WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The Obama
administration enlisted the help of First Lady Michelle Obama in an
effort to ensure that low- and middle-income families get access to
federal aid to help them pay for college.
She urged students and their parents on Wednesday to take
advantage of a form known as the Free Application for Federal
Student Aid, or FAFSA. The form is used to determine eligibility for
the different types of financial aid, including grants, loans and
federal work-study programs.
"Unfortunately, too many students don't even bother to apply for
college because they don't think they'll ever be able to afford it,
and so they just walk away from the opportunity without getting any
advice or seeking any support," Obama told students at T.C. Williams
High School in Alexandria, Virginia.
Obama, who has often spoken of how she relied on student loans to
pay for her undergraduate education at Princeton University, said
she filled out the FAFSA form with the help of her mother, and
worked at a daycare center while in college through the work-study
She urged the students to work with their parents and teachers to
fill out the forms as early as possible.
The effort to boost applications for college financial aid is part
of a domestic policy agenda President Barack Obama unveiled in his
State of the Union address last month that focuses on boosting
upward mobility in the U.S. economy.
Last year, only half of the country's high school seniors filled out
the FAFSA form, according to the Department of Education. Many of
those who did not were from poor families.
Higher education experts have said the complexity of the financial
aid process discourages many eligible students and families from
"There is compelling evidence that getting help with that form and
filing the FAFSA can increase college attendance," said William
Doyle a professor of public policy and higher education at
Vanderbilt University who has written about FAFSA. "It's
particularly important to establish early the awareness of financial
Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who also attended the event, said
his department tried to streamline the application process by
cutting down the number of questions on the form and by using a tool
that retrieves financial information from applicants' tax returns.
Duncan said that he hoped some day to eliminate FAFSA forms and
instead switch to a system based on tax returns.
(Reporting by Elvina Nawaguna; editing by Caren Bohan and Dan