By: Justin C. Porter, Contributing Writer
Mayor Alvin Brown announced Feb. 29 a series of upcoming workshops designed to help students apply to colleges and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
The seven workshops are free for students and taxpayers alike and are scheduled to begin March 31 in high schools around the city.
Mayor Brown’s College Student Aid Workshops are a public-private partnership between UNF, Edward Waters College, Florida State College at Jacksonville, Jacksonville University and the Indo-U.S. Chamber of Commerce of Northeast Florida.
Indo-U.S. Chamber President Pramod Jain said the Chamber of Commerce initially approached Brown to ask how it could help the city as a volunteer-based organization.
“We wanted to give back to the city,” Jain said. “The mission is to essentially make the resources and knowledge about how to find financial aid accessible to all students.”
Jaid said the workshops are designed to reach high school students who are seeking college enrollment and help them learn to navigate the complicated process.
Currently, the lengthy application process, which includes a 35-page FAFSA form, puts off many students and parents.
“The parents basically have trouble going through the application in its entirety,” Jain said. “Folks who have done it say it takes days.”
Students are required to complete the FAFSA form to benefit from financial aid programs such as the Pell Grant, federal student loans and federal work-study programs. The Florida Financial Aid Application is another lengthy form associated with the Bright Futures program.
Anissa Agne, UNF director of student financial aid, said UNF has been involved in different student-assistance programs similar to the workshops, but this is the first to directly involve Brown.
“We have 10 campuswide volunteers that go to the high schools and help students understand the FAFSA and what they need,” Agne said.
She said the workshop program will be a public service designed to help all of Jacksonville, not just UNF.
Programs currently in place, such as Bringing Economic and Career Opportunities Nearer and College Goal Sunday, are already focused on delivering timely information to students planning for their future.
Duval County schools run BEACON, which provides trained volunteers to speak to high school seniors. College Goal Sunday is a nationwide program hosted each year at FSCJ around Valentine’s Day.
Daphne Colbert, assistant to Brown’s education commissioner, said the workshop programs have been implemented in other states with successful outcomes.
“This particular program is something they do in Pennsylvania, and it works really well. The number of students enrolled in college increased as a result,” Colbert said.
A team of volunteers from the Indo-U.S. Chamber are scheduled to attend the event to help make the students’ application process quick and easy. Financial aid experts from the four participating colleges will be training the volunteers and attending the workshops.
Trainers from UNF include Agne, Roderick Andrews and Marla Lewis, coordinators for student financial aid and Will Hunter, assistant director to student financial aid.
The first of the workshops will be at Andrew Jackson High School March 31 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Agne said she and Andrews will be helping volunteers and students March 31 and again April 14 at William M. Raines High School. Additional trainers will attend as needed.
Email Justin C. Porter at email@example.com.