A Letter to America’s Teachers

This was crossposted from the U.S. Department of Education blog, Homeroom.

I never could predict what might happen in Mr. O’Neil’s art classes; I just knew I couldn’t wait for the next assignment.  Back then I didn’t realize all the ways this dynamic educator, a rare man of color leading our diverse classroom of second graders, was serving as a pioneer and role model for me and my peers in John Barry Elementary School.  But I’ll never forget how his teaching made me feel.  As a second grader, I remember looking up — watching him encourage, challenge and guide us – and thinking: “I want to be like him.”

In the years since embracing that calling and starting my career as a classroom teacher, I’ve kept that sense of purpose and wonder.  And my goal in all the administrative roles I’ve held is to facilitate great teaching and learning: to support and expand the transformative impact that skilled, caring classroom teachers have for students, schools, and communities.

Every day America’s teachers change lives, and every day those lives change the world.

Now, this truth can seem to recede as you rush to keep up with the day’s intense pace, and your students’ needs and opportunities. Yet, from the first bell on the first day of the school year, you build a relationship with each of them. You learn their strengths and struggles, laugh with them, cry with them, worry over them, cheer for them – and at the end of the school year, help them transition to their next grade level adventure. You know all those experiences – both the academic and life lessons – have changed both you and them for the better.  You empower them to grow in skill and character — expand their understanding of the world and how to shape it — explore their interests and decide where to make their mark.

Teaching is not a job anyone just falls into. It is mastery of a craft: in fact, the craft that enables all the others. In my experience, great teachers are also quintessential lifelong learners. You use your command of learning science, your insights into your students’ unique needs and aptitudes, as well as the lessons of the past, the realities of the present and the inspiration, innovation and ingenuity of the future to help each new generation become leaders for today and tomorrow. Throughout the year you support your fellow educators, add to your tools through professional development, provide feedback on assignments, sponsor sports, service learning, clubs and other extracurricular activities, collaborate with parents –in addition to everything you pour into your students during class.

Even in this unprecedented year, you rallied, finding new ways to engage with students. In the face of tragedy, you learned new technologies and built virtual classroom communities, all while caring for yourselves and your own families.  As we heal, recover, and rebuild, this pandemic presents a chance to forge opportunity from crisis and reimagine education on every level. We will use this time to address inequities in our education system, and your contributions will be invaluable.  The work won’t be easy, but the impact of your success will be profound, for students and communities. I urge state, local, and elected officials to make sure classroom teachers have a voice in your plans and efforts to reimagine education; second to parents, they know our students best.

I look forward to learning and listening from you in the days ahead.  And, from all of us at the Department of Education: Happy Teacher Appreciation Week. There’s a reason teacher like Mr. O’Neil – and all of you – are memorable.  There’s a reason student in America’s classrooms watch you share your curiosity, energy and passion for ideas and think, “I want to be like them.”

You are embodiments of possibility, champions of your students’ potential and stewards of their success.

Dr. Miguel A. Cardona, U.S. Secretary of Education.

Building STEM Communities with Community Colleges

This was crossposted from the U.S. Department of Energy blog.

April is Community College Month. We’re jumping in to celebrate by sharing our STEM workforce development and education outreach opportunities. These programs target students from the more than 1,000 public and private community colleges across the United States. (And did you know that Dr. Jill Biden is a community college teacher alongside her role as First Lady of the United States?)

Community colleges educate a diverse student population across age, family educational attainment, race, and area of study, reflecting the nation as a whole. They often reach students who are unable to access traditional, four-year degree programs. According to the U.S. Census, more than 30 percent of college students are undergraduates at two-year colleges. More than half of students in community colleges  attend part-time as they develop workforce skills and earn associate degrees, certificates, or baccalaureate degrees. Students at community colleges are able to obtain a high-quality education that’s affordable and can launch them straight into careers or other four-year degree programs.

America is poised to make a major investment in community college infrastructure. The American Jobs Plan proposes spending $12 billion for facilities and technologies as well as identifying strategies to address access to community colleges in education deserts.

Internships Program

The DOE’s flagship program is our Community College Internships (CCI) program through the Office of Science. It’s a competitive 10-week paid internship for community college students. Students can work at one of 16 participating DOE national laboratories under the supervision of lab technicians or researchers. They work on technologies, instrumentation projects, or major research facilities in support of DOE’s mission. Host laboratories also offer additional professional development opportunities, including workshops, laboratory tours, and scientific lectures. Internships are offered in the spring, summer, and fall.

