Recent News


Perry High School is one of just 23 schools in the nation to earn the honor

Perry High School has been named a 2022 School of Excellence award winner by the American College Application Campaign (ACAC), a national effort to increase the number of first-generation college students and students from low-income families pursuing a college degree or other higher education credential. The 23 Schools of Excellence are a group of exemplary schools across the nation that are helping students pursue postsecondary success.

ACAC recognized Perry High School for the welcoming environment it provides its students, especially in its college and career readiness curriculum. Perry regularly hosts events to engage students and empower them to meet their postsecondary education goals. Perry’s school counseling staff works directly in classrooms and offers specific times to assist students with their planning and college applications. In addition to providing direct assistance, staff connects students with college representatives and celebrates every college application students submit to make it a community experience and process.

ACAC, a national initiative of ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning, selected the Schools of Excellence based on their demonstrated commitment to student success and serving as an exemplary model for their state’s college application campaign. This is the third year that ACAC has recognized outstanding schools.

“There could not be a more critical time for us all to support students and educators, and the remarkable reach of this year’s application campaign demonstrates the value and strength of these collaborations,” ACAC Director Lisa King said. “As students continue to recover from the effects of the pandemic, we must do all we can to remove the barriers they tell us they have in accessing the education opportunities that are right for them. We are extremely proud of this year’s School of Excellence awardees, as they are true examples of how communities can work together to help students succeed.”

Each year, ACAC works with designated coordinators in every state and the District of Columbia to host college application events and reach students in their schools and communities, encouraging them to apply to college. Activities to encourage college applications at the 2022 Schools of Excellence included one-on-one mentoring, guest speakers, parents’ nights, and support for pursuing financial aid.

The 23 winning schools were key contributors in helping ACAC reach the following national achievements, as reported by 45 state campaigns on the 2022 annual survey:

  • nearly 5,150 high schools hosted a College Application Campaign event
  • more than 290,299 seniors submitted at least one college application during events
  • approximately 959,178 applications were submitted during 2022 College Application Campaign events.

The winning schools will receive a plaque and be celebrated during virtual ceremonies.

Nationally, more than 4.2 million students have been served by ACAC and 7.3 million applications have been submitted since the Campaign began in 2005.


Iowa College Aid is accepting new grant applications to develop Local College Access Networks (LCANs) across Iowa until May 31.

LCANs help communities across the state to address workforce needs and increase educational attainment through the LCAN grant series. Iowa College Aid provides consultation and funding to select Iowa networks, using the Collective Impact framework to increase college attainment at the local and statewide level.

Year I applications will be accepted through from April 15 - May 31, 2023, for Fiscal Year 2024 (July 1, 2023 - June 30, 2024).  

These new grant applications are multi-year grants with a renewal process at the start of each new year.  

To learn more about what the Iowa LCAN Grant can offer your community, please contact Anne Thomas ( or Megan Sibbel ( to assist you with the grant application process. 

More information on LCANs can be found at


Iowa Wesleyan University announced March 28, 2023 that it will cease operations May 31, 2023. More information on the closure, teach-out plan, and resources for students and their families are available below.

Iowa Wesleyan Information



Des Moines, Iowa
February 27, 2023

Ty Patton
(o) 515-725-3417 (c) 205-310-1271

Iowa College Aid's research finds the FAFSA Simplification Act may have a negative impact for some Iowans

The upcoming implementation of the FAFSA Simplification Act will streamline the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process and increase the number of Iowans eligible to receive Pell grants. However, according to a recently published report by Iowa College Aid, the act may also negatively impact some Iowans’ financial aid eligibility.

Those most likely to be negatively affected by this change include farm owners, small business owners, and families with multiple students in college.

“The FAFSA Simplification Act is certainly a step in the right direction to make postsecondary education more affordable and accessible,” said Iowa College Aid executive director Dr. Mark Wiederspan. “But in states such as Iowa, where family farms and small businesses are the backbones of many communities, we are concerned that without minor changes to the FAFSA Simplification Act, it has the potential to have the opposite intended effect for some Iowans.”

The report, titled “The FAFSA Simplification Act: Policy Simulations and Implications for State Aid Programs,” models the effects of changes coming to the FAFSA starting Oct. 1, 2023.

Iowa College Aid’s research focused on the updates to the formula used to determine financial need, known as the Student Aid Index (SAI), which replaced the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) in the FAFSA’s financial needs analysis calculation.

