LANSING, Mich. (CBS DETROIT) – Michigan College Access Network’s annual College Cash Campaign received a major boost with the announcement of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s statewide “Governor’s FAFSA Challenge.” The governor is challenging every high school to increase their FAFSA completion rate among graduates of the Class of 2020. Michigan’s 2019 FAFSA completion rate was 55.9%, which was a decrease of 0.7% from the previous year. MCAN seeks to achieve a statewide FAFSA completion rate of 75% in 2020.

The goal of this campaign and the governor’s challenge is to increase the number of students completing the FAFSA and scholarship applications. The Michigan College Access Network coordinates with participating schools to encourage support around completing FAFSA and scholarship applications from November through March. The promotion aims to help eligible students find financial aid to pursue education beyond high school.

It is estimated that nearly 25,000 Michigan students eligible for Pell grants did not file the FAFSA last year, leaving nearly $100 million in Pell grant funding unspent.

“Every student deserves a path to a quality, affordable postsecondary education, and filling out FAFSA forms can make an enormous difference for families across the state,” Gov. Whitmer said. “I just finished helping my daughter fill out her FAFSA application while she applied to colleges. It’s simple and can help students everywhere get on a path to a quality postsecondary education. I’m excited to partner with MCAN as they work to spread the word about FAFSA and hope high schools everywhere will accept the challenge and aim for a 75% rate.”

It is expected nearly 500 high schools across the state will actively participate in the campaign and challenge. Every high school in Michigan will be able to monitor their progress using the Michigan FAFSA tracker.

“The Governor’s FAFSA Challenge” includes student incentives, framed tributes from the executive office, social media recognition and awards to high schools. At the end of the campaign, three overall winning high schools will have an opportunity to host Gov. Whitmer, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II and other Michigan celebrities as their commencement or Decision Day speaker. Ten geographic high school winners will have the opportunity for a group of high school seniors to meet the governor and tour the Capitol.

“Perceived affordability is one of the biggest myths students encounter on their journey to furthering their education,” said Ryan Fewins-Bliss, MCAN executive director. “Applying for financial aid is an important step to helping students navigate the college and financial application process. We appreciate the governor’s recognition of and commitment to making postsecondary education accessible.”

The Michigan College Cash Campaign is a part of several statewide initiatives that help students navigate the college-going process during their senior year.

The FAFSA is a free application that is the only way for students to access federal and state financial aid. In addition, many colleges and universities require the FAFSA for institutional and merit-based aid. The FAFSA helps students who may not know how to locate financial resources. The form determines the amount of money a family is expected to contribute to the price of attending a postsecondary institution. This is used by the federal government, colleges and universities to determine eligibility for grants or loans. Filing the FAFSA is considered a leading indicator of whether students will pursue college.

“The Governor’s FAFSA Challenge” is supported by Michigan Department of Education, the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals, Michigan Student Scholarships and Grants, the Detroit Regional Chamber, Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity and Michigan College Access Network.

More information about the Michigan College Cash Campaign is here.

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