Gov. Rick Snyder has signed a certificate of proclamation naming October 2016 as Michigan College Month!
October 1 kicks off Michigan’s inaugural Michigan College Month campaign, although it’s not the first time schools across Michigan will host coordinated college application events in their high schools. By now, many Michigan schools are experts in setting aside time and space during the school day to give graduating seniors the opportunity to apply to college, so it’s no surprise high schools were up to MCAN’s latest challenge: Michigan College Month.
Michigan College Month was developed in response to significant changes to the FAFSA process that will go into effect this year. For the first time ever, students will be able to file the FAFSA using tax information from two years (rather than one year) prior, meaning they don’t need to wait for their parents to file taxes before they can submit their financial aid applications. Further, the FAFSA will be available on October 1 rather than January 1.
MCAN was excited to respond quickly to these changes, which will remove significant barriers for students in Michigan and across the country. As soon as the announcement was made, we went back to the drawing board and came up with a plan to restructure our statewide initiatives strategy. In the past, MCAN coordinated an interconnected suite of events that mirrored the major milestones a student experienced in the college-going process over the course of their senior year. Schools hosted College Application Week in the fall, the College Cash Campaign in the winter, and College Decision Day in the spring. Starting in 2016, schools are being asked to combine their College Application Week and College Cash Campaign initiatives into Michigan College Month, in which schools will host concurrent college application and financial aid campaigns throughout October with the goal that by the end of the month, every graduating senior will have applied to college, applied for financial aid by filing the FAFSA, and applied for at least one scholarship. We’re also encouraging schools to host financial aid nights to supplement their in-school campaigns, which is key to the parent/family involvement needed for FAFSA completion.
We know this change is a bit overwhelming. October is an incredibly busy time already, and taking on both college and financial aid applications in the fall adds to an already full workload. However, we also know that adapting to early FAFSA and responding to these changes is critical – it’s the best way to serve our students, who need to apply for financial aid as early as possible. We are thrilled that high schools agree: nearly three quarters of our 360 schools have elected to participate in Michigan College Month, even though high schools were given the option to host a traditional College Application Week event during this transitional year.
We are incredibly grateful for our high school and college partners who are so willing to embark on the early FAFSA journey with us, and we can’t wait to see the innovative and impressive things schools implement throughout October.