Iowa College Aid’s analysis and projections of the FAFSA Simplification Act found that:

  • The SAI for many will likely be lower than their current EFC, leading to an increase in the number of Pell grant recipients and greater Pell grant awards.
  • The SAI considers family farms and small businesses as assets, leading many Iowans to appear wealthier than they are.
  • The SAI formula does not consider the number of family members in college.
  • A small share of college-going Iowans will likely lose their eligibility for the Iowa Tuition Grant, Iowa’s largest financial aid program.

Under the previous needs analysis formula used by the FAFSA, if a family had an adjusted gross income of $60,000 and a family farm valued at the state average, their expected contribution would be $7,626 annually. However, under the SAI needs analysis formula, which counts farms and small businesses as liquid assets, Iowa College Aid estimates that same family would have to contribute up to $91,816 annually.

Similarly, if a family had two members in college and had an expected family contribution of $5,000, that total was split between the two college-going individuals. Under the SAI, that contribution would be for each family member in college, increasing the financial burden for families with more than one member in college. In addition, it may affect their eligibility for some financial aid programs.

Iowa College Aid has notified Iowa’s congressional delegation and the U.S. Department of Education about these potential effects of the FAFSA Simplification Act and is urging a continued review of this policy and its impact. While the transition from EFC to SAI in the FAFSA Simplification Act will make education more affordable and attainable for many, Iowa College Aid is optimistic that policymakers can make efforts to minimize the negative impact this may have on a limited number of Iowans.


Des Moines, Iowa
August 31, 2022

Ty Patton
(o) 515-725-3417 (c) 205-310-1271

After four years of declining rates, Iowa’s current FAFSA completion rate equals last year’s

Nearly half of Iowa high school seniors in the class of 2022 applied for college financial aid via the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, halting a four-year trend of declining FAFSA completion rates in the state. However, despite the FAFSA completion rate stabilizing, the rate has not rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, and significant equity gaps remain between gender, race, and income levels.

The findings are detailed in Iowa College Aid’s “FAFSA Filing in Iowa: 2022” report, available here.

During the 2022-23 FAFSA cycle, 49 percent of Iowa high school seniors completed the FAFSA, equaling last year’s percentage, which was the first FAFSA cycle to occur entirely during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the percentage of Iowa high school seniors completing the FAFSA remained the same, it is a four percentage point decline from the 53 percent FAFSA completion rate achieved in the 2018-19 FAFSA cycle.

“Even though we have yet to return to our pre-pandemic FAFSA completion rate, we are encouraged that this year’s FAFSA completion rate has remained steady and hope this is an opportunity to drive those rates upward,” said Dr. Mark Wiederspan, Executive Director of Iowa College Aid. “Focusing on increasing our FAFSA completion rate is critical to help Iowa achieve its goal that 70 percent of the workforce have some form of postsecondary education and training. Our research also indicates students are more likely to attend and complete college if they complete the FAFSA.”

When separated by race and ethnicity, Asian, Hispanic, and Black students all experienced modest increases in FAFSA completion rates during the most recent FAFSA cycle. However, Hispanic and Black students still have the lowest FAFSA completion rates of any race/ethnicity, lagging the completion rate of White students by approximately 20 percentage points. 

Significant gaps in FAFSA completion rates also remain between female and male public high school seniors, as male students complete the FAFSA at a rate that trails their female counterparts by 15 percentage points. This rate remains consistent with results from the previous four FAFSA cycles.

These numbers underscore the importance of efforts to increase Iowa’s rates for filing the FAFSA, which is required for all federal and state financial aid and most forms of aid from colleges and universities. This summer, in partnership with the Iowa College Access Network, Iowa College Aid hired 11 FAFSA associates to help students file their applications and follow through on plans to seek postsecondary education.

Iowa College Aid is also hosting a FAFSA Learning Day Oct. 11 as part of FAFSA Awareness Week Oct. 10-14. The week is a statewide initiative to educate and inform Iowans with step-by-step strategies and information on completing the FAFSA and securing aid to finance postsecondary education.



Des Moines, Iowa
July 18, 2022

Ty Patton
(o) 515-725-3417 (c) 205-310-1271

Three Iowans with a history of Iowa State Fair participation earn awards

Three college-bound Iowans will receive the Governor Terry E. Branstad Iowa State Fair Scholarship during a ceremony Saturday, August 13 at 6:45 p.m. on the Bill Riley Stage of the Iowa State Fairgrounds. The scholarship, named for the longtime Iowa governor and former U.S. ambassador to China, recognizes outstanding Iowa high school seniors who have actively participated in the fair.

