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Colorado Free Application Day Is Back

Stephanie Daniel
Incoming students at the University of Northern Colorado meet with financial aid advisors during a 2018 summer orientation.

For the second year in row, Colorado students will not have to pay to start investing in their futures.

Colorado Free Application Day is Oct. 15. All 35 public colleges and university and several private higher education institutions in the state will allow students to apply for free.

Last year nearly 23,000 applications were submitted during Free Application Day. Half of the applicants were students of color and a third were first generation, according to the Department of Higher Education. Statewide, submissions were up 12% compared to the same timeframe in 2017.

Free Application Day wraps up Colorado Applies Month, a four-week statewide campaign that encourages high school seniors to apply to colleges and universities in the state and file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

"We know applying to college or technical school can feel daunting for students, especially those who are the first in their family to go on to higher education," said Gov. Jared Polis in a written statement. "By eliminating this cost barrier, we believe more Coloradans will seize the opportunity to reach higher and get the education and training they need to thrive in today's workforce."

The initiative was created to increase Colorado's stagnant postsecondary-going and FAFSA completion rates. Despite living in one of the most educated states in the country, just 56% of high school seniors receive a postsecondary education, according to the Department of Higher Education. Only 50% submit a FAFSA application, which the state says is a key indicator of success.

The University of Northern Colorado participated in Free Application Day last year and will participate again this year. In 2018, the university received about 3,500 submissions that day and overall applications went up 20%.

Sean Broghammer, interim assistant vice president of strategic enrollment, said application fees aren't a huge barrier for students -waivers and other options for kids from low-income families are available. But, he continued, what Free Application Day does is allow students apply to a broader range of schools.

"I think in the past maybe that would limit the number of schools a student would consider. So, I think it just opens up opportunities for students to explore additional colleges and universities they may not have considered previously," Broghammer said. "We feel that that helps benefit UNC in terms of introducing us to, to a greater population of students."

Students will have until 11:59 p.m. on Oct. 15 to submit their applications.

The “American Dream” was coined in 1931 and since then the phrase has inspired people to work hard and dream big. But is it achievable today? Graduating from college is challenging, jobs are changing, and health care and basic rights can be a luxury. I report on the barriers people face and overcome to succeed and create a better life for themselves and their families.
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