“Race to the FAFSA Line” Challenge Returns to Boost Federal Aid Going to Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County Students

Detroit, Mich. (Oct. 1, 2018) – Today, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual “Race to the FAFSA Line” challenge opened for school participation in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties. The Chamber’s Detroit Drives Degrees initiative promotes the challenge to encourage high school seniors to apply for college aid and increase the regional completion rate.

The Chamber began the challenge in 2016, but despite the hard work of school counselors and local college access networks, Southeast Michigan students left potentially $167 million of federal aid on the table by not filling out the FAFSA. According to the National College Access Network, high school graduates who complete FAFSA are 63 percent more likely to enroll in college.

Any school in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties is eligible to participate in the Challenge led by the Chamber’s Detroit Drives Degree’s initiative. The challenge is a collaborative effort involving the following partners: Detroit College Access Network (DCAN), Emagine Entertainment, Michigan Association of State Universities (MASU), Michigan College Access Network (MCAN), Oakland Schools, Wayne RESA, and several local college access networks. The challenge is supported by DTE Energy, Grand Valley State University Charter Schools Office, Independent Bank and University of Michigan-Dearborn.

The goal is to increase FAFSA completion among high school seniors in the tri-county region to 65 percent and encourage them to take the next step to postsecondary education. One grand prize winner will be awarded an all-day senior class party and the four additional winners will receive VIP movie screenings, courtesy of Emagine Entertainment.

New this year, schools that sign up will also be registered for the College Cash Campaign through MCAN, the statewide FAFSA challenge that provides additional prizes to schools with improved completion rates across the state.

Schools can sign up and learn more about Race to the FAFSA Line at: http://www.detroitchamber.com/race-to-the-fafsa-line/register/.

About Detroit Drives Degrees

Detroit Drives Degrees works to improve education attainment to increase economic prosperity and social mobility in the Detroit region. An initiative of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Forward Detroit economic development strategy, it is dedicated to increasing access to college for the region’s students and adults currently without degrees, improving college graduation success, and retaining talent. The Leadership Council, formed through the initiative, mobilizes regional leaders in business, education, government and the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors to increase the postsecondary degree attainment rate in the region to 60 percent by 2030. To learn more, visit detroitdrivesdegrees.com.

 About the Detroit College Access Network

The Detroit College Access Network (DCAN) is the coordinating body of cross-sector leaders and organizations in Detroit working together to ensure all Detroit students have the opportunity to attend college. It is a network of organizations – bigger than any one program or initiative – leveraging a collective impact model to align and connect existing programs, schools, businesses and community resources to improve college enrollment and graduation rates for all Detroit students. DCAN’s mission is to increase postsecondary readiness, enrollment and attainment so that all students in Detroit can achieve their educational dreams. To learn more, visit detroitcan.org.

About Emagine Entertainment

Emagine Entertainment’s affiliates currently own and operate luxury theatres in Michigan, Illinois, and Minnesota.  Emagine operates theatres with a combined 24,500 seats and 208 screens. Later this summer, Emagine will open an 8-screen theatre in the Town of Lyons, Wisconsin.  Emagine has led the way in bringing luxury theatres to the metropolitan Detroit market.  Emagine enjoys the honor and distinction of being named “Best Movie Theatre” for several years running by the Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News, and WDIV-TV 4 television.

About Michigan Association of State Universities

The Michigan Association of State Universities (MASU) serves as the coordinating board for Michigan’s 15 public universities, providing advocacy and fostering policy to maximize the collective value these institutions provide in serving the public interest and the state of Michigan. MASU recently launched a new website and marketing campaign to support FAFSA completion and college-going across the state, GetMIDegree.org.

About the Michigan College Access Network

As the leader in the state’s college access movement, the Michigan College Access Network’s mission is to increase Michigan’s college readiness, participation and completion rates, particularly among low-income, first-generation college-going students, and students of color. For the seventh year in a row, Michigan’s postsecondary educational attainment rate has increased – from 35.7 percent of 25- to 64-year-olds possessing at least an associate degree in 2008, to 39.4 percent in 2016. Additionally, it is estimated another 4 percent of Michiganders have a high-quality certificate, bringing Michigan’s official attainment rate to 43.7 percent. It is MCAN’s goal to increase Michigan’s postsecondary educational attainment rate to 60 percent by the year 2025. For more information, visit micollegeaccess.org.

Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County Students Participating in FAFSA Challenge to Receive Nearly $54 Million in Student Aid

Detroit, Mich. (April 3, 2018) – More than 6,500 students in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties that participated in the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual “Race to the FAFSA Line” challenge will receive an estimated $53.5 million in funding from completing their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). For the second year, the Chamber’s Detroit Drives Degrees initiative held the challenge to encourage high school seniors to apply for college aid and increase the regional completion rate.

The Chamber launched the challenge last year, but despite the hard work of school counselors and local college access networks, Southeast Michigan students left potentially $167 million in federal aid on the table by not filling out the FAFSA. According to the National College Access Network, high school graduates who complete the FAFSA are 63 percent more likely to enroll in college.

The goal of the challenge is to increase FAFSA completion among high school seniors in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties to 65 percent and encourage them to take the next step to postsecondary education. The current completion rate for the three counties is 50 percent, and will increase through the open application period, which closes on June 30.

Sixty-five schools throughout Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties registered for the competition. The 2018 winners include:

  • Grand Prize Winner for Overall Most Improved FAFSA Completion: Frontier International Academy (Detroit) 45 percentage point improvement.
  • Most Improved FAFSA Completion for Medium Schools: Cesar Chavez Academy High School (Detroit) 31 percentage point improvement.
  • Most Improved FAFSA Completion for Large Schools: Fordson High School (Dearborn), 11 percentage point improvement.
  • Most Innovative FAFSA Completion Strategy: Voyageur College Preparatory High School (Detroit) 65 percent completion rate.
  • Highest Overall FAFSA Completion Rate: Trillium Academy (Taylor) 84 percent completion rate.

As grand prize winner, Frontier International Academy will be awarded an all-day senior class party and the four other winners will receive VIP movie screenings, courtesy of Emagine Entertainment.

The challenge was a collaborative effort involving the following partners: Detroit College Access Network (DCAN), Emagine Entertainment, Michigan College Access Network (MCAN), Oakland Schools, Wayne RESA, and several local college access networks. The challenge was supported by: Chemical Bank, the Detroit Pistons, DTE Energy, Grand Valley State University Charter Schools Office, Independent Bank, Kerkstra Precast and the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

 About Detroit Drives Degrees

Detroit Drives Degrees works to improve education attainment to increase economic prosperity and social mobility in the Detroit region. An initiative of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Forward Detroit economic development strategy, it is dedicated to increasing access to college, improving college graduation success and retaining graduates. The Leadership Council, formed through the initiative, mobilizes regional leaders in business, education, government and the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors to increase the postsecondary degree attainment rate in the region to 60 percent by 2025. To learn more, visit detroitdrivesdegrees.com.

About Detroit Regional Chamber

Serving the business community for more than 100 years, the Detroit Regional Chamber is one of the oldest, largest and most respected chambers of commerce in the country. The Chamber’s mission of powering the economy for Southeast Michigan is carried out through economic development, education reform, regional collaboration and providing valuable benefits to members. For more information, please visit detroitchamber.com.

About the Detroit College Access Network

The Detroit College Access Network (DCAN) is the coordinating body of cross-sector leaders and organizations in Detroit working together to ensure all Detroit students have the opportunity to attend college. It is a network of organizations – bigger than any one program or initiative – leveraging a collective impact model to align and connect existing programs, schools, businesses and community resources to improve college enrollment and graduation rates for all Detroit students. DCAN’s mission is to increase postsecondary readiness, enrollment and attainment so that all students in Detroit can achieve their educational dreams. To learn more, visit detroitcan.org.

