Higher Education Policy Commission and Kanawha County Schools awarded grant to improve FAFSA completion rates

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The Higher Education Policy Commission (Commission) announced today that the agency has secured a $55,000 grant from the National College Access Network (NCAN), a nonprofit focusing on ensuring equal access to higher education. The grant will fund a project in partnership with Kanawha County Schools (KCS) to increase the number of 12th graders completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The announcement comes on the heels of recent news that West Virginia has jumped to fourth in the nation in ensuring students complete the FAFSA —  a crucial step toward preparing for college. 

“We are delighted to receive this grant,” Dr. Paul Hill, Chancellor of the Commission, said. “The application process was very competitive, and I think our award is a testament to the level of innovation and collaboration demonstrated in the proposal our team submitted in partnership with Kanawha County Schools.” 

NCAN awarded grants to organizations from 22 cities as part of their national “FAFSA Completion Challenge,” which aims to increase FAFSA completion rates in urban areas. Sixty-seven organizations applied. The project is funded by the Kresge Foundation,  a national nonprofit focusing on improving educational outcomes.

“We know FAFSA completion is strongly associated with postsecondary enrollment, yet every year millions of students who are eligible for aid never complete the FAFSA,” Bill Moses, Kresge’s managing director for education, said. “That’s especially true for low-income students who could use the federal assistance the most.” 

Through its College Foundation of West Virginia (CFWV) outreach initiative, the Commission will work with KCS and multiple community partners over the next 12 months to provide services and supports to help 12th graders and their families complete the FAFSA . The project will pilot a number of innovative ideas, including providing mobile FAFSA workshops on KCS buses, which are wifi enabled. 

“We are excited to receive this grant, because it will allow Kanawha County Schools to go into the communities and help parents with the FAFSA,” Dr. Ron Duerring, Superintendent of KCS, said. “By going into the communities, we hope to see an increase in the number of people filling out the forms and to encourage more students to apply to go to college.” 

Earlier this year, CFWV set a goal of ensuring at least 60 percent of 12th graders complete the FAFSA before September 1. Two of the eight KCS high schools, George Washington and Sissonville, have already met that goal

“Completing the FAFSA is vital to our goal for all KCS seniors to be college and career ready upon high school graduation,” Jon Duffy, Director of Counseling and Testing for KCS said. “The FAFSA is not only a required component of many scholarship programs, but, most importantly, it allows students to be considered for state and federal grants — free money for college.”

“We are very excited about working with KCS and the other community partners who have signed on board,” Dr. Adam Green, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at the Commission, said. “West Virginia has made tremendous progress on this issue and emerged as a national leader in improving FAFSA completion rates. We are eager to continue improving our policies and practices to help more West Virginia students enroll and succeed in college.”  

Additional partners in the project include: 

  • The Office of Governor Earl Ray Tomblin
  • The West Virginia Community and Technical College System
  • BridgeValley Community and Technical College
  • West Virginia State University
  • University of Charleston
  • The Education Alliance
  • The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation
  • The Bob Burdette Center
  • The Human Resources Development Foundation
  • Daymark, Inc.
  • The Charleston Area Alliance
  • Generation Charleston

The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission is the state agency responsible for developing and overseeing a public policy agenda for West Virginia’s public four-year colleges and universities. CFWV is a statewide outreach initiative coordinated through the Commission that aims to provide support to increase the number of West Virginia students enrolling and succeeding in education and training programs beyond high school. 

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