Webinar Archives

To register and learn more about upcoming webinars, visit FCAN’s Events page.


January 18: Revealing Potential: Proven Mentoring Strategies from Take Stock in Children

January is National Mentoring Month and FCAN’s Assistant Director for Network Partnerships, Kathy McDonald, was recently joined by guest presenters Marci Poston, Director of Programmatic and Professional Development Services at Take Stock in Children (TSIC), and Tatila Brock, a TSIC alumna who currently serves as Take Stock in Children Program Director and Student Services Coordinator at the Education Foundation of Alachua County, for a webinar examining the profound impact mentoring can have on student success.

Take Stock in Children (TSIC) has a two-decade track record of changing lives through proven mentoring strategies that help students reveal their potential. The January 18 webinar highlighted strategies for establishing an effective mentoring program.

Six Keys to a Successful Mentoring Program

  1. Align your mentoring program to that of your organization’s mission.
  2. Set up the mentoring relationship to be goal-oriented, so both mentor and mentee know what they are working towards.
  3. Provide accountability so both mentor and mentee know what they are agreeing to. Tie student outcomes to strategies that will help them be successful, such as keeping their grades up and remaining alcohol/crime/drug-free.
  4. Include the ability for ongoing monitoring. The mentors should have some mechanism for logging their sessions so their progress can be tracked.
  5. Provide support for mentors and set realistic expectations. It will take time to build a relationship with their mentee.
  6. Deliver training and other resources (e.g. activities) for mentors so they feel ready to successfully support their mentees.

Up Next: Take Stock in College

During the webinar, Marci offered a quick overview of Take Stock in College, a new program that seeks to dramatically increase the college completion rate of TSIC graduates by extending mentoring services into their college years.

Steven Kissinger, Vice President of Programs and Innovation at TSIC, will lead a session titled “Take Stock in College” at the 2019 Florida College Access Network Summit, which will take place May 7-8 at the Rosen Centre in Orlando. Visit fcansummit.org for more information and to register.

Show Notes

To learn more proven mentoring strategies and how to support mentors in changing the lives of students, take advantage of these resources.

Webinar Slides
Plan It Florida brochure


November 27: Meeting the College Access and Success Needs of Rural Students

FCAN’s Assistant Director for Research and Analytics, Kimberly Lent, was recently joined by guest presenters Dr. Jerry Johnson and Dr. Hobart Harmon, Co-Directors of the Institute for the Advancement of Research, Innovation, and Practice (ARIP-RE) at UCF, and Dr. Matthew Ohlson, Assistant Professor at UNF and Director of CAMP Osprey, for a presentation about best practices to support rural student postsecondary success.

Rural Communities in Florida

The most recent census data designate 30 of Florida’s 67 counties as rural. Roughly 5% of the state’s total population and 5% of the K-12 population live in these rural counties. There is a significant difference in degree attainment between rural and non-rural counties in Florida. Approximately 23% of rural adults hold an associate’s degree or higher — this compares to 40% of adults in non-rural counties.

Federal agencies, including the United States Department of Education, measure rural differently. Using the US DOE’s method, 20 out of 67 are rural.

Trends in Rural Student Postsecondary Success

Jerry provided a brief review of research on trends in rural student postsecondary enrollment, persistence, and completion. He noted overall rural enrollment and completion rates are equal or slightly below rates for their non-rural peers, and there are no differences when factoring in income status. However, differences exist when data are disaggregated by student characteristics. Geography plays a significant role in enrollment — rural rates vary when you compare rural communities within a state and compare states. The proximity of a rural community to an urban area also influences enrollment, with those closest to urban cores having higher enrollment rates. Jerry noted there is limited information in this field about rural student persistence. The few studies conducted show little differences between rural and non-rural students.

Next, Jerry discussed barriers to rural student success, including students’ economic need (the strongest barrier), competing commitment to family and community, school factors, and student factors. Once a student enrolls in a postsecondary institution, social adjustment is the main barrier to persistence and degree completion.

Promising Practices and Strategies

Following Jerry, Hobart gave attendees an overview of two strategies that practitioners are implementing to support rural students.

The Rural Math Excel Partnership (RMEP)

Hobart’s first example was RMEP — a program created in Virginia that uses shared responsibility between families, teachers, and community-based organizations for student success in foundational math. Each of these stakeholders plays a key role to ensure students take the right math courses for success in the workforce. For example, families participated in family math nights; community organizations, such as business and nonprofits, held a career event to expose students to high-skill, high-wage career options.

This model strived to prepare students for high-skill, high-wage careers in STEM occupations and provide the baseline skills for at least a technician level job directly out of high school. Its success was dependent on the shared responsibility model that reinforced the program goals through different strategies.

Personalized Text Messages or Nudges

Researchers and organizations such as the National College Access Network have explored the use of nudge text messaging systems as a strategy to support student success. Organizations throughout the country have used text messaging nudges in a variety of ways, including to increase FAFSA completion, to increase postsecondary application submission, and to remedy financial aid verification issues.

So far, these strategies show promise for students with limited access to postsecondary resources and supports — such as rural students. Nudges also seem to be most effective for students who may be first-generation or have limited family knowledge about higher education, a common characteristic in rural families.

CAMP Osprey

Next, Matthew introduced CAMP Osprey — a leadership-mentoring program that partners University of North Florida students with K-12 students in high-poverty, rural schools across Florida. Institutions in Georgia, Texas, and North Carolina have expanded the program to communities in their states.

CAMP Osprey uses a combination of face-to-face and virtual (i.e. Skype) mentoring to help rural students become college and career ready through leadership — the top skill employers request in job candidates. The virtual component is important to the program success as it reduces program cost and overcomes geographic challenges for rural students. For example, mentor and mentee groups will go on virtual college tours.

Show Notes

To learn more about the trends in rural student postsecondary education and strategies to support student success, take advantage of these resources:

CAMP Osprey Handout

November 15: Thankful4Pell: The Past, Present, and Future of Need-Based Aid

FCAN’s Amy Bolick, Community Engagement and Programs Manager, was recently joined by Carrie Warick, Director of Policy and Advocacy at National College Access Network (NCAN), and Daniel Barkowitz, Assistant Vice President for Financial Aid and Veterans Affairs at Valencia College and President-Elect of the Florida Association for Student Financial Aid Administrators, who shared details about the past, present, and future of the Pell grant.

Why is the Pell Grant Important?

According to recent data, 60% of FAFSA filers in Florida were eligible for federal Pell grants, making Florida’s population the 3rd highest for the proportion of Pell-eligible students. Despite these high levels of eligibility, however, Florida ranks 31st in the nation for the proportion of eligible high school seniors completing a FAFSA. Because of this, Florida’s students leave behind over $100 million in potential Pell Grants every year.