The three recipients of the Terry E. Branstad Iowa State Fair Scholarship were chosen based on participation in the fair, extracurricular activities, volunteer service to their communities, GPA, and a personal essay explaining the fair’s impact on their lives.

This year’s awardees include Ellyse Holubar of Solon High School, Hanna Bedwell of I-35 High School, and Brelynn Randall of Louisa-Muscatine High School. Each student will receive $2,000 to attend an Iowa college or university during the 2022-23 academic year.

  • Ellyse Holubar, a graduate of Solon High School, intends to enroll at St. Ambrose University and become a veterinarian. Holubar is a 4-H State Council member that shows sheep and rabbits at the Iowa State Fair and earned ‘Top Commercial Rabbit’ honors this year. Her quilt was also recognized as an ‘Outstanding Needle and Threads’ project, and she is a premier horticulture exhibitor. “Showing animals has taught me responsibility, patience, and caring. There is always more to learn, and I enjoy educating the public about animal care and breed varieties. My involvement with animals inspired my desire to become a veterinarian,” Holubar said.
  • Brelynn Randall, a graduate of Louisa-Muscatine High School, plans on attending Iowa State University to become a teacher. Randall has participated in a various 4-H activities at the Iowa State Fair, including showing animals, visual arts, food and nutrition, photography, sewing, and communication. Her participation in the communication project was transformative in confronting fears and building confidence. “This helped make me much more confident in my speaking abilities and comfortable in job interviews,” Randall said. “The speaking skills I gained from this project will help in my future career as a teacher.”
  • Hanna Bedwell, a graduate of I-35 High School, plans to attend Iowa State. She is a five-time FFA Reserve Champion in showing rabbits and has also shown cattle, goats, and lambs, in addition to being a horticulture and creative arts exhibitor. Bedwell cites the Iowa State Fair as the greatest and most influential event in her life and her family’s rich legacy at the Iowa State Fair. “I have attended every Iowa State Fair for 18 years and have created the best memories while learning life skills,” Bedwell said. “I am able to learn from others, be an advocate for agriculture, and share my passion with others. Experiences at the Iowa State Fair have helped me become confident and a productive asset to my community.”



Des Moines, Iowa
July 18, 2022

Ty Patton
(o) 515-725-3417 (c) 205-310-1271

The program has now awarded more than $3.2 million to 20 communities in Iowa

Iowa College Aid has awarded $468,724 in grants to 11 communities across Iowa to fund Local College Access Networks (LCAN) in fiscal year 2023. Local College Access Networks support the Future Ready Iowa goal that 70 percent of Iowa have some level of education beyond high school by 2025.

The LCAN grant series is a four-year model with annual awards averaging near $50,000. For fiscal year 2023, Iowa College Aid offered supplemental support to three LCAN communities that recently finished the series. Ten of the 11 funded LCAN communities are returning grantees.

Math Pathways to Success is the newest initiative to be awarded LCAN funding. Math Pathways to Success is a statewide initiative that focuses on eliminating barriers to college attainment that arise in the transition from high school to postsecondary math courses.

Following is a list of the FY2023 LCAN grant recipients by year (asterisks indicate a statewide initiative):

Year I:
● Math Pathways to Success

Year II:
● Brother to Brother (Des Moines)
● Perry LCAN

Year IV:
● Black Hawk County CAN
● Carroll Area CAN
● Latinos CAN*
● OPT-in CAN for System Involved Youth*
● Story County CAN

Supplemental Support:
● Aligned Impact Muscatine County (AIM)
● Dubuque CAN
● La Luz - Mission Possible Franklin County

“The Carroll Regional College Access Network is providing direct FAFSA completion assistance to high school students and families in 10 area high schools. We are also increasing awareness of the Governor’s Last-Dollar Scholarship initiative through social media, advertisements, direct mailings, and presentations,” said Jen Wolleson, Carroll Regional CAN Coordinator. “Events, programs, and opportunities have been extremely successful and were made possible by the Carroll area receiving a Local College Access Network Grant from Iowa College Aid.”

An LCAN’s goal is to increase college attainment, using a framework known as “Collective Impact.” Iowa College Aid provides grants to fund an LCAN Coordinator, travel, training, and other costs associated with convening the network and carrying out LCAN initiatives.

