Florida high school seniors leave behind more than $100 million each year simply by not completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), but a recent pair of training sessions sought to support the professionals who are most often tasked with guiding students through the complex federal form.
On September 21 and 24, FCAN hosted free Counselor FAFSA Training Sessions that covered FAFSA fundamentals, as well as unique and challenging situations that arise when completing the form, including supporting undocumented students, students transitioning out of foster care, and determining which parent(s) to include while filling out FAFSA.
The Counselor FAFSA Training was a collaboration between FCAN, the Florida Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (FASFAA), Florida School Counselor Association (FSCA), and the state’s Office of Student Financial Assistance. The original idea for the sessions came from counseling supervisors looking for FAFSA training opportunities for counselors in their districts.
“This stemmed from a conversation between two concerned professionals about FAFSA completion and how high school counselors might be more supported in their work with seniors and their families to complete the FAFSA,” said Rebecca Schumacher, executive director of FSCA. “This is a powerful example of how a collaborative group who wanted to make a difference for Florida students delivered big time.”
Katie Conrad, president of FASFAA, referenced recent efforts to simplify FAFSA as a perfect reason for counselors to continue to refresh their knowledge of the federal form.
“In the next two years we will see significant changes to the FAFSA to simplify the process for students. While these changes should bring simplification and greater clarity for students and families, we will all need to update our knowledgebase and vocabulary,” Conrad said. “As financial aid administrators, we understand how important it is for high school counselors to have the best information about the financial aid application process. Today’s training is the result of that partnership.”
More than 850 counselors registered for last week’s sessions and over 500 attended the sessions live and shared their feedback.
“The information was excellent and thorough,” one counselor said in an exit survey. “The timeliness was perfection, and the overall experience was well worth my time.”
“Lots of great information and very helpful to assist students with their FAFSA,” another counselor added. “Thank you!”
The counselor attendees’ also expressed a desire for a step-by-step demonstration of someone completing the FAFSA, so partners have once again joined forces to host a “FAFSA Completion Walk-through Training for Counselors” on October 15 from 11 am to 12 pm.
“These sorts of programs make a difference and strengthen the futures of many Florida students pursuing a postsecondary education,” Schumacher said.
Visit FCAN’s Florida FAFSA Challenge page to view a recording of the Counselor FAFSA Training and to download the slides.