United Way aims to improve local access to federal college grants via TEAM-FAFSA

A whopping 47 percent of 2013 high school graduates across the country did not fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) while $141.9 million of college aid was unclaimed in Ohio and Kentucky, according to NerdWallet calculations. 

The United Way of Greater Cincinnati has brought together a multitude of community partners to address the issue in hopes of making postsecondary education for more low-income and first generation students a reality through its pilot program TEAM-FAFSA

TEAM-FAFSA has joined forces with its Earned Income Tax Credit initiative to streamline the process of completing one’s taxes while at the same time providing families with advice on FAFSA completion, a task that can prove difficult when parents’ tax information is not readily available. 

“Too many students are not completing the FAFSA and losing precious dollars that can help fund their dreams of higher education,” says Michelle Bullis, youth leadership development coordinator at Brighton Center Inc., a TEAM-FAFSA site.

According to the United Way, a survey of 500 local students from the class of 2014 indicates that access to parental tax information was a barrier in completing the FAFSA. Without this information, students have no clue as to whether or not they’re eligible for a Pell Grant. 

Through the EITC initiative, qualifying families receive free tax preparation. Immediately following preparation, families and prospective students learn about possibilities for their futures, which Bullis says is a win-win. 

“TEAM-FAFSA is getting teens excited about college and streamlining the process for parents and guardians. Being able to complete your taxes and then immediately receive expert advice on FAFSA completion is huge,” Bullis says. “We’re encouraging students, traditional and non-traditional that higher education is possible, and the way to fulfill that dream is through the FAFSA. Seeing the teens’ reactions to the realization that college is possible and a better future is in reach, tells me that the TEAM-FAFSA project is making a difference.”

Do Good: 

• Attend an upcoming TEAM-FAFSA event to receive coaching and guidance while completing the FAFSA. 

• Join TEAM-FAFSA as a volunteer.

• Learn more about the United Way and its partner organizations working to make TEAM-FAFSA possible.

Read more articles by Brittany York.

Brittany York is a freelance writer, adjunct English composition instructor and server at Orchids at Palm Court. She loves travel and photography. Keep up with Brittany on Instagram @brittbrittbrittbrittany.
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