The Arizona Department of Education announced today that $2.1 million from ESSER II discretionary funding will be allocated to support student postsecondary access and attainment for programs managed by the enhanced organization of Achieve60AZ, College Success Arizona and Expect More Arizona.
“These investments will have a meaningful impact in supporting Arizona students as they prepare for and pursue a postsecondary education,” said Richard Daniel, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Achieve60AZ, College Success Arizona and Expect More Arizona. “With these funds we will be able to help students prepare for college, complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and provide training for school counselors and college access staff members. These efforts are especially important given the downward trend in FAFSA completion and college-going due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Recent data has shown that the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on FAFSA completion, dropping from 46% last year to 38% this year. Additionally, research from the National Student Clearinghouse shows an overall decline in enrollments nationally for both public community colleges and universities due to the pandemic.
Each of these investments will support students and college access professionals in order to increase access to a postsecondary education in the following ways:
$1.5 MILLION TO EXPAND ASK BENJI STATEWIDE TO INCREASE FAFSA COMPLETION
Ask Benji is an artificial intelligence-powered chatbot that assists students in completing the FAFSA. Benji delivers timely, personalized nudges, prompts and information via text messages to students across Arizona, including next steps for FAFSA completion, invitations to college readiness events by school, district or region, and general college-going information.
The funding will be used over the next two years to expand Ask Benji’s services statewide, enhance the chatbot to include new service features such as career interest and college application assistance, and provide support for community activities.
Ask Benji was launched in October 2019 as a partnership of Arizona State University, College Success Arizona, Achieve60AZ, the Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education, the Arizona College Access Network (AzCAN), Helios Education Foundation, Mesa Public Schools, Maricopa Community Colleges and Be a Leader Foundation.
$600,000 TO PLACE ADVISEAZ AMERICORPS MEMBERS ACROSS THE STATE TO HELP STUDENTS PREPARE FOR POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION
AdviseAZ is a program that places current college students and recent college graduates as part-time advisers in high schools throughout the state where they collaborate with school leadership to enhance college and career culture at the school.
The new funding will be used to support AdviseAZ AmeriCorps member placement in high schools around the state. The AdviseAZ members will support high school students with college access supports such as FAFSA completion, college and technical school applications, career and major exploration, among other activities.
AdviseAZ is a partnership with AzCAN, College Success Arizona, Governor’s Office of Youth Faith and Family, and Earn to Learn.
$20,000 FOR THE ARIZONA COLLEGE ACCESS NETWORK TO PROVIDE TRAINING FOR COLLEGE ACCESS PROFESSIONALS
AzCAN’s College Access Professional (CAP) Training will help school counselors and other college access professionals to develop an understanding of their role in developing a college-going mission for all students, particularly students in poverty or facing other barriers in postsecondary planning. All the courses are designed for anyone who provides direct service to students, no matter what their role may be.
The funds will continue the existing partnership with CAP Training and the Arizona Department of Education to offer the training for free to professionals across the state.
About Achieve60AZ, College Success Arizona & Expect More Arizona
As of Feb. 1, 2021, Achieve60AZ, College Success Arizona and Expect More Arizona have pooled their resources and teams to become one organization. The enhanced organization will be renamed and rebranded later this year. We are working to advance a cohesive education agenda to reach the goals outlined in the Arizona Education Progress Meter and support the success of all Arizona children and adults along the education continuum, from early learning through postsecondary attainment. Learn more.
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