MPS College Access Centers help people apply for financial aid

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- College can be expensive, but it doesn't have to be a financially crippling experience.  Recently, President Barack Obama announced a new initiative to help more students get financial aid. That's great news for Milwaukee Public Schools. The district is already taking steps to help students get their hands on some of that money.

One way is through College Access Centers, like "Team Up" on 27th and Morgan.

“They basically told us 'you need to go to college. It’s not like you should, you need to go.' So that put an attitude in my head -- 'okay I do need to go to college for a better life,'” said Malcolm Hicks, a senior at Pulaski High School.

On average, about 50 students and community members go through the center on a weekly basis. There are tutoring opportunities, chances to get a better understanding of why college is so important, and help applying for financial aid.

“If we can increase the number of adults holding a bachelor’s degree by one percent that would have a $1 billion economic impact on the community,” said Rudy Ruiz, MPS director of College and Career Readiness.

MPS has been working with individual schools and counselors to help more students complete the free application for federal student aid, or FAFSA.

So far, they have been successful in seeing those numbers grow.

MPS FAFSA completion rates grew from 41% in 2012 to 44% in 2013 -- and the goal for this year is 54%. MPS officials say they have seen a direct correlation between the number of students who complete the FAFSA and those who continue their schooling.

“We're excited that by helping students over this hurdle, we are helping them get through the doors to college as well,” said Ruiz.

“Kids like us don`t know stuff like that, so I was getting the information and it really saved my life I would say,” said Hicks.

The college access centers are open to anyone -- not just MPS students -- and the services are free.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the College Access Centers via MPS' "Team Up" webpage.