Integrating FAFSA and VITA Partnerships in Michigan Communities

Sarah Anthony, Director of Finance & Strategic Partnership, MCAN

As the cost of college continues to increase, financial aid becomes ever more important. While many factors are involved in the decision to attend college, there is a strong correlation between completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and college enrollment. A completed FAFSA allows the U.S. Department of Education to determine a potential student’s eligibility for federal student aid – a key factor in families’ college decisions. Every year, the federal government awards about $150 billion in the form of grants, low-interest loans, and work-study funds to help millions of students pay for college.

Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) works to increase the college readiness, participation and completion rate in Michigan, particularly among low-income students, first-generation students, and students of color. Our goal is to increase the proportion of Michigan residents with college degrees and valuable credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025.  MCAN supports over 50 local alliances throughout the state called Local College Access Networks (LCANs) to assist students with postsecondary preparation and planning.

These networks have sparked schools and communities to dramatically increase FAFSA completion rates.
This year, MCAN has teamed up with the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan (CEDAM) to explore the integration of free tax-preparation services to assist low-income families with FAFSA completion. Representatives from MCAN and CEDAM are providing technical assistance to LCANs and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site coordinators in Detroit, Newaygo, Kalamazoo, Lansing and Muskegon. The goal of the pilot project is to help strengthen existing FAFSA-VITA collaborations, glean best practices from a diverse array of communities, and potentially expand these efforts statewide.

For more information regarding the Michigan College Access Network, visit