The following item was originally published in the June 12 edition of Sarasota Chamber Buzz, an e-newsletter published by the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce.
The Talent4Tomorrow Partnership (T4T) is proud to announce that Sarasota County Schools has won four awards for highest FAFSA completion rate in the state from the 2017 Florida FAFSA Challenge, a campaign to increase the proportion of high school seniors completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Through leading local efforts made by the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership, 45.5% of Sarasota County high school seniors have completed the FAFSA. This is a 9.1% change over the previous application year, which equates to an estimated additional $513,180 in Pell Grant dollars awarded to Sarasota County students. Additionally, schools in Sarasota County earned the following honors:
- Sarasota County Schools — “MVP for Large School District” (Highest FAFSA completion rate through March 31st, 2017)
- Riverview High School — “Biggest Boost for Large Schools” (Largest week-to-week change in percentage of students completing the FAFSA)
- “All-Stars” — (Achieving an increase of FAFSA completion by at least 5% over last year):
- Sarasota County School District
- Suncoast Polytechnical High School
- Sarasota Military Academy
- Booker High School
- Venice Senior High School
- Sarasota High School
- North Port High School
- Riverview High School
The Talent4Tomorrow Partnership spent several months planning and executing FAFSA awareness and support activities, including FAFSA completion assistance during community- and school-based events. Community volunteers and financial aid officers from Ringling College of Art & Design, State College of Florida, University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, and Keiser University assisted families of high school seniors completing the FAFSA form at North Port High School, Booker High School, and Sarasota High School, as well as community-based FAFSA events and United Way Suncoast VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) programs.
Less than half of all eligible Sarasota County high school students in 2012-2013 completed the FAFSA form, thus leaving over $2 million in Pell Grant dollars untapped. Meanwhile, 59% of Florida students in 2013 were eligible to receive a Pell Grant, which awards up to $5,815 a year per student.
“Every dollar counts when it comes to accessing postsecondary education,” said Kevin Cooper, president of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce. “When we come together, focus together, and lead together, it’s gratifying to see our students getting one step closer to where they and we want them to be. This is a truly great example of leadership through collaboration.”
T4T is a community collaborative comprised of CareerEdge Funders Collaborative, Education Foundation of Sarasota County, The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, Sarasota County Schools, UnidosNow, and United Way Suncoast. The partnership seeks to increase career awareness and postsecondary attainment through increased college and career awareness, aspiration, and affordability initiatives.