New TikTok challenge to raise awareness of FAFSA opportunities

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The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) and GEAR UP Kentucky, a unit of the council, are throwing down the gauntlet on TikTok this month to help raise awareness about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA form.

The two organizations teamed up to announce the FAF$A for the Future TikTok Challenge. It encourages high school principals and superintendents in Kentucky to get creative and post videos on the popular social media app – all to help educate students about the FAFSA process and urge them to apply.

FAFSA allows students to access need-based aid and other forms of financial assistance that help pay for college or vocational training. So far this year, submissions are down, which is raising alarm among officials.

CPE President Aaron Thompson said the TikTok challenge uses the power of social media to engage school district superintendents, high school principals and other influencers to reach students on their own terms, and he has even released his own video to kick off the competition.

“This is a fun and innovative way to spread the word about an important issue,” Thompson said. “In Kentucky, FAFSA provides millions of dollars in free student aid every year, and we want to empower our students to maximize this opportunity. We also hope to spark some friendly rivalry between our schools.”

CPE and GEAR UP will award banners to the three high school principals and one superintendent whose videos earn the most “hearts” throughout March. All Kentuckians are encouraged to follow along and provide hearts to the videos they like the best. 

Students, social media influencers and other school officials are also welcome to post videos on TikTok; however, only high school principals and superintendents are eligible to receive awards. 

Video submissions could include FAFSA tips and tricks, myth-busters, personal stories, interesting statistics or similar content that encourages high school seniors to understand the process and submit an application. Participants are encouraged to be original, but each video should feature the challenge hashtag: #KYFAFSA.

The challenge is seeking to counter the recent decline in applications. According to the Form Your Future website, which tracks submissions across the country, applications among Kentucky high school seniors were down about 17.5% as of mid-February, compared to this time last year. That has raised concern that students could miss out on critical aid for the fall 2021 semester.

Students in the state received more than $372 million in federal Pell grants last year, according to the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA). KHEAA distributed more than $272 million in grants and scholarships, and most of the funds were allocated based on FAFSA data.

In addition to the Pell grant, the FAFSA form is required for three of Kentucky’s popular need-based aid programs – the College Access Program Grant, the Kentucky Tuition Grant and the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship.

Students can apply for aid by visiting the Federal Student Aid website, which offers instructions for submitting a form electronically or by mail along with other details about the process.

Applicants can also receive help from a KHEAA outreach counselor by visiting KHEAA’s website. Counselors are available in every region of the state.

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