Three students from Northwest-Shoals Community College last week traveled to Washington, D.C., to share their stories and discuss the importance of college access and affordability with members of Alabama’s Congressional delegation.

From left: Layne Boyd, Fabien Valles, and Pedro Lucas on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building

Layne Boyd and Pedro Lucas, both of Russellville, and Fabien Valles of Rogersville joined Alabama Possible, a statewide nonprofit that removes barriers to prosperity, and the National College Access Network (NCAN) on Capitol Hill to discuss how Congress can improve postsecondary access and completion and create equal opportunities for all students, including low-income and first-generation college-going students.

“Most jobs in Alabama now require technical or academic education after high school,” said Kristina Scott, Alabama Possible executive director. “However, too many people miss out on postsecondary education because they don’t know how to pay for it. By working directly with students, we learn about the barriers they have in completing the financial aid paperwork. Then we work with those same students to advocate for generational change.”

More than 150 National College Access Network members gathered in Washington to meet with lawmakers to discuss postsecondary education policy priorities, including increasing need-based financial aid by restoring the purchasing power of the Pell Grant and expanding college work-study programs. NCAN members also addressed the need for a simplified financial aid process and closing achievement gaps through improved data.

Boyd, who will receive her associate’s degree from Northwest-Shoals Community College this May, says simplifying the FAFSA will make college more accessible to students in Alabama.

“Where I’m from in Russellville, many high school students don’t think they can go to college because they can’t afford it,” Boyd said. “If financial aid was easier to access and the forms were easier to complete, more low-income students would enroll in college and end up with better, higher-paying jobs after they graduate.”

Boyd, Lucas, and Valles are members of the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society at Northwest-Shoals Community College, which partners with Cash for College Alabama to help students at Phil Campbell High School and Cherokee High School complete their financial aid forms. Both schools recently won Cash for College Alabama’s Best Hustle Award, which recognizes schools for excellence in early financial aid form completion.

Cash for College Alabama is a partnership of Alabama Possible, the Alabama State Department of Education, Bold Goals Coalition of Central Alabama, and the Alabama Media Group.