About Emagine Entertainment

Emagine Entertainment’s affiliates currently own and operate luxury theatres in Michigan, Illinois, and Minnesota.  Emagine operates theatres with a combined 24,500 seats and 208 screens. Later this summer, Emagine will open an 8-screen theatre in the Town of Lyons, Wisconsin.  Emagine has led the way in bringing luxury theatres to the metropolitan Detroit market.  Emagine enjoys the honor and distinction of being named “Best Movie Theatre” for several years running by the Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News, and WDIV-TV 4 television.

About the Michigan College Access Network

As the leader in the state’s college access movement, the Michigan College Access Network’s mission is to increase Michigan’s college readiness, participation and completion rates, particularly among low-income, first-generation college-going students, and students of color. For the seventh year in a row, Michigan’s postsecondary educational attainment rate has increased – from 35.7 percent of 25- to 64-year-olds possessing at least an associate degree in 2008, to 39.4 percent in 2016. Additionally, it is estimated another 4 percent of Michiganders have a high-quality certificate, bringing Michigan’s official attainment rate to 43.7 percent. It is MCAN’s goal to increase Michigan’s postsecondary educational attainment rate to 60 percent by the year 2025. For more information, visit micollegeaccess.org.

Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County Students Participating in FAFSA Challenge to Receive Nearly $54 Million in Student Aid

Detroit, Mich. (April 3, 2018) – More than 6,500 students in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties that participated in the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual “Race to the FAFSA Line” challenge will receive an estimated $53.5 million in funding from completing their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). For the second year, the Chamber’s Detroit Drives Degrees initiative held the challenge to encourage high school seniors to apply for college aid and increase the regional completion rate.

The Chamber launched the challenge last year, but despite the hard work of school counselors and local college access networks, Southeast Michigan students left potentially $167 million in federal aid on the table by not filling out the FAFSA. According to the National College Access Network, high school graduates who complete the FAFSA are 63 percent more likely to enroll in college.

The goal of the challenge is to increase FAFSA completion among high school seniors in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties to 65 percent and encourage them to take the next step to postsecondary education. The current completion rate for the three counties is 50 percent, and will increase through the open application period, which closes on June 30.

Sixty-five schools throughout Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties registered for the competition. The 2018 winners include:

  • Grand Prize Winner for Overall Most Improved FAFSA Completion: Frontier International Academy (Detroit) 45 percentage point improvement.
  • Most Improved FAFSA Completion for Medium Schools: Cesar Chavez Academy High School (Detroit) 31 percentage point improvement.
  • Most Improved FAFSA Completion for Large Schools: Fordson High School (Dearborn), 11 percentage point improvement.
  • Most Innovative FAFSA Completion Strategy: Voyageur College Preparatory High School (Detroit) 65 percent completion rate.
  • Highest Overall FAFSA Completion Rate: Trillium Academy (Taylor) 84 percent completion rate.

As grand prize winner, Frontier International Academy will be awarded an all-day senior class party and the four other winners will receive VIP movie screenings, courtesy of Emagine Entertainment.

The challenge was a collaborative effort involving the following partners: Detroit College Access Network (DCAN), Emagine Entertainment, Michigan College Access Network (MCAN), Oakland Schools, Wayne RESA, and several local college access networks. The challenge was supported by: Chemical Bank, the Detroit Pistons, DTE Energy, Grand Valley State University Charter Schools Office, Independent Bank, Kerkstra Precast and the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

 About Detroit Drives Degrees

Detroit Drives Degrees works to improve education attainment to increase economic prosperity and social mobility in the Detroit region. An initiative of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Forward Detroit economic development strategy, it is dedicated to increasing access to college, improving college graduation success and retaining graduates. The Leadership Council, formed through the initiative, mobilizes regional leaders in business, education, government and the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors to increase the postsecondary degree attainment rate in the region to 60 percent by 2025. To learn more, visit detroitdrivesdegrees.com.

About Detroit Regional Chamber

Serving the business community for more than 100 years, the Detroit Regional Chamber is one of the oldest, largest and most respected chambers of commerce in the country. The Chamber’s mission of powering the economy for Southeast Michigan is carried out through economic development, education reform, regional collaboration and providing valuable benefits to members. For more information, please visit detroitchamber.com.

