DES MOINES — President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan met in Des Moines at North High School on Monday to bring attention to their calls for education access and affordability.
The stop was part of Obama’s plans for what he says would be affordable college. “I think that our colleges should be focusing on affordability and serving students,” he said.
Obama said he and his administration have made efforts to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as the FAFSA. The online form has been altered so that applicants can skip questions that are not relevant to them.
Part of an initiative Obama introduced Monday would allow students to apply for the FAFSA as early as Oct. 1, as opposed to Jan. 1. Student applicants will also be able to electronically receive tax information filed for an earlier year.
“All these steps … should help hundred of thousands more students pay for college,” Obama said.
The change would allow students to apply for funding without having to wait until tax season. Obama said students and families to better calculate the true cost of college if students know their aid eligibility sooner.
“No young person should be priced out of college,” Obama said.
The College Scorecard website is also part of the initiative. Students and families can search different schools’ graduation rates, debt and student loan payback rates on the website.
“Right now families don’t have all the information to choose the right school,” Obama said.
Many groups are involved in the initiative, including The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), Scholarship America, The National College Access Network and the College Application Campaign.
The president has called on Congress to simplify many aspects of the FAFSA application, including eliminating questions regarding savings, investments, net worth, untaxed income and exclusions from income that are not reported to the Internal Revenue Service.
“It’s got some good bipartisan support,” Obama said.
The simplifying of the application would eliminate 30 questions in total, helping shorten the time it takes to fill out the application.
AVOIDING PRESIDENTIAL ENDORSEMENTS
Obama was asked during the event which presidential candidate is the best on education issues but declined to give a preference.
“I can tell you who to vote against, and that is someone who decides that teachers don’t deserve the respect and high pay that they deserve,” Obama said.
The president also commented on immigration while answering questions from the audience. “This whole anti-immigrant sentiment that is out there is contrary to who we are,” he said.
Obama said those who come here illegally should have to pay a fine and take necessary steps to become right with the law.
“A legitimate debate can be had about an immigration system that is fair, that is orderly and that is lawful,” Obama said.
Obama said he didn’t understand harsh opinions about accepting new immigrants into the United States.
“Unless you are Native American, your family came from somewhere else,” Obama said.