We know that 90% of students who complete FAFSA 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. 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. So we know that financial aid is important. We also know that Student Aid San Antonio (SASA) makes college more accessible to local students by offering help filling out federal and state financial aid applications, and encouraging more students to apply. Click here to read our blog on why SASA matters to SA2020 and our goals for the city. But even though it's in our entire community's best interest to increase college completion through strategies like SASA, it's not always the first thing on a high school student's mind. Even though many resources are available, students and families often don't know how or when to get help, or don't know how much money they could get. That’s why SASA has teamed up with the San Antonio Youth Commission, a group of city-council appointed high school leaders, to spread the message of help and hope for the future in their schools. The 22 Youth Commissioners are working hard to create poster campaigns, give presentations, and make dynamic announcements encouraging their peers to go to SASA events and fill out the forms required to get financial help to support their future education and success. They have also worked with KSAT to film short videos for the SASA website, and represented the youth perspective at press conferences. They are thrilled to be able to bring excitement and awareness to this campaign, in the midst of their own adventures with applying and planning for their education future. Their perspective is not only important to reaching the students who need help most, but also to our community at large to remember first-hand what it’s like to have your future laid out before you. We’ve highlighted two testimonies below from youth commissioners working through their own financial aid journey to help remind us that, although increasing college degrees means amazing things for our city, each degree is the future of an individual with passions and hopes for themselves and their world. Andrew Salazar, John Jay High School, District 6. In my life, hard work has been a constant in everything I do. However when it comes to applying for not only college applications but financial aid and scholarships, most times it feels as if I’m a fish out of water and just trying to flop my way back to the ocean. However at school my Senior Seminar teachers, Ms. Powell and Mrs. Tores, have guided me through not only the scholarship process but the FAFSA process also. I have to date applied for more than 15 different scholarships, ranging from community service to academic topics I have tried to reach as many organizations that can help me further my education at a university. The FAFSA has also been a great benefit, with learning how FAFSA has helped many people I look forward to taking my turn to apply. Although the college process is daunting and extremely scary and nerve racking, I know that with the help from all my resources, I have not only to apply to college but help get it paid for. Madeline Carrola, North East School of the Arts, Mayoral Representative. For me, college spells opportunity. This is a time of exploration, a chance to make mature decisions, balance time, learn more about the world. I am majoring in Women’s Studies, because feminism is a movement of equality for everyone. This is my passion, and along with the nervousness for college, I am filled with anticipation, because I will be able to not only expand my knowledge of history and my surroundings, but engage with others who share the same dream. I will also have the opportunity to learn about other views that don’t correlate with mine-- to be able to think critically and communicate effectively. As I am filling out college applications, the tuition costs, room and board, and the many other expenses jump out at me. I’ve been adding up all the standardized test fees, transcript costs, application fees, and the price of sending scores. It can be overwhelming, because I’m not in college yet, but the expenses are already multiplying. Thankfully, there are many financial aid options, from federal money, private scholarships, grants, college-specific scholarships, and more. The most difficult aspect of financial aid, for me, is finding the time to apply. Between my extracurricular activities, community service, schoolwork, and college applications, the days sometime speed past me. I have, however, made time after school for thirty minutes searching for scholarships, Saturday mornings completing short essays, evenings checking deadlines. Even though the moments are short, I have begun to move financial aid off the backburner. American education is expensive; there is no question about it. But there are resources and options that can definitely minimize or even erase college expenses. Over the years, I have come to value time, and setting aside even thirty minutes a few times a week has been beneficial. While the stories above are only from two students out of thousands in San Antonio, they are a piece of the puzzle that explains the financial aid picture for SA’s students. Not only are they on their own higher education journey, but they are passionate about encouraging their peers to look at education beyond high school – because they know what it means for the future of our city. SASA has events throughout the spring to provide one-on-one assistance filling out federal and state financial aid forms. To get a complete list of dates and locations, visit SASA’s website.