Recent News

8.31.22

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Des Moines, Iowa
August 31, 2022

CONTACT:
Ty Patton
(o) 515-725-3417 (c) 205-310-1271
ty.patton@iowa.gov

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.

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8.12.22

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Des Moines, Iowa
July 18, 2022

CONTACT:
Ty Patton
(o) 515-725-3417 (c) 205-310-1271
ty.patton@iowa.gov

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.”

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7.18.22

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Des Moines, Iowa
July 18, 2022

CONTACT:
Ty Patton
(o) 515-725-3417 (c) 205-310-1271
ty.patton@iowa.gov

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 IowaCollegeAid.gov/LCANs.

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7.14.22

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 IowaCollegeAid.gov/LastDollar.

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4.27.22

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.

 


4.6.22

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Des Moines, Iowa
April 6, 2022

CONTACT:
Ty Patton
(o) 515-725-3417 (c) 205-310-1271
ty.patton@iowa.gov

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.

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8.24.21

CONTACT:
Tressa Schultz
515-725-3435
tressa.schultz@iowa.gov

Iowa College Aid announces almost $550,000 in awards

Eleven Iowa communities will receive grants to increase college attainment, Iowa College Aid announced today. The Local College Access Networks, or LCANs, will receive a total of $545,375 for 2021-22. Two are new networks, while the rest are returning grantees.

The two new networks are Brother to Brother in Des Moines and Perry LCAN. Brother to Brother will focus on college attainment for young Black men in Des Moines and Central Iowa. Perry LCAN will focus on college attainment and workforce readiness in the Perry community, especially for lower-income and minority students. 

The goal of an LCAN is to increase college access, enrollment, and completion using a framework known as “Collective Impact,” which means that each LCAN assesses the assets and 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. Iowa College Aid provides funds for an LCAN coordinator, travel, training, and other costs. Iowa College Aid staff provide technical assistance, consultation, and professional development. The LCAN grant series is a four-year model.

These LCANs received awards this cycle:

  • Year I
    • Brother to Brother (Des Moines): $49,650
    • Perry LCAN: $49,940
  • Year II
    • Quad Cities LCAN: $50,000 
  • Year III
    • Black Hawk County CAN: $50,000
    • Carroll Area CAN: $48,396
    • Latinos CAN (statewide): $59,825
    • OPT-in CAN for System Involved Youth (statewide): $49,096
    • Story County CAN: $50,915
  • Year IV
    • Aligned Impact Muscatine (AIM): $50,00
    • Dubuque CAN: $50,668
    • Mason City CAN: $36,885

“We are grateful for the funding and support from Iowa College Aid,” said Dr. Lee Chhen Stewart, Story County CAN coordinator. “We have been able to provide career speakers for sixth-graders, train 30 community members to help with financial aid applications, collaborate with high school students to create a website of college resources, and train 26 adult learners—15 of whom now have more secure, higher-paying jobs.”

Dr. Mark Wiederspan, executive director of Iowa College Aid, said the mission of LCANs has never been more important. “During the pandemic, we’ve seen dips in college enrollment and college financial aid applications,” he said. “These networks are working to recoup those losses. Many of them—including the two newest—are setting specific goals around completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. High school students who file this application are much more likely to follow through on their college plans.”

LCANs support the Future Ready Iowa goal that 70 percent of Iowans have some education or training beyond high school by 2025. Since 2015, Iowa College Aid has awarded a total of $2,760,844 to 19 networks.

Find more information at IowaCollegeAid.gov/LCANs.

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8.9.21

CONTACT:
Tressa Schultz
515-725-3435
tressa.schultz@iowa.gov

Winners of Branstad State Fair scholarship named

Three college-bound Iowans will receive the Governor Terry E. Branstad Iowa State Fair Scholarship for 2021-22, Iowa College Aid announced today. 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. This year’s winners will each receive $2,000. They are:

  • Ruby Hummel, a graduate of Panorama High School, plans to study music education at Drake University. Ruby exhibited photos and sculpture at the fair and regularly took part in 4-H Share the Fun, performing in group skits and playing piano solos. She also won the opportunity to perform in the Bruce L. Rastetter 4-H Building on multiple occasions. “The Iowa State Fair was a big deciding factor in my future education and career path,” she says. “These performances, and having the opportunity to perform in front of a large crowd, made me realize how much I love performing and how much I enjoy music. Music became something I wanted to pursue and give to others in my life well into the future.”
     
  • Gavin Tindle, a graduate of Montezuma High School, plans to major in agricultural business and minor in animal science at Iowa State University. Gavin has camped at the fair every year of this life—a tradition that goes back to his great-grandparents. His fair participation evolved over the years from Mutton Bustin’ and the Pedal Tractor Pull to winning awards for photographs, antiques, flowers, brownies, rabbits, and goats. “My love of agriculture grew from the fond memories of being at the Iowa State Fair and seeing how ag impacts the lives of everyone—not just one person, but the world,” he says. “I feel honored that I have basically grown up being an Iowa State Fair kid.”
     
