The Sallie Mae Fund kicked off its Florida “Paying for College” bus tour this week as part of The Sallie Mae Fund’s new $1 million financial aid awareness campaign aimed at closing the financial-aid information gap that hinders many low-income and minority Floridians from pursuing a college education.
A Mason Dixon poll commissioned by The Sallie Mae Fund found that 95 percent of Hispanics and 80 percent of African-Americans in Florida not currently enrolled in college said they would have been more likely to attend college if they had better information about how to pay for it. And 60 percent of respondents said they would have been better students in high school if they had known that financial aid was available.
The state campaign will consist of radio, print and television programs, college outreach programs and distribution of education materials, among other efforts.
“The new poll results show why we need a united effort to get more minority students to go to college,” says State Senator Al Lawson. “I want to thank The Sallie Mae Fund for its $1 million commitment… I believe this smart investment in our future will return great dividends to our state.”
“Encouraging higher student achievement and increasing readiness for college are high priorities for Florida,” says Dr. David Mosrie, CEO of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. “If students don’t think attending college is possible because of lack of knowledge about aid options, they lose a strong incentive to succeed academically.”
Five hundred Hispanic and 500 African-American youths ages 18-24 were randomly selected and interviewed by telephone for the survey.
Other key findings of the survey include:
• An overwhelming majority — more than 80 percent — of Hispanic and African-American youths surveyed said that a college education is important to an individual’s “future opportunities, financial security and happiness.”
• A substantial majority from each group said they would make their child’s education a top priority.
• Cost was by far the most frequently mentioned obstacle to attending college, cited by half the respondents.
• On average, four in 10 “potentials” said they were unfamiliar with the types of financial aid available. That percentage is more than twice that of college “achievers.”
• On average, about a third of all respondents said they did not receive any financial aid information during middle or high school. College achievers reported faring better than their potential counterparts: Just 26 percent of all achievers report not receiving information, compared to 42 percent of potentials.
• The vast majority of all respondents said they would have preferred to receive information about financial aid in their sophomore year or earlier.
• A substantial majority of all respondents said they wished someone had taken the time to better explain their options and opportunities for financial aid.
“The lack of knowledge about financial resources continues to be an unnecessary barrier to a college education for too many Americans,” says Kathleen deLaski, president of The Sallie Mae Fund.
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