As part of its endeavor to provide cradle to grave federally funded education, the Obama administration had First Lady Michelle Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan get the word out that almost all students are eligible for federal aid for college.
The First Lady and Duncan appeared at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia, on Wednesday to kick off the new federal college aid campaign. Mrs. Obama told students that applying for federal student aid is easier than they think and well worth the effort because almost every student is eligible for some kind of aid.
“Don’t leave money on the table,” Mrs. Obama said. “Almost everyone is eligible for some form of financial aid, and all you have to do to access that aid is fill out this one little form. It’s so simple.”
“Through FAFSA [Free Application for Federal Student Aid], the Department of Education provides more than $150 billion every year in low-interest loans, in grants that you don’t have to pay back, and work study programs that can help cover your educational expenses,” she offered. “And I was a work study student all throughout college.”
The administration’s push for income redistribution was echoed in Mrs. Obama’s emphasis on the fact that taxpayer-funded federal aid grants do not need to be paid back, leaving college students free to move on with their lives without significant debt due to college expenses.
“With a good education, you can get a job that pays a decent salary or more. You can provide for your family, which is key,” she said. “And you can become whatever you dream of becoming, which is the kind of freedom that I want all of you to have.”
“And filling out the FAFSA form is one of the first and most important steps you can take in that journey, because… college can be expensive,” the First Lady added.
In a press release in September, Duncan’s office announced that the rate of student loan defaults was still on the rise.
“The growing number of students who have defaulted on their federal student loans is troubling,” Duncan said. “The Department will continue to work with institutions and borrowers to ensure that student debt is affordable.”
Mrs. Obama, however, emphasized that there are “thousands of dollars to help you and your family pay for college,” and that students could receive federal aid regardless of how well they perform in school or even if their families are not at poverty level.
“You don’t have to be the valedictorian. You don’t have to major in a certain subject,” the First Lady said. “You don’t even have to be at the very bottom of the income ladder to receive the money…”
During her talk, counselors helped parents and students complete their own FAFSA forms. Then, Mrs. Obama asked T.C. Williams students to encourage others to complete the form as well.
“And then I want you all out there to tell your classmates, tell your friends, tell your Valentine sweetheart if you have one, tell somebody about this form and what they can do and all the resources that are available to them,” she urged.
The Obama administration is also employing pop culture in its new effort to promote its federal college aid campaign. MTV, BET, Nickelodeon, and social media will all be participating in letting students and their parents know how easy it is to access taxpayer-funded college aid.
For the new federal college aid campaign, the Department of Education has partnered both with Viacom and with Google, the latter of which is allowing GetSchooled.com to use the Google Helpouts platform to provide individual help to families who need assistance with FAFSA.