Iowa College Aid staff provides comprehensive technical assistance, consultation and professional development opportunities. Each LCAN assesses the needs of its community and works to fill the gaps in partnership with local colleges, school districts, area education agencies, business groups, elected officials, employers and community and religious organizations. LCANs identify multiple community goals that focus on increasing college attainment and building increased FAFSA completion into their identified goals.

“LCANs are a critical component of Iowa College Aid’s mission to increase success through postsecondary educational opportunities for all Iowans,” said Iowa College Aid executive director Dr. Mark Wiederspan. “Last year, our LCANs reached more than 31,000 students and families and helped foster a college-going culture in the communities they served. We’re excited to partner with many existing communities to build upon the foundation created while welcoming a new LCAN that will benefit Iowans statewide.”

Since 2015, Iowa College Aid has awarded $3,275,697 to LCANs in 20 communities to help reach these goals.

More information about Iowa’s LCANs is available at



Iowans enrolled in an eligible field of study may be awarded the scholarship

Iowans are encouraged to apply for the Future Ready Iowa Last-Dollar Scholarship by August 1 and pursue a career in a high-demand field to meet the needs of Iowa’s growing economy.

The Last-Dollar Scholarship eliminates any remaining financial gap between federal and state grants/scholarships and tuition and fees for those enrolled in a qualified program of study at an eligible institution for recent high school graduates and adult learners.

Eligible institutions are Iowa community colleges or accredited private colleges in Iowa that offer qualified programs of study and that agree to provide student services.

Students who earned an Iowa high school diploma, or high school equivalency diploma, enroll at least part-time in an eligible program of study, apply for all other available state and federal grants and scholarships, and meet ongoing requirements are eligible for the Last-Dollar Scholarship.

Scholarship recipients can choose from various high-demand programs in growing career fields such as manufacturing, healthcare, information technology and more. All applications must be submitted by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by August 1. Information is available at



Did you file your 2020 tax return before to March 11, 2021 AND file a FAFSA for the 2022-23 academic year AND receive unemployment benefits in 2020?

If you filed your 2020 tax return prior to March 11, 2021 and have a dependent in college (or are enrolled yourself) for the 2022-23 academic year, receipt of unemployment benefits may impact your application for federal, state, or institutional financial aid. However, there are possible adjustments that may offset this. Please contact the financial aid office at your college to learn more about increasing your financial aid eligibility.



Des Moines, Iowa
April 6, 2022

Ty Patton
(o) 515-725-3417 (c) 205-310-1271

Successful program to continue through ARP funds

DES MOINES – Today, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announced more than $5 million in American Rescue Plan to support GEAR UP Iowa Future Ready partner districts across the state of Iowa

The funding marks the launch of GEAR UP Iowa Future Ready, which builds upon the established federal GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) Iowa program, dedicated to significantly increasing the number of students prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.

The Iowa College Student Aid Commission (Iowa College Aid) administers GEAR UP Iowa Future Ready in partnership with the Iowa Department of Education and other state agencies; local school districts; postsecondary educational institutions; and community organizations, businesses, and industries.

"Through this program, we are providing school districts with the tools and resources needed to prepare high school students for transition to post-secondary education through curriculum, mentoring, and guidance,” said Gov. Reynolds. “Investing in our schools, educators and students through proven programs will help us build up our young people, strengthen the talent pipeline, and provide a high-quality workforce for businesses.”

The program will be implemented in the following 11 partner districts ­– Centerville, Clinton, Columbus Junction, Davenport, Davis County, Des Moines, Fort Dodge, Marshalltown, Saydel, South Tama, and Storm Lake. GEAR UP Iowa Future Ready will guide students in those schools from ninth grade through their first year of postsecondary education.

“We’re thankful for Governor Reynolds’ support of this critical program with a proven record of successfully preparing Iowans for postsecondary education and the workforce,” said Iowa College Aid executive director Dr. Mark Wiederspan. “This funding gives GEAR UP Iowa Future Ready the ability to reconnect with students and communities most severely impacted by the pandemic and assist those students in achieving their educational and career goals.”

GEAR UP Iowa Future Ready will utilize the funding to provide students and their families with various services to prepare them academically, financially and inspirationally to enroll and succeed in post-secondary education. In 2020, 88 percent of GEAR UP Iowa graduates had plans to complete a two-year or four-year degree program or other postsecondary training and education. GEAR UP Iowa students have also demonstrated higher rates of attendance, reading and math proficiency, increased standardized entrance exam scores, and FAFSA completion.