To make sure Florida’s students continue to benefit from the Pell grant, it is essential to both protect and strengthen the existing Pell grant program, and to engage in best practices to support students who receive Pell grants.

The Pell Grant: Past, Present, and Future

Daniel provided a brief overview of how the Pell grant program began, the purchasing power of Pell over time, and efforts employed by Valencia College to help students take full advantage of funds available to them.

The History of the Pell Grant

In 1965, the Higher Education Act was signed into law under President Lyndon Johnson as an effort to strengthen educational resources as part of his War on Poverty program. The Pell grant was implemented as an amendment to this act in 1972, becoming the largest need-based federal education grant program in the country’s history.

Purchasing Power of Pell

When the Pell grant program was first passed, the maximum award was $1,400, which covered 87% of tuition and fees at a public four-year institution. Daniel emphasized that, while the maximum award has since increased to $6,095, Pell has failed to keep pace with rapidly increasing tuition costs. As a result, Pell now covers only 59% of tuition and fees at a four-year public institution.

Helping Students Access More Pell Dollars

In spite of Pell’s decreased purchasing power, there have been recent efforts by the Department of Education and the legislature to strengthen the program. In the summer of 2017, the Department of Education announced the implementation of Year-Round Pell (also sometimes referred to as Summer Pell), which allows students to receive up to 150% of their maximum annual Pell award if they enroll at least half-time over the summer.

Daniel explained that allowing students to access additional Pell dollars can be critical to helping them complete their degrees. To encourage students at Valencia College to take advantage of this opportunity, the team at the college’s financial aid department engaged in a comprehensive student communication strategy.

First, they send a letter in the fall to all students using Pell grants to inform them of the option to use additional Pell dollars over the summer. Then, they sent a follow-up letter to all students who had enrolled full time in both fall and spring full to suggest taking advantage of full time enrollment during the summer to help accelerate their progress to graduation. For students who had enrolled part-time in fall and spring, they sent letters encouraging part-time summer enrollment to help them stay on track toward degree completion.

As a result, Valencia saw the number of Pell-disbursed students enrolled full-time over the summer nearly double over the previous year. Across the college, these students benefitted from an additional $5.5 million in awarded Pell grant dollars.

Showing We are #Thankful4Pell

Carrie shared details of NCAN’s #Thankful4Pell campaign, an annual effort to remind lawmakers of the importance of the Pell grant. The purpose of the campaign is to engage with members of congress on social media, share stories about the impact of the Pell grant, and encourage these leaders to continue protecting the program. NCAN encourages college access advocates to use the hashtag #Thankful4Pell to start a dialogue with their representatives.

Show Notes:

To learn more about the history of the Pell grant, its current implementation, and strategies for helping more students access their highest award, take advantage of these resources:

October 23: Better Together: How Collective Impact 3.0 Helps Communities Collaborate For Greater Student Success

To tackle complex challenges like rising postsecondary completion rates communities recognize that no one institution can solve the problem alone.

FCAN’s Kathy McDonald, Assistant Director for Network Partnerships, was recently joined by guest presenters Liz Weaver, Co-CEO of the Tamarack Institute and leader of the Tamarack Learning Centre, and Lisa Church, Vice President of Champions For Learning and leader of Future Ready Collier, for a webinar exploring the growing number of communities taking a collective approach following the framework articulated by John Kania and Mark Kramer of FSG in a 2011 article published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review entitled “Collective Impact.”

Since that time, community change experts have built on the framework to include other elements that are important in driving system change around a complex problem.

The Evolution of Collective Impact

Liz Weaver shared the highlights of Tamarack’s “Collective Impact 3.0: An Evolving Framework for Community Change,” a whitepaper that defines the next evolution of collective impact:

From a management paradigm to a movement-building paradigm: This shift encourages bringing in a broad and diverse group of leaders, especially those not in the traditional seats of power, to focus on opening hearts to new possibilities in changing seemingly intractable systems.

From common agenda to community aspiration: This shift inspires communities to consider the shared values that are sufficiently ambitious enough to require moving beyond business as usual. It helps the community move beyond just a strategic plan to build excitement and commitment among participants.

From shared measurements to ones that foster strategic learning: This helps the community make sense of what is and isn’t working, and necessitates evolving strategies based on learnings along the way.

From mutually reinforcing activities to high leverage and systems focus: Shifting the lens from moving a community’s activities in the same direction to one focused on those activities that can drive the biggest impact allows limited resources to be used where it can make the greatest difference. This offers the ability to scale more quickly as promising practices show impact.

From continuous communication to authentic community engagement: This shift puts community at the center of the process and allows the community to get a 360 degree view of the challenge. Those impacted by an issue engage fully in crafting solutions.

From backbone infrastructure to container for community change:  As containers for change, community change leaders facilitate the partners’ inner journey of change while developing trust and empathy. These leaders also recognize the need for timely nudges to sustain momentum.

Collective Impact 3.0 in Action

Lisa Church then shared a couple of examples of Collective Impact 3.0 in action. Movement building and community aspiration were on display as she discussed the community’s response to Hurricane Irma, where leaders had to come together and quickly shift strategies to meet pressing recovery needs.  She also shared how they are deepening their authentic community engagement through the launch of their new Parent Cafes that help children by building community and support among parents.

The LCAN Difference

Through Collective Impact, Florida communities supported by LCANs saw FAFSA completion rates 10 points higher than communities that are not supported by an LCAN last year. To learn more about Collective Impact, listen to the webinar recording and check out Tamarack Institute’s resource library.  You can find additional resources at CollectiveImpactForum.org.

Show Notes:

Tamarack Institute’s white paper
Future Ready Collier report
FutureMakers Coalition case study
How LCANs are different than a task force

October 2: Meet ALICE: A Look at Florida’s Financially Struggling Population and How Communities are Using Data for Change

FCAN’s Kimberly Lent, Senior Research Associate, was recently joined by guest presenters Ted Granger, President of United Way of Florida, and Holly Bullard, interim Co-Executive Director at Florida Policy Institute and Florida ALICE Research Advisory Committee member, for a presentation about Floridians who struggle to make ends meet.

In the 2017-18 school year, 61.2% of Florida FAFSA filers — the third highest proportion in the nation — were eligible for a Pell Grant, a need-based federal student aid program. Students also deal with issues of food and housing insecurity. A recent Wisconsin Hope Center survey found 36% of university and 42% of community college students were food insecure in the past 30 days, and 36% of university and 46% of community college students were housing insecure in the past year.

Historically, communities have used federal poverty level rates to track the proportion of residents who are our most poor.  However, the federal poverty rates are limited in what they can tell us about those who are living paycheck to paycheck and who might be one crisis away from falling into poverty. That’s where ALICE comes in.

