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22 cities announced as FAFSA Completion Challenge Grant winners



The 22 cities that received funding through the NCAN FAFSA Cities Challenge

The National College Access Network (NCAN) announced Tuesday the 22 U.S. cities selected to receive up to $55,000 each from the Kresge Foundation-supported FAFSA Completion Challenge Grant program.

The program’s goal is to strengthen urban higher education ecosystems by raising FAFSA completion rates among high school seniors in cities. The foundation made a $1.6 million grant to launch the program, which challenges the winning cities to increase FAFSA completion rates by at least 5 percent for the graduating high school class of 2017.

Two significant changes to the FAFSA in the fall of 2016 will make applying for aid easier and better timed than ever for low-income students. The date when students can begin submitting a FAFSA has moved from January to October, ensuring students can find out what kind of financial support they will have earlier in the college decision-making process. The other change allows students to file using tax data already available instead of waiting for the following year’s tax statement.

The grant funding will support the planning and execution of citywide, cross-sector FAFSA completion efforts for the 2016-17 school year, with strategic efforts to help students navigate the new changes and timing.

“This program will bring timely support to urban areas across the nation as they look to help more low-income students fill out and submit a FAFSA,” said Caroline Altman Smith, Kresge’s deputy director of the Education Program. “We know that when cities make a concerted, cross-sector effort to raise rates, they can make an immediate impact. This grant program ensures each of these cities will have at least one person dedicated to coordinating efforts to improve FAFSA completion rates rates day in and day out.”

In September 2017, through this program NCAN will also award three to five additional monetary prizes totaling $300,000 among the 22 grant-funded cities. Prizes will go to:

  • The city demonstrating the greatest percentage point-growth in high school FAFSA completions for the class of 2017, compared to 2015
  • The city demonstrating highest high school FAFSA completion rate for the class of 2017
  • The city demonstrating the most innovative or collaborative FAFSA completion strategy and/or partnership with postsecondary institutions

The selected cities are:

  • Birmingham, Ala.
  • Phoenix, Ariz.
  • Los Angeles, Calif.
  • Bakersfield, Calif.
  • Jacksonville, Fla.
  • Louisville, Ky.
  • Baton Rouge, La.
  • Detroit, Mich.
  • Kansas City, Mo.
  • Jackson, Miss.
  • Greensboro, N.C.
  • Manchester, N.H.
  • Albuquerque, N.M.
  • Cleveland, Ohio
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Portland, Ore.
  • Philadelphia, Pa.
  • San Juan, P.R.
  • Houston, Texas
  • Austin, Texas
  • Charleston, W.V.
  • Cheyenne, Wyo.

The 22 cities were selected through a review process with the assistance of an advisory committee:

  • Lindsay Ahlman, TICAS
  • Caroline Altman Smith, The Kresge Foundation
  • Sarah Bauder, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Eddie Brambila, Illinois Student Assistance Commission
  • Diane Corbett, Ohio State University
  • Denise Davis, Educate Texas/TXCAN
  • Jennifer Dunn, College Board
  • Juan Garcia, ACT
  • Haley Glover, Lumina Foundation
  • Sarah Kirschenbaum, ECMC Foundation
  • Troy Miller, Florida College Access Network
  • Ed Pacchetti, Office of Federal Student Aid, U.S. Department of Education
  • Lindsay Page, University of Pittsburgh
  • Pat Roe, USA Funds
  • Sarah Weiss, Washington Student Achievement Council