By Emmarie Huetteman
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Michelle Obama told a group of high school students and parents on Wednesday not to let financial concerns stand in the way of a college education as she urged them to apply for federal student aid.
“Fill out those forms, fill them out!” the first lady exhorted. “Don’t leave money on the table.”
Mrs. Obama spoke at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va., a few miles outside Washington, as deadlines approach for college-bound students to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as FAFSA. She made her remarks at a school workshop held to help students with the online forms.
“For those of you who might be wondering why the first lady is here just to watch you fill out a computer form, it’s because completing this form is a critical start to completing your education,” Mrs. Obama said to a few dozen high school seniors and parents.
“Unfortunately, too many students don’t even bother to apply to college because they don’t think they’ll ever be able to afford it,” she added. “So they just walk away from the opportunity without getting any advice or seeking any support.”
The first lady spoke the day after President Obama announced a commitment of more than $750 million from private business leaders to improve technology in schools.
The first lady has been active in the administration’s initiative aimed at pushing the United States into first place in the world by 2020 in its percentage of college graduates.
The event in Alexandria was part of an effort by Get Schooled, a nonprofit group that works in partnership with Viacom and uses television, social media and celebrities to encourage students to graduate from high school and go to college.
Mrs. Obama said that Google would also be involved by helping connect students and parents with experts for one-on-one financial aid advice.
Mrs. Obama and the secretary of education, Arne Duncan, who also spoke, circled the room after their remarks, talking to students individually about the FAFSA and their college plans. The students sat behind laptops with the federal financial aid website on their screens.
The first lady praised the Department of Education for helping simplify the process of filing the aid application.
The Obama administration has shortened the online form and added a tool that transfers information from tax returns directly into it, among other changes, shortening the average completion time to about 21 minutes from more than an hour about four years ago, the department said.
Mrs. Obama, who attended Princeton and Harvard Law School, said she earned financial aid through a work-study program as a student, working in a day care center and an office, among other places.