For Third Straight Year, Sarasota County Schools Lead State in Pell Grant Pursuit

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The Talent4Tomorrow Partnership, a collective impact team of local organizations focused on increasing college and credential attainment in Sarasota County, announces that the Sarasota County School District has been recognized as having the highest FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) completion rate in the state, according to the Florida College Access Network (FCAN). This is the third year in a row that Sarasota County has been named number one in the state for “Large Districts” in FCAN’s annual Florida FAFSA Challenge.

2018 FAFSA Photo 1

Completing the FAFSA is the first step to accessing financial aid for college, as well as a leading indicator of college attendance. But research indicates that Florida high school graduates leave behind over $100 million in federal Pell Grants alone by not completing the form. Through targeted efforts developed by Talent4Tomorrow in partnership with the school district, 47.8% of Sarasota County high school seniors completed the FAFSA as of March 31, 2018. According to FCAN, the incremental increase in FAFSA completion over the last two years has resulted in approximately $800,000 in additional Pell grants available for Sarasota County graduates to pursue their higher-education goals, with the average student award approximately $4,000.

“The Talent4Tomorrow initiative demonstrates an example of a true collaboration between a broad range of organizations coming together for a common goal – the future of our community’s youth.  The Chamber believes strongly in this alliance and the outcomes are a testament to the strength and commitment that the partners bring to the table,” said Kevin Cooper, President of The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce which serves as the ‘backbone’ organization for Talent4Tomorrow.

Innovative Strategies

Talent4Tomorrow partners worked with the District to implement several strategies that assisted graduating high school seniors and their families with completing the financial aid form. Talent4Tomorrow hosted FAFSA labs at high schools, with support from local college financial aid officers and other community volunteers, to assist students and their parents in the application process. It also implemented a communications plan to raise awareness about FAFSA that included flyers, text messages, emails, classroom visits, morning announcements, outreach to youth-serving partners and the faith-based community, press releases, and social media posts.

2018 FAFSA Photo 2

The Partnership developed some new techniques this year, such as the innovative use of Snapchat geofilters, introduced by CareerEdge Funders Collaborative and piloted at Booker High School. A geofilter is similar to a frame or sticker that can go on a Snapchat photo and is shared with the user’s friends. An organization or individual pays to have the filter available in Snapchat for a specific location and period of time. With approval from the school, the electronic FAFSA lab filter was made available in the cafeteria for the students. On lab day alone, the filter was swiped by 367 students, and 64 of them posted these framed photos on their account, which resulted in 2,900 views of the FAFSA filter.

According to FCAN, Booker High School had the second-highest completion rate improvement in the District compared to last year, with a 9% increase.  The Snapchat strategy was seen as a positive application of a platform used by students daily. The Talent4Tomorrow Partnership plans to expand the use of this social media tool next year and will continue to look for ways to engage and connect with students on the value of completing the FAFSA.

Support for these programs and events comes from Gulf Coast Community Foundation, the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, and Community Foundation of Sarasota County, with matching funds from the Florida Philanthropic Network through its College Access & Success Initiative (CASI), which is supported by the Helios Education Foundation and The Kresge Foundation.

More information about FCAN and the FAFSA Challenge Winners is available here.


About the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership

Talent4Tomorrow was launched by the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce in 2013 to cultivate a competitive regional workforce by developing a talent pipeline for area students to enter local jobs that are in high demand. Initially a broad-based regional business and education collaborative, it has since sharpened its focus on improving college attainment for Sarasota County youth. It serves as Sarasota’s “Local College Access Network,” or LCAN, coordinating the diverse efforts of a team of community partners to increase college and career preparation, access, and completion. It is one of nine such regional groups, representing 22 counties, aligned with the statewide Florida College Access Network (FCAN). Leadership of the collaborative includes the following organizations: Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation, CareerEdge Funders Collaborative, Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Education Foundation of Sarasota County, Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Sarasota County School District, The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, UnidosNow, and United Way Suncoast. Additionally, more than 30 other nonprofits, businesses, and educational institutions participate as implementation partners, making it possible to deliver programs and services to students and their families.

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Sarasota County Wins State FAFSA Completion Award

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The Talent4Tomorrow Partnership 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% by 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 grants awarded to Sarasota County students. Additionally, the Florida College Access Network (Florida CAN) has awarded Sarasota with the following honors:

  • Sarasota County Schools–“MVP for Large School District” (Having the 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

 

FAFSA Awards 2017-edit
Talent4Tomorrow Partners and Sarasota County School District Officials accepting the award for “MVP for Large School District”

 

The Talent4Tomorrow Partnership is a community collaborative known as a “Local College Access Network”, and consists of CareerEdge Funders Collaborative, Education Foundation of Sarasota County, The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, Sarasota County Schools, UnidosNow, and United Way Suncoast. The Talent4Tomorrow Partnership seeks to increase career awareness and postsecondary attainment through increased college and career awareness, aspiration, and affordability initiatives. Kevin Cooper, President of The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce stated, “Every dollar counts when it comes to accessing post-secondary education.  When we come together, focus together, and lead together, it’s gratifying to see results getting our students one step closer to where they and we want them to be.  This is a truly great example of leadership through collaboration.”

The Talent4Tomorrow Partnership has spent several months planning and executing FAFSA awareness and support activities, including FAFSA completion assistance during community- and school-based events. Community volunteers as well as 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 in 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.

According to the Florida College Access Network, 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. 59% of Florida students in 2013 were eligible to receive a Pell Grant, which awards up to $5,815 a year per student.


For more information regarding the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership, contact Mimi Cirbusova at mcirbusova@sarasotachamber.com or (941) 556-4038.