Last week, Collier County Public Schools (CCPS) hosted “Funding Your Child’s Educational Future,” a live and virtual town hall meeting to discuss the financial aid options available for students in pursuit of a postsecondary education.

The event convened more than 100 parents and community members at the CCPS Administrative Center and was broadcast to locations across the community, including the Naples Daily News headquarters, Immokalee Technical College, Everglades City School as well as on the school district’s education channel.

Attendees had the opportunity to ask questions from the panel of experts and local leaders regarding financing college.

Kamela Patton, Superintendent of Collier County Public Schools served as moderator for the panel, which included Eileen Connolly-Keesler, President/CEO of the Community Foundation of Collier County, Yolanda Flores, Administrative Director of Postsecondary, Adult and Community Education at Lorenzo Walker Technical College, Jorge Lopez-Rosado, Director of Student Financial Services at Florida Gulf Coast University, Dr. Leslie Ricciardelli, Executive Director of Secondary Programs at Collier County Public Schools, Christopher Smith, Coordinator of School Counseling (Grades 9-12), at Collier County Public Schools, Jessica Tucker, Senior Director of Programs at Champions For Learning and Troy Miller, Associate Director for Research and Policy for the Florida College Access Network.

Miller discussed how obtaining a postsecondary education is critical for Florida students.

“What we know is from the last few decades is that a high school diploma by itself is just not enough for most people,” Miller was quoted saying in the Naples Herald. “High school graduates in Florida who don’t go to college, half of those have a job the following fall. Of those, about 90 percent make $8 or less per hour.”

But however necessary college may seem, it can appear out of reach to students and families who believe they cannot afford the cost.

A significant point raised during the meeting was the importance of filing for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Jessica Tucker, Senior Director of Programs for Champions for Learning, mentioned that students with financial need can qualify for as much as $5,775 in Pell Grants across two semesters in addition to unsubsidized federal loans which don’t accrue interest as long as they are registered full-time.

Eileen Connolly-Keesler, President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Collier County, noted the abundance of local scholarships available to Collier residents annually through the Foundation website.

Dr. Leslie Ricciardelli, Executive Director of Secondary Programs for CCPS, said students should get acquainted with their high school counselors, who can connect them to crucial information on college and financial aid in addition to class scheduling.

Those in attendance received a resource guide and several helpful handouts and flyers. Follow this link to find the guide and other resources that can help make going to college a reality.

For more on the Collier County Public Schools’ Virtual Town Hall Meeting, see recent articles published in the Naples Daily News and Naples Herald.

Photo credit: Collier County Public Schools Twitter page

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