April 12, 2012 - MAYOR BOOKER, SCHOOLS SUPERINTENDENT ANDERSON, NEWARK NOW AND CITI FOUNDATION CELEBRATE A 300% INCREASE IN FAFSA PREPARATIONS FOR NEWARK HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS THROUGH FINANCIAL AID U
For Immediate Release
MAYOR BOOKER, SCHOOLS SUPERINTENDENT ANDERSON, NEWARK NOW AND CITI FOUNDATION
CELEBRATE A 300% INCREASE IN FAFSA PREPARATIONS FOR NEWARK HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS THROUGH FINANCIAL AID U;
610 FAFSA FORMS WERE COMPLETED IN THIS YEAR’S FILING CYCLE — COMPARED WITH 155 FAFSA FORMS IN 2009-10;
59 percent of high school students who completed the FAFSA through Financial Aid U in 2011 enrolled in college;
Program is making a big impact by assisting college-bound Newark students to obtain the funds to pay for their higher education by expanding access to scholarships, grants and loans for college
Newark, NJ – April 11, 2012 – Mayor Cory A. Booker, the Newark Municipal Council, Newark Public Schools Superintendent Cami Anderson, Newark Now President and CEO LaVar Young, Barringer High School Principal Shonda Davis, Citi Foundation New Jersey State Director for Citi Community Development Helen Steblecki, and other dignitaries held a ceremony today at Barringer High School to celebrate the achievements of the Financial Aid U program in the City of Newark. Barringer High School is located at 90 Parker Street in Newark’s North Ward.
“Access to financial aid is critical for Newark’s youth and unfortunately many of our high school students ‘convince’ themselves out of college because of the affordability issue. I am grateful to Newark Now, the Citi Foundation and to Superintendent Cami Anderson for working together to support this program. Financial Aid U is giving Newark’s high school students the financial resources they need to achieve their dreams of higher education,” said Mayor Booker.
The Financial Aid U program assists low-income and first generation Newark students and their families in identifying and accessing financial aid resources for post-secondary education. Participation in the program has increased by 300% since the program began in the 2009-10 school year. Through Financial Aid U, 610 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms were completed in this year’s filing cycle — compared with 155 FAFSA forms in 2009-10 — enabling many more college-bound Newark students to access the funds to pay for their higher education. Financial Aid U is a national effort of the National Community Tax Coalition (NCTC) and, with support from the Citi Foundation, provides assistance with completion of tax returns and the FAFSA forms along with financial education.
"College level skill for all of Newark's young people is our aim at NPS. We are fortunate to have outstanding school leadership in our principals like Ms. Davis and our guidance counselors like Mr. Pares. And NPS is incredibly grateful for the support of dedicated community partners like Newark Now and the Citi Foundation who have helped our students and families navigate the FAFSA process and harness the many financial resources available that make college affordable for all. This is a great and worthy celebration and we offer our congratulations to all of our future leaders on this special occasion,” said Superintendent Anderson.
In recent years more than 40 percent of community college students nationwide who were eligible for a Federal Pell Grant did not apply, according to a May 2010 report by the College Board Advocacy and PolicyCenter. Financial Aid U’s 2011 Evaluation Report notes, “financial aid experts… say that making aid available may not be enough, because low-income high school students and adults may not be aware of how much aid is available, and may not have the knowledge, confidence, or encouragement to initiate the process of applying for aid themselves.”
“College tuition continues to rise and nationwide college attendance rates for low-income households lag 20 to 40% behind their higher-income counterparts,” said Newark Now President/CEO Young. “Students who fill out the FAFSA form are 50% more likely to attend college and, through this program. We can simplify that complex document for many New Jersey students who otherwise might miss out on opportunities.”
Financial Aid U simplifies the process of applying for grants, scholarships and loans for college. Through the program, volunteers provide free tax filing and FAFSA preparation assistance at community tax sites and school-based events. The services are available to current and prospective college students and their families with incomes below $50,000.
“This program enables underserved students to build the necessary foundation to succeed in college and begin successful careers in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace,” said Ms. Steblecki. “In addition to providing FAFSA filing assistance, Financial Aid U offers financial education workshops on a variety of essential topics related to college applications and budgeting for students.”
Newark NOW is one of 10 community organizations nationwide chosen by NCTC to administer the program, together with community partners and the Newark Public Schools, due to its extensive experience providing tax preparation and financial education services for underserved families. 59%of Newark students who completed the FAFSA through Financial Aid U in 2011 enrolled in college, and more than 1,000 students participated in financial education workshops last year.
