Over the past year I have had the opportunity to meet with students, parents, educators and community leaders across the country to discuss the importance of education. I have seen first-hand the remarkable impact leadership, engagement and a rigorous education can have, not only on a student but on an entire community. I have also seen the devastating impact associated with the lack of educational opportunity and access, in particular for families who strive to reach the middle class.
During a town hall discussion at a high school, I was reminded of just how critical access to information and awareness of the various financial aid resources that exist can be: in a room filled with 200 high school juniors and seniors, when asked how many had filled out the FAFSA™ form, only 3 hands went up. When asked how many were college bound, the same 3 hands went up. When asked why so many were not thinking of college, the question of affordability was at the forefront of their hesitation. While Latinos have made significant strides in high school completion and college enrollment, there remain challenging gaps that have resulted in only 15 percent of Latino adults graduating with a bachelor’s degree.