Applications for the Fall 2021 term of this program are due on May 27, 2021.

Community College Internships participant Nabeel Jaser used his interest in engineering to advance research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Spallation Neutron Source facility.
Community College Internships participant Nabeel Jaser used his interest in engineering to advance research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Spallation Neutron Source facility.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory

The experiences of CCI participants mirror the diverse research done at our national laboratories. At Argonne National Laboratory in 2018, Brenda Escobedo developed a device that mimicked a piece of the Gammasphere Accelerator. Engineers at Argonne were in the process of upgrading the detector and used Escobedo’s device to test the upgrade.

Mwesi Musisi-Nkambwe interned at Brookhaven National Laboratory through both the Community College Internships program (2003) and the Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships program (2004). During his internships, he improved the interface in the control room of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (an Office of Science user facility) that technicians use to manage the equipment.

At Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 2016, Nabeel Jaser worked to improve the efficiency of the beamline of one of the most intense pulsed neutron beams in the world. With his mentor, he constructed a tool that scientists could use to change out samples more quickly.

Community colleges provide opportunities for millions of Americans from all walks of life and while the American Jobs Plan is paving the way for even more Americans to benefit, the DOE’s internship program is just one of many ways it supports STEM workforce development and education. For more resources for college and graduate students in STEM from the U.S. Department of Energy, visit STEM Rising.

Shannon Brescher Shea is a Social Media Manager and Senior Writer/Editor for the Office of Science.
AnneMarie Horowitz has been with the Energy Department since 2009, and is the Director of STEM Rising, a priority Departmental initiative to highlight the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs and resources of the agency.

Let’s Urge High School Seniors to Complete the FAFSA® Form Today

This was crossposted from the U.S. Department of Education blog, Homeroom

By: Federal Student Aid

As students and families prepare for education beyond high school, cost is a critical consideration. At Federal Student Aid, we know students and families often have to make tough decisions about higher education, and we know the COVID-19 emergency has made some of those decisions even harder.

In typical times, submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form is the first step students and families should take to access federal dollars for college or career school; this is especially true during this challenging period.

In addition to federal student aid, submitting the FAFSA form also can unlock opportunities for aid from some states, postsecondary institutions, and private organizations. Because many states have limited funds, students and families should know their state’s deadline and submit the FAFSA form as early as possible.

At Federal Student Aid, we’ve seen an alarming decline in the number of high school seniors who’ve submitted the 2021–22 FAFSA form. In fact, compared to the same time last year, there’s been a 9.2% national decline in first-time FAFSA submissions by high school seniors (data as of Feb. 26, 2021). In several states—like Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, and West Virginia—the decline reaches double digits.

Data sources: U.S. Census Bureau, 2019 American Community Survey One-Year Estimates; U.S. Department of Education office of Federal Student Aid: 2020–21 FAFSA® Application Cycle (Oct. 1, 2019–Feb. 26, 2020) to 2021–22 FAFSA Application Cycle (Oct. 1, 2020–Feb. 26, 2021)

When we closely examine the states with the greatest declines in first-time FAFSA submissions, we find overlap with some of the states with high percentages of individuals living below the poverty level.

Higher education remains a prominent avenue for upward mobility in America. That’s why Federal Student Aid’s mission is to fund America’s future, one student at a time. By being the most-trusted source of information about federal student aid, we want to ensure all students can access higher education regardless of their ZIP code.

But today, many students across the nation are missing out on federal student aid—including critical need-based aid—by failing to submit the FAFSA form. Each year, the federal government provides more than $115 billion in federal grants, work-study funds, and loans; in award year 2018–19, about one-quarter of that aid was in the form of grants, awarded to students with financial need.

We need your help reaching students and their families. We need your help telling them that submitting the FAFSA form today—despite current uncertainties—opens up options for the future.

The U.S. Department of Education has reminded financial aid professionals that they have the authority to adjust financial aid packages based on factors, such as changes in family income. A few weeks ago, Federal Student Aid asked education leaders in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. to join us in making FAFSA completion for high school seniors a priority. And, many have responded!

