A U.S. Air Force veteran. A single mother. A future teacher. These are a few of the individuals who shared their stories of educational success with Secretary Arne Duncan on Wednesday at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA).
Secretary Duncan and Deputy Undersecretary Bob Shireman traveled to the school’s Annandale campus to highlight the financial assistance options available to college students and their families, particularly through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Also participating in the roundtable discussion were Barbara L. Saperstone, provost for the NOVA-Annandale campus, and John T. Dever, executive vice president for the college.
Nearly all the students at the roundtable would not have been able to enroll in higher education without federal grants, loans, and other financial assistance programs. Jason Odum, a student who recently served in the U.S. Air Force, noted that the Post-9/11 GI Bill has been instrumental in enabling him to earn his degree. For student and parent Ericka Riggs, it is an education tax credit that is helping her fund her education and worry less about her family finances.
Through the Recovery Act, more students and families struggling to pay for college will be able to find relief with the American Opportunity Tax Credit. This education tax credit makes the cost of tuition and fees at community colleges such as NOVA virtually free for many students. The credit covers up to $2,500 of college expenses and, for the first time, a portion of it is available to families who currently do not have income-tax liability.
While Leticia Zelaya, who is studying to become a teacher, pointed to the simplified FAFSA as the reason she can afford college, she also noted that many young people delay their education or deem college impossible because they are intimidated by the financial aid process. Secretary Duncan agreed that more work needs to be done to ensure that all students are aware of the financial assistance available to them. He encouraged students at the roundtable to share their experiences broadly with their peers.
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