MANISTEE — One of the biggest things preventing students from moving on to the next step after high school is the high cost of a college education
Launch Manistee has been working with area students for the past several years with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to help open doors for financial aid to attend college. Launch Manistee has held three very successful FAFSA completion events and the statistics show it is working.
“Our county-wide rates for completion of the FAFSA continue to grow,” said Launch Manistee program director Mary Ann Behm. “In 2014 we started as a county that had 54 percent of the students completing FAFSA and this year we are currently at 73 percent for the class of 2017.”
Behm said that is why they are holding a celebration this year to mark the increase.
“The numbers have really risen this year, and I think it is basically because of the investment of our school personnel and the getting of the word out on the FAFSA completion events,” said Behm.
She said over the past two years they had a pizza party for the schools who had the greatest completion rate. This year Launch Manistee is celebrating it more countywide.
“We have four schools which are about 70 percent with their FAFSA completion rate, so that is why we decided to do a more countywide celebration,” said Behm. “We are working with Big Al’s Pizza and all of schools are doing something to celebrate.”
They also had a drawing where two students won mini refrigerators and their parents received $50 gas card prizes.
Behm stressed that any student who wants financial aid needs to fill out FAFSA. The application is used to determine the dollar amount a student or their family is expected to contribute toward college. All federal grant and loan awards are determined by the FAFSA, and nearly all colleges use the FAFSA as the basis for their own financial aid awards.
What has also sold the FAFSA program to the students is representatives of West Shore Community College, Baker College and Northern Michigan College take part in the local FAFSA events.
Behm said students and parents taking part in the FAFSA event are making a concerted effort to cut college debt.
“FAFSA is the first starting point to doing that, and I think we have done a lot in the community to stop the myths about applying,” said Behm. “They say they don’t want to apply because they don’t think they will receive anything. But I think we have changed that, and that is part of the education piece we have taken off on.”
Behm said something they are seeing more at the FAFSA events is parents and students who have filled out the application, but just want someone to check that everything is right.
“They want to talk with that expert before they hit the button to send it,” she said. “It is just getting that second opinion, and that is why the partnerships with the college has been so great as we bring in those experts to sit down with the family to look it over before they actually submit. You want to do it correctly, because that will give you the best picture of what is out there for assistance.”
Behm said it has developed into a real countywide effort.
“It is true collaboration of everyone involved,” said Behm. “We are having good results and that helps as well.”
Behm said the Brethren High School staff recently showed its support by wearing matching T-shirts that said “Fired up for FAFSA” on them.
Behm said this year’s juniors should note that the FAFSA event for next year has been set for Nov. 1 at the Manistee Intermediate School District.
Posted by Ken Grabowski, Manistee News Advocate on May 3rd, 2017