NCAN members work with students every day whose unwavering aspirations, dedication and perseverance in achieving their educational dreams illustrates the need for federal financial aid policies that concentrate resources where they are needed most. The stories below are theirs.
To ensure financial aid gets to the students who need it most, NCAN recommends three immediate policy improvements for the new president and Congress: #FixFAFSA, keep the promise of the Pell Grant program, and provide work opportunities to low-income students.
"Why a Streamlined FAFSA Could Cut the Red Tape to College Aid"
By Allie Ciaramella
A first-generation North Carolina student, Carlos says he wouldn’t have been able to attend college without it. It helped Sydney – 96% of whose high school classmates were eligible for free- or reduced-price lunch – attend her dream private college in Georgia. And after it opened Bryce’s eyes to all the ways he could finance a postsecondary education, it nearly yanked the rug out from under him.
Read more of Carlos', Sydney's and Bryce's stories.
"I Feel Prepared and Courageous About My Future"
By Genesis Cubilette
My name is Genesis and I am a Latina woman. I am a dyslexic, low-income, first-generation sophomore at Connecticut College. In other words, I am a person with barriers – and tools to overcome them. In the past, the picture painted in my mind about college was that it was a place where people went to become professionals, and it cost a lot of money – therefore, it wasn’t for everyone. However, eager to challenge my own beliefs, I knew I would go to college, despite assuming that I didn’t have the funds to do so. Luckily enough, it turns out there are numerous financial resources to find, earn, and utilize in order to pay for tuition.
Read more of Genesis' story.
"We've Witnessed the Challenges These Families Face"
By Teddy Gelderman and Kim Horner, Northfield TORCH
One of the largest barriers students face in completing postsecondary education is the cost. In the past five years, our organization TORCH has helped more than 200 underrepresented students and families complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and work through the financial aid process – and we’ve witnessed the challenges these families face to finish the FAFSA quickly and smoothly.
Read more of Teddy and Kim's story.
"File the FAFSA – No Matter What!"
By Amy Keir, Oregon Office of Student Access and Completion
The FAFSA is the first step to accessing financial aid and succeeding in college, but it can be a challenge – especially for high school seniors. Take Marisol, who graduated this spring from Pendleton High School in eastern Oregon. At first, she had some complications with the FAFSA. But Marisol persisted: “I kept asking for help from my ASPIRE coordinator, Jill Gregg, until I finally got answers on how to fix this problem,” she said. “Once I got that figured out, I had to create a new FAFSA and redo all the steps I had already done.”
Read more of Amy's story.
"You Will Feel As If You Are Free."
By Tiera LeBlanc, Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance
FAFSA. It’s a five-letter acronym that stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. For some students, it induces feelings of confusion and thoughts of procrastination. But it also holds the potential to open doors to their dreams. College sophomore Oscar McClain is one of those students. He fully realizes the effort it takes to complete the FAFSA, but is grateful for the opportunities it has awarded him.
Read more of Tiera and Oscar's story.
"Our Students Need Our Support and Our Voices More Than Ever"
By Alan Byrd, Jr., co-chair of St. Louis Graduates and dean of enrollment at the University of Missouri-St. Louis
The transition from high school to college is still a daunting journey for many first-generation, low-income students. At the St. Louis Graduates High School to College Center, we saw the impact of increasingly large financial aid gaps for students first-hand this summer.
Read more of Alan's story.
"Students With Stories Like Mine Run the Risk of Slipping Through the System"
By Joshua Sparks, served by the Kentucky College and Career Connection (Ky3C) Coalition
Growing up, I realized that my childhood was not like those of my peers. In elementary and middle school, I delved into my classes with the hope of fitting in with all of the “good kids” and minimizing the distinction set by my family’s income. When we moved to the Eastern Kentucky region, an area where state evaluations had once placed one in five high school graduates under the category of “unsuccessful,” the path to achievement was not always clear. Coming from a family that typically made under $20,000 per year, I was well aware at an early age that I would be solely responsible for financing any college endeavors. However, while I knew I wanted to attend college, having a mother who completed only a high school diploma and a father who finished with less than that made figuring out how almost impossible.
Read more of Joshua's story.