Who is ALICE?

ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. These residents earn more than the federal poverty level, but less than it takes to survive in their community. Ted shared that ALICE workers are our hotel and restaurant staff, work at our daycares and school systems, and care for us and our families’ at doctors’ offices and hospitals. Ted also provided background for the United Way ALICE Project — an initiative taken on by United Ways in 16 states to better understand the needs of struggling residents and where organizations can target programming.

Holly highlighted the following Florida data points:

  • In 2015, 29.5% of Florida households were ALICE and an additional 14.5% were below the federal poverty level.
  • The proportion of ALICE and below poverty level Florida households has increased in the post-recession years, up from 24.9% and 11.3% in 2007, respectively.
  • The average Florida household survival budget — the bare minimum needed to survive — increased by 19% from 2007 to 2015.

Attendees also got a sneak peek at data featured in the upcoming 2019 ALICE Report, including updated ALICE and poverty level rates and county level, year-to-year change in households living below the ALICE threshold.

Driving Change with ALICE

Communities around Florida are using ALICE data to inform their work and better serve their residents. Holly provided examples of ALICE used in advocacy efforts with Florida legislators and in data-driven work to geographically map where ALICE populations live in a given county. Additionally, communities have used ALICE in conversations with employers and the business community to help set local wages to a livable threshold and with service providers to redesign program eligibility criteria.

Updated ALICE Report Coming Soon

An updated ALICE Report will be available in early 2019. The new report will include data down to the zip code level and further address issues of Florida’s changing demographics, such as the impact of the growing retired, older adult population. The release will coincide with a press conference and statewide United Way advocacy efforts.

Show Notes:

2017 United Way ALICE Report
Link to downloadable ALICE Report data files

September 18: No Dollar Left Behind: Organizing a Community-Based Approach to FAFSA Completion

FCAN’s Amy Bolick, Community Engagement and Programs Manager, was recently joined by Doug Griesenauer, Director of Workforce Development and Financial Stability Initiatives at United Way Suncoast, and Jessica Manchette, Senior Director of Program Initiatives at Champions For Learning, who shared how communities can work together to drive FAFSA completion in their areas.

Why is FAFSA Completion Important?

According to recent data, Florida’s population is the 3rd highest for the proportion of students eligible for federal Pell grants, but ranks 31st for the proportion of eligible high school seniors completing a FAFSA. Because of this, Florida’s students leave behind over $100 million in potential Pell Grants every year. To address this problem, schools and community partners across the state of Florida have taken on the goal of increasing FAFSA completion rates in their areas.

The Power of Partnership

Doug shared with attendees how his organization, United Way Suncoast, partners with LEAP, Tampa Bay’s Local College Access Network (LCAN), to improve FAFSA completion.

Doug emphasized that the United Way has two primary strategies for targeting FAFSA completion. First, United Way recruits and trains volunteers in FAFSA completion and deploys them to FAFSA completion events. Second, United Way cross-promotes the importance of FAFSA completion through other community services they offer, like their Volunteers in Tax Assistance (VITA) program, and their advising on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

In addition to hosting several in-person trainings every year, Doug also records his trainings and makes them available online. He also makes his training slides available to other college access professionals who would like to provide similar trainings. If you would like to access these materials, email Doug at dgriesenauer@uwsuncoast.org.

Collier’s Collaboration

Jessica described how three organizations in Collier County — Champions For LearningFuture Ready Collier, and FutureMakers Coalition — work together to coordinate FAFSA completion efforts.

Last year, Champions for Learning planned regional FAFSA completion events out of necessity in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. According to Jessica, the community saw value in this approach, and decided to host regional events again this year. All FAFSA resources and events are posted in a central location on the school district’s website, making it easy for students and parents to plan on attending. In addition to these in-person events, Jessica also facilitates a virtual financial aid night for families who cannot attend.

FAFSA Tips and Tricks

Jessica identified four FAFSA questions that students often struggle to answer correctly, causing them to miss out on aid they should qualify for:

  1. What will your high school completion status be when you begin the 2019-2020 school year?

Students should answer “high school diploma” to this question. Many students do not realize that the question is asking about their status for the next school year, and therefore answer that they are still in high school.

  1. What will your college grade level be when you begin the 2019-2020 school year?

Students should answer “never attended college/1st year.” Sometimes, if a student has completed dual enrollment classes, they will put that they have attended college. This question, however, is specifically asking whether the student has ever attended college after graduating high school.

  1. What degree or certificate will you be working on when you begin the 2019-2020 school year? 

Students should answer “1st bachelor’s degree.” Sometimes, students will select the degree that they ultimately want to pursue, such as a doctorate. If students select this, however, they will automatically be ineligible for a Pell Grant.

  1. Will you have your first bachelor’s degree when you begin the 2019-2020 school year?

Pell Grants are only available for undergraduates who do not already possess a bachelor’s degree. If students select “yes” for this question, they will not be able to receive a Pell grant.

Important Tips 

Jessica emphasized that it is important to encourage students to list all schools that they may be interested in applying to on the FAFSA when they first file it. If they go back to add a school later, they will have to re-open their application. This increases the likelihood that the student will either make an error or be selected for verification.

Jessica also shared that students should list a school in Florida first, even if an out-of-state school is their first choice. Selecting a Florida school first will ensure their eligibility for receiving Florida state aid.

Show Notes:

If you’re ready to boost FAFSA completion rates in your area, FCAN and its partners have the resources you need to get started.

September 6: Lost in Translation: Aligning Business and Education to Create More Student Internship Opportunities

Employers, students, and education institutions all agree internships provide valuable work experience that allows students to apply what they are learning in school.

FCAN’s Kathy McDonald, Assistant Director for Network Partnerships, was recently joined by Michael Dalby, President and CEO of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, and Lynn Chisholm, Director of Internships and Career Readiness at USF, for a lively discussion on how the business and education sectors can strengthen internship opportunities by understanding employer needs and using a common language.

The presentation explored some of the reasons internships are not more readily available:

  • Employer size
  • Terminology
  • Labor law considerations

Key Takeaways for How to Address These Concerns

According to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, more than 89% of private employers in Florida had fewer than 20 employees in Q1 of 2017. Additionally, more than half of private employers had only 1-4 employees (65%). Many smaller employers may not have a human resources department that can help them plan an internship.

  • Consider nonprofits and local government as additional employer sources to create student internship opportunities.
  • Provide resources that help a smaller employer plan for an internship, such as sample job descriptions,weekly check-in templates, and an internship learning plan.
  • Leverage other forms of applied learning, such as intern-for-a-day (job shadowing) or mentoring to engage employers in working with students, even if they are not ready to offer an internship. Many times, these experiences can lead to internship opportunities down the line.

