That’s one question that first-generation college students and community leaders discussed last week during a series of conversations to jumpstart the new Cash for College campaign.
Cash for College is collaborative effort with Leadership Birmingham, Alabama Media Group, and Alabama Possible to overcome misperceptions about the availability of financial aid, boost completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and build a college-going culture. The Birmingham City Schools and Birmingham Education Foundation are also Cash for College partners.
The students asked a mix of fun and serious questions, and the pairs discovered shared experiences like eating ramen noodles, pulling all nighters, and finding themselves bewildered about all the fees and charges (like housing fees and campus activity fees) on tuition bills.
Some of the leaders willing to share their educational and career paths included Highlands Bar and Grill owner Frank Stitt; Alabama Power Vice President for Marketing Tony Smoke; Lakeshore Foundation President and CEO Jeff Underwood; and UAB Vice Provost for Student and Faculty Success Dr. Suzanne Austin.
Blueprints All-Star student Micah Green-Holloway and Blueprints mentor Ariel Smith got caught on camera. The students were from a variety of colleges around the state including Alabama Possible Higher Education Alliance members Jacksonville State University, Samford University, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham; and the University of South Alabama.
One of the best parts was watching the leaders and students exchange business cards and extending their networks.
FAFSA completion amongst Birmingham high school seniors is currently less than 40 percent. Research shows that nine out of 10 students who complete a FAFSA enroll in postsecondary education.
Be sure to look for the Cash For College interviews on al.com’s site.
Want to know about how you can support a college going culture? Check out this blog entry.