LAS VEGAS -- All eyes were on the state of education Wednesday as Education Secretary Arne Duncan visited the Las Vegas valley.
Duncan talked to 6,000 financial aid professionals in Las Vegas for the 2013 Federal Student Aid Training conference. He focused on the efforts being made to make college more affordable.
"We've had a $40 billion dollar increase in Pell grants without having to go back to taxpayers for a nickel. That is a huge step in the right direction," Duncan said.
He also said that education leaders are creating a college ratings system to show what universities are doing to keep costs down and make sure students graduate.
"The goal is not to attend. The goal is not to enroll. The goal is to get that diploma at the back end. So, we have a lot of hard work ahead of us," Duncan said. "We'll be traveling the country over the next year getting ideas from educators, professors, presidents, from students themselves, and come out about a year from now with a college rating system that will make sure the federal dollars are being used wisely."
Some schools, including UNLV, have a system of checks and balances to constantly re-evaluate their own programs.
But, whatever college students end up choosing, paying for it is the tricky part. UNLV's Financial Aid Director Norm Bedford says applying early for a grant to pay for school is the key.
"The most important thing is we always encourage our students to apply early," Bedford says.
The upcoming FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid becomes available January 1 and funds are limited, Bedford said.
"Now, if a student applies after February 1, they can still be eligible for other forms of financial aid but that eligibility pool becomes less and less and less as time goes on," he said.
Besides lots of scholarships and loans, UNLV has $7 million in grants for students, but it is on a first-come, first-serve basis.