Education and employers don’t use the same terminology when thinking about applied learning opportunities. Education providers may think “internships” when “part-time, temporary employment” might be language an employer is more familiar with.

  • Use language employers understand, and translate the student learning need that can be part of a workplace experience.

Changes to labor laws occur periodically. Small employers without an HR department may not want to risk violating updates to labor laws by offering an internship when they have no experience with them.

  • Stress the benefits to the organization in offering internships that can lead to a positive return on investment, such as developing leadership abilities of existing staff, accessing projects or revenue by generating work with additional staff, and getting first dibs on new talent as the organization expands.

Mr. Dalby found that once an employer offers an internship, in the vast majority of cases the experience is so positive they are willing to do it again. They see the benefit to their business and the intern brings energy and fresh ideas that can reinvigorate the workplace.

Show Notes

Internship Toolkit (Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce)
“Why Interns?” Flyer (Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce)
Internships: General Information for Employers handout (USF)
Internship Learning Plan (USF)
Internship Components (FCAN)

August 14: FAFSA is Not Enough: How Verification Keeps Students from Entering College

FCAN’s Amy Bolick, Community Engagement and Programs Manager, was recently joined by a trio of guest presenters from National College Access Network (NCAN) —MorraLee Keller, Director of Technical Assistance; Jack Porter, Advocacy Associate; and Bill DeBaun, Director of Data and Evaluation — for a presentation about the ways FAFSA verification is affecting low-income students in Florida.

What is Verification?

Verification is a federal audit of submitted Free Applications for Federal Student Aid (FAFSAs). Approximately 30% of all FAFSA filers and 50% of low-income FAFSA filers are selected to provide additional documentation of the income information they report on the form.

Students will need to complete the verification process with each school they have applied to before the school will provide a financial aid award letter. The process may vary from school to school, but consistently requires providing tax return transcripts. These students are not eligible to receive financial aid until they have completed the verification process.

What Challenges do Students Face?

NCAN’s MorraLee Keller shared some of the challenges this process presents for selected students.

Students May Not Know They’ve Been Selected

First, because schools do not have a uniform notification procedure, many students are unaware they have been selected for verification. Students may also not realize that they must verify their income with each institution individually.

Difficulty Accessing Documents

Students may experience challenges accessing the required tax documents. Parents of dependent students must request a tax transcript from the IRS and submit copies of that transcript to each institution. Independent students, including students from foster care, must request either their own tax transcripts or a letter verifying that they did not file taxes.

Some students are dependent students according to federal guidelines, regardless of whether they receive support from or have contact with their parents. This designation can add another layer of complexity for students who are asked to submit documentation from parents who are unable or unwilling to cooperate.

Shutting Low-Income Students Out of Higher Education

Every year, only around 31% of low-income high school seniors will enroll in college the fall following graduation using a Pell Grant. While there are many factors that prevent these students from attending and accessing financial aid, verification is a significant part of the equation.

Research presented by NCAN’s Bill DeBaun demonstrates that navigating this system presents a barrier to low-income students. According to NCAN’s analysis, only 56% of low-income students selected for verification will go on to receive a Pell Grant, compared to 78% of low-income students not selected for verification. Failing to receive a Pell Grant often prevents them from enrolling the following term. This rate of “verification melt” is nearly as high as the rate of “summer melt,” when students accept admission to college in the spring but never enroll in classes in the fall.

Strategies to Assist Students with Verification

While the verification process can be challenging, it is significantly easier when families have the resources and support they need. Keller shared some best practices college access professionals can employ to assist students with verification.

Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT)

Keller emphasized the importance of encouraging families to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) when completing the FAFSA. This tool automatically populates the FAFSA with income information from the IRS. Since this information comes directly from the IRS, filers who use the DRT are less likely to be selected for verification.

Be Proactive

Keller also recommended that college access professionals help families to order their tax transcriptsimmediately after they file the FAFSA. Transcripts are free to request, and can be delivered digitally or via the postal service. This way, the student will have the necessary documentation if they are selected for verification.

Advocating for A Better Way

Both NCAN and FCAN are committed to advocating for simplifying both the FAFSA completion and verification processes. NCAN’s Jack Porter shared some of the key talking points that demonstrate the need to simplify verification:

  • The number of students selected for FAFSA verification is very high, especially when compared to other auditing processes. For instance, while only 1-2% of tax filers are audited, 30-50% of FAFSA filers are selected for verification.
  • Verification does not necessarily yield significant results. Of all students selected for verification, 95% will see no change in their Expected Family Contribution (EFC) once they have completed the process.

What Next?

The FAFSA for the 2019-2020 school year opens on October 1, 2018. FCAN and NCAN have many resources to help ensure the students you and your organization work with are prepared to complete the FAFSA correctly and to verify their income if needed. See the show notes section for helpful toolkits, reference guides, and infographics.

FCAN also encourages schools, districts, and communities to rally around the goal of increasing FAFSA completion in their community. If you are a college access professional in Florida, register your school or organization for the Florida FAFSA Challenge today!

If you or a student you work with has struggled with the FAFSA verification process, we want to hear from you! Please send your stories to abolick@floridacollegeaccess.org.

Show Notes:

FAFSA Challenge Toolkit
Helping Students with Common FAFSA Mistakes
FutureMakers Coalition: FAFSA First!
The Leaky FAFSA Pipeline
Article – Colleges Puzzled by Surge in FAFSA Verification Requests (Washington Post)

June 13: No Excuses Poverty Initiative: Building Systemic Support for Low-Income Students


That’s the proportion of Amarillo College students who were struggling with at least one basic life need, such as food or housing insecurity.

FCAN’s Kathy McDonald, Assistant Director for Network Partnerships, recently hosted guest speaker Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart, President of Amarillo College, for a webinar titled, “No Excuses Poverty Initiative: Building Systemic Support for Low-Income Students.”

Dr. Lowery-Hart shared that what he learned when he asked students about the biggest barriers they faced on their way to success in the classroom changed the course of his life and work.

Top 10 Student Barriers

Through focus groups and surveys, Dr. Lowery-Hart found that the top 10 barriers students faced didn’t involve instruction nor handling the coursework. They all had to do with needs outside the classroom:

  • Career & employment
  • Childcare
  • Counseling
  • Financial literacy
  • Food
  • Housing
  • Legal services
  • School needs (tuition, books)
  • Transportation
  • Utility assistance

Many campuses are trying isolated activities to reduce the impact of these barriers. The thing that made a greater impact at Amarillo College was taking a systems approach, looking across the campus to connect and coordinate all activities in what eventually came together under their Advocacy and Resource Center (ARC).  But Dr. Lowery-Hart knew they had to go further than just offering programs and support services.

