Graduation Matters Montana receives $50K grant to help students seek college aid

2013-09-20T20:30:00Z 2014-03-12T19:46:43Z Graduation Matters Montana receives $50K grant to help students seek college aid missoulian.com

More high school students will have opportunities for help navigating the convoluted process of applying for college financial aid, thanks for a $50,000 grant to Graduation Matters Montana from the Student Assistance Foundation.

Education leaders announced the grant at Big Sky High School on Friday morning.

The foundation’s grant helps schools better prepare students for college, said Denise Juneau, superintendent of instruction for Montana who attended the event.

This is the second year the organization has made the donation to help encourage students to apply for financial aid. About 70 percent of Montana students attend a school that participates in the state initiative, which was inspired by a similar program initially launched at Big Sky High, Juneau said.

The grant enabled the Office of Public Instruction to create the Graduation Matters-Student Assistance Foundation Montana College Readiness Fund, which grants up to $5,000 for schools to host college goal events, host forums about completing federal financial aid forms, participate in college application week, and host or participate in an activity that will help students be better prepared for college.

Big Sky was chosen as the announcement site because of how it effectively used a $5,000 grant from SAF last year. The school was able to reach out to families using Free Application for Federal Student Aid open house nights, training volunteer FAFSA counselors and making sure students and parents had all the information they needed.

Because of their relentless efforts, the number of students filling out FAFSA forms jumped 11 percent, to 33 percent.

Big Sky senior Abbey Hege said she values the grant and the opportunities it helps fellow students tap into to keep their college debt to a minimum.

“Anything that they are willing to give us, we’re happy to accept,” she said, thanking SAF for the grant.

Applying for FAFSA can be daunting. However, the payoff can be immense for students who are considering college but are not sure how to afford it without racking up debt that will limit their options post-graduation, said Hege, who serves as student body president.

Adults who hold a bachelor’s degree will make an average of $20,000 more per year than their peers who hold a only high school degree, she shared, adding she plans to apply for FAFSA.

“I think a lot of my classmates will be taking that opportunity,” she said.

Students who want help filling out FAFSA forms can get it through school guidance counselors, she added. “With the resources we’ve got here, it can be less complicated.”

College costs present barriers for students, Juneau said, adding that Graduation Matters is about removing barriers and helping students avoid debt after college graduation. “And the best way to do that is to get financial aid.”

Students won’t get any federal aid if they don’t at least apply for it, said Kelly Cresswell, SAF’s vice president of foundation activities.

SAF can help students and their families fill out forms, free of charge, to see if they are eligible for aid regardless of the type of school students want to attend, she added.

Applications from schools are being accepted through Oct. 18. To learn more about funding or about help with financial aid, visit smartaboutcollege.org.

To learn more about Graduation Matters, visit graduationmatters.mt.gov.

Reporter Alice Miller can be reached at 523-5251 or at alice.miller@missoulian.com.

Copyright 2015 missoulian.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

No Comments Posted.

Missoulian Civil Dialogue Policy

Civil Dialogue Policy for Commenting on Missoulian.com

We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Comments can only be submitted by registered users. By posting comments on our site, you are agreeing to the following terms:

Commentary and photos submitted to the Missoulian (Missoulian.com) may be published or distributed in print, electronically or other forms. Opinions expressed in Missoulian.com's comments reflect the opinions of the author, and are not necessarily the opinions of the Missoulian or its parent company. See the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy for more information.

Our guidelines prohibit the solicitation of products or services, the impersonation of another site user, threatening or harassing postings and the use of vulgar, abusive, obscene or sexually oriented language, defamatory or illegal material. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability or other classification. It's fine to criticize ideas, but ad hominem attacks on other site users are prohibited. Users who violate those standards may lose their privileges on missoulian.com.

You may not post copyrighted material from another publication. (Link to it instead, using a headline or very brief excerpt.)

No short policy such as this can spell out all possible instances of material or behavior that we might deem to be a violation of our publishing standards, and we reserve the right to remove any material posted to the site.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

Search our events calendar