February 09, 2011 02:56 PM
By Pam Flaherty, President and CEO, Citi Foundation, and Director, Corporate Citizenship, Citi
As the job market grows more competitive, those without a college education are being left even further behind. Eighty percent of today's fastest growing jobs require a college degree or certificate. Further, college graduates on average earn more than $1 million over their lifetime than high school graduates.
Finding ways to pay for a college education is one of the biggest stumbling blocks that students and their families face. But there is help available: The first step is for prospective students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the starting point for most financial assistance programs. In fact, a 2008 University of Chicago study found students who apply for financial aid using the FAFSA are 50 percent more likely to attend college than students who do not.
The Citi Foundation is helping with an investment of $1.5 million in Financial Aid U, a national effort designed to ensure that those students who qualify don't miss out on college financial aid. The program, now in its third year and led by the National Community Tax Coalition (NCTC), has extended its work with low-income families in ten major U.S. cities on tax preparation and financial education to cover college financial aid issues. It is strategy that makes great sense since so much of the information for the FAFSA must be drawn from income tax returns, and the program has proven results. Since its inception, Financial Aid U has assisted students in receiving $10.7 million in federal assistance and an additional $4.3 million in low-interest student loans in order to enable them to afford post-secondary education.
Citi employees are playing a role, too; Citi Community Development has organized more than 100 employees to volunteer their time and expertise to help students complete their FAFSAs at Financial Aid U program sites in their local communities this year. As February 6-11 marks Financial Aid Awareness Week, we join NCTC in their efforts to heighten awareness of this issue and achieve their goal of giving an estimated 3,600 students and families the help they need to achieve a college education and a brighter future.
This collaboration is part of a larger focus by the Citi Foundation on College Success. We support a range of programs that help make a college degree an obtainable goal since the credential has long meant the difference between moving up the economic ladder or being trapped in a cycle of poverty.
To learn more about Financial Aid Awareness Week, visit http://tax-coalition.org/.