Arizona FAFSA Challenge elevates financial aid awareness

Collective effort aims to increase FAFSA completion among Arizona high school seniors

September 24, 2018

Year after year, students who are eligible for aid fail to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and miss out on money to support their college education.

FAFSA completion is strongly associated with postsecondary enrollment — students who complete a FAFSA are more likely to enroll and attend college. Yet Arizona ranks 48th in the nation for FAFSA completion. Courtesy of Pixabay Download Full Image

On Sept. 21, Helios Education Foundation and College Success Arizona brought community partners together at Arizona State University for the Arizona FAFSA Challenge, a collective effort to increase the FAFSA completion rate among Arizona high school seniors.

Those community partners, invested in the success and future of Arizona students, came from across the state: Achieve60AZ, Arizona College Access Network, Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education, Arizona Governor’s Office of Education, ASU, Maricopa Community Colleges, Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona.

The FAFSA Challenge event discussed the importance of helping students envision college as an attainable goal and educating the Arizona community in how to support students in pursuing a postsecondary education through FAFSA completion.

“To help high school seniors with this important first step, Achieve60AZ has partnered with my office, the Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education and Helios Education Foundation for something we call the Arizona FAFSA Challenge,” Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said through a video message. “Last year, 43 percent of Arizona seniors completed a FAFSA. Our goal this year to increase that to at least 50 percent so more students can take their education to the next level and be successful in the workforce.

To that end, the Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education, in partnership with the Arizona Governor's Office of Education and Achieve60AZ, has launched the Arizona FAF$A Challenge to promote and increase the FAFSA completion rate in Arizona.

On the challenge website is a dashboard where FAFSA high school completion rates can be searched and compared.

“In our efforts to promote the importance of FAFSA, the website was an important component because we want a place where high schools, administrators and the public can go and view our statewide dashboard to see where their school is at with FAFSA completions,” said Julie Sainz from the Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education.

The website also offers resources such as best practices, webinars and training materials and ways to hold FAFSA completion events at school campuses, she added.                    

The Sept. 21 event included breakout sessions that educated guests on FAFSA, success strategies and best practices, giving them the information necessary to best guide and support students with FAFSA completion.

"Thanks to the goals set forth by Expect More’s Progress Meter and Achieve60, our Arizona community has a blueprint to achieve the educational outcomes needed to advance our state’s economy," said Sylvia Symonds, ASU associate vice president of Educational Outreach and Student Services. "It will take the collective will of our state’s education, nonprofit, civic and business leaders in order to realize these goals. By sharing data and best practices, as well as a measurable goal, events like the FAFSA Challenge will help us focus our energy and resources on strategies that will yield the results we need to advance educational attainment in Arizona." 

There are many different ways to think of the economic impact of the FAFSA, College Success Arizona President and CEO Rich Nickel said during one of the breakout sessions. Although it starts with the student and it’s important for that student, it’s also an economic engine for the state.

“For us to increase FAFSA and for others across the country to increase FAFSA, it means that our state is going to benefit and our institutions are going to benefit,” he said.

Students, predominantly low-income students, are reliant on this federal money to go to school to receive an education that will change their future trajectory and allow them to advance socioeconomically.

“For every student who completes a bachelor degree here (in Arizona), that student, over their lifetime, is going to give back to our state or add to our state’s economy $660,000,” Nickel said.

The 2019-20 FAFSA opens on Oct. 1.

For more information on the FAFSA, visit any of the college-going events hosted across the state or visit any of the ASU Financial Aid and Scholarship Services offices across the four campus locations.

Meenah Rincon

Public Relations Manager, ASU Online

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A model of what we want to see in the world

September 24, 2018

At 4th annual State of Sustainability Summit, ASU remains committed to leading — and teaching — sustainability

When the director of Arizona State University’s Energy Innovations Group takes the long view of his job, he’s looking at an investment in the future.

Someone else’s future.

Gerry DaRosa sees the 90 solar installations across ASU’s campuses and locations as possible inspiration for a CEO thinking 15 years from now about what she wants in a new headquarters.

“I think it’s very important to set the example here at ASU for the next generation,” DaRosa said Monday at ASU’s fourth annual State of Sustainability Summit, an event that showcases the university’s accomplishments in the past year.

Home to the world’s first school of sustainability and the first university to offer a degree in the practice, ASU strives to act as a living laboratory and example of sustainability for society.

“We are educating the next generation of leaders who will go out with this knowledge, and every decision they make will be informed by this knowledge,” university Chief Financial Officer Morgan Olsen said. “I can’t think of anything more important in the area of sustainability we can do than that single function. … We’re a model of what we’d like to see in this world.”

Set against a global backdrop, the university’s efforts aren’t even a drop in the bucket. All the efforts of all American universities who signed a pledge to reduce carbon emissions amount to about 3 percent of U.S. emissions.

“That’s as far as your brain can go?” ASU President Michael Crow said he asked a reporter who tossed that observation to him in an interview. “We have 100 percent of the learner imprint, and 3 percent of the carbon footprint. I’ll take the learner footprint, and we’ll move forward with that as a thing we work to alter and change and advance.”

Creating a sustainable future is not about what corporations, politicians and governments can do. It’s about what individuals do.

“We had to be more than academics who sat around and came up with ideas for other people to implement,” Crow said. “We also had to implement those ideas ourselves, so we signed up easily. We’re going to try to take our carbon footprint to the lowest possible number. I don’t have a date yet. … The point is, we need to be an all-in place that alters the teaching, learning and discovery environment about this really important thing — sustainability.”

In fiscal year 2018, the university diverted 43 percent of 9,149 tons of waste from landfills. Its campuses now run on 60 percent renewable energy during the day. ASU committed to be the largest fair trade university in the U.S. this year, joining 47 other universities and 533 university retailers pledging to provide fair trade food: items like coffee, tea and chocolate produced with fair labor practices and environmental protections.

All paper used on campus is 100 percent recycled. “That might not sound like much, but it’s a big deal,” said Nichol Luoma, University Sustainability Operations officer.

ASU came in seventh among doctoral institutions in the 2018 Sustainable Campus Index, a publication by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education that recognizes top-performing colleges and universities overall and in 17 sustainability impact areas.

Alana Levine, interim director of Zero Waste and Grounds Services in Facilities Management, discussed the challenges of everyday implementation of sustainability at an institution the size of ASU.

“Some of the issues become very large across a campus this size,” Levine said. “Every single role has the potential to affect outcomes. … We continuously analyze the problem. … We’re constantly looking at the science.”

Among other advances in the coming year: more solar and battery power for the West campus will be installed, according to DaRosa.

“We’re going to do more,” he said. 

Top photo: Sustainability scientist and university staff Michael Dalrymple (green shirt, at lectern) moderates a panel discussion on sustainability and how to incorporate it into people's lives Monday at the Student Pavilion on the Tempe campus. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now