Earnings rise with educational attainment, and a better-educated workforce
will also strengthen the state’s economy

The Florida College Access Network (FCAN) and its partners across the state (including LEAP Tampa Bay) recently launched the Cash for College campaign to promote FAFSA completion as a crucial step as students and their families make plans for education beyond high school. About 4 out of 5 students in Florida use some combination of federal, state, and school-based aid to pay for college, and the way to
access that aid is by completing the FAFSA.

The campaign aims to counteract the impact of COVID-19 on college enrollment and is a
compliment to FCAN’s Florida FAFSA Challenge. Nationwide, direct enrollment after high school
graduation was down 6.9% in Fall 2020, and enrollment declines were 2.3 times steeper for low income high schools compared to higher-income schools. Research also shows that low-income, first generation, and students of color are among the least likely to complete the FAFSA.

The payoff that comes from completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
involves more than just money. Students who complete the FAFSA are more likely to enroll in
higher education, persist in their college coursework, and obtain a degree, which is crucial in
order to meet the state’s future talent demands.

“The FAFSA is a strong indicator of students enrolling in and attending college, which ultimately
leads to greater career outcomes for them and a stronger economy for the state yet only 37.1%
of high school seniors have completed the FAFSA so far,” said Charleita M. Richardson, FCAN
Executive Director. “That’s why we’re encouraging our partners across the state to focus their
efforts on supporting students with their FAFSAs.”

Research shows that for every $1,000 in financial aid a student receives, persistence increases by
4 percentage points. The maximum Pell Grant — the primary source of federal aid for lowincome college students — is currently $6,345 for the 2020-21 award year and is scheduled to
increase by $150, to $6,495, for 2021-22.

In addition to raising awareness of the importance of filling out FAFSA, Richardson said the new
campaign aims to make the federal form more accessible for all Florida students and their
families. Cash for College offers free resources designed to guide students through the steps
they need to take to complete the FAFSA.

For more information, visit the LEAP Cash for College webpage.

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