For example, following a recent FAFSA completion campaign in Louisiana, FAFSA submissions increased by 5%, and education officials are making plans for a follow-up outreach campaign. Arkansas officials are partnering with Federal Student Aid, nonprofits, and for-profit organizations to develop electronic resource kits for students and families. They’re even using TikTok, the social media video-sharing platform, to engage students!

Reaching students and families where they are is why we created the myStudentAid mobile app, which is available for iOS and Android devices. The mobile app offers a convenient option for students and families to fill out and submit the FAFSA form from a cell phone or tablet. There’s a personalized dashboard, along with checklists to help students and families stay on track and the option to sign up for text alerts about important actions they need to take.

Help us spread the word to students and families to take action by filling out and submitting the 2021–22 FAFSA form today. And, please let them know there are several ways to get help if they need it when applying for federal student aid. They can

  • access enhanced help topics on the FAFSA form;
  • visit studentaid.gov/resources;
  • use our virtual assistant, Aidan®, on StudentAid.gov or the myStudentAid mobile app;
  • tweet @FAFSA; and
  • speak with a customer service representative at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).

Working together, we can encourage students and families to fill out the FAFSA form today to open doors to their future.

Celebrating Heroic Women Breaking Glass and Winning Gold

This post was crossposted from the U.S. Department of Education blog, Homeroom.

celebrating heroic women breaking glass and winning gold

Women have made history, shattered glass ceilings, and forged paths in an array of fields spanning from STEM and space exploration to the arts and sports. Through their achievements women have fought for and advanced equality. Some of these remarkable women and their achievements are featured in a new special exhibit housed in the White House. In partnership with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History (NMAH), the U.S. Department of Education, and the Office of the First Lady, the White House is honoring and celebrating the achievements of women during and beyond Women’s History Month. Celebrate their legacies and lasting impact with us.

 

From performing heroic work in World War II to demonstrating groundbreaking athleticism in sports, these women have forged paths for future generations to follow. Using the Smithsonian’s virtual Learning Lab, you can take a stroll through the White House’s Center Hall and get an intimate look at the extraordinary women and the objects symbolizing their achievements, on loan from the NMAH.

Women’s History Month Learning Lab

Among the historic artifacts is a 1960s copywriter’s Spanish-language dictionary, which once belonged to Sara Sunshine, a Cuban refugee who cracked the glass ceiling of New York’s advertising industry. Fast forward to 2012 when women were kicking through the glass ceiling at the Olympics. On display is a soccer ball from the 2012 Olympic Games autographed by the gold medal-winning U.S. Women’s National Soccer team. They not only made history by winning gold, they were also part of a significant moment. It was the first Olympics to have female competitors in every sport and the first in which each participating country entered a female representative.

The White House exhibit and Smithsonian Learning Lab are only part of the experience. Discover more women leading throughout history and explore the entire Women’s History collection using the resources below:

 

From Sec. Cardona: A Letter to Parents & Students

This was crossposted from the U.S. Department of Education blog, Homeroom.

Click here for a copy of this letter in Spanish

To our Nation’s Parents and Students:  

I write first, as your new Secretary of Education, to acknowledge the extraordinarily challenging year you’ve endured. Between the health crisis, economic hardship, staunch national division, and the struggle to make progress in learning while apart from teachers and peers, the impact of the pandemic is still very real and will be felt for years to come.   

And yet, you’ve kept going. As a parent of two who experienced these same concerns and uncertainties, and an educator who has been moved by the resilience of the students and families I’ve met, let me say: you deserve recognition and you have my deepest thanks.   

Brighter days are ahead. We are making progress. More schools across the country are reopening for in-person learning, and they’re doing so with the help of clear, science-based guidance from experts in the field. The Department has released part one of a COVID-19 Handbook to help schools implement guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and we’re working on the second volume. Together, these guides will provide more evidence-based strategies for schools to minimize disruptions caused by school closures, especially for our most vulnerable students and communities and address the impact of COVID-19 on educational opportunity across communities. 

The most pressing challenges we face aren’t new. Since I began teaching more than 20 years ago, opportunity gaps remain. There are still unacceptable disparities in high school graduation rates and higher education is still out of reach for too many students, including learners of color, those from low-income families, and those, as I was, who would be the first in their families to attend.   

These inequities aren’t just holding our children back from achieving their full potential – they’re holding our nation back, too. We all benefit when our children have high-quality opportunities to develop their skills and build their knowledge – and then, share their gifts and talents with the world.  