  • Sierra Wegener, a graduate of Northeast Middle-High School in Goose Lake, plans to study animal science and agricultural business at Iowa State University. Sierra grew up helping her parents show livestock at the fair and eagerly awaited her turn, eventually winning three Supreme Champion awards for her sheep. Sierra says the fair has not only taught her about agriculture but also given her the opportunity to teach. “Educating people about the agriculture industry is one of my favorite things because people may not know where their food comes from, or how almost everything that we have can be traced back to agriculture in some way,” she says. “If I can be an advocate for the industry that I love and people can see my passion for it, maybe I can make an impact on them and they could teach others as well.”

A common thread in all three winners’ application essays was the fair’s impact on their career paths. “These stories underscore the value of the Iowa State Fair for education, not just entertainment,” said Dr. Mark Wiederspan, Executive Director of Iowa College Aid. “This kind of career exploration is an important component of preparing young Iowans for lifetime success.”

The winners will be honored at the fair on Saturday, August 14, on the Bill Riley Stage, just before the crowning of the Iowa State Fair Queen.

Iowa College Aid will also host an information booth in the Varied Industries Building, at the center of the south wall. Visitors can take selfies with Cash the College Aid Dog, receive free mood pencils, download a free mobile app for college planning, sign up for free virtual college coaching, and order free college planning guides. 

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8.24.21

CONTACT:
Tressa Schultz
515-725-3435
tressa.schultz@iowa.gov

Fewer Iowans, Americans have been applying for college financial aid

Iowa College Aid today announced new initiatives to increase FAFSA filing in light of falling rates—both statewide and nationwide—during the pandemic. The FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is required for all federal and state financial aid and most forms of aid from colleges and universities.

“In addition to being the door to financial aid, the FAFSA is tied to higher college-going rates,” said Dr. Mark Wiederspan, Executive Director of Iowa College Aid. “Students who say they plan to go to college are much more likely to follow through if they file this application. So focusing on the FAFSA actually helps us achieve Iowa’s goal that 70 percent of the workforce will have education beyond high school.”

In partnership with the Iowa College Access Network, Iowa College Aid hired 10 FAFSA associates to help students file the FAFSA this summer. The agency also made FAFSA completion goals a requirement for its 2021-22 round of funding for Local College Access Networks. Finally, Iowa College Aid held a series of workshops with school counselors and higher education stakeholders this spring to develop FAFSA strategies.

Also today, Iowa College Aid released a report showing that fewer Iowans filed the FAFSA during the pandemic. As of May 31, 49 percent of Iowa public high school seniors in the class of 2021 had filed. That rate represents a drop of 2 percentage points from a year ago and continues a four-year downward trend.

“It’s worth noting that this filing cycle was the first to take place entirely during the pandemic,” Wiederspan said. “Last year, we were on track to post some gains until COVID-19 hit. Then we saw a drop that continued into this cycle. And Iowa’s numbers track with what we see happening all over the country.”

When separated by race and gender, Asian males and females were the only two student groups in Iowa whose FAFSA filing rates rose this cycle. The largest drops were among Hispanic and Black males, who already had the lowest rates. “Our efforts will focus on increasing FAFSA filing overall as well as closing these equity gaps,” Wiederspan said.

Read the full “FAFSA Filing in Iowa: 2021” report here

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5.17.21

CONTACT:

Elizabeth Keest Sedrel
(o) 515-725-3417  (c) 515-710-1257
elizabeth.sedrel@iowa.gov

Maximum award more than doubles for 2021-22 school year

Iowa college students who were in the foster care system could qualify for expanded financial aid, Iowa College Aid announced today.

The federal Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 increased funding for the Education and Training Voucher, which provides aid to students who aged out of foster care and students who were adopted after age 16. The maximum ETV award is usually $5,000 a year. In the coming year, however, that amount will be considerably higher:

  • Students who already qualified for ETV in the 2020-21 academic year could be eligible for an additional $2,500 for summer classes, even if they previously reached the $5,000 maximum.
     
  • Students who will attend college in 2021-22 could be eligible for up to $12,000 for the year.

“This is terrific news for former foster youth in Iowa,” said Dr. Mark Wiederspan, executive director of Iowa College Aid, which administers ETV in Iowa. “Last year more than 160 students qualified, and they received an average of over $3,500. With this boost in federal funding, we hope to increase both the number of students we serve and the amounts they receive.”

To qualify for ETV, a student must file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the Iowa Financial Aid Application (IFAA). Students can use ETV funds to pay for tuition, fees, room, board, books, supplies, and personal or living expenses.

Find more information about ETV, along with links to the FAFSA and the Iowa Financial Aid Application, at IowaCollegeAid.gov/ETV.

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