Changing Perceptions on Poverty

Dr. Lowery-Hart brought in poverty expert Dr. Donna Beegle to create a paradigm shift. The shift allowed faculty and staff to see poverty through a new lens that enabled them to move from simply judging a student’s behavior to one that checks in with that student to learn what’s going on. Student behavior was often related to hunger or the stress of not knowing where they were going to sleep that night. All employees received poverty certification that helped them see that the stereotypes of poverty are built on an erroneous understanding of who our neighbors are. They’re not lazy. They just work in jobs that don’t provide a living wage or benefits.

Amarillo College connected this new understanding with the services and emergency aid under its #ACCultureOfCaring umbrella. Their culture of caring leveraged predictive analytics to anticipate which students might need extra support so they could be proactive rather than waiting for a crisis to occur.

The college has been able to drive results that include increasing their completion rate in the last two years from 23% to 45%.  (To learn more, read the recently released case study: Supporting Community College Completion with a Culture of Caring: A Case Study of Amarillo College).

Show Notes:

To learn more about how Amarillo College is removing poverty as a barrier to student success, listen to the recorded webinarview the presentation slides, and read a handout of helpful resources.


Be sure to visit our Past Webinars page for access to recordings and downloadable material from FCAN’s previous presentations.

May 24: How Florida is Using Partnerships and Pathways to Meet the Needs of Today’s Transfer Students

Florida’s 2+2 transfer pathway is an essential mechanism for increasing postsecondary access and attainment, closing equity and opportunity gaps, and developing a highly skilled and educated workforce. As outlined in FCAN’s recent policy brief, Florida colleges and universities have utilized partnerships and evidence-based practices to help more transfer students get to the finish line.

In FCAN’s latest webinar, Troy Miller, FCAN’s Associate Director for Research and Policy, along with Madeline Pumariega, Chancellor, Florida College System, Dr. Janie Valdes, Assistant Vice President, Undergraduate Education, Florida International University, Dr. Jeff Jones, Vice Provost, UCF Connect/UCF Global, University of Central Florida, and Dr. Fai Howard, Assistant Dean for Upper-Level Initiatives, University of South Florida, discussed the innovative approaches many colleges and universities in Florida are now using to increase transfer student outcomes.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the webinar:

You can’t talk about higher ed in Florida without talking about 2+2

Over half of all juniors and seniors enrolled in public universities previously attended a Florida College System institution, making Florida’s 2+2 transfer pathway an essential mechanism for increasing postsecondary access and attainment, closing equity and opportunity gaps, and developing a highly skilled and educated workforce.

Targeted transfer pathways are helping to reduce the barriers students face to earning a bachelor’s degree

Among Florida College System students who graduate with an associate’s degree, over 90% applied to a single university. Since most state college students are place bound, not being able to get into the university of their choice has been identified as a reason why some FCS students don’t continue to earn a bachelor’s degree. Florida’s traditional 2+2 agreement guarantees FCS students who earn an associate’s degree admission to a public university. New enhanced transfer partnerships, now available at all 28 Florida College System institutions, guarantee FCS students admission to their local university.

Transfer partnerships require commitment from campus leadership to continuously improve

DirectConnect to UCF, the University of Central Florida’s targeted transfer agreement with its six state college partners, launched in 2006 and resulted in over 6,000 new transfer students admitted in 2016-17 alone.  The success of the program has been attributed in large part to the coordination and collaboration among its campus leaders, which meet regularly to break down silos and provide their students with the supports needed to complete their degree.

Tailored supports and advising provide transfer students with a “four-year identity”

For bachelor’s degree students on a 2+2 pathway, it’s important they know when they start at a Florida College System institution, it’s their first stop, not their last. It’s why Florida International University has invested in eight Bridge Advisors across their Connect4Success partner state college campuses, to ensure their students have a meaningful and engaging experience at the start of their academic career. These advisors work in tandem with their state college advisors to make sure transfer students have the prerequisites needed to hit the ground running once they have been admitted to FIU. Data from FIU shows students transferring from their partner colleges graduate with fewer excess credits than other transfer students.

The bar continues to rise for what’s possible with transfer partnerships in Florida

Florida’s 2+2 transfer pathway was the first of its kind in the nation when it began in 1971, and has continued to evolve with enhanced articulation agreements like DirectConnect to UCF, which began over ten years ago. FUSE, a new targeted transfer program between the University of South Florida and eight Florida College System institutions, provides a timely graduation pathway for students by guaranteeing admission to not just a specific university, but a specific degree program for students who meet requirements. In 2017-18, the program’s first full year of implementation, the FUSE Scholarship was announced, which provides students who meet credit hour and GPA requirements up to $5,500 to support their degree completion.

Show Notes:


April 4: Hands on Banking: Helping Students Afford College Through Sound Money Management

Helping students develop responsible money management skills has never been more important. With the cost of education rising, young people often take on significant financial obligations before they fully understand how debt works. Giving these students the necessary tools can help them learn how to invest in their education without sacrificing their financial freedom.

FCAN’s Amy Bolick, Community Engagement and Programs Manager, recently hosted Wells Fargo’s Mariana Ordaz, Community Support Representative for Florida, for a discussion about a helpful tool from Wells Fargo that educators can use to discuss financial literacy with students.

Interactive Content Engages Young Minds

To address this need for financial awareness, Wells Fargo created the free educational tool Hands On Banking. This tool features interactive content that educators can use with a classroom, or can assign for independent and self-paced use. Lesson plans are available for age levels ranging from elementary school to young adults.

Activities within Hands On Banking include creating a sample budget, developing a savings plan, and calculating the actual cost of a loan. This information is all delivered through age-appropriate exercises in both English and Spanish.

Wells Fargo at Your School

Wells Fargo’s commitment to financial literacy extends beyond Hands On Banking. Throughout the state of Florida, Wells Fargo professionals are available to come to your school and speak to students and/or parents about issues related to financial aid, saving for college, and more.

To schedule a Wells Fargo employee to speak at your school, contact Mariana Ordaz, the Community Support Representative for Florida, at mariana.ordaz@wellsfargo.com.

Show Notes:

Webinar SlidesFCAN I Wells Fargo
Webinar Recording

March 29: $500 for College Decision Day: How Better Make Room is Helping Schools Celebrate Students

On Thursday, March 29, Florida College Access Network was pleased to host Eric Waldo, Executive Director for Michelle Obama’s Better Make Room initiative, for a webinar highlighting exciting opportunities for schools hosting Florida College Decision Day events.

Mr. Waldo and Amy Bolick, FCAN’s Community Engagement and Programs Manager, spoke with attendees about the history of Better Make Room, the growth of the initiative, and resources and strategies available to help schools and communities celebrate their students.

