Mayor and M³ leaders urge students to complete FAFSA

MPS seniors should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, as soon as possible, said Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson and the leaders of the M³ partners, Milwaukee Public Schools, Milwaukee Area Technical College and the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.

The leaders spoke Monday, Feb. 12, at Washington High School of Information Technology before an audience of students. The students included Serenity Carter, a Washington senior who plans to attend Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, to study biology.

M³ is the partnership among Milwaukee’s three largest public education institutions — MPS, MATC and UWM — dedicated to transforming the future of Milwaukee through education. 

The FAFSA shows students which grants and loans are available to pay for college. Colleges and universities use FAFSA information to build financial aid packages so students know how much college will cost. Students who apply early may have better access to grants and will be able to better plan for college.

“Now is not a time to sit back and wait. It’s a time to act,” said MPS Superintendent Dr. Keith P. Posley.

FAFSA has a new form this year that is shorter and easier to complete. Through the FAFSA Simplification Act, more Pell Grants will be available for students attending college in fall 2024.

“For young people looking to go into higher education, the process can sometimes seem scary, and it can seem complicated. That’s really true for students who are among the first people in their family to go to college, like myself,” said Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson, an MPS and University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate. He called FAFSA the “key to unlocking” grants, loans, and some scholarships.

“Fill out the FAFSA; make sure you do that. It opens up a world of possibilities,” the mayor said.

MPS high school seniors are required to fill out the FAFSA to graduate. (Waivers are granted in certain cases.) Many students are unaware of the types of aid available for higher education, and after filling out the FAFSA, many discover that college is affordable.

In prior years, FAFSA opened nationwide in October. The U.S. Department of Education delayed the opening of the FAFSA this year because of the rollout of a streamlined and simplified form.

UWM Chancellor Dr. Mark Mone noted that it takes less time now to fill out the FAFSA, and it’s time well spent.

“In this country, $3.6 billion has been left on the table because people do not complete their applications. In the state of Wisconsin every year, between $40 million and $50 million goes away that could have gone to you, could have gone to students, if they filled the FAFSA out,” Mone said. That’s why M³ has supported students in filling out the FAFSA, he said.

MATC President Dr. Vicki Martin said many students think they can’t afford to go to college. “We want to change that,” she said. “We want everyone to complete (the FAFSA) and have the opportunity to make choices.”

Kimora Jefferson, a 2023 graduate of Milwaukee High School of the Arts, now studies criminal justice and business at Mount Mary College. “FAFSA is going to help you,” she told the students.

To fill out the FAFSA, students should visit Applicants are cautioned to use only this website and to avoid any websites that charge a fee.

MPS has College and Career Centers in 21 high schools to help students fill out the FAFSA, explore colleges, write essays and complete college applications. For more information about College and Career Center locations, hours and services, students can visit the MPS College and Career Centers page.