa.gov opens to accept students’ online submissions. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the verified, reliable, tried and true online path for college-bound students to secure financial help for school. This year, Hurricane Ian’s arrival on September 28 was an unwelcome, destructive, and understandably distracting force. Future Ready Collier and its network of partners, however, want to make sure that students are still getting all their preparation in place for a successful school year to come. Education beyond high school, whether a 2- or 4-year degree or a career-focused credential, is a great predictor of future financial stability. Even better is having money to pay for that education. To that end, FAFSA is critically important.

Collier County FAFSA Facts & Figures

As of October 22, 2022, out of about 3,600 total eligible Collier County Public School seniors, only 424 students had successfully completed their FAFSA. This equates to a completion rate of 11.7%. Historically, looking at data over the last 8 or so years, percentages of FAFSA completion in the Collier district have ranged from the low 40s to the low 50s, when examined over the course of the entire prior year. Before the COVID pandemic, rates were trending up. Challenges to our community over recent years have had a negative impact on local students’ capacities to fill out and submit their FAFSA. Unfortunately, the long-term meaning of that is that millions of dollars in available aid are left unclaimed, and students are more limited in their education and career choices.

Looking at the numbers a little more closely, consider the value of Pell Grants distributed through FAFSA. Pell Grants are specifically for students with “exceptional financial need” and typically do not need to be repaid. For the 2022-2023 school year, the maximum Pell Grant is $6,895. By comparison, tuition and fees alone for Florida residents attending Florida SouthWestern State College are approximately $3,400, with another roughly $2,000 for books and supplies. For the 424 Collier County students who have so far finished their FAFSA, that adds up to $1,269,525 in Pell Grants awarded. So, how much is unclaimed? A startling $9,509,462.

Resources to Help

How do we help more students take advantage of these resources? Some students may be overwhelmed by the amount and kind of information they need; there are patient and knowledgeable experts who want to help make the FAFSA simple and easily doable. This fall, several free events were hosted where students could get immediate, in-person help with their FAFSAs. While additional events are being planned for after the holidays, students and their families can always reference the free, online step-by-step video tutorials on Champions For Learning’s website, starting with FSA ID creation and through to FAFSA submission. There is also a video with Spanish subtitles.

Even students who are not financially eligible for Pell Grants are able to apply for and receive other kinds of financial aid and scholarship. Another available resource for students, once they have their FAFSA taken care of, is the Scholarship Connector, offered through the Collier Community Foundation. Students can search scholarships and aid for which they are eligible, and apply online. Local post-secondary schools, including Florida SouthWestern State College, Florida Gulf Coast University, and Lorenzo Walker Technical College are motivated to help, too, and will offer application fee waivers.

Future Ready Collier is also a willing source of information, and welcomes your outreach at info@futurereadycollier.org with any questions.