By SA2020 Staff
People throw around the term “financial aid” a lot. Many students are probably getting tired of hearing about it. But if you’re not in high school or a parent, you might be unfamiliar with the importance of those two words, to you and your city as a whole.
Every year, high school and college students in San Antonio fill out financial aid applications in an effort to locate funds to help pay for college.
Filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) or TASFA (Texas Application for State Financial Aid) can be daunting and kinda tricky, but it’s required to get any type of federal or state grants, scholarships, low-interest loans or work-study. Even though these forms can basically get you free money, a great number of students still don’t fill them out. Many families are unaware of the amount they could receive, feel they don’t have time to fill out complicated forms, or think college is too expensive even with help.
Fortunately, San Antonio is lucky enough to have a group of invested individuals working together to help with this process and make college a reality for many of our students. Since 2011, Student Aid San Antonio (SASA) has partnered with local schools, businesses and community organizations across Bexar County to provide free help completing federal and state financial aid applications .
And this year, SASA is Certified Awesome! …Not that it hasn’t always been awesome – it just means it’s officially endorsed by SA2020 as a program that directly impacts progress towards the SA2020 vision.
So, if SA2020 is the community-wide vision, what does this whole financial aid thing mean to those of us who aren’t students or parents? If I already have a degree and my cat won’t be going to school anytime soon, what’s it worth to me? Let’s walk through this together with our SA2020 eyes on.
A well-educated community means a stronger workforce, which means a stronger economy. During the SA2020 strategic visioning process, community members identified “increasing college enrollment” as one of many goals that, when achieved together, would help our city thrive to the year 2020 and beyond.
In the short term, SASA aims to increase high school students’ awareness of financial aid options and assist more students in completing their FAFSA and TASFA forms.
SASA’s work then helps us reach the mid-term outcome of more students receiving aid to enroll in college, and thus more students enrolling in college. This is a measure identified in the SA2020 vision.
With these mid-term outcomes achieved, we see the long-term outcome: more students completing college and having careers, leading to more life-long success. These are also identified in the SA2020 vision.
The National Center for Education Statistics states 90% of students who fill out financial aid applications end up enrolling in college. When a student is able to close the gap for funding college with financial aid, they are more likely to persist and complete college. With a college degree, students are more likely to get a high-paying job, and more people with college degrees in our city means more businesses are likely to locate here.
According to the SA2020 City Dividends Report, increasing the number of college graduates in San Antonio by just 1% would lead to an overall increase in personal income of $1.38 billion.
The benefits of college attainment also go beyond economic impact. The whole city benefits from college graduates, who research shows are:
- More likely to volunteer with local organizations,
- More likely to vote in an election,
- Less likely to be obese,
- More likely to have health insurance and be healthier,
- More likely to climb the socioeconomic ladder and break cycles of poverty
By looking at SASA through the SA2020 lens, we see that together, these outcomes make a college graduate a strong, contributing member of a thriving community. Helping students enroll in and finish college means helping our whole city become stronger. And a stronger city is exactly what we said we wanted during the SA2020 visioning process.
SASA is a fantastic example of work in our city that drives us to achieve our SA2020 goals.
And they are looking a few good people — that means us SA2020 friends — to help spread the word about these free events. Follow the events on Twitter at @studentaidsa or on Facebook at facebook.com/StudentAidSA and share with any high school seniors you may know. If you are interested in volunteering at an event email Audree Hernandez or Tessa Benavides.
For additional information on SASA including 2015 event dates, financial aid FAQs and volunteer opportunities, visit www.studentaidsa.org.