NCLC Partners with the United Way and Newark Board of Education to Launch Virtual Newark FAFSA Challenge

NCLC Partners with the United Way and Newark Board of Education to Launch Virtual Newark FAFSA Challenge

(Newark, NJ) The fall semester marks the start of college application season for high school seniors. A major part of that process is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which qualifies students for grants, scholarships, and loans to pay for college. Beyond just a traditional four-year college degree, FAFSA also provides vital financial aid for students interested in pursuing a two-year associate degree or a career-oriented certification, licensing, or apprenticeship program. FAFSA is an integral part of a student’s post-secondary success, but can often be a complicated process, especially for first-generation prospective students.

The Newark City of Learning Collaborative (NCLC), an initiative housed at Rutgers University-Newark, is leading efforts to ensure that Newark high school seniors have the support they need to navigate FAFSA and the New Jersey Alternative Financial Aid Application, which is available for New Jersey Dreamers. Known as the Newark FAFSA Challenge, NCLC and partners including the Newark Board of Education, the United Way of Greater Newark, the Mayor’s Office, and other key stakeholders across the city, are providing opportunities for high school seniors to get one-on-one support as they work through their applications.

The inaugural year of the FAFSA Challenge was the 2019 – 2020 school year. Last year’s Challenge relied heavily on in-person completion assistance at high schools and community centers. More than 30 FAFSA completion events took place in fall 2019 and winter 2020, providing personalized assistance to over 130 students. These events had to take an abrupt pause in March with the onset of the global Coronavirus pandemic. For the fall semester, all FAFSA assistance will take place virtually using online platforms. Newark high school seniors can register for a one-on-one appointment with a trained volunteer. Services are offered in English, Spanish or Portuguese.

Most students served by the Newark FAFSA Challenge attend one of Newark’s 14 public high schools.

“As a resident of Newark, it is my goal to continue developing Newark’s college-going culture and increasing the number of Newark residents earning a college degree,” said Newark Board of Education Superintendent Roger León.  He added, “We are working expeditiously to build on the work begun last year in order to meet the FAFSA Challenge and help our students take advantage of the abundance of financial resources available to them.”

The FAFSA is usually tricky for students and families to navigate. The complications will be amplified for many this year as families deal with the economic toll of the pandemic. The 2019 tax documents that are required for filing the 2021-2022 FAFSA may not accurately reflect a family’s current financial situation. Job loss, medical bills, and other unforeseen expenses are an all too common hurdle that families must contend with.

The United Way of Greater Newark is a key partner in the Newark FAFSA Challenge, providing training to community volunteers so that they are prepared to assist students, even through difficult circumstances that may arise because of the pandemic.

“The FAFSA is typically a complicated document that few high school students know how to fill out; yet, the coronavirus pandemic has made completing it even more important as many families’ financial situations have changed drastically since March,” said Catherine Wilson, President & CEO of United Way of Greater Newark. “There are few resources available to support prospective college students in receiving much-needed federal financial aid, such as direct support to fill out the form with trained volunteers, and we are so thrilled to have partnered with the Newark City of Learning Collaborative to provide them with this support during this particularly challenging time.”

While 2019 tax documents are required, experts recommend submitting the FAFSA as soon as possible, to give students the opportunity to advocate for more aid if needed. Once a student submits the FAFSA online, they can immediately reach out to the financial aid office at the institutions they wish to attend to alert them of changes in their financial circumstances since 2019. Financial aid offices can then adjust a student’s information which may increase the amount of aid they qualify for.

Both the FAFSA and the NJ Alternative Application for the 2021-2022 school year were made available in October. High school seniors have until June to submit their applications.

To schedule a one-on-one FAFSA Completion Assistance Appointment, click here.

To sign up for the next volunteer training from 6:30 – 8:00pm on November 17, 2020, click here.

For more information about the Newark FAFSA Challenge, click here.


Newark City of Learning Collaborative Announces Robyn Brady Ince as Executive Director

Newark City of Learning Collaborative Announces Robyn Brady Ince as Executive Director

(Newark, NJ) The Newark City of Learning Collaborative (NCLC) welcomes Robyn Brady Ince as its executive director. She was selected to provide transformational leadership to this nationally prominent initiative that has marshalled more than 40 partners, spanning higher education institutions, for-profit corporations, and nonprofit organizations, including faith-based, government, and philanthropic agencies, with a shared focus on the importance of accessing a postsecondary education to pave Newark’s path to equitable growth and racial equity. Ince also will join the faculty of the Department of Urban Education in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University–Newark.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Robyn to lead the NCLC during this period of challenge and opportunity,” said NCLC Advisory Board Chair Jeremy Johnson. “She brings a breadth of experience, a history of collaboration, and a passion for strategic partnerships that will help shape NCLC’s bold future.”

