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Michigan’s plan to boost FAFSA: Free pizza for college aid applications

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist on stage
Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist told high school students Tuesday he wants them to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) because it will help them afford to attend college. Gilchrist and other leaders are promoting a state competition for free pizza in an effort to incentivize more people to fill out the form. (Screenshot)
  • The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial form for scholarships, grants and loans
  • Michigan leaders are trying to get more students to fill out the form by offering the potential for free pizza 
  • The FAFSA is required for students to receive up to $27,500 in state scholarship funds

Amid a turbulent college aid process stymied by the federal government’s repeated errors and delays, Michigan leaders are aiming to entice Michigan high school seniors to complete the federal form crucial for scholarships, grants and loans.

Lt. Gov. Governor Garlin Gilchrist and officials from the state Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement, and Potential on Tuesday announced the Reach for the Pie competition, which gives students a chance to earn free pizza for a year if they fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).


The federal form is used to determine if students qualify for grants and scholarships they do not have to pay back and loans they do have to pay back.  


But with the federal government’s botched rollout of a new form continuing to cause headaches, application rates are lower than last year. As of late March, 33% of Michigan high school seniors had submitted their applications, which ranked 29th nationally. 

Speaking Tuesday at Grand Ledge High School, officials told students about the importance of the form, including its direct link to the Michigan Achievement Scholarship, which is a key plank of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s push to boost college enrollment.

In addition to federal aid, FAFSA serves as an application for the state scholarship program, which provides up to $2,750 a year for community college, $4,000 a year for private college and $5,500 a year for public universities in Michigan for recent high school graduates. The scholarship is not based on a students’ grades but the information they submit in the FAFSA.

Gilchrist told Grand Ledge High School students to remember “15, free, free.” He said it only takes 15 minutes to fill out the FAFSA and that the form can lead to free money for college — and $750 in free pizza, which amounts to roughly one pie a week over the next year. 

“I want every one of you who decides that you want to continue your education to be able to actually afford it,” Gilchrist said. 

The federal government updated the FAFSA form for this year in an attempt to simplify the process. But rollout of the new form was delayed, inflation figures had to be corrected and some students were initially unable to fill out the form at all. 

The U.S. Department of Education delivered another blow last week, announcing that an estimated 30% of applications were affected by unexpected processing or data errors.

Still, state officials, school counselors and college financial aid experts say the stakes are too high for students and their families to give up. 

“This is a process that can be a little confusing,” Director of Mi Student Aid Diann Cosme said Tuesday. “Know that you have resources available to you. Mi Student Aid is here to support and answer any questions that you have. We are here for you and we want you to be successful.” 

How to submit your FAFSA

If you’re a student or future student, you can fill out the form at 

Experts recommend that you contact your high school counselor or a financial aid staffer at any Michigan college to help you. The federal government also has a chat function, phone line and webpages to help with your questions.

The state also has webinars on the FAFSA and current scholarship programs. If you’re weighing whether it’s worth filling out the form, Bridge has a list of schools that provide tuition-free guarantees based on financial information students provide in the FAFSA. 


How to enter the Michigan pizza competition 

Students who complete (or have already completed) the FAFSA can enter the competition by text message or mail. The pizza is from Hungry Howie’s. 

Texting: You can text “FAFSA” to 844-34-PIZZA. You’ll then receive a form they fill out by 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, June 30.

By mail: You can also choose to enter the competition by filling out a form and mailing it to “Reach for the Pie Sweepstakes”, c/o Güd Marketing, 1223 Turner Street, Suite 101, Lansing, MI 48906. The form must be received on or before Sunday, June 30. 

The state says 100 winners will be "randomly selected" for $750 gift cards and announced on or after Aug. 1. 

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