Raising the Bar on FAFSA Completion

LCAN Spotlight: Detroit College Access NetworkFAFSA bulletin board

Michigan College Access Network stresses the importance of student completion of a Federal Application For Student Aid as a critical step toward fostering a college-going culture. First Lady Michelle Obama also has taken up the cause with her FAFSA Completion Commencement Video Challenge.

Today, we highlight the Detroit College Access Network and its 2015 campaign goal to grow students’ FAFSA-completion rates to an impressive 80 percent. Already, DCAN attained a 70 percent FAFSA-completion rate in its 2013 and 2014 FAFSA-completion campaigns, a tremendous increase from 54 percent the previous year. This year, in coordination with MCAN’s new College Cash Campaign initiative, DCAN seeks to “move the needle” even further. DCAN's strategy is coordinated by a FAFSA Action Team, which includes the Detroit Regional Chamber, Accounting Aid Society, United Way for Southeast Michigan, and Detroit Public Schools.

 “FAFSA is a leveraging point to help build a college-going culture in high schools. We want students to push further to pursue higher education,” says Ashley Johnson, K-12 program manager for Excellent Schools Detroit. “DCAN and its partners are combining the local and state campaigns. We are embedding the College Cash Campaign into our efforts and also want Detroit heavily represented in the First Lady’s video challenge.” Thus far, 17 DCAN schools have signed up to participate in the in the College Cash Campaign.

To initiate the FAFSA Campaign, DCAN hosts a launch and learning summit for counselors, college advisors, and other college-planning personnel that outlines exactly how to improve FAFSA completion among students. They also ask each high school to participate in the state and national FAFSA campaigns, share current FAFSA-completion numbers, and utilize the Michigan Department of Treasury FAFSA Completion Initiative.

When asked about recommendations for other LCAN’s seeking to improve their schools’ rates of FAFSA completion, Johnson outlined a comprehensive approach:

  1. Remove barriers by offering high-quality FAFSA training to counselors.
  2. Leverage the existing campaigns, such as the First Lady’s video challenge and College Cash Campaign.
  3. Encourage schools to create representative teams made up of administrators, teachers, counselors and students.
  4. Educate about resources available, such as the FAFSA completion name-by-name look-up tool.
  5. Promote a college-going culture that pushes beyond FAFSA completion.
  6. Leverage existing relationships. If there is an entity that already has a great relationship with students’ parents – partner with them to help communicate your message to a broader audience.

“Without the hard work of school counselors, this work wouldn’t happen,” says Johnson. “It’s not just about FAFSA. It’s about creating an entire culture of college going and planning. Push your FAFSA campaign beyond just FAFSA.”

To learn more about the Detroit College Access Network, visit www.moveed.org/partner/detroitcollegenetwork/.

To learn more about the College Cash Campaign, visit www.micollegeaccess.org/statewide-initiatives/college-cash-campaign.


Lisa King headshot 2013Author: Lisa King, public relations consultant for Michigan College Access Network




Posted: February 4, 2015

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