A one-day effort on March 10 to help high school students and their parents apply for federal financial aid and loans to attend college fits perfectly with the education-related goals of the Northwest Arkansas Council.
Called College Goal Sunday, trained financial aid counselors will be available at 30 locations statewide from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 10. In Northwest Arkansas, counselors will be at Silas Hunt Hall on the University of Arkansas campus in Fayetteville, at the Springdale High School computer laboratory and at Rogers High School. The counselors are prepared to assist students from throughout the region.
The work of College Goal Sunday to help families seek federal financial assistance is a step in the right direction as it works toward meeting a regional goal of increasing the number of people in Northwest Arkansas who have college degrees, said Kim Davis, education and workforce director for the Northwest Arkansas Council.
“We know one of the challenges families face is being able to afford college, but we hope even those families who are fully prepared to pay for college take advantage of this opportunity,” Davis said. “Part of helping more students complete college is getting more students to attend. College Goal Sunday helps more students attend, making it possible for more students to finish.”
Kattie Wing, the state coordinator for Arkansas College Goal Sunday, said about 270 Northwest Arkansas students and their parents participated in last year’s program. More information about the Arkansas effort is available at www.arcollegegoalsunday.org
College Goal Sunday, a partnership between the U.S. Department of Education, the Arkansas Department of Higher Education and several local and national organizations, was first held in Northwest Arkansas in 2007. It’s the culmination of Say Go College Week and an opportunity for free assistance in submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA requires the most recent tax information, so families are encouraged to bring copies of their W-2 forms.
The objectives of College Goal Sunday, which includes making college more accessible, are aligned with the regional goals identified in the Greater Northwest Arkansas Development Strategy. That strategy, made public by the Northwest Arkansas Council in 2011 after input from thousands of residents in Benton and Washington counties, identified ways to improve infrastructure, economic opportunity, community vitality and schools.
The education-related goals in the strategy are centered on improving educational attainment. The Council is working with partners to increase the number of Northwest Arkansas residents who have high school diplomas, college degrees, and technical certifications. The Council and its partners created Graduate NWA, a program to help people with some college credit finish degrees; Reach Out NWA, a program to encourage high school students who didn’t return to their high school in the fall to obtain diplomas; and Razor C.O.A.C.H., a program that puts career coaches in high schools to work with at-risk students to determine their best path upon graduation.
“We’re excited to be working with the Northwest Arkansas Council on our mutual goal of helping young people obtain more education so they can be more successful in life,” Wing said. “The combination of College Goal Sunday, Graduate NWA, Reach Out NWA and Razor C.O.A.C.H. is the perfect recipe for making Northwest Arkansas better tomorrow than it is today.”