The Growth of Decision Day

Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Better Make Room initiative began in 2014, when she hosted her first Signing Day event in San Antonio Texas. Since then, participation in similar events across the country has grown exponentially.

In 2015, Better Make Room reported that 600 schools hosted these celebrations nationwide. As of last year, more than 1,500 schools in the United States were participating.

The event’s popularity has also grown across the state of Florida. In 2016, 74 schools participated in Decision Day. In 2018, 236 schools in Florida have already registered to host an event.

$45,000 in Funding Available to Host Florida College Decision Day Events

This year, the College Football Playoff Foundation and Better Make Room have partnered to distribute $100,000 of funding to schools hosting College Decision Day. Of that $100,000 at least $45,000 has been earmarked to fund Florida schools! Schools are eligible for grants of up to $500 to fund their Decision Day events.

How Do I Get the Grant Funding?

To be eligible for the grant, you must:

  1. Be registered as a host site with either Florida College Access Network or Better Make Room
  2. Be a current teacher or school counselor at a public school

If you meet these requirements, you can apply for the grant by following these steps:

  1. Create a school counselor or teacher account with Donors Choose
  2. Create a project with the materials you need to host your Decision Day event
  3. Once your project has been submitted, Donors Choose will review it
  4. After Donors Choose approves your project, email reachhigher@civicnation.org with a link to your event

Show Notes:

March 15: Getting to the Finish Line: Unique Postsecondary Barriers Adult Students Face

In order for Florida to be ready for tomorrow’s jobs, we need adults who have started college to complete a credential.

FCAN’s Kathy McDonald, Assistant Director of Network Partnerships, recently hosted Complete Florida’s Dr. Michelle Horton, Director, and Jehan Clark, a Complete Florida graduate and Program Manager, for a discussion on the common hurdles adult students face and how creative institutions are meeting the challenge.

Did You Know?

Adult learners face unique challenges their first-time-in-college peers don’t. Those barriers include:

Uneven Course Credit History

Some adults started college right out of high school when they weren’t ready. Now, they have to overcome a credit history that doesn’t reflect their current maturity and motivation.

Support needed – Help navigating options: Busy adults need help finding the college option that will accept the most number of course credits they previously earned. As a result, they need guidance in knowing how to ask for course substitutions and how to take advantage of a transient student status that can get them to the finish line sooner.


Seventy five percent of today’s college students are juggling some combination of work, school, and family while commuting to class. These competing demands mean a majority of adult students are concerned about their work/life/school balance.

Support needed – Flexibility: Adults are looking for flexible course schedules that work around their schedule, such as shorter-term lengths and online/hybrid course options.


While traditional age college students are concerned with how they will pay for their education, adults have additional challenges in that they may have already exhausted available financial aid, or they are dealing with a credit hold or a student loan default. And with adults often attending college part-time, many sources of financial aid like Bright Futures are not available to them.

Support needed – Alternative course credit options: Alternative credit options such as CLEP exams, ACE workforce training credits, and prior learning assessments all help adults earn credit for experience, which saves them time and money.

With clear career plans tied to their education goals, adults often excel where they once struggled. With some strategic support, these adults can finally finish what they started, creating brighter futures for themselves, their family and their community.

Show notes:

Recording, Slides
Handout: Alternative College Course Credit Options

February 22: Scholarship Innovation: How Funders and Communities are Meeting the Needs of Today’s Students

For many students, scholarships are an important piece of how they will pay for college. Yet there are challenges with traditional scholarship models.

Overall, current scholarship models may not be tailored to fit unique community needs. Financial aid can fall short for traditionally underrepresented students. There also tends to be a focus on incoming first-year students only, which means many scholarship models are not structured to support retention and completion.

FCAN’s Kathy McDonald, Assistant Director of Network Partnerships, was recently joined by Helios Education Foundation’s Paul Perrault, PhD, Vice President and Director of Research and Evaluation, and Michelle Boehm, Research and Evaluation Analyst, to explore how communities can rethink their scholarship models by leveraging what’s working in other regions during a webinar titled, “Scholarship Innovation: How Funders and Communities are Meeting the Needs of Today’s Students.”  Newer models seek to address limitation that both funders and students face with traditional scholarships.

The Challenge for Funders

  • Scholarship criteria specified by donors can be too narrow to attract a sufficient applicant pool.
  • Tracking outcomes is difficult — did the student graduate and get a job in their field of choice?
  • Administrative costs can be high.

The Challenge for Students

Scholarships rarely cover all expenses for their full program, which leaves students scrambling each year looking for new scholarships. Additionally, student financial needs often extend beyond tuition and books to now include transportation, housing, food scarcity and healthcare.

Key Takeaways from FCAN Webinar

There are several major domains of scholarships innovative funders are trying:

  • Emergency scholarships — address unexpected hardships that threaten a student’s ability to persist and complete.
  • Performance-based scholarships — provide aid for low-income students that is contingent on completion of certain academic benchmarks paid directly to students, often disbursed in multiple increments throughout the term.
  • Wrap-around scholarships — take a holistic approach to include supports like mentoring, tutoring, academic and career counseling, and internship placements.
  • Promise scholarships — are institutional or place-based initiatives that provide funding for students who live in the program’s geographic area.

Many of these models are so new that students may not have finished their credential, so career outcomes are not yet known. However, many are looking promising because of their ability to support persistence in college.

The Qualities of Effective Scholarship Models

Finally, scholarship models are most impactful when they are:

  • Renewable — so they can support a student for the duration of earning their credential.
  • Predictable — so that students know they can count on the financial support and don’t have to go scrambling.
  • Simple and transparent — so that students can readily understand whether they qualify.
  • Supplement institutional funds — so that the scholarships can fill in the funding gaps that are not covered through other sources.
  • Incorporate incentives for academic success — to encourage completion.
  • Include non-financial support services — to meet the non-academic needs such as housing or transportation.

To learn more, listen to the recording from the webinar and check out the handouts that accompanied the presentation.

Show Notes:

Helios Education Foundation Beyond Traditional Scholarships
Recording I Slides
Handout:  Financial Aid Lessons from the Field
Handout:  What is a Promise Scholarship

February 13: Lost in Translation: Helping Students Translate College Experience into Professional Skills Employers Value

Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) surveys employers to determine the professional skills they most value. To help college students translate their work into skills employers covet, the University of South Florida’s (USF) Career Services created an innovative badging program.

During FCAN’s webinar — “Lost in Translation: Helping Students Translate College Experience into Professional Skills Employers Value” — Kathy McDonald, FCAN’s Assistant Director of Network Partnerships, and Lynn Chisholm, USF’s Director of Internships and Career Readiness, discussed the badging program and how it is helping students demonstrate sought-after skills to earn their first job out of college.

