This is the transcript for Season 2, Episode 5 (November 8th, 2018) of the “Title IV + More Podcast for Utah Counselors and Educators” from Katie Wornek, Jacob Newman, and Bryan Lee at StepUp to Higher Education Utah.

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Please be advised that the FAFSA and federal student aid are subject to change. While we ensure all the information we share in each episode is accurate at the time of the episode’s release, our statements are not insulated from future changes. If you have questions, we encourage you to call us at 801-869-5701 or email us at

Bryan: Welcome and thank you for listening to StepUp Utah’s Title IV + More Podcast for counselors and educators. This podcast is brought to you by StepUp to Higher Education Utah – helping Utah’s students and parents prepare and pay for college. Find more about us at

Jacob: Welcome, listeners to Title IV + More, the StepUp Utah Counselor and Educator Podcast. I’m Jacob Newman and I’m a Paying for College Expert with StepUp Utah.

Katie: And I am Katie Wornek, also a Paying for College Expert with StepUp. I am going to start out our episode this week with an exciting news headline for you. The title here of this headline is “UVU Announces an Additional 3 Million Dollars in Funding, for a new 15 million First Generation Initiative”, and this is coming straight out of Utah Valley Universities’ newsletter, or newspaper. So this program is called “I am First” and it offers mentoring, events, and other support for first generation students. Their ultimate goal is more recruitment, retention, and graduation for first generation students at UVU. One of the cool things about this program is that students don’t have to seek out this help. The first-generation students are identified coming in, for entry to UVU are automatically included in the program upon enrollment. So, president Astrid Tuminez announced that donors have committed 3 million dollars and ultimately UVU plans to secure full funding, that’s 15 million, in the next 3-5 years. And, as of 2017, 38% of UVU students who were first generation and their student body population at large is the biggest campus in Utah with 40,000 students. So, this is a significant number of students who are going to be helped out by this new program! So that’s it for news headlines this week, as far as events we wont overload you with too much information but what we do want to mention is that we have FAFSA Nights galore in November! There are over 70 events at separate high schools taking place in the month of November, so many of those might be you who are listening, but if you do have students who cant make it to your event or want to go to a FAFSA Completion event in their community you can visit to see all the dates, the times, the details, and locations for our complete calendar of FAFSA Nights this year!

Jacob: Awesome, also keep in mind that we are in the midst of Utah College Application Week, so you might see some StepUp representatives as well helping students fill out college applications during the school day. I know that I am going to be attending a few of those events to also help promote financial aid awareness, so talking about FAFSA Completion a little bit, so be on the look out for some of us at some of those events its going to be a real busy time for us.

Katie: Yes, it’s that exciting time of year right before the holidays! And with that we are going to turn it over to our guest interview for the week!

Jacob: So, this week we have Lais Martinez joining us, she works as the College Access Coordinator for the Utah System of Higher Education and she’s here to talk to us about the College Access Network of Utah!

Lais: Hi, thanks for having me!

Jacob: All right, so I am going to dig into some questions, so we can talk a little bit about the College Access Network of Utah or “CANU”. So, to start us off, can you tell us, what is CANU and what is its mission?

Lais: So, at the core of CANU it’s the idea of bridging public ed and higher ed to support programs and services that encourage the access and attainment of our underrepresented and under served populations specifically.

Jacob: Awesome, so what are some of the past accomplishments of CANU

Lais: So CANU has been around since 2011 and since the forming of CANU we’ve had things like “Expect the Great” come out of CANU which is the premier African American/Black conference that is state wide access conference it’s a wonderful college and career readiness conference that goes on in our state that came out of CANU. And then some other things my predecessor Maria Martinez created a campus training for undocumented students as an advocacy and awareness training for educators and counselors across the state. So, there’s just been a lot of great things that have come out of CANU out of that partnership between public ed and higher ed.

Jacob: That’s great to see some of the resources available for some of these students who are underserved kinda bridging the gap for them because we know that they can have some systemic barriers in higher education in particular. So kinda looking forward to the future, what do you see CANU doing moving forward?

Lais: So currently the way that we have structured CANU this year is we have 4 working groups and we focus on target populations. So, 4 being undocumented, first year and first gen experience, adult learner and LGBQ. So, all of those really focus on being asset based. So, looking at these populations not through a deficient lens, but really looking at what are the strengths within these populations and these communities and how can we as a system look internally and see what things we can be changing institutionally to better serve these populations. And then a lot of it boils down to advocacy and training for our educators across the state P-20 we would like to really focus on that. And collaboration making sure are working with community partners and engaging with the community, listening to their feedback their needs what it is they feel would best help students access higher ed.

Jacob: Awesome! So how can counselors and educators get involved in CANU?

Lais: Its really easy! Just contact me at we have fairly large CANU groups but were always willing to take in more especially on the K-12 side! We love working with our counselors and educators on the K-12 side. They are the ones on the ground doing the work and so, from a USHE point we are here to serve them. As many who want to get involved please reach out to me and we can put you on a working group.

