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Virginia High School Seniors Receive Free Help With Financial Aid Application Process

March 22, 2021

Access College Foundation, ECMC’s The College Places, GReat Aspirations ScholarshiP Fund (GRASP), and Virginia College Advising Corps to provide one-on-one guidance

Richmond, Va.—With completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) down substantially, organizations across Virginia are coming together to assist students to ensure they are able to complete the process and uncover financial assistance for college.

The Virginia College Access Network (VirginiaCAN) has partnered with several of the state’s college access providers to provide one-on-one free FAFSA assistance during March. This collaboration includes ECMC’s The College Places, the Virginia College Advising Corps (VCAC), Access College Foundation and the GReat Aspirations Scholarship Program (GRASP).

“The decline in students completing their financial aid applications is troubling, but the good news is, it’s not too late,” said Paula Craw, vice president of student success and outreach for ECMC. “This collaboration among college access providers to bring individualized guidance to these students can increase completion and get more students on track to postsecondary education in our state.”

The collaboration launches at a time when FAFSA completion is down nearly 10 percent compared to this time last year in Virginia. Decreases are most prevalent for students who need financial aid the most—Virginia schools serving a high number of low-income students are down 34 percent, and schools with higher populations of minority students are down 17 percent.

FAFSA completion is the gateway to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid’s more than $120 billion in financial aid to help pay for college. A recent study by the National Center for Education statistics shows that 92 percent of high school seniors who completed the FAFSA enrolled in college by the November following graduation. Only 51 percent of seniors who did not complete a FAFSA enrolled in college in that same time period.

“FAFSA completion is the most important step for students to find their footing on a college pathway, and Virginia’s college access providers are ready to guide the way,” said Joy Pugh, executive director of Virginia College Advising Corps and the current board president of Virginia College Access Network. “There are numerous college access organizations in Virginia making a positive impact on postsecondary access and attainment, contributing to the economic development and strength of our communities.”

Money for college is still available, and several colleges and universities in Virginia pushed back their deadlines for applications and financial aid in recognition of the pandemic’s effects. Virginia’s Community Colleges, firmly grounded in accessibility and affordability, maintain rolling deadlines, and the governor’s new “Get Skilled, Get a Job, Give Back” (G3) initiative provides financial support to cover tuition, fees and books to eligible Virginia students who complete a FAFSA.

Students in Virginia can receive one-on-one FAFSA assistance by scheduling a meeting through this link:

After scheduling a meeting, students will be connected with an access provider from Access College Foundation, ECMC’s The College Places, GReat Aspirations ScholarshiP Fund (GRASP), or the Virginia College Advising Corps.

About VirginiaCAN
VirginiaCAN is a non-profit that brings together and strengthens the many college-access organizations that serve the residents of Virginia.  VirginiaCAN partner organizations share a common goal: to enhance access to post-secondary education for residents of Virginia.

About ECMC
ECMC is a nonprofit corporation with a mission to help students succeed. ECMC works to lower student loan default rates; sponsors college access and success initiatives, and financial education programs; and provides resources to support student loan borrowers to successfully repay their loans. Visit for more information.

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