About the Detroit College Access Network

The Detroit College Access Network (DCAN) is the coordinating body of cross-sector leaders and organizations in Detroit working together to ensure all Detroit students have the opportunity to attend college. It is a network of organizations – bigger than any one program or initiative – leveraging a collective impact model to align and connect existing programs, schools, businesses and community resources to improve college enrollment and graduation rates for all Detroit students. DCAN’s mission is to increase postsecondary readiness, enrollment and attainment so that all students in Detroit can achieve their educational dreams. To learn more, visit detroitcan.org.

About Emagine Entertainment

Emagine Entertainment’s affiliates currently own and operate luxury theatres in Michigan, Illinois, and Minnesota.  Emagine operates theatres with a combined 24,500 seats and 208 screens. Later this summer, Emagine will open an 8-screen theatre in the Town of Lyons, Wisconsin.  Emagine has led the way in bringing luxury theatres to the metropolitan Detroit market.  Emagine enjoys the honor and distinction of being named “Best Movie Theatre” for several years running by the Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News, and WDIV-TV 4 television.

About the Michigan College Access Network

As the leader in the state’s college access movement, the Michigan College Access Network’s mission is to increase Michigan’s college readiness, participation and completion rates, particularly among low-income, first-generation college-going students, and students of color. For the seventh year in a row, Michigan’s postsecondary educational attainment rate has increased – from 35.7 percent of 25- to 64-year-olds possessing at least an associate degree in 2008, to 39.4 percent in 2016. Additionally, it is estimated another 4 percent of Michiganders have a high-quality certificate, bringing Michigan’s official attainment rate to 43.7 percent. It is MCAN’s goal to increase Michigan’s postsecondary educational attainment rate to 60 percent by the year 2025. For more information, visit micollegeaccess.org.

So, You Think You’re Ready for College?

By: Afrkah Cooper

I had been preparing for college my whole life, but I still felt unprepared when I got there. The two most important members of my family, my mother and my grandmother, both have their associate degrees but, unfortunately, sharing their college experience with me didn’t prepare me for mine.

I remember being in the second grade and my grandmother made me promise her that I would go through school and earn a master’s degree. I had no clue what a master’s degree was, but I promised her. I loved school and, more than anything, I wanted to make my family proud. At the time, however, I didn’t know that I was agreeing to the struggles of all-nighters, parking tickets and student loan debt. Although we talked about going to college, we never talked about what came with college.

Although I had limited resources, my parents and counselors insisted I go to college and they supported me in numerous ways. Application fee waivers were a major resource my counselors shared with me and, through their effort, I did not have to pay any fees for my college applications – a huge burden lifted off my shoulders, as it sometimes costs as much as $40 just to apply.

I had a lot of college options to choose from. However, most were options I couldn’t afford and “applying for more scholarships,” as my counselors told me, was harder than it seemed. With acceptance letters but little financial support, I turned to community college.

Although lame to my peers who were going away to school, community college was in my comfort zone. This was a place that most of the members in my village had attended so they could offer me the support I needed during my transition. Plus, I could afford it. My family knew they wanted me to go farther than an associate degree, but since they never navigated a four-year university system, they couldn’t prepare me for it.

When I transferred from Macomb Community College to Wayne State University, I experienced difficulties that I had to figure out on my own. These struggles may have set me back a little but learning to navigate the challenges just made me stronger.

I am not a first-generation college student by the typical definition. But I will be the first in my family to receive a degree from a four-year university. And, one day, I’ll be the first to receive my master’s degree.

Readers: My guess is that you’ve reached your success and know what it takes to be a four-year degree student. I encourage you to reflect on the people in your village who helped you achieve your goals and consider reaching back and mentoring a student. With your experience, you can help them understand the details of college. You can teach them that college is about managing and adjusting. Maybe you’ll be able to help them achieve their own graduation dreams, with as few bumps in the road as possible.

Afrkah Cooper is a Detroit Drives Degrees intern.