Our first priority is to return students to the classroom for in-person learning, but we know there’s more work to be done once we’ve achieved that goal. We’re also working toward building better career pathways, making college more affordable, ensuring all students have access to high quality schools with a balance of quality coursework that include the arts and sciences, supporting teacher quality and improving teacher diversity, ensure teachers receive the support and respect they need and deserve, expanding access to high-quality preschool, and supporting high-quality career and technical education.   

President Biden’s plans are bold, but they match the urgency that the challenges before us demand. And as Secretary, I will always keep students and their success at the heart of the Department’s work.  

We know that, given the right support, resources and opportunities, our potential is boundless. Despite our worries as parents, this year we’ve seen new proofs of our children’s ingenuity, optimism, and ability to overcome the toughest of circumstances.   

If we all commit to approaching the remainder of this school year – and the years to come – with this same mindset of possibility, dedication, and innovation, we can and will make good on our promise to America’s students. As an educator and as a parent, I commit to safeguarding and advancing the dreams of your children, as I commit to the dreams of my own son and daughter.  

Our nation’s students deserve – and they will get – our very best efforts, our most collaborative thinking, and our deepest belief in their abilities. Together, we can build a future of promise and opportunity that makes no exceptions.  

Sincerely,   

Secretary Miguel Cardona

Recognizing Hispanic National Blue Ribbon Schools

Since 1982, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has recognized public and private schools based on their overall academic excellence or progress in closing the achievement gap among student subgroups. Each year the U.S. Department of Education celebrates the achievements of these great American schools. Throughout its 38-year history, the program has recognized over 9,000 schools and this year, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognized 367 schools nationwide.

Of the 367, 47 honorees are schools serving a Hispanic student population ranging from 40 to 100 percent located in 14 states and the District of Colombia.

Hispanics make up 26.8 percent of all K-12 public school students and 11.3 percent of all private school students. These National Blue Ribbon Schools are leading the way in preparing Hispanic students for academic success. The White House Hispanic Prosperity Initiative (Initiative) celebrates each one for this national recognition. The Initiative congratulates the administration, staff, teachers, families, and communities that collaborate to ensure Hispanic students are succeeding. These schools are models for other schools with a high or growing Hispanic population on achieving excellence in academic achievement and closing academic gaps. The variety of programming within these schools demonstrates that when students are placed in the education setting that best fits them, excellence follows. The Initiative looks forward to further highlighting these schools and sharing their success.

The 2020 National Blue Ribbon Schools with a high Hispanic student population are:

School City State
Mexicayotl Charter School Nogales AZ
Phoenix Union Bioscience High School Phoenix AZ
Alliance Judy Ivie Burton Technology Academy High School Los Angeles CA
Carleton P. Lightfoot Elementary School Alta Loma CA
Coyote Canyon Elementary School Rancho Cucamonga CA
James Monroe Elementary School Bermuda Dunes CA
LaVerne Elementary Preparatory Academy Hesperia CA
Ward (E.W) Elementary School Downey CA
South Street School Danbury CT
Oyster-Adams Bilingual School Washington DC
Miami Arts Studio 6-12 at Zelda Glazer Miami FL
Somerset Academy Middle South Miami Miami FL
Somerset Academy Miramar South Miramar FL
H.R. McCall Elementary School Waukegan IL
Hodgkins Elementary School Hodgkins IL
John Hancock College Preparatory High School Chicago IL
Northside Elementary School Saint James MN
HCST County Prep High School Jersey City NJ
Lillian M. Steen School Bogota NJ
Gil Sanchez Elementary School Jarales NM
Pinon Elementary School Santa Fe NM
Veterans Tribute Career and Technical Academy Las Vegas NV
South Bronx Classical Charter School Bronx NY
Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design Brooklyn NY
Frederick Elementary School Frederick OK
Marvine Elementary School Bethlehem PA
Alvarado Elementary South Alvarado TX
Desertaire Elementary School El Paso TX
Dr. Wright L. Lassiter Jr. Early College High School Dallas TX
Early Childhood Development Center Corpus Christi TX
Early College High School Farmers Branch TX
Edward Roberson Middle School Houston TX
Edward Titche Elementary School Dallas TX
Heights Elementary School Laredo TX
Henry W Longfellow Career Exploration Academy Dallas TX
High School for Law and Justice Houston TX
Hobbs Williams Elementary School Grand Prairie TX
John Z. Leyendecker Elementary School Laredo TX
Kelly-Pharr Elementary School Pharr TX
Maude Mae Kirchner Elementary School Quemado TX
Memorial Elementary School Houston TX
Reilly Elementary School Austin TX
Texas Academy of Biomedical Sciences Fort Worth TX
Transmountain Early College High School El Paso TX
Vista Academy of Austin-Mueller Austin TX
Windsor Park G/T Elementary School Corpus Christi TX
Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy Houston TX

