With the 2024-25 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) release in December 2023, schools and community organizations have had less time to prepare students and their families to fill out the form. In addition, due to the FAFSA Simplification Act, the 2024-25 FAFSA has been significantly changed to streamline the financial aid process.

To raise awareness, Achieve Escambia has relaunched its participation in FCAN’s Florida FAFSA Challenge. This statewide initiative encourages schools and districts to increase their FAFSA completion rate by at least 5% or more compared to the last school year.

Ruthie Noel, executive director of Achieve Escambia, has emphasized that collaboration is instrumental throughout this process. “Thus far, it’s been smooth sailing to pull the local college access network (LCAN) team together around this project. It helps that the FAFSA Challenge is a very concrete project that we’ve seen success with in the past.”

Escambia County Public Schools, City of Pensacola, Acceleration Academies, Pensacola State College, University of West Florida, and TRIO are a few partners that are engaged in this work to ensure students have the support needed to complete the FAFSA.

When Achieve Escambia led the FAFSA Challenge in 2019, the Pell grant awards in Escambia County was around $2,111,035. Escambia County was among ‘most improved’ in Florida for FAFSA completion that year, an award administered by FCAN at the end of the Florida FAFSA Challenge. Since then, completion rates have dropped, which means money is being left on the table.

Noel is hopeful that the importance of financial aid will allow Escambia to increase their FAFSA completions. “It helps that the FAFSA is important enough to be part of people’s day jobs to think about.”

To get involved, register your school, district, or community for the Florida FAFSA Challenge, or any of the College Ready Florida statewide initiatives.

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