Detroit Drives Degrees Kicks off Annual Challenge to Connect More Students with College Financial Aid

By Tiffany Jones

In an effort to put more of the $90 million in federal aid that went unclaimed in Michigan last year into the hands of students, Detroit Drives Degrees kicked off its second annual “Race to the FAFSA Line” Challenge, which promotes the completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The Challenge offers incentives to students, counselors and high schools to complete the form and runs through Feb. 28, 2018. Detroit Drives Degrees, an initiative of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Forward Detroit strategy, works to strengthen the talent pipeline by increasing the number of adults with postsecondary degrees in the region.

The goal of the Challenge is to increase FAFSA completion among high school seniors in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties to 65 percent. In its inaugural year, the Challenge and a variety of other efforts boosted the completion rate to 59 percent in 2016, up from 55.6 percent.

The National College Access Network states that high school graduates who complete the FAFSA are 63 percent more likely to enroll in college and by 2025, 70 percent of jobs will require a postsecondary credential.

In order to participate, high schools must register at DetroitDrivesDegrees.com. More than 85 schools participated in the 2016 competition. The school with the highest completion rate will win a senior all-night party, courtesy of Emagine Entertainment. Additional prizes from Emagine and the Detroit Pistons will be awarded to participating schools and student teams across the region.

The Challenge is sponsored by Chemical Bank, DTE Energy, Grand Valley State University Charter Schools Office, Independent Bank, Kerkstra Precast and University of Michigan-Dearborn. In addition to Emagine Entertainment and the Detroit Pistons, other Challenge partners include: Detroit College Access Network, Frank FAFSA, Macomb Intermediate School District, Michigan College Access Network, Oakland Community College, Oakland Schools, University of Michigan, Wayne County Regional Education Service Agency, and numerous local college access networks.

Forward Detroit Quarterly Results

April–June 2017

The Detroit Regional Chamber’s Forward Detroit strategy programs and initiatives reported the following results for the April to June 2017 quarter.

The Detroit Regional Chamber’s Business Attraction team worked with the Michigan Economic Development Corp., Oakland County and city of Troy to close a deal to bring the North American headquarters for Dutch automotive engineering service firm, VDL Steelweld to the region. The company leased a 50,000 square foot facility in Oakland County, investing $1.22 million in the region and adding 43 new jobs that pay an average of more than $100,000 annually.

Learn more about the Chamber’s Business Attraction efforts. 

 
MICHauto, an initiative of the Chamber, held a Legislative Supplier Fair and Reception and its annual Auto on the Island programming in May at the Mackinac Policy Conference. The fourth annual Supplier Fair and Reception connected more than a dozen suppliers with lawmakers to continue the discussion on the economic impact of suppliers across the state.

Continuing to bring the industry to the forefront of conversations, MICHauto hosted 35 industry CEOs on Mackinac Island for Auto on the Island. The challenges, opportunities, threats and weaknesses facing the automotive and mobility industry were discussed among the CEOs present as well as in a discussion with Gov. Rick Snyder and Mayor Mike Duggan. Automotive stakeholders also participated in an automotive roundtable discussion that focused on human capital in the digital age.

Learn more about MICHauto.

 In spring 2017, the Detroit Drives Degrees (D3) team launched two surveys to increase the Detroit region’s population by putting a greater focus on retaining existing residents and attracting new ones. The surveys resulted in 500 responses that will be used to further build out D3’s talent attraction and retention strategies.

To further communicate D3’s work in talent to a broader audience, Sarah Craft, program manager, sat on a panel for the Detroit Regional Relocation Council Quarterly Business Meeting, where she informed 50 national relocation professionals on Detroit’s assets and appeal. Additional panelists included: University Moving Storage’s Ben Cross; Center City Properties’ Michael Martorelli; Quicken Loans’ Dan Ngoyi; and Hall & Hunter’s Amy Zimmer.

At the May D3 Leadership Council meeting, the team brought together education experts from Cleveland to talk to the Council’s representatives in higher education, business, government, philanthropy and the nonprofit sector about a national model proven to improve student success. The goal of the discussion was to understand how Cleveland has successfully increased its educational attainment rate and how a similar model can be implemented in Detroit.

