Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson and County Executive David Crowley joined M3 leaders to urge high school seniors and their families to fill out a form critical to unlocking opportunities for financial aid that could help pay for higher education.
The window for students to start filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the 2023-24 school year opened Oct. 1.
“I want all of our youth to aspire to go to college and want them to know that filling out the FAFSA is an incredibly helpful tool,” Crowley said Tuesday during a news conference at Milwaukee Public Schools’ Hamilton High School.
MPS, Milwaukee Area Technical College and UWM work together through the M3 partnership with a goal of transforming the future of the city and region through education.
While high school seniors today are almost a year away from starting their college careers, Crowley said it was never too early to start planning ahead. “There is a potential downside in not filling it out or waiting to fill it out because you’re literally leaving money on the table.”
Johnson said filling out the FAFSA and the promise of higher education can help students and families get back on track after pandemic-caused disruptions over the last couple years.
“I want students in Milwaukee to satisfy their academic curiosity,” Johnson said. “I want them to build skills. I want them to succeed professionally, and I want them to succeed financially as well.
“The FAFSA is an important and early step for us to make that happen,” the mayor added.
Nawal Odeh, a freshman at UWM who graduated in the spring from Hamilton, said her high school’s College and Career Center helped her complete the form in a couple days.
She ended up receiving financial aid that helped cover much of her tuition, and career center staff also helped her find out about a scholarship for nursing students.
“I could not imagine that I would be in the same position it were not for the FAFSA and the College and Career Center,” Odeh said. “I am grateful for the amazing support services that were available during my senior year. It made a world of difference.”
The number of MPS high school seniors who filed the FAFSA increased 8% in 2021-22 compared to the previous year, twice the national increase of 4%. M³ partners collaborate each year to encourage students to fill out the form.
Still, FAFSA completion rates are down compared to before COVID-19. Staff and leaders at all three M³ institutions know there is much more work to do to make sure completion rates return to pre-pandemic levels.
New this school year at MPS is a guideline that requires high school students to fill out the FAFSA in order to graduate. UWM Chancellor Mark Mone and MATC President Vicki Martin have offered strong support for the change.