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Leveraging Scholarships with AFI IDAs

The cost of college is increasing exponentially and many would-be students are being pushed out because—even with scholarships—they just can’t afford it. To lighten this burden, community organizations and postsecondary institutions are looking to increase the amount of money that students can contribute to their education by leveraging existing scholarship funds as their non-Federal funding source for an AFI Education IDA, effectively multiplying the amount of scholarship funds available to students. Let’s take a look at three creative AFI grantees that are using this approach: College Now Greater Cleveland, the Race for Education, University of Arizona, Arizona State University, and Northern Arizona University.

College Now Greater Cleveland of Cleveland, Ohio has been helping students pursue education opportunities for more than 40 years, including awarding $2.3 million in scholarships each year. College Now received their first AFI grant in 2009, allowing them to effectively quadruple the amount of scholarship funding per student for those who participate in College Now’s AFI program by saving their own earned income towards their education. So far, 54 students have used their AFI funds for education opportunities, including some that are not covered by many traditional forms of scholarships and aid, such as studying abroad and summer courses – the latter allowing students to complete their education earlier.

The Race for Education (RFE) of Lexington, Kentucky, was established in 2002 to provide scholarships and educational resources to students who grew up in or who are pursuing education for jobs in the equine industry. Currently utilizing their third AFI grant, RFE leverages their existing scholarship offerings with AFI funds, which means that students can receive up to eight times the amount they save. Specifically, students can save up to $500, and are matched with $4,000 of AFI and RFE funds, for a total of $4,500 towards a student’s education! RFE’s AFI program has already benefited over 140 students, in particular those who are in veterinarian programs, which typically have higher than average costs.

In the State of Arizona, three new AFI grants are being administered by the Live the Solution, a statewide nonprofit, for the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, and Northern Arizona University. Match funds come directly from the schools’ own scholarship funds and, together with AFI funds, add up to $4,000 to each students’ savings. These Universities tap into their statewide infrastructure and relationships with high schools to enroll students suited for AFI; the first cohort of students under these AFI grants will be starting their college education this fall. Of this cohort, 85% are minorities, and 57% are pursuing degrees in STEM fields.

If your organization is interested in developing their own AFI program to leverage scholarship funds, look to the following lessons learned by these AFI grantees. First, find ways to reach students who are ready to save and participate in AFI. All grantees who have developed this model noted that their most successful participants are those who had already demonstrated their commitment to their education and to saving. To that end: one grantee requires students to complete their financial education before opening their IDA, another offers the scholarships only when the student is in their junior year in college, and two make direct efforts to involve the parents of younger students.

Another lesson learned is that to encourage success, grantees should routinely monitor participants and send reminders when needed. All grantees noted the importance of good tracking systems, which are used to remind students when deposits are due or if they still need to complete a financial education requirement. These reminders are key to the strategies for two of the grantees, who even offer these reminders through text messages and other means in order to be more accommodating to the students that they are serving.

Each of these programs has leveraged AFI funds to offer scholarships that were between four and eight times the amount students saved, providing access to higher education to low-income students that they might not have had otherwise. Programs using this model are substantially lowering college loan debt for participants and providing financial education that will last a lifetime. If you have questions about this exciting program model, or are interested in more information, please contact the AFI Resource Center at 1-866-778-6037 or

August 1, 2013

Leveraging Scholarships with AFI IDAs

New Report Submission Process through GrantSolutions

New Tools for Success section on

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New Report Submission Process through GrantSolutions

EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY, AFI grantees are required to submit their Financial Reports (SF-425) and Performance Progress Reports (PPR) through GrantSolutions. This is a simple process in which you upload your report as a ‘Grant Note’ in GrantSolutions, following the instructions below.

First, if you have not done so already, each person in your organization who will need access to GrantSolutions must submit a Grantee User Account Request Form to in order to gain access to GrantSolutions. You can find the Grantee User Account request Form and instructions at the bottom of this webpage.

Instructions for submitting your SF-425 or PPR in GrantSolutions:

  1. Log In: Visit the GrantSolutions homepage at and log in using your username and password. Upon entry, you will see the My Grants List page.
  2. Access the Grant Notes function: On the My Grants List page, find the grant you are submitting the report for and click on the Grant Notes link located on the right side of the page. From the Grants Notes page you will be able to upload and submit your report.
  3. Create a new note: Click on the Add link at the bottom left of the page.
  4. Fill out the form: Provide the following information:
    1. Subject. In this form field, type “SF-425” or “PPR” followed by the report due date in this format “(m.d.yy).” For example: “SF-425 (3.31.12)” or “PPR (3.31.13)”.
    2. Note Type. Select Correspondence.
    3. Category Type. Select Financial Report for an SF-425, or Programmatic Report for a PPR.
    4. Notes. Type “See attached report.
    5. Description. Type in a name for your report.
  5. Attach your file (or files)*: Type a descriptive phrase for the file in the Description field. This can be the same as the name you provide in the Subject field above. Then, use the Browse link to locate your report on your computer and then press the Upload button. You will see a “successful” status note on the screen once the upload is completed.
    *Only attach one report per grant note. Do NOT combine your SF-425s and PPRs.
  6. Review and submit: Once you have verified the accuracy of the information you provided, press the Submit link to submit your report.

Instructions can also be found on for SF-425, and for PPR.

There have been no changes to the submission process for the annual AFI Data Report. The Data Report will still be submitted through the Grantee Gateway; instructions for submission will be sent to grantees in the fall.

New Tools for Success section on

The AFI Resource Center invites you to take a look at our new Tools for Success section of! This section is full of case studies, webinars, and guides that highlight successful strategies, examples, and best practices that can help you effectively manage and monitor your AFI program and improve results for your program participants.

These tools cover a full range of topics, including recruiting IDA participants who are ready to save, determining eligibility, crafting powerful messages, tracking program participants, and reassessing and revising program design. See for yourself the resources that can give your AFI program that boost towards more success!

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