Biggest Takeaway: We Have a Communications Gap, Not a Skills Gap

Students are in fact developing the transferrable skills employers seek in new hires, they are just struggling to translate what they are learning using the language of the workforce.

How USF’s Badging Program Can Help

  • USF took a whole campus approach, bringing in content from faculty, student organizations, and extra-curricular activities to help students see that all of their college experiences contribute to their development of NACE core competency areas
  • USF created the badging program to help students build a workforce vocabulary in the competency areas employers value. By gamifying it, 2nd year students are eager to move through the framework and can earn a Career Management badge that they can then put on their LinkedIn profile.

Moving Through the Framework in 3 Easy Steps

Students work their way through the framework, leveraging critical reflection utilizing 3 modules for each competency:

  1. Learn it: Do they understand what each competency is?
  2. Do it: Students build their experience in each competency area throughout their college experience, which can include study abroad, service learning, clubs, or student government experience.
  3. Show It: Using the STAR-L framework they help to build a “story” for each competency so that they can answer common interview questions that look for examples of a graduate demonstrating the competency.

Show Notes:

Webinar Recording
Webinar Slides
USF Career Readiness Badging Program: Executive Summary
STAR story template
NACA Career Readiness Fact Sheet
Book Recommendation from guest speaker Lynn Chisholm — Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett

January 11: Good Jobs Require More Education (But Not Always a BA!)

While labor economists predict that 60% of all jobs by 2025 will require a postsecondary credential, there is a common misconception that a bachelor’s degree is the only pathway to career success.

FCAN’s first webinar of 2018 featured Neil Ridley, Director of State Initiatives with Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce (“the Center”), and Troy Miller, FCAN’s Assistant Director for Research and Policy, talking about the growth of good jobs that have gone to workers with associate’s degrees, postsecondary certificates or industry certifications.

Here are the five biggest takeaways from the webinar:

  1. Education beyond high school matters for getting a good job. What’s a good job?  It’s a job that pays at least $35,000 annually for workers under 45 and at least $45,000 for workers 45 and older.  As research from the Center and their Good Jobs Project shows, the more education you have, the better your chances are at getting a good job (see slide).
  2. It’s hard in today’s economy to get a good job with just a high school diploma. Workers in Florida with a high school diploma make below $28,000 annually, which is below the state average and far below the average wage for workers with higher levels of education and training.  The trend is likely to continue, as labor economists at the Center predict 65% of future jobs will require some postsecondary education in the coming years (see slide).
  3. Not all good jobs require a bachelor’s degree. While it’s true that good jobs favor those who have higher levels of education, not all good jobs require a BA.  Not everyone goes from high school directly to a four-year university, so it pays to know that fields such as health services, finance and retail have good jobs to offer workers with associate’s degree’s, certificates and other credentials as they begin and transition through their career.
  4. Helping students prepare for and begin rewarding careers is a job too big to do alone. To build better linkages between education and the workforce, schools, colleges and employers need to work together to help students connect to good jobs and opportunities to further their education and training.
  5. We need to know more about certificates, certifications and other workforce credentials. Historically, postsecondary “credential” attainment was synonymous with “degree” attainment.  But experts are now taking a different, broader view of credentials to recognize the value that non-degree credentials like certificates, certifications and licenses have in the labor market.  While data on the attainment of these credentials are still somewhat limited, work is being done by the U.S. Census Bureau with help from other federal agencies to provide states with better information on these areas.  See the Interagency Working Group on Expanded Measures of Enrollment and Attainment (GEMEnA) Project to learn more.

Want to check out the webinar for yourself?  Click here to view the slides and recording, and visit www.GoodJobsData.org  for state and national reports on Good Jobs from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

Show Notes:

Recording, Slides


December 12: Busting the Affordability Barrier: What You Need to Know About This Year’s Florida FAFSA Challenge

Through community-wide efforts, last year Florida increased FAFSA completion by 9.1% through March 2017, which brought an additional $37 million in Pell Grants to college freshmen statewide. This support is critical in helping students go to college.

In this webinar, Amy Bolick, FCAN’s Statewide Programs Coordinator, and Kimberly Lent, FCAN’s Senior Research Associate, led a discussion of the 2017-18 FAFSA season updates, strategies for tracking and boosting FAFSA completion, and offered a look at how to get the most out of the FAFSA Challenge data dashboard. Amy and Kimberly were joined by special guest Ralph Aiello — Director, School Counseling, Broward County Public Schools & BRACE (Broward Advisors for Continuing Education) — who shared how Broward’s school district has initiated its own FAFSA Challenge.

Show Notes:

Recording, Slides


October – December: Connecting Education & Jobs in Florida webinar series

Over 60% of future jobs will require some form of postsecondary education or training, but what are the skills needed to fill this demand? What about the various credentials — including college degrees, postsecondary certificates, and industry certifications — that can ensure Florida’s workforce has the skills necessary to be prepared for such jobs?

October 12 — Part 1: Understanding Credentials

During Part I of this three-part webinar series, FCAN and Jeff Strohl, Director of Research with Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce discussed the variety of postsecondary credentials and why some are more valuable in our evolving economy. The webinar also covered the Center’s new estimates of Florida workers who hold a postsecondary certificate that appeared in Lumina’s Stronger Nation report.

Show Notes:

Recording, Slides

November 8 — Part 2: Florida Workforce Trends and Demands

The second webinar in FCAN’s series on Connecting Education and Jobs in Florida featured Adrienne Johnston, Bureau Chief of Labor Market Statistics with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and Dr. Jerry Parrish, Chief Economist and Director of Research with the Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation talking about Florida workforce trends and demands.

Show Notes:

Recording, Slides

December 6 — Part 3: How Partnerships Can Boost Degrees in High-Demand Fields

The third webinar in FCAN’s series on Connecting Education and Jobs in Florida featured Dr. Jan Ignash, Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs for the State University System of Florida Board of Governors and Dr. Michael Georgiopoulos, Dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Central Florida discussing the Targeted Educational Attainment (TEAm) Grant, an initiative funded by the Florida Legislature in 2013 to boost degrees in high-demand fields requiring bachelor’s degrees.

Show Notes:

Recording, Slides

October 18: Rising to the Challenge: Resources and Strategies to Boost FAFSA Completions in Florida

This jam-packed webinar featured some of the nation’s leading experts on FAFSA completion tools, information, resources and strategies. Speakers include:

  • Ben Castleman, Professor at the University of Virginia, and Don Yu, Director of former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Better Make Room campaign, addressed evidence-based FAFSA completion strategies and the UP NEXT text messaging service available for college-going students.
  • Claire Fluker, Awareness and Outreach Specialist with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA), highlighted changes to the 2017-18 FAFSA and the suite of resources made available through FSA.
  • Elizabeth Morgan, Director, External Relations with the National College Access Network, discussed the Form Your Future campaign and website geared toward increasing FAFSA completion.
  • Lori Auxier, Director of Outreach with the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Student Financial Assistance, covered some of the Florida strategies available for boosting FAFSA completion.
  • Troy Miller, FCAN’s Associate Director for Research and Policy, revealed state-level FAFSA completion data and details of the 2016-17 Florida FAFSA Challenge.

