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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Financial aid made easier

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan participated in a conference-call interview with student journalists from around the country to discuss the Get Schooled program and how to make college more affordable.

The program is offering the “”Get Schooled College Affordability Challenge,”” a national competition that challenges students to come up with innovative ways to further simplify the financial aid process. The winner of that competition will receive a $10,000 prize and will have their idea developed by MTV and the College Board with up to $100,000 in funding.

Duncan cited recent increases in the Federal Pell Grant Program as evidence of the Obama administration’s commitment to affordability for higher education.

“”We did all this huge massive investment without going back to taxpayers for a nickel,”” Duncan said.

Duncan addressed Obama’s goal for the United States to once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by the year 2020, calling it the “”North Star”” of his administration’s education goals.

He also talked about simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid for this next year, saying the older form represented a barrier for financial aid access.

“”We think this will significantly remove one of the biggest barriers going on to college,”” Duncan said. “”We’re thrilled with the progress we’ve made but we need to go further. We fundamentally believe that education has to be the great equalizer in America.””

Jason Rzepka, the vice president for public affairs at MTV, who partnered with Get Schooled for the program, and Gaston Caperton, former governor of West Virginia and president of College Board, also participated in the call.

Caperton stressed the importance of earning a college degree.

“”A college degree today is more important than it’s ever been, especially in this global society,”” he said.

Caperton said that only 56 percent of students graduate from college after six years, and only 27 percent of community college students graduate during the same time frame.

“”One of the real problems that we see is so many students entering college and universities not prepared to succeed,”” Caperton said. “”What we don’t want to see at all are people wasting their time in high school, coming to college and not completing their education, that’s really a double loss, not only is it difficult to pay but then not to get the reward of a college education.””

Caperton stated his belief that some financial aid problems are caused by Americans living beyond their means, and that the economy as a whole is going through an adjustment and rebalancing period that is causing financial difficulties to state governments.

“”The difficulty we have today in this country is we have lived way beyond our means, people have under-saved … we’ve overspent, we have more cars and bigger houses than we can often afford and the government has not balanced its budget but has spent more money then it has,”” he said.

Caperton said that higher taxes that go toward educational spending should also be considered, saying it was something he did while governor.  

Rzepka said the partnership between MTV and the College Board was a logical one.  

I’m personally very lucky to get to do what I do,”” Rzepka said, “”and that’s to get to use MTV’s superpowers for good … to have an impact on the biggest challenges (students) face as a generation.””

He also said strategies for addressing higher education needs must continue to grow and evolve as the situations surrounding them do.

“”It’s no secret that young people today are facing significant educational barriers, barriers that prevent them from getting an education that prepares them for success in life, barriers that previous generations didn’t face,”” Rzepka said. “”And at the same time, the future of our country and the United States’ standing in the world has never been more dependent on the job that we do educating young Americans.””

The Get Schooled program was started in 2005 as a partnership between MTV’s parent company Viacom, the College Board and the Gates Foundation. The program focuses on simplifying the financial aid process to ensure wider student access.

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