FAFSA Challenge Grant

The National College Access Network is pleased to announce that 22 U.S. cities have been selected to receive up to $55,000 each for the FAFSA Completion Challenge Grant. The goal of the grant is to strengthen urban postsecondary ecosystems by raising their FAFSA completion rates among high school seniors. Through this project, generously supported through a $1.6 million grant from The Kresge Foundation, NCAN is challenging the 22 cities to increase FAFSA completion rates by at least 5 percent for the graduating high school class of 2017.

Two significant changes to the FAFSA in the fall of 2016 will make applying for aid easier and better timed than ever for low-income students. The grant funding will support the planning and execution of citywide, cross-sector FAFSA completion efforts for the 2016-17 school year, with strategic efforts to help students navigate the new changes and timing.

Selected Cities

NCAN has selected 22 U.S. cities to receive up to $55,000 each for the FAFSA Completion Challenge Grant. 

The selected cities are:

  • Birmingham, AL - Alabama Possible
  • Phoenix, AZ - Arizona College Access Network
  • Los Angeles, CA - UNITE-LA
  • Bakersfield, CA - Kern Community Foundation
  • Jacksonville, FL - Duval County Public Schools
  • Louisville, KY - Community Foundation of Louisville
  • Baton Rouge, LA - Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance
  • Detroit, MI - Excellent Schools Detroit
  • Kansas City, MO - Mid-America Regional Council
  • Jackson, MS - Get2College
  • Greensboro, NC - University of North Carolina Greensboro
  • Manchester, NH - Manchester School District
  • Albuquerque, NM - Albuquerque Public Schools
  • Cleveland, OH - College Now Greater Cleveland
  • Columbus, OH - I Know I Can
  • Portland, OR - Higher Education Coordinating Commission
  • Philadelphia, PA - Philadephia College Prep Roundtable
  • San Juan, PR - Kinesis Inc.
  • Houston, TX - Project GRAD Houston
  • Austin, TX - Austin Chamber of Commerce
  • Charleston, WV - West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission
  • Cheyenne, WY - Laramie County Community College

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NCAN has awarded 22 grants of up to $55,000 each to be spent on planning and executing a citywide, cross-sector FAFSA completion effort for the 2016-17 academic year.

In September 2017, NCAN will also award three to five additional monetary prizes totaling $300,000 among the 22 grant-funded cities. Prizes will go to:

  • The city demonstrating the greatest percentage point growth in high school FAFSA completions for the Class of 2017, compared to 2015
  • The city demonstrating highest high school FAFSA completion rate for the Class of 2017
  • The city demonstrating the most innovative or collaborative FAFSA completion strategy and/or partnership with postsecondary institutions

Technical Assistance
NCAN will coordinate technical assistance to the 22 competing cities about effective best practices in FAFSA completion via webinars, a half-day workshop, and blogs and newsletter articles. The workshop will take place on Sunday, Sept. 18 in Detroit, Michigan, preceding NCAN's national conference, Driving Postsecondary Attainment for All.

Grant Advisory Committee 
To guide the FAFSA Completion Challenge grant, NCAN assembled an advisory committee of individuals with expertise in FAFSA completion strategies and data as well as urban higher education ecosystems. The committee reviewed grant applications, will advise NCAN on data issues, and will confirm winners of the additional prizes described above.

  • Lindsay Ahlman, TICAS
  • Caroline Altman Smith, The Kresge Foundation
  • Sarah Bauder, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Eddie Brambila, Illinois Student Assistance Commission
  • Diane Corbett, Ohio State University
  • Denise Davis, Educate Texas/TXCAN
  • Jennifer Dunn, College Board
  • Juan Garcia, ACT
  • Haley Glover, Lumina Foundation
  • Sarah Kirschenbaum, ECMC Foundation
  • Troy Miller, Florida College Access Network
  • Ed Pacchetti, Office of Federal Student Aid, U.S. Department of Education
  • Lindsay Page, University of Pittsburgh
  • Pat Roe, USA Funds
  • Sarah Weiss, Washington Student Achievement Council

Grant Timeline

  • Award Announcement: May 24, 2016
  • Grant Funding Start Date: June 1, 2016
  • FAFSA Strategies Workshop: September 18, 2016, 1:30 to 5 PM (Detroit, MI)
  • Grant Funding End Date: No later than July 31, 2017
  • Grantee Final Report Deadline: July 31, 2017
  • Prize Announcement: September 2017


Contact Lisa King, FAFSA Completion Challenge grant coordinator at

NCAN thanks The Kresge Foundation for granting the funding for the FAFSA Completion Challenge.