 

In addition, the Department annually recognizes outstanding school leaders from National Blue Ribbon Schools through the Terrel H. Bell Award. This award recognizes principals for their vision and collaborative leadership style that have transformed their schools. This year, the Department recognized 10 remarkable principals. Three of the principals were Latinas:

The Initiative congratulates these Latina school leaders for their achievements.

Celebrating Hispanic-Serving Institutions

In celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s important to recognize the contributions of Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) and the remarkable impact they have had on communities across the country. The Hispanic-Serving Institutions designation was first created in the Higher Education Amendments of 1992. The statutory requirement for an institution to qualify as an HSI is that it must be an eligible public or private non-profit institution of higher education and have the enrollment of undergraduate full-time equivalent students that is at least 25 percent Hispanic students. This requirement ensures that HSIs are supporting first-generation and/or low-income Hispanic students.

With over 60 million Hispanics  in the United States, and 3.6 million of them postsecondary students, here are some fast facts about HSIs.

HSIs have been critical to making the promise of a postsecondary education a reality for many Hispanic students and to increasing the number of certificates and degrees attained by Hispanic students across the country. They have helped provide important pathways for in-demand jobs, apprenticeships, internships, fellowships, mentorships, and work-based learning initiatives through public-private partnerships and have partnered with their local school districts to offer dual enrollment programs. These and many more innovative contributions of HSIs are worth celebrating not just during Hispanic Heritage Month, but all year long.

School Choice: What it means for Hispanic Families

As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we recognize the critical role education plays in creating and increasing Hispanic prosperity. It has been a commitment of the Administration and the Secretary for the duration of their tenure in office to empower Hispanic parents with access to information and to quality school choice options, regardless of their zip code.

Hispanics are strongly in favor of school choice.  A recent poll showed that 68 percent support the concept of school choice and of allowing parents to use tax dollars designated for their child’s education to send their child to the public or private school which best serves their needs. When asked more specifically about tax credit scholarship programs, 70 percent of Hispanics are in support

Beyond the surveys, Hispanics are demonstrating their support of school choice by taking advantage of educational opportunities whenever available. According to the National Center of Education Statistics, Hispanics made up one third of all charter school students, and over 1 in 10 were enrolled in private schools in 2017.  Of all students in the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, 38 percent are Hispanic. In Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program, that number is 21 percent and in our nation’s capital, 12 percent of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship participants are Hispanics. In short, Hispanic families not only overwhelmingly want school choice, but when given access, they exercise that choice and their children benefit. As the Wallstreet Journal editorial board observed, about 90 percent of DC Opportunity Scholarship recipients graduate from high school compared to 69 percent of DC public school students.

President Trump and Secretary DeVos agree that Hispanic families as all American families deserve more options now than ever to find the right fit for their children’s education. The President has called on Congress to fully pass the School Choice Now Act, as part of any new COVID-19 relief package. Among other provisions, the School Choice Now Act  will ensure every state can fund K-12 scholarship programs for eligible students, so that students can remain in their schools of choice regardless of economic disruptions, and so that families can have choices should their public schools refuse to provide in-person options.

In addition to the Corona Virus-related emergency appropriations, the bill would establish a permanent, federal tax-credit scholarship program, that would offer federal taxpayers dollar-for-dollar tax credits for any contributions they make to Scholarship-Granting Organizations (SGOs), with the total amount of tax credits capped at $5 billion per year. Since the tax credit encourages new, private donations, it does not hurt public schools or take funds away from their teachers or students.

This issue is so important to the Hispanic community, that the first action the recently appointed President’s Advisory Commission on Hispanic Prosperity took, was to release a statement calling for educational choice including the option of full-time, safe, in-person learning in response to the COVID-19 crisis. They recognized that the negative academic and economic impacts of the one-size-fits all decisions of many school districts across the nation disproportionately harm Hispanic students.

