Michigan's College Access Blog

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

Celebrating our School Counselors

The first full week of February brings us closer to spring sunshine, and also celebrates an important effort – National School Counseling Week. Sponsored by the American School Counselor Association, National School Counseling Week highlights the tremendous impact school counselors can have in helping students achieve academic success and plan for a postsecondary education.   

I heart my school counselor picmonkeyed

Over the past few years, MCAN has dedicated a great deal of its energy to providing support to school counselors across the state. As the leader of our professional development strategies, I have gotten to know hundreds of Michigan’s school counselors who are working tirelessly to ensure students receive the support and guidance they need to succeed after high school.  

In honor of National School Counseling Week, MCAN partnered with the Michigan Association for Secondary School Principals and the Michigan Association for College Admissions Counseling to co-host a summit for school administrator and school counselor teams. The summit, “Reaching Higher: Creating a College Going High School,” happens to be today and will bring together more than 100 teams from schools across the state of Michigan. Note: Due to inclement weather, the February 2nd summit has been cancelled. See below for additional information. These teams are committed to building stronger relationships, partnerships, and strategies to ensure Michigan’s students receive the highest quality educational experiences that can be provided.  

You’ve likely heard me say it before (but it is worth repeating), at MCAN, we believe school counselors are well poised to lead the charge in ensuring students are socially, academically, logistically and financially prepared for postsecondary education. School counselors are uniquely positioned to change the postsecondary education trajectories for all students. In order for counselors to effectively lead the college access movement in their buildings, however, they must have the capacity, administrative support, and formal preparation in college counseling. The summit is our next step in supporting the role of school counselors in this movement.

Who was your school counselor? What impact did he or she have on your school experience and your life? Have you ever told that person? National School Counseling Week would be a great time to track down that ol’ school counselor of yours, and send them a quick note of appreciation.  

School counselors, we salute you!

Looking for more ways to celebrate National School Counselor Week? Check out these ASCA resources.

Due to hazardous weather conditions, the College Going Culture Conference scheduled for Monday, February 2nd is cancelled. MASSP, MCAN and MACAC are disappointed to cancel the conference, but agree that the safety of our participants and speakers is paramount. Please look for further communication regarding possible rescheduling of the event and/or refund information. Thank you and please be safe!


Jamie Jacobs headshot 2013

Author: Jamie Jacobs, director of professional development for the Michigan College Access Network




Posted: February 2, 2015 

Introducing the Journal of College Access

Originally published in the Journal of College Access, January 2015, and adapted with permission of the authors.

The Journal of College Access focuses on current trends, research, practices, and development of all types of programs, policies, and activities related to the access of, and success in postsecondary education. Issues of college aspiration, qualification, application, enrollment, and persistence are the primary emphases.

Introduction by the Co-Editors

Launching a new academic journal, especially one focused on college access, is a dream come true! This inaugural issue features three scholarly pieces: college and career readiness counseling training; students with intellectual disabilities; and summer support. These all are critical topics in the field of college access. We are also excited to provide guest perspectives from Lumina Foundation President and CEO Jamie P. Merisotis, and to showcase the voice of expert Mandy Savitz-Romer, Ph.D. of Harvard University.

Featured Articles

Advisor and Student Experiences of Summer Support for College-Intending, Low-Income High School Graduates
This piece provides important insights into “summer melt,” the phenomenon that occurs when college-bound high school graduates do not follow through on the summer activities needed to attend college in the fall. New programs suggest there are ways to reduce summer melt; this article offers excellent insights into their efficacy.

The Importance and Implementation of Eight Components of College and Career Readiness Counseling in School Counselor Education Programs
Many advocates of college access work with the eight-part framework established by the National Office for School Counselor Advocacy, but are counselor educators familiar with it—and how much value do they place on each component? This study begins to address this important question, and the implications for pre-service counselor training.

Increasing Access to Postsecondary Education for Students with Intellectual Disabilities
College access is often limited to the construct of expanding opportunities to low-income students and students of color. This article identifies efforts to broaden college access to students who were once considered beyond the reach of college opportunities based on intellectual disability, a vital dimension of the college access movement that is often overlooked.

We acknowledge the support of JCA Launchthe Brandy Johnson, executive director of the Michigan College Access Network, the publishing service bepress, and Maira Bundza of Western Michigan University in helping us launch the journal and this first issue! In addition, special thanks to Fareed Shalhout and Alex Susienka who proofread the final version before we published.

We hope you enjoy reading the Journal of College Access as much as we enjoyed developing the first issue!

Pictured left to right:  ScholarWorks Librarian Maira Bundza; Co-Editor Christopher Tremblay; and Michigan College Access Network Executive Director Brandy Johnson


PatrickDr. Patrick O’Connor, associate dean for college counseling at Kingswood Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills, MI and board member for the Michigan College Access Network.



Christopher 1 425x640Dr. Christopher W. Tremblay, associate provost for enrollment management at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, MI and active member of the College and Career Action Network in Kalamazoo and Michigan College Access Network.



Posted: January 28, 2015

How to Prioritize Communication Planning

LCAN Spotlight: Jackson County Cradle 2 Career Network

Through MCAN's blog and LCAN Spotlights, we've stressed the importance of communication. However, as many of you may 
In today's LCAN Spotlight we look to Jackson County Cradle 2 Career Network. While the C2C Network has had a strong network in place for some time, the leadership team recognized the need for a communications strategy while it was preparing to re-brand the network as Cradle 2 Career. find, it can be hard to prioritize the time to plan a communications strategy.

There are a number of ways an LCAN can tackle the development and execution of a communications plan, and they don't require hiring a full-time communications director.

“The reality was as network coordinator, I did not have the time or strong skill set to manage a communications strategy,” said Irene LeCrone, Jackson County C2C network coordinator. “The leadership team got creative and leveraged existing community resources to get the job done.”  

First, a consultant hired by United Way was utilized to draft the plan. Next, the Intermediate School District committed to providing time from their communications staff to help execute the strategy. Initially, the ISD committed 20 hours per week of their communications coordinator’s time to support the C2C Network. Once the plan was established and moving forward, the allotted time dropped to 5 hours per week.

Utilizing ISD Communications Coordinator Kim Medlock’s expertise was truly a win for the network and the ISD. At the time, Kim was new to her role at the ISD so it provided solid training ground for her to get to know the community and educational partners outside of the school district. Kim now serves on the C2C Community Engagement Team, ensuring the LCAN has a strong brand and voice.

“This level of involvement and creativity from the leadership team members was crucial,” said Irene. “We encourage other LCAN leadership teams to consider what talent and resources you have internally that can better support your growing network to improve college access and success.”

To learn more about Jackson County Cradle 2 Career, click here

Lisa KingAuthor: Lisa King, public relations consultant for Michigan College Access Network

Posted: January 21, 2015

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