JPS FAFSA Challenge












In 2016, Get2College competed with 118 cities nationwide on behalf of the city of Jackson, winning a $55,000 grant to increase the FAFSA completion rate in the Jackson Public School District (JPS). A city-wide, cross-sector campaign led seniors to complete the FAFSA, the first step in acquiring financial aid for college. The FAFSA Challenge Grant was awarded by the National College Access Network is funded by The Kresge Foundation.

In September of 2017, the Woodward Hines Education Foundation’s (WHEF) Get2College program has received a $25,000 award from the Kresge Foundation for partnering with higher education institutions to increase completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in the Jackson Public Schools. Kresge presented the awards yesterday at the 2017 National College Access Network (NCAN) conference in San Diego, CA. Other award recipients were based in Greensboro, NC; Charleston, WV; Cheyenne, WY; Columbus, OH; Los Angeles, CA; Phoenix, AZ; and San Juan, PR.

Kierstan Knaus, Assistant Director for Get2College, led the FAFSA completion effort and accepted the award on behalf of the organization. “All of Jackson should be celebrating,” Knaus said. “It’s not one person. It’s Get2College, our partners, the district, the students, and the parents. Students’ lives have been changed significantly because of this collective effort and will continue to be changed. This year we’ve built a network that will keep us working together for the future of Jackson.”

JPS is proud to be a part of the Woodward Hines Education Foundation’s work to help students across our district have the resources they need to pursue education beyond high school,” said Dr. Freddrick Murray, JPS interim superintendent. “The success of this program demonstrates what we can achieve when teachers, administrators, parents, and organizations come together in support of our students.”

In June of 2016, the Kresge Foundation issued a $1.6 million national challenge grant to strengthen urban higher education ecosystems by raising FAFSA completion rates among high school seniors in cities across the country. Jackson was one of only 22 cities in the country to receive the grant, which challenged those cities to increase FAFSA completion rates by at least five percent for the graduating high school class of 2017. Get2College received $55,000 of the total grant and exceeded its goal, reaching a seven percent increase in FAFSA completion among seniors in the district.

In order to achieve these results, Get2College partnered with postsecondary institutions and organizations to train and deploy a network of volunteers that helped students and families with FAFSA completion. These volunteers participated in day-long trainings and “FAFSA shadowing” before staffing FAFSA completion events at Jackson’s seven public high schools.

Jackson Public High Schools who participated in the 2016-17 FAFSA Challenge: 

  • Callaway High School
  • Forest Hill High School
  • Jim Hill High School
  • Lanier High SchoolFIRST YOU HAFTA Murrah High School
  • Provine High School
  • Wingfield High School

JPS FAFSA Challenge Partners:

  • 100 Black Men Jackson
  • Alignment Jackson
  • City of Jackson’s Mayor’s Youth Council
  • Greater Bethlehem Temple
  • Greater Jackson Chamber of Commerce Leadership Greater Jackson Program
  • Jackson Public Schools Superintendent and District and School Staff
  • Mississippi Department of Education
  • Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning
  • Mississippi Office of Student Financial Aid
  • Parents for Public Schools Jackson
  • Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society