Learn more about Detroit Drives Degrees.

Read more about what the Forward Detroit initiatives accomplished:

Michigan’s Mobility Assets Key Topic of Netherlands Delegation Visit to Detroit

Detroit’s Tech, Automotive Leadership Takes Spotlight During Israel Mission Trip

MICHauto Roundtable: Technology Innovation Will Augment Workforce Transformation

Economic Impact of State’s Auto Suppliers Key Topic at Annual MICHauto Legislative Reception

W.K. Kellogg Foundation Awards $3.5 Million Grant to Detroit Promise to Help Students Pursue Higher Education

Detroit Drives Degrees Gleans Lessons from Higher Education Compact of Greater Cleveland to Increase Local Graduation Rates

Help Detroit Drives Degrees Attract and Retain Talent in Southeast Michigan

MICHauto Supports Student Entrepreneurs in Lear Open Innovation Challenge

Detroit Regional Chamber Recognizes Local High Schools for FAFSA Completion Improvements with “Race to the FAFSA Line” Challenge

As part of the Detroit Drives Degrees (D3) initiative, which aims to improve regional postsecondary outcomes, the Detroit Regional Chamber today announced winners of its Student Aid Challenge for Southeast Michigan, “Race to the FAFSA Line,” at the Talent Outlook D3 breakfast at the Detroit Athletic Club.

Despite the hard work of school counselors and local college access networks last year, Michigan students left more than $90 million of federal aid on the table by not filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). According to the National College Access Network, high school graduates who complete FAFSA are 63 percent more likely to enroll in college.

The goal of the challenge was to increase FAFSA completion among high school seniors in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties to 60 percent by July 1, 2017. This year, the challenge and a variety of other efforts boosted regional FAFSA completion to 48 percent through March 3, compared to 38 percent through the same date one year ago.

The challenge was a collaborative effort involving partners such as the Michigan College Access Network, Detroit College Access Network, Emagine Entertainment, Oakland Schools, Wayne RESA, and several local college access networks.

More than 85 schools throughout Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties registered for the competition. 2017 winners included:

  • Grand Prize Winner: Overall Most Improved FAFSA Completion: Trillium Academy – 37 percent improvement since 2016 (Taylor)
  • Most Improved FAFSA Completion for Medium Schools: South Lake High School – 8 percent improvement since 2016 (St. Clair Shores)
  • Most Improved FAFSA Completion for Large Schools: Western International High School – 8 percent improvement since 2016 (Detroit)
  • Most Innovative FAFSA Completion Strategy: Cornerstone Health & Technology High School – 20 percent improvement since 2016 (Detroit)
  • Highest Overall FAFSA Completion Rate: University High School Academy – 91 percent FAFSA completion rate (Southfield)

As grand prize winner, Trillium Academy will be awarded an all-night senior class party and the four other winners will receive VIP movie screenings, courtesy of Emagine Entertainment.

About the Detroit College Access Network

The Detroit College Access Network (DCAN) is the coordinating body of cross-sector leaders and organizations in Detroit working together to ensure all Detroit students have the opportunity to attend college. Specifically, DCAN serves as the citywide coordinating body for the college access and enrollment strategy at Excellent Schools Detroit. It is a network of organizations – bigger than any one program or initiative – leveraging a collective impact model to align and connect existing programs, schools, businesses and community resources to improve college enrollment and graduation rates for all Detroit students.

About Detroit Drives Degrees

Detroit Drives Degrees (D3) is a catalyst for postsecondary degree attainment in the Detroit region, which is critical to achieving economic prosperity. The goals are to increase access to postsecondary education, improve postsecondary graduation success rates, and retain and attract graduate talent in the region.

About Emagine Entertainment, Inc

Emagine Entertainment’s affiliates own and operate luxury theatres in Michigan, Illinois and Minnesota. Emagine operates theatres with a combined 30,000 seats and 217 screens. Emagine has led the way in bringing luxury theatres to the metropolitan Detroit market with 76 of its 94 auditoriums already converted to power recliner seats. Emagine enjoys the honor and distinction of being named “Best Movie Theatre” for several years running by the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit News, and WDIV television. Emagine is a recognized innovator in the theatrical exhibition industry having been the first theatre chain in the world to convert to 100% digital projection.