The future of School Choice looks much brighter after the landmark Supreme Court’s decision in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, which held that states could not exclude religious institutions from participating in programs that subsidize private school tuition. In effect, the ruling dealt a severe blow to any  Blaine Amendments remaining in state constitutions across the country as Attorney Erica Smith, who was co-counsel on the case noted, “will allow states across the country to enact educational choice programs that give parents maximum educational options.”  Now more than ever, opportunities for Hispanic parents to choose the education that fits their family values and their children’s academic and social needs are within grasp.

6 Things Students Need to Know During the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

This was crossposted from the U.S. Department of Education blog, Homeroom.

Whether you’re currently in college for a few years or have recently returned to college, we understand this is a time of uncertainty. You may be wondering how the impact of the COVID-19 emergency affects your federal financial aid. Below, we’ve outlined flexibilities that are available to students during this time.

1. Tuition Refunds and Credits

Due to COVID-19, some schools closed and many classes moved online or were cancelled.  As a result, your school may offer you a refund that you can use to pay existing loan debt or a credit that you can use to pay for future education-related expenses. For more information about your school’s current policy, contact the office of the bursar or your financial aid office.

If you accepted a larger loan amount to help pay for room and board but your situation has changed due to COVID-19, you can return part of the aid you received to lower your total balance owed. Talk to your school for more details.

2. Federal Financial Assistance

CARES Act Emergency Grants to Students

On March 13, 2020, President Trump signed into law the CARES Act, which provided additional funding to institutions of higher education to make Emergency Cash Grants available to eligible students. The purpose of these grants is to provide financial support to students who may have experienced disruptions related to COVID-19.  The grant may be used for tuition, housing, food, childcare, supplies, computers, transportation, and other education-related expenses. For tax purposes, these grants are considered emergency assistance (not financial aid grants or scholarships).

These grants must be paid to you in cash (which could include a pre-paid card or other electronic method) and should be used at your discretion to pay for necessary expenses. For example, your school couldn’t apply your grant to outstanding balance on your account without your permission. Additionally, these grants should not be subtracted from your financial aid eligibility or award.

Your school may develop its own formula for determining who should receive an Emergency Cash Grant, and not all students are eligible.  Your school is required to disclose on its website how it is distributing these funds, how many students have received this grant, and how many dollars have been distributed to students.  Reach out to your financial aid office to see if you are eligible to receive an Emergency Cash Grant during the fall term.

Federal Financial Aid Adjustments

Although schools are not required to adjust federal financial aid awards, they can consider your special circumstances, such as unanticipated loss of income, and make appropriate adjustments to your aid award.

If this applies to you, contact your financial aid office immediately for information about how to request a special circumstances review.

Restoring Grant and Loan Eligibility

Both federal grants and federal student loans have maximum lifetime limits, meaning that once you’ve received the maximum amount, no additional aid will be available to you. If you withdrew from college due to COVID-19, you may be eligible to have Direct subsidized loans, TEACH grants, or Pell grants you received during that term excluded from your maximum limit. This means your eligibility for future TEACH grants or Pell grants will be restored.

It is always a good idea to check your lifetime utilization to be sure you do not run out of aid eligibility before you complete your program. Log in and view your dashboard to check your Federal Pell Grant Lifetime Eligibility use.  Learn more about lifetime limits and how they are calculated.

Federal Work-Study (FWS) Wages

If you were denied FWS wages for a job you started and were displaced from due to COVID-19, check with your financial aid office to see if you can be paid those lost wages now.  If you did not start your FWS job prior to March 13, 2020, and have been denied an opportunity to work because of COVID-19, check with your school’s financial aid office to see if there are other campus-based aid dollars available to replace lost FWS wages due to COVID-19.

3. Flexibilities for Continuing Enrollment During COVID-19

Approved Leave of Absence

If your travel-abroad program was cancelled or you became ill, your school may have offered you the opportunity to apply for a leave of absence.  If granted such a leave, your school may transfer the financial aid you received for that term over to your next term.  Contact your school’s financial aid office to find out more about the current leave of absence policy and financial aid options available.

