Growing Inland Achievement (GIA) has received a grant of $234,840 to support financial aid awareness and completion efforts in the Inland Empire. Administered by Educational Credit Management Corporation, this funding is part of the U.S. Department of Education’s FAFSA Student Support Strategy, which includes $50M in funding distributed nationwide to address delays and challenges associated with the new 2024-25 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and California Dream Act Application (CADAA) forms.

The U.S. Department of Education’s FAFSA Student Support Strategy aims to increase the number of students completing the 2024-25 FAFSA and CADAA applications, particularly first-time college students and students from underserved communities. Since the FAFSA form became available on December 30, 2023, more than 8.95 million have been successfully submitted. However, the new application’s changes in eligibility criteria, terminology, and submission timeline have created significant barriers for many students and their families, resulting in much lower submission numbers than in previous years.

Like many other metro areas in the U.S., recent data shows financial aid application submissions in the Inland Empire have dropped considerably compared to previous years.

“As of the end of May, we have 13.2% fewer applications submitted by students in the Inland Empire compared to the same time last year,” said Dr. Sorrel Stielstra, Director of Research at GIA. “While the numbers have been improving in recent weeks, this funding is critical to help continue to close the completion gap and get financial aid dollars into the hands of as many students as possible.”

Supporting Students and Families in the Inland Empire

GIA has a proven track record in supporting financial aid completion. As the Cash4College (C4C) Regional Coordinating Organization for the Inland Empire, GIA supports hundreds of financial aid workshops annually for students and families, hosts office hours for live support, and promotes financial aid awareness through communication campaigns.

GIA staff distributing a scholarship check to a local student during a Cash for College event.

“This funding will enable GIA to accelerate critical financial aid support to students and families in the Inland Empire over the next three months,” said Julissa Loza Mendez, Assistant Director of Network Engagement and Cash for College Regional Coordinator at GIA. “We will continue to reach as many students and families in the Inland Empire as possible.”

Support provided by GIA will include extended live office hours for assistance with financial aid applications, submission clinics in partnership with local schools, districts, and community organizations, and enhanced communication outreach to parents and students through multiple channels.

GIA staff and community partners after a financial aid workshop with students at Montclair High School.

“Growing Inland Achievement is committed to ensuring that every student in the Inland Empire has the resources and support they need to access higher education,” said Ashish Vaidya, President and CEO of GIA. “This award will enable us to expand our efforts and reach even more students and families, helping to close the financial aid gap and promote educational equity in our region.”

For more information about GIA’s initiatives and the impact of this award, please contact Jake Poore, Director of Communication, at [email protected].


About Growing Inland Achievement (GIA)

Growing Inland Achievement (GIA) is a regional K-16 collaborative dedicated to achieving educational and economic equity in the Inland Empire. GIA facilitates partnerships with schools, colleges, universities, and community organizations to improve educational outcomes and support students and families. For more information, visit


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