About the Michigan College Access Network

The Michigan College Access Network’s mission is to increase college readiness, participation and completion in Michigan, particularly among low-income, first-generation college going students, and students of color. They are a member of the National College Access Network.

Counselor Perspectives: Strategies for Boosting FAFSA Completion at Your School

By Keri Moorehead

To continue the momentum of the Detroit Drives Degrees “Race to the FAFSA Line” challenge, we decided to highlight approaches that counselors have taken to get their students excited about completing the FAFSA. Cass Technical High School, located in Detroit, has been remarkably successful since the challenge began in October. Currently, out of the school’s 556 seniors, 310 students have completed FAFSA (56 percent completion).

Cass Tech counselor Monica Jones underscores the importance of this work: “Completing the FAFSA is one of the big steps into the world of college for students,” she said.

Jones shared the following strategies to encourage FAFSA completion:

  • Counselors should visit classrooms to discuss the college application process with students.
  • Encourage the senior class to visit a career center. Cass Tech’s career center provides assistance for students who need help with the college application process.
  • Host a “senior scholarship lock-in,” where students spend time completing the FAFSA, as well as receive more information on various scholarship opportunities.

Cass Tech is a school that also stresses the importance of parent involvement, as many of its current students have parents who are alumni of Cass Tech. The parents are just as involved as the students,” said Jones.

“We want students and family to all be on the same page.”

19 minutes away, University High School Academy (UHSA), located in Lathrup Village, has seen similar successes during the competition. According to UHSA Dean Marcia Williams, 77 percent of UHSA seniors have completed their FAFSA.

“We are pleased with 77 percent of our seniors completing the FAFSA,” said Williams. “Of course we are aiming for 100 percent but this is a great accomplishment this early on.”

Like Cass Tech, UHSA is strongly involved with the parents of the students.

“We arranged a meeting with senior student families prior to the FAFSA window opening,” said Williams. “Our main goal was to make sure that parents and students were well informed about the college application process and FAFSA.”

Williams has also implemented an email that is sent weekly urging students to take the next step for their future and complete the FAFSA and college applications.

“We understand that students and families are busy around this time of the year,” said Williams. “Sometimes a simple email reminder can be extremely helpful.”

Each school has also used different forms of social media to encourage students to complete their FAFSA. Student ambassadors at both Cass Tech and UHSA use the app GroupMe, a mobile group messaging app, to remind their classmates about the competition.

We invite you to pass along your tips for increasing FAFSA completion, which we can share in future newsletters, by writing mdevelyn@detroitchamber.com. Thank you and good luck to you all.

$90 Million in Aid Left Behind by Michigan Students? FAFSA Challenge Can Help

Building on a key pillar of its Forward Detroit strategy to increase the number of adults in the region with postsecondary degrees, the Detroit Regional Chamber recently launched its “Race to the FAFSA Line” challenge. Through its Detroit Drives Degrees initiative, to date, the Chamber has signed up 66 schools in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties that have pledged to increase FAFSA applications in the coming year.

FAFSA completion is correlated to a 90 percent college attendance rate upon high school graduation. The challenge supports low-income and minority students in taking their next step to earning postsecondary education. Last year, only 52 percent of high school seniors in the region successfully filled out the FAFSA. The regional goal of the competition is to achieve 60 percent completion by the end of the year.

Emagine Entertainment Inc. will provide a grand prize of an all-night senior class party and other prizes to winning schools.

“We are thrilled to support the Chamber’s efforts to increase regional higher education attainment through the FAFSA competition. This addresses a significant problem for high school students aspiring to continue their education. Michigan students left over $90 million of federal aid on the table last year,” said Emagine CEO and Chamber board member Paul Glantz.

For more information on Detroit Drives Degrees, contact Melanie D’Evelyn at mdevelyn@detroitchamber.com.