NEWARK, NJ -- Mayor Ras Baraka was joined by city officials and education leaders on Thursday to announce the unveiling of the aggressive new Newark FAFSA Challenge, a campaign that hopes to raise the city’s federal student aid application form completion rate to 70 percent by June 2020. 

Only 60 percent of Newark’s graduating high school seniors completed the FAFS in 2019, according to United Way CEO Catherine Wilson, amounting to millions of dollars of unclaimed aid left on the table. The city and its partners plan to drive up that number through personalized assistance provided at nine designated drop-in hubs spread across schools and libraries in all wards. 

The hubs will be staffed with 50 trained volunteers who will provide hands-on guidance and information to students and families throughout the school year. The hubs are bolstered by free awareness workshops completion events. 

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Ninety percent of high school seniors who complete FAFSA immediately enroll in college, according to national data. Completion of the FAFSA is less likely for low-income students, an obstacle the Newark plans to overcome by making the process easier. 

Newark Public Schools Superintendent Roger Leon said free workshops and transportation will be provided to students who want to utilize the hubs, as well as bus tickets for them to travel back home. 

“For too long, Ivy Leagues, historically black colleges and private and state educational institutions have been deprived of Newark’s students walking on those campuses and attending those schools,” Leon said. “Newark stands poised and ready with the Newark City Learning Collaborative to make strides to eliminate the opportunity gap.” 

Ahead of Clarity 2020, the school district’s impending strategic plan, Leon added that building the city’s college-going culture will be extended by the opening of academies throughout Newark high schools that will create pathways to higher education. 

College fairs organized by the district and its partners will also be provided to expose students to their future options. 

“I believe in this city, I believe in our students and I’m excited to be part of this collaboration completing this all too important week,” Leon said. 

Students and families can see a list of designated hubs and a schedule of completion on NCLC2025.org.