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College Access in Iowa: 24 Years and Counting

The Iowa College Access Network (ICAN) has served the educational community and the students of Iowa since 1998. ICAN’s mission is to empower Iowans to achieve their educational and career goals through statewide comprehensive outreach, initiatives and partnerships with schools, groups and businesses. ICAN helps more than 260,000 students, parents and education professionals prepare for college each year.

In 1998 ISL Education Lending, then called Iowa Student Loan, a private, 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation founded the College Planning Center (today ICAN), as a community outreach division. The College Planning Center division sought to educate high school students and their parents about the college-going process, specifically surrounding the financial aid process.

Planning services and programs were offered to Iowa high schools and communities without charge, allowing school counselors to bring trained college access professionals into their schools and communities to provide tailored advice to students and parents.

Growth and Expansion
In 2005 the College Planning Center began building partnerships outside the state of Iowa, becoming a member of the National College Access Network (NCAN) and learning about college access outreach from across the country and bringing best practices back to Iowa communities.

In 2007 the College Planning Center became the Iowa College Access Network (ICAN), and began focusing on services for both students and the professionals that helped them. A college access professional’s newsletter was created, along with a section of the ICAN website dedicated specifically to professional development and resources for counselors and other professionals working in college access.

Becoming a 501(c)(3)
In 2008 discussion began at ISL Education Lending surrounding the possible separation of ICAN and the formation of an independent nonprofit. The realm of student loans was changing and the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) program was set to end. In addition to changes in the student loan industry, the separation of ICAN from ISL Education Lending was also encouraged as a way to increase grant and community support for the college planning programs ICAN was offering in all of Iowa’s communities. ICAN was learning from other college access networks throughout the country and each showed a model for success involving diversified funding sources and multiple, non-biased partnerships. Becoming a separate entity would encourage new partnerships and relationships, enabling ISL Education Lending to take a step back from ICAN as they faced a changing loan market.

The ISL Education Lending board voted for a formal separation in 2008 and the process of developing a new board of directors began. In 2009 ICAN attained its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status from the Internal Revenue Service and began working towards complete independence from ISL Education Lending.

ICAN is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. ISL Education Lending remains the largest supporter of ICAN’s mission through both financial and in-kind donations. ISL Education Lending and ICAN have agreed to a gradual reduction of support as ICAN continues to establish itself as an independent organization and forms new relationships throughout the state and the country . In addition to the ISL Education Lending contribution, ICAN seeks funding through donations, grants and sponsorships from individuals, businesses, schools and organizations.

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