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Hawai‘i P-20 Launches Statewide ‘Cash for College Challenge’

October 2, 2018, 12:00 PM HST
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More Hawai‘i public high schools are taking part in this year’s Cash for College FAFSA Challenge, a campaign to help make college more affordable for students.

The challenge encourages seniors to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, which helps students identify financial aid available to them. The application, which opens on Oct. 1, is required when applying for federal student grants, work-study, loans and scholarships, including those offered by the state, schools, and private organizations. University of Hawai‘i’s Hawai‘i Promise Scholarship, which provides free in-state tuition dollars to fill the financial gap for qualified UH Community College students with financial need, also requires completion of the FAFSA. Last year, this scholarship awarded over $1.7 million to approximately 1,500 UHCC students to help make college more affordable for them.

Schools with the highest FAFSA completion rates as well as the largest increase in FAFSA completions over the previous year will be awarded cash prizes for their senior class to support such end-of-year activities as high school graduation, prom, and other events.

“We know that FAFSA completion rates translate to increased college enrollment, yet too many of our students are not taking advantage of this valuable resource,” said Superintendent Christina Kishimoto. “We want to ensure that every high school senior completes a FAFSA application. We’ve set a goal to increase our statewide FAFSA completion rate to 70% and have raised that outcome goal to 90% for 2020—a challenging goal, but not an impossible one. Some of our high schools are already well on their way to meeting or exceeding these targets and we are confident we can get there as a statewide system.

FAFSA completion is strongly associated with postsecondary enrollment. According to a recent study, 90% of high school seniors who complete the FAFSA attend college directly from high school, compared to just 55% of students who do not complete the FAFSA. FAFSA completion is also strongly associated with college completion: 52% of FAFSA filers complete a bachelor’s degree within six years of enrollment, compared to just 44% of students who do not complete it.

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The Hawai‘i State Department of Education is partnering with Hawai‘i P–20 and the University of Hawai‘i to promote FAFSA completion and the Cash for College Campaign.

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“Each year, millions of free federal grants dollars are left unclaimed in Hawai‘i,” says Stephen Schatz, Executive Director, Hawai‘i P–20. “This aid could have helped more of our Hawai‘i’s students attend college. We need to do everything we can to help make college more affordable for students and families.”

The Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, Bank of Hawai‘i, Central Pacific Bank and First Hawaiian Bank are generously supporting this year’s Cash for College Challenge.

“We are very grateful to have the support of our community in this very important initiative,” says Schatz. “It sends the message to our schools and students that higher education matters and that Hawai‘i values an educated workforce.”

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This is the third year of the Cash for College Challenge. Last year, 15 schools participated. This year, the challenge is open to all public, non-charter high schools.

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