Satisfactory Academic Progress

You must meet your school’s standards for satisfactory academic progress (SAP) toward a degree or certificate in order to continue receiving federal financial aid. Satisfactory academic progress may include completing a certain number of credits within a given period of time and may also include meeting minimum grade point average (GPA) requirements.  If you believe that your failure to complete enough credits or meet minimum GPA requirements was the result of COVID-19, you should contact the school’s financial aid office to explain your situation.  The CARES Act provides some exceptions for students who failed to meet SAP due to COVID-19 hardships or interruptions.

4. 0% Interest Period and Historically Low Interest Rates

Direct unsubsidized loans normally accrue interest while you’re in school.  However, from March 13, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2020, the interest rate on all U.S. Department of Education (ED) owned loans was temporarily lowered to 0%.

Tip: If you can afford to make payments during this period, you will pay off your loan faster and lower the total cost of your loan over time.

To find out what type of loans you have, follow these steps:

  1. Visit StudentAid.gov/login.
  2. After you log in with your username and password (FSA ID), you will be able to see your loan(s) listed on the StudentAid.gov Dashboard.
  3. Click “view details.”
  4. Scroll down to the “Loan Breakdown” section. If your loan(s) is owned by ED, you will see “DEPT OF ED” before the loan servicer’s name. These are the loans eligible for the 0% interest rate.

After Dec. 31, 2020, the 2020–21 federal student loan interest rates will apply. These are among the lowest fixed interest rates in federal student aid history.

Despite these low interest rates, always be sure to limit your borrowing to only what you need. To help you decide how much you can reasonably afford to borrow for school, use the College Scorecard. It has data for some schools on your potential salary after completing certain fields of study.

5. Transferring Schools

If you’re considering transferring schools or enrolling at a different school during COVID-19, research school-specific data with the College Scorecard. If you’re looking for a school in your area on the College Scorecard; click “Show Me Options” and select “Schools Near Me” to search within a set number of miles from your location.

Be sure to review how many credits the new school will accept based on work you already completed. If you plan to return to your regular institution after COVID-19, verify that credits earned at the school you plan to attend temporarily will be accepted by your home school.

Tip: Confirm that transferred credits will count toward the requirements of your major, not just as electives or general education requirements.

6. Postponing Your Education

If you’re thinking about delaying your education (e.g., taking a “gap year”) or pausing your education, here’s what that could mean for your financial aid.

Disclaimer: This article contains general statements of policy under the Administrative Procedure Act issued to advise the public on how ED and Federal Student Aid (FSA) propose to exercise their discretion as a result of and in response to the lawfully and duly declared COVID-19. ED and FSA do not intend for this article to create legally binding standards to determine any member of the public’s legal rights and obligations for which noncompliance may form an independent basis for action.

_________________

This article was written by Miranda H., a Digital Engagement Strategist at the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

Summary of the Initial Meeting of the President’s Advisory Commission on Hispanic Prosperity

This week, the President’s White House Hispanic Prosperity Commission convened to tackle issues related to the Hispanic community such as school choice, reopening schools, access to capital and reducing barriers to Hispanic small business. President Trump’s Executive Order on the White House Hispanic Prosperity Initiative established the Commission to advise the President on the best ways to increase access to educational and economic opportunities for Hispanic American students, workers, and communities.

The Commission addressed the importance of having the option of reopening schools for Hispanic students in a statement: “We call for the choice of educational options for Latino students across America, including in-person schooling, commensurate with all relevant CDC and other health guidelines. We Hispanic commissioners know that Latino children in America are disproportionately harmed by the lack of options that best fit their educational style, and their families should be given the right to choose how to educate their children.” For more information, click here.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Small Business Administrator Jovita Carranza addressed the Commission and shared the importance of educational and economic opportunities for the Hispanic community.

The Commission created subcommittees to focus on educational opportunities, access to capital and identifying regulation barriers to Hispanic small businesses, EEOC accessibility, and identifying federal resources for the Hispanic community.

From Left: Commissioner Robert “Bob” Unanue, Commissioner Alfredo Ortiz, Commissioner Steve Cortes, Special Assistant to the President Dr. Andrea Ramirez, Commissioner Jose Fuentes Agostini, Commission Chairman John Sanchez, Commissioner Mario Rodriguez, Deputy Assistant to the President Jennifer Korn, Commissioner Jesus Marquez, Commissioner David Olivencia, Commissioner Casandra Garcia Meade, and Senior Advisor to the White House Hispanic Prosperity Initiative Emmanuel Caudillo