Frequently Asked Questions

If you have not already done so, please visit the FAFSA Challenge Grant page to thoroughly review all grant resources and requirements. Should you still have questions about the grant, following is a list of frequently asked questions that may be of assistance.


Q: What cities are eligible to apply for the grant?

A: NCAN determined the list of 118 eligible cities using the Census Bureau’s 2014 estimated population data. It includes the 100 largest cities by population size and the largest city in each state. To learn more, visit the eligible cities page. 


Q: How is "city" defined for purposes of this grant?

A: "City" is defined as the most populous incorporated places of the United States. As defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, an "incorporated place" includes a variety of designations, including city, town, village, borough, and municipality. NCAN recognizes a different ranking is evident when considering U.S. metropolitan area population.

Q: Who are eligible applicants?

A: In each city, NCAN has included the following entities in the list of eligible applicants:

  • NCAN member organizations
  • Lead organizations in Lumina Foundation’s Community Partnerships for Attainment initiative
  • Members of the StriveTogether Network
  • Former applicants to the National Talent Dividend Prize competition
  • Selected other organizations that are emerging to lead citywide college access and success initiatives
  • In some cases, public school districts and community foundations

To see the complete list of eligible cities and organizations, click here.


Q: Do all partner organizations have to be on the eligible organization list?

A: No. Only the lead applicant must be on the eligible organization list.


Q: Do all partner organizations have to be within the city limits?

A: No. You may use partners inside the school district but outside the city limits.


Q: Is it the responsibility of the eligible applicants in each city to contact each other before applying?

A: Yes. NCAN will accept grant proposals from one of the listed organizations in each city. Because NCAN will accept only one proposal per city, we encourage the listed organizations to work together to determine which among them is best positioned to serve as applicant.


Q: What if the city can’t decide on a lead applicant?

A: Collaboration and cross-sector partnerships are a key part of this grant. If we receive multiple completing applications from one city, we will do our best to understand the circumstances. However, know that the situation may reflect a lack of collaboration during the grant review process.

Q: How is “school district” defined if there is more than one school district in the eligible city?

A: Include at least the largest school district from within the city boundaries. If it make sense for your geographic area, you are welcome to add additional districts with significant low-income student populations from within the city. Please contact NCAN to discuss your situation.

Q: Which district(s) must our application include if the applicant organizations serve multiple districts?

A: At a minimum, the application must include the largest school district within the eligible city. Expanding beyond depends on each city’s circumstance and the number of low-income students to reach in the other school districts. Please contact NCAN to discuss your situation.

Q: What FAFSA completion data should be submitted with the application?

A: Applicants must submit FAFSA completion data for each public district high school located within the city’s school district, as reported by the U.S. Department of Education’s FAFSA Completion By High School tool, for January through June 2015. Learn more by reading the requirements about FAFSA Completion Data.

Q: How do I find the number of 12th graders the school district reported?

A: NCES will not post the data for 2014-15 until this summer. The application organization and partners need to ask the school district for the number of 12th graders that they reported in the survey, which was done in fall 2014. The school district reports those numbers to the state education agency. Some state education agencies post the 2014-15 numbers online.

Q: Does data have to be reported by each high school?

A: Yes. Using the provided excel data template, you will report FAFSA completion data by high school. Improvement rates will be calculated for the entire district.

Q: Can you clarify if the challenge is to increase FAFSA completion rates by 5 percent or 5 percentage points?

A: The challenge is to increase FAFSA Completion rates by 5 percent. Improvement rates will be calculated for the entire district.


Q: How will the additional monetary prize for greatest growth be measured?

A: Although the challenge calls on cities to increase their FAFSA completion rate by at least 5 percent, the prize awarded for the greatest increase in FAFSA completion for the Class of 2017 will be measured by growth in percentage points. Measuring FAFSA completion growth by percentage point increase, rather than percentage increase, will help ensure that the prize recognizes a city with strong FAFSA completion improvement as well as substantial number of students that complete FAFSA.

In September 2017, NCAN will also award three to five additional monetary prizes totaling $300,000 among the 20 grant-funded cities. Prizes will go to:

  • The city demonstrating the greatest percentage point growth in high school FAFSA completions for the Class of 2017, compared to 2015
  • The city demonstrating highest high school FAFSA completion rate for the Class of 2017
  • The city demonstrating the most innovative or collaborative FAFSA completion strategy and/or partnership with postsecondary institutions


Q: Where can I read about successful FAFSA completion initiatives in other cities?

A: We encourage you review the following links for information about efforts in Chicago, Detroit and Memphis, as well as a very comprehensive bibliography on FAFSA completion from the U.S. Department of Education, posted on the Florida College Access Network website.

Q: How do we submit the FAFSA Challenge Grant application?

A: Applicants will save Parts I, II, and III as one single PDF. Submit Part IV as an Excel file. Learn more by reviewing the Submission Instructions in the grant application.


Q: Are the letter of commitment and supporting materials included in the 8 page narrative requirement?

A: No. The narrative has an 8 page limit. The supporting materials have a 5 page limit. Only one letter of commitment is required.


Q: What is the application timeline?

A: The application timeline is as follows:

  • Call for Proposals Announced: March 7, 2016
  • Prospective Applicant Webinar: Wednesday, March 16, 2:00 p.m. Eastern (recording provided below)
  • Application Deadline: Friday, April 15, 2016 (11:59 PM Eastern)
  • Award Notification: May 13, 2016
  • Grant Funding Start Date: June 1, 2016
  • FAFSA Strategies Workshop: September 18, 2016, 1:30 to 5 PM (Detroit, MI) (attendance strongly encouraged)
  • Grant Funding End Date: No later than July 31, 2017
  • Grantee Final Report Deadline: July 31, 2017
  • Prize Announcement: September 2017


Q: Where can I find the recorded webinar?

A: You may view the recorded webinar here or from our recorded webinars page. The webinar presentation is also available to download. Note the webinar recording is 1 hour 10 minutes. You must download it from DropBox to view the full recording.

Review Recording | Review Slides (.ppt)


Q: Who is invited to the September 18 FAFSA Strategies Workshop?

A: The workshop is open to all interested parties on a first come, first serve basis. We will update all eligible organizations when registration is open.

Still have unanswered questions? Contact Lisa King, FAFSA Completion Challenge grant coordinator, at NCAN will continuously update this list of FAQs as questions are submitted.