Over the past four years, NCLC has emerged as a leading force in advocating for the success of every Newark student at the college level, under the leadership of former executive director Reginald Lewis, who helped spur a new conversation in the city about post-secondary outcomes for children. With the backbone support of Rutgers-Newark’s Joseph C. Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies under the leadership of Dr. Charles Payne, NCLC has worked with partners across the City and region to share information, create programmatic bridges to higher education, and assist high school students in their transition to college. Collaborating with local library branches in every ward of the city of Newark, NCLC’s Secrets to College Admissions series provides college knowledge and financial aid resources to Newark residents. The Newark FAFSA Challenge, mounted in collaboration with United Way, helps Newark high school seniors complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or the New Jersey Alternative Financial Aid Application for New Jersey Dreamers. Multiple citywide dual enrollment initiatives allow Newark high school students from district, charter, and parochial schools to gain exposure to the postsecondary learning experience by earning college credit, at no cost, while still pursuing their high school diplomas.

“We were looking for that champion who would help lead NCLC and its partners to the next level of building an educational ecosystem and a pipeline for social mobility. I’m confident that out of a highly competitive group of candidates, Robyn Brady Ince is that leader,” said Rutgers-Newark Vice Chancellor for External and Governmental Relations Marcia Brown. “Moreover, her extensive experience will be a tremendous benefit to Rutgers-Newark students and the Department of Urban Education.” In particular, Brown believes that Ince’s background in designing and executing programming that expands access and opportunity in grades K-12 and higher education settings will be instrumental in bolstering and elevating NCLC’s existing initiatives as well as formulating new ones.

“On behalf of Mayor Ras J. Baraka and the City of Newark, I welcome Robyn Brady Ince to the family of education advocates in our city. We embrace the opportunity to continue to fulfill the vision and mission of NCLC under Robyn’s leadership. She brings a wealth of experience and enthusiasm to our charge of increasing postsecondary degree completion in the city of Newark,” said Antoinette Richardson, chief education officer for Mayor Baraka’s Office of Comprehensive Community Education.

Ince comes to the NCLC after 10 years with the Education and Youth Development Division of the National Urban League in New York where she advanced from senior director to vice president of education policy, advocacy, and engagement. In her most recent role at the National Urban League, Ince led the Equity and Excellence Project, a nearly $10 million national initiative that supports local, state, and national advocacy, engagement, and education reform efforts throughout Urban League affiliates in collaboration with local, state, and national partners.

She also led the National Urban League’s annual Youth Leadership Summit, a residential, five-day conference that engages 12-to-19-year-old students in a leadership development experience on a college campus. The Youth Leadership Summit, which celebrated its 30th-year anniversary last year, features a college fair and has garnered increased corporate funding from multiple partners. She also has taught at Hunter College of the City University of New York and held a progression of positions in admissions at Vassar College.

Ince earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Spelman College and master’s in education administration, planning and social policy from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. She has extensive experience in strategic program design, development, and implementation; youth leadership development; philanthropy; college access; higher education; and diversity recruiting that will further NCLC’s efforts in incubating college pathway programs, tracking student attainment, evaluating program effectiveness, and building stronger partnerships with Newark’s corporate partners and regional community colleges. Beyond her professional career, she offers strategic advice and counsel to local schools and serves as a board member for arts, youth and advocacy organizations.

In addition to Johnson, Brown, and Richardson, the NCLC Executive Director Search Committee included: Tom Alrutz, interim library director of the Newark Public Library; Dr. Sherri-Ann Butterfield, executive vice chancellor of Rutgers-Newark; Dr. Karen Caplan, associate professor and senior associate dean of the Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences-Newark; Dr. Marcheta Evans, president of Bloomfield College; Dr. Keith Kirkland, dean of student affairs at Essex County College; Dr. Charles Payne, executive director of the Joseph C. Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies at Rutgers-Newark; and Vernon Pullins Jr., supervisor of high school counselors of Newark Public Schools.

NCLC partners and stakeholders that participated in the selection process by meeting with candidates included: Berkeley College; Bloomfield College; City of Newark; Essex County College; Montclair State University; La Casa de Don Pedro; NCLC advisory board members; Newark Community Development Network; Newark NAACP; New Jersey Institute of Technology; Newark Alliance; Newark Trust for Education; Newark Public Library; Newark Board of Education Superintendent’s Office; Prudential; and the Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Campus Center.

“I am excited by the opportunity to lead the NCLC,” said Ince. “Now more than ever it is imperative that our communities come together to advance change that will expand educational access and opportunity for both youth and adults. Establishing meaningful partnerships across multiple sectors and working closely with communities, parents and youth has continued to animate my work throughout my career. I look forward to continuing this in my new role.” said Ince.

For more information about NCLC, visit https:/