By Mike DeNardo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Applying for federal college aid can be daunting, but Philadelphia school district officials are working to demystify the process.

Senior Nafisa Prosser plans on attending Morgan State University to pursue a career in health. And she says applying for financial aid is essential.

“It’s really important. I mean, I work at Popeye’s. It’s not like that’s going to be easy for me to pay for, $17,000 a year.”

Superintendent William Hite says that’s why the district is sponsoring FAFSA completion events like the one Nafisa attended at Philadelphia Military Academy.

Hite, Mitchell (with mic) address students at Philadelphia Military Academy (credit: Mike DeNardo)

Hite, Mitchell (with mic) address students at Philadelphia Military Academy
(credit: Mike DeNardo)

“We don’t want finances to be the reason that children are not exposed to those opportunities.”

He says 53 percent of Philly seniors complete the FAFSA, and the district is trying to increase that figure to to 58 percent. U.S. Undersecretary of Education Ted Mitchell says $150 billion in federal financial aid is available, and the change in administration shouldn’t affect that.

“We have always had bipartisan support for the Pell Grant program and for simplifying the FAFSA process. And we have every reason to expect that to continue.”