“Newark Now's Financial Aid U program has been extremely successful because of the collaboration with Newark Public Schools, the City of Newark, Citi Foundation and Citi Group. Without this support and collaboration, we would not have been able to serve so many students at our workshops and FAFSA preparation days. So far we have assisted over 630 students with the FAFSA and presented to over 1,200 students at our workshops,” said Newark Now Financial Empowerment Center Director Jeremy Guenter.
Now in its third year, Financial Aid U has expanded to 10 of the largest markets in the United States through a $1.5 million grant from the Citi Foundation. In 2011, Financial Aid U programs helped more than 3,184 students nationwide complete the FAFSA, generated $22 million in Pell Grants and state aid, and gained students access to an additional $11.1 million in low-interest student loans.
“When you’re the first generation in your family to go to college, you’re looked at. They want to know how you’re prepared and if you’re prepared. So I am here to say that yes, I did get accepted to Seton Hall University. I am ready and I am not terrified at the prospects of college because Newark Now and my school have prepared me,” said Barringer High School senior Patricia Gantuah. “I applied for financial aid and am receiving two Pell Grants in addition to scholarships. I don’t know what to say but ‘thank you.’”
“Newark Now has helped me tremendously. My family is originally from the Dominican Republic and did not attend college. This is a great opportunity for me to be the first person in my family to attend college. I’m so grateful to Newark Now for their help and support. I want to study law enforcement and pursue a career as a Newark Police Officer, Newark’s finest. I want to give back to my community and make a difference in the City of Newark, my hometown,” said Barringer High School senior Felix Bueno, who was accepted to attend Essex County College in Fall 2012.
For information about any City of Newark program or policy, contact the Non-Emergency Call Center at (973) 733-4311.
About the City of Newark, New Jersey
Newark, commonly referred to as BrickCity, is the third oldest city in the United States and the largest in New Jersey, with a population of more than 280,000 people. Newark sits on one of the nation’s largest transportation super-structures including an international airport, major commuter and freight rail lines, major highway intersections and the busiest seaport on the east coast.
With a new Administration as of July 2006, Newark continues to see signs of a strong revival. Its population showed growth in the most recent census. Its six major colleges and universities are further expanding their presence. The rate of production of affordable housing has doubled, and new businesses are moving in. There is still much work to be done but Newark is on its way to achieving its mission: to set a national standard for urban transformation.
About Newark Now
Newark NOW is a member of the National Community Tax Coalition (NCTC), the nation’s largest membership network of community based organizations offering free tax and financial services to low-income working families. Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker founded Newark Now in 2003 to provide Newark residents with skills, tools, and support to transform their neighborhoods. Today, Newark Now is an intermediary organization that partners with municipal government, residents, grassroots organizations, and the philanthropic community to catalyze the achievement of significant positive outcomes throughout the city. The organization channels the efforts and energy of the grassroots community to improve safety, economic independence, and civic participation. www.newarknow.org.
About the National Community Tax Coalition
A project of the Center for Economic Progress, the National Community Tax Coalition (NCTC) works to create a more accessible and equitable tax system for American workers. Our network of organizations provides critical, on-the-ground financial services for working families. NCTC represents the 4,500 community Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites nationwide that collectively prepare an estimated 3 million tax returns for low- and moderate-income workers. Community tax preparers offer a high-quality choice – one that’s free, accessible, and equipped to help families claim their full refund and all the credits to which they are entitled. We actively seek to broaden the reach and impact of community tax preparers and are a leading voice in Washington, DC for low-wage workers and against unfair financial practices. We believe that together, we can strengthen economies, build communities and improve life for all American families. Additional information can be found at www.tax-coalition.org.
About the Citi Foundation
The Citi Foundation is committed to the economic empowerment and financial inclusion of low- to moderate-income individuals and families in the communities where we work so that they can improve their standard of living. Globally, the Citi Foundation targets its strategic giving to priority focus areas: Microfinance, Enterprise Development, College Success, and Financial Capability and AssetBuilding. In the United States, the Citi Foundation also supports Neighborhood Revitalization programs. The Citi Foundation works with its partners in Microfinance, Enterprise Development, and Neighborhood Revitalization to support environmental programs and innovations. Additional information can be found at www.citifoundation.com.
About Citi Community Development
Citi Community Development (CCD) is leading Citi’s commitment to achieve economic empowerment and growth for underserved individuals, families and communities by expanding access to financial products and services, and building sustainable business solutions and innovative partnerships. Our focus areas include: commercial and philanthropic funding; innovative financial products and services; and collaborations with institutions that expand access to financial products and services for low-income and underserved communities. For more information, visit www.citicommunitydevelopment.com.