Jacob: Yeah, there’s also probably some opportunities for professional development as well I know that you have the conference in the Spring, right? What is it the Retention and…

Lais: Yeah! So, every year we host a fall kickoff for CANU and that where all of our CANU groups come together and collaborate because we know that a lot of these populations their identities are very intersectional and so as much collaboration as we can, we like to be able to facilitate that. So that’s a great professional development opportunity and that’s really where we brainstorm our strategic plans for the coming year. As far as accountability, we report back annually at the Access and Completion retreat in Spring.

Jacob: Which is hard to believe that is going to be just around the corner. It’s a really great retreat though really great opportunity to network with K-12 partners, college access groups, its really awesome. Anything else you want to add about CANU or any other final thoughts?

Lais: I really believe that the work of serving underserved and underrepresented students has to be collaborative and CANU fits the bill so that’s why I am so passionate about it and I’ve decided to support it!

Jacob: Awesome! Thank you so much for joining us today.

Lais: Thank you so much for having me.

Jacob: Alright I am going to move into our FAFSA Tips Section. This is a series that we have been doing about best practices around the country because sometimes its good to hear what other people are doing and kind of, hear some of their best practices so you can put them into practice at your school. We are going to talk about incentivizing FAFSA Completion and particularly attendance at some FAFSA Completion Events where they can get expert help with completing the FAFSA, because we know that a lot of times it can be an intimidating form. So, it’s good to incentivize students so they can attend an event and complete their FAFSA Accurately and quickly. So, students are more likely to attend though if they are given a little incentive to go so here are some ideas from around the United States. So, in Mississippi in order to encourage students to complete their FAFSA and attend FAFSA Completion events, they would offer small gift cards to local restaurants. This is a great way for local restaurants to provide some free advertising, but its also just a little something students can say like “Oh I completed my FAFSA and I get a small little gift card to treat myself after I completed it”. In Arizona, they made culturally relevant events called “FAFSA Fiestas”. So, they would have food and lots of great entertainment, they would have childcare…But another thing they would do is they would have door prizes for students who would attend this event and an opportunity to attend college application raffles. So, if students did a college application related task like a college application, they complete their FAFSA, they do some of those other tasks in order to be prepared to enroll in college, they would get a raffle ticket. And at the end of the week or the end of the event they would draw a winner and they would get a prize! Kinda a great opportunity. Arizona worked with local, this was in Phoenix actually, they worked with local businesses to provide some of those door prizes, it’s a good advertising opportunity, so if you know of local companies that would be willing to donate these prizes it’s a really great opportunity. Other locations throughout the country use a lot of incentives to encourage students to attend FAFSA Completion Events, some of them are less expensive if you are looking at things from a budget perspective because we know that you could be a little crunched for money sometimes so some suggestions are; king size candy bars, free parking passes if you charge for parking at your school, free prom tickets, extra credit for FAFSA completion, district wide competitions for other prizes for the senior class…Some schools they’ll use their class change fees. What they’ll do is they’ll kinda pool some of that money and then they will have a scholarship drawing at the end of the year for students who have completed their FAFSA. Think of what works best for your students and what you think would motivate them to attend an event or to complete the FAFSA. You know your population best and sometimes just a candy bar can make the difference. That’s something that students would be willing to do a lot for you would be surprised. So those are some of the tips that we have for you in terms of incentivizing, but again think outside the box think of what works with your population.

Katie: I would just like to reemphasize, I know you mentioned it Jacob but, we know that your budgets and your resources and bandwidth are limited. I’ve been to a couple of events where if food was involved or prizes, for some of these events that you’ve referenced across the country, donations is what they relied on. I went to one event specifically, where they provided doughnuts and it was because a mom of one of the Seniors there worked at a doughnut shop. Maybe reach out to the parents at your school and see what they can do or what connections they have in the community.

Jacob: Thanks for joining us!

Bryan: StepUp to Higher Education is an outreach initiative of the state of Utah that empowers 8th-12th grade students and their families to prepare for college. We believe every Utah student should pursue education after high school, whether that be a 1-year certificate, a 2-year degree, a 4-year degree, or beyond that. We provide programs and resources to encourage college prep and success, as well as training and materials for school counselors like you. Thanks for listening to this episode of the Title IV + More podcast for counselors and educators. You can find more about us, order access and outreach materials, or request a StepUp Utah event at your school at And last but not least, be sure to follow us on social media. You can find us at, also on Instagram and Twitter by searching for “@StepUpUtah”. You can also follow our Outreach Officers on social media as well. Just search for “@StepUpKatie” and “@StepUpJacob”.

Listen to the “Title IV + More Podcast for Counselors and Educators” on iTunes

Listen to the “Title IV + More Podcast for Counselors and Educators” on SoundCloud

Listen to the “Title IV + More Podcast for Counselors and Educators” on Google Play

Please be advised that the FAFSA and federal student aid are subject to change. While we ensure all the information we share in each episode is accurate at the time of the episode’s release, our statements are not insulated from future changes. If you have questions, we encourage you to call us at 801-869-5701 or email us at