Kick-off campaign to encourage high-school seniors to fill out all-important FAFSA
The Southwest Florida Community Foundation (SWFLCF) hosted the “FutureMakers Season Opener” marking the beginning of the college scholarship and financial aid application season last week at Hodges University in Fort Myers.
FutureMakers is the SWFLCF’s first regional call to action evolving from its 3-D research on broad regional needs last year. The SWFLCF brought together the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools, Southwest Florida Works, The Education Foundation of Collier County-Champions for Learning, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast as the FutureMakers coalition focused on helping high-school class of 2014 to successfully take their next step in higher education.
The event included an update on FutureMakers’ efforts including early reports from high-school seniors and their mentors, the latest statistics from the Florida College Access Network (Florida C.A.N.!), information on the GradApp which is a mobile application developed as an aggregate of postsecondary educational resources and funding, and the launch of GradApp’s public service announcements that are being aired in schools and media outlets throughout the region featuring Sherwood Brown, former shooting guard for the Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles from 2009 to 2013 and 2012-2013 Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Year.
The GradApp is available to anyone for download and viewing on mobile devices, tablets and online screens. The mobile application features comprehensive information about career opportunities, skills and education requirements for a variety of careers, links to jobs, education-planning resources, available scholarships and financial aid, money management and more.
FutureMakers chose eight regional high schools to affect the low percentage of seniors in those schools filling out the FAFSA in recent years. The schools include Cypress Lake, East Lee, Lehigh, Port Charlotte, Golden Gate, LaBelle and Clewiston high schools and Moore Haven Junior Senior High School. The coalition is taking an active role in aiding these schools’ high-school seniors through one-on-one and group mentoring, FAFSA workshops, financial aid application support and career coaching.
According to the Florida C.A.N.!, it is estimated that during 2012, Florida’s high-school graduates left behind more $100 million in Pell Grants by virtue of not completing the FAFSA form.
Less than one-third of high-school seniors in our five-county area fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the SWFLCF. “Understanding what type of financial aid is available and how much a student can qualify for can make the difference between going to college or not.
Data released by the U.S. Department of Education show that just 37 percent of the working-age adult population in Florida has earned a two- or four-year degree. By 2018, 59 percent of all jobs in Florida will require a post-secondary education, and 1.6 million workers with post-secondary credentials will be needed to fill new and vacant jobs in Florida. College graduates earn twice what workers without degrees earn according to federal government figures.
Florida needs a well-educated workforce to compete in the 21st Century global economy; yet, there is a significant gap between Floridians’ current education levels and employers’ workforce needs," said Florida C.A.N.! Executive Director Laurie Meggesin. "A high-school diploma is simply not enough today for many Floridians to qualify for well-paying jobs. Communities, like Southwest Florida, can work together to close the achievement gap and in the process, raise the quality of life for their residents as a whole.