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$4M grant to improve college enrollment in Marion County

Multicultural Spotlight: $4M grant to improve college enrollment

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A $4 million grant aims to improve college enrollment for Marion County high school students as part of a newly rolled-out program called College Matters.

The Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation is providing the funding with hope as more students enroll and come to college, they’ll not only stay in Indiana and join in the economic growth but share their knowledge to help others navigate college enrollment.

Victory College Prep, part of the work is in the name, and $150,000 of a $4 million grant will help even more students prepare for college.

“Our goal isn’t that kids get accepted to college. That’s great. Isn’t that they show up on the first day, that’s even better, but they have to stay. So, in order for them to do that, they have to feel confident about the funding. The only way to do that is to make sure their FAFSA is filled out,” said Chelsea Easter, principal at Victory College Prep.

The grant will be distributed to more than a dozen Marion County school districts and community organizations. It’s part of the newly rolled out College Matters program in partnership with the Indiana Commission for Higher Education in response to what representatives say is an alarming drop in college enrollment.

“We have a big problem because more and more employers need a college-educated workforce. So, we need to make sure that we are increasing college enrollment in Marion County so that more Hoosiers have the opportunity to earn a livable wage with a job that provides benefits,” said Claire Fiddian-Green, CEO of Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation.

When looking at the 2020 Marion County high school graduating class, the foundation reports only 40% of lower-income students enrolled in college. Compared to the 58% of higher-income students who enrolled.

“Soon as we help the student “A”, who’s a junior, and we help their parents fill out the FAFSA for the first time, their eighth-grade sibling, their sixth-grade sibling, and their kindergarten sibling now have access to information that they didn’t have before,” Easter said.

It’ll support a broad student body, but center around lower-income students who have a less likely chance of filling out the free Application for Federal Student Aid. With FAFSA completion now a graduation requirement, the funding will support in-school training and help them get filled out.

“The FAFSA form is the ticket to accessing loans and scholarships both at the federal level and state level and also through colleges,” Fiddian-Green said.