Show Notes:

Recording, Slides

September 21: On-Demand Webinar: College Ready Florida

Figuring out how to support students through the college application and financial aid process can be challenging. Florida College Access Network (FCAN) coordinates two statewide initiatives during the fall that can help: Apply Yourself Florida and the Florida FAFSA Challenge.  Apply Yourself Florida is an effort to help every high school senior apply to at least one postsecondary institution. The Florida FAFSA Challenge is a campaign to boost the number of seniors completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

FCAN created this free on-demand training webinar for school counselors, educators, and college access professionals interested in coordinating college application and FAFSA activities at their schools. You also have the opportunity to learn about Florida College Decision Day, an event to celebrate seniors for their postsecondary plans.

Show Notes:

Recording, Slides

April 12: Choosing the Right College with College Scorecard

Searching for and selecting the right college can be a daunting task for many students and families, placing a premium on having easy access to clear and reliable data during the college-going process. Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) and Florida College Access Network (FCAN) collaborated for this webinar on the redesigned College Scorecard, a database that provides free, transparent, and nationally comparable data on thousands of colleges and career schools in the United States. This webinar included a presentation from Michael Itzkowitz, Director of the College Scorecard at the U.S. Department of Education, who discussed ways to use this helpful resource.

Show Notes:

Recording, Slides

March 29: Introducing College Ready Florida!

In partnership with schools, districts and community organizations, FCAN has piloted three programs that aim to boost college-going rates for high school seniors:

  • Apply Yourself Florida is part of the American College Application Campaign, a national effort to increase the number of first-generation and low-income students pursuing a college degree or other higher education credential, by helping high school seniors navigate the complex college admissions process and ensuring they apply to at least one postsecondary institution (2-year or 4-year college, certificate program, or vocational school).
  • Florida FAFSA Challenge strives to boost the number of Florida seniors completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by encouraging schools to set and reach bold but attainable FAFSA completion goals.
  • Florida College Decision Day recognizes and celebrates high school seniors for their postsecondary plans and encourages all students to prepare early for college. Held on or around May 1, it coincides with the date when seniors typically must inform colleges of their plans to enroll.

In this webinar, FCAN introduced and offered an overview of its College Ready Florida initiatives:

Show Notes:

Recording, Slides

February 10: FAFSA “Learn and Share” for School Counselors, Advisors, and Community Partners

Did you know tens of thousands of Florida’s high school seniors fail to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), leaving behind over $100 million in Pell Grants each year? Luckily, school counselors, advisors, mentors and other college access professionals across the state are using data, implementing strategies, and setting goals to boost the number of students completing the FAFSA. In this webinar, Florida College Access Network (FCAN) outlined some of the approaches being used in Florida and other parts of the country to help make college affordable for students.

One strategy covered here involves student-level FAFSA completion data, which several school districts began using for the first time in 2016. Lori Auxier, Director of Outreach Services at the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Student Financial Assistance, went over the process for requesting such data from the state and how the data can be used at your local district and schools.

Show Notes:

Recording, FCAN Webinar slides, Lori Auxier slides)


December 9: Announcing the 2016 Florida FAFSA Challenge

Florida College Access Network (FCAN) issued a challenge to all schools and districts to increase FAFSA completion rates by 5% in 2016! FCAN’s research shows that our state’s high school graduates leave behind over $100 million in Pell Grants each year by not completing the form. Helping students complete the FAFSA is a crucial step toward ensuring that finances are not a barrier for academically prepared students looking to attend a college, university or technical school.

Troy Miller, FCAN’s Associate Director for Research and Policy, hosted a panel of experts for a discussion of what strategies and resources are available to help increase FAFSA completion rates in Florida.

Show Notes:

Recording, Slides

November 19: Supporting Florida’s Undocumented Students

In this webinar, Troy Miller, FCAN’s Associate Director for Research and Policy, was joined by the experts listed below for a webinar covering the unique challenges facing Florida’s undocumented students, the resources available to them, and how college access practitioners, advisors, and educators can best support these students in their quest to achieve a postsecondary education. The webinar also offered some tips on how Florida can better recruit, receive, and retain Florida’s undocumented students in higher education:

Show Notes:

Recording, Slides

October 15: How Can We Help Students Make Better College Decisions?

New America’s College Decisions Survey interviewed over 1,000 prospective and beginning college students, with findings featured in five briefs released during the summer and fall of 2015:

Part I: Deciding to Go to College
Part II: The Application Process
Part III: Familiarity with Financial Aid
Part IV: Understanding Student Loan Debt
Part V: Searching for the Right College

In this FCAN webinar, Rachel Fishman, Senior Policy Analyst at New America’s Education Policy program and author of New America’s College Decisions Survey, and Troy Miller, FCAN’s Associate Director for Research and Policy, discussed the survey’s findings and how they can help policymakers and college access advocates tailor their strategies for greater impact.

Show Notes:

Recording, Slides

September 14: Introducing FloridaShines

In this webinar, FCAN introduced FloridaShines, an online educational service of the Florida Virtual Campus. Florida Virtual Campus (FLVC) has redesigned and rebranded its student-facing online services to better serve K-20 students. The newly launched FloridaShines website provides online access to educational services for high school and postsecondary students throughout the state including:

  • Planners, checklists, and an evaluation to see if you’re ready for college
  • A searchable database for researching degree programs at Florida colleges and universities
  • Career assessments and inventories for planning life after college

Nashla Dawarhe, Coordinator of Advising and Student Services at Florida Virtual Campus, and Troy Miller, FCAN’s Assistant Director for Research and Policy, shared information about the new and improved educational resources for students, parents, counselors and college advisors.

Show Notes:

Recording, Slides

January 2015: It’s FAFSA Season: Let the Funds Begin!

Thousands of Florida graduating high school seniors could qualify for free money for college but don’t because they fail to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). FCAN’s research shows that our state’s high school graduates leave behind over $100 million in Pell Grants each year by not completing the form.

This FCAN presentation featured other FAFSA-related facts and figures that outline why FAFSA completion is important, how many students are Pell eligible, and much more

Show Notes:



For media inquiries and more information about our work, contact FCAN’s communications manager:

John Ceballos
Communications Manager jceballos@floridacollegeaccess.org


Pin It on Pinterest