Opening her remarks with a Gator chomp, Michelle Obama received a rousing welcome at a rally at the University of Florida Monday afternoon, speaking about the efforts her husband has make to keep tuition and college loans affordable.

"Our combined student loan bills were actually higher than our mortgage, so when it comes to student debt, believe me, Barack and I have been there," she told the understanding crowd.

She got a strong response from a packed house at the O'Connell Center when addressing the health care plan that allows women to make free decisions about what's happening with their own bodies.

"I love Michelle Obama. I love Barack Obama," UF student Chanae Forshee as she waited for the first lady to speak. "I'm very excited to be here and I wouldn't miss the opportunity. She's coming to UF, so it's great."

Before the rally, Mrs. Obama met with about 40 elementary school-aged girls at Girls Place Inc., which provides programs for economically disadvantaged girls. The first lady danced and sang the educational song "Tooty Ta" with one group of girls.

"You know I’m all about girl power,” she told the children.

Doors to the event at the O'Connell Center opened at noon Monday, and the crowd of 8,000 was still enthusiastic when the first lady took the stage at the O'Connell Center after 4 p.m.  The first lady will head to Tallahassee Monday night, where she'll made a 7 p.m. appearance at the Tallahassee Leon County Civic Center on a campaign swing devoted to helping her husband reach college-age students and Democrats need to vote in November.

Alachua and Leon counties are among the few areas of north Florida that are heavily Democratic and include tens of thousands of college students. Monday's appearances are seen as an effort to rally President Barack Obama's base.

"This is a swing state and a lot of people are going to go out and vote for him, and they’re targeting the right demographic, I think, to get them moving," said Breton Hamewood, a recent college graduate. "Students don’t really vote all the time, so it’s hit or miss. They don’t realize how important it is.

The president is expected to attend campaign events in Miami and Tampa later this week.