The Higher Education Act (HEA) was amended to restore the ability to benefit (ATB) provisions, thus allowing individuals without a high school diploma or its recognized equivalent to access Title IV financial aid as long as they are enrolled in an eligible career pathway consistent with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).
Join a webinar on Thursday, Oct. 27 from 3:00-4:30 pm Eastern Time, hosted by the U.S. Department of Education on administering the ATB provisions under the HEA. The webinar will share guidance from the Department and present strategies for developing and strengthening local career pathways programs. Additionally, postsecondary institutions will share lessons learned and promising practices from ATB program implementation.
As we approach the end of summer, it is important to reflect on ways that we can all support students and families preparing to attend college next year. For the first time this fall, students are able to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) beginning on October 1st. This earlier date allows students to explore further financial aid options before most college’s deadlines. As a result, students will have more college options than in the past.
On average there are 482 high school students for every college counselor, each looking for their own set of advice in regards to the college application process. In addition to those students who have overworked counselors there are many youth and adults who are deciding to return to school and who lack access to free college counseling. For these reasons, in September 2015, the U.S. Department of Education redesigned the College Scorecard to provide the clearest, most accessible, and most reliable national data on college cost, graduation, debt, and post-college earnings. This tool was improved with feedback from students, families, and counselors to help ensure that families and future postsecondary students make the most informed decisions when choosing a college.
Federal Student Aid (FSA) office released guidance on Pell grant eligibility for students without a high school diploma (or its recognized equivalent) who are enrolled in career pathways. This Pell eligibility category, also known as Ability to Benefit, was partially restored in December 2014 and through amendments passed in December of 2015.
FSA provides in the new guidance clarification of an eligible career pathway program and implementation information for the new provisions. The definition of career pathways in the guidance is aligned to that in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
The Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 helped reopen the door to opportunity in postsecondary education by changing the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA), to partially restore what is known as the “ability to benefit (ATB) alternatives”. The new law went into effect on Dec. 16, 2014, and changed the HEA to allow a student who did not receive a high school diploma (or its recognized equivalent), or who did not complete a secondary school education in a home-school setting, to be eligible for Title IV financial aid. This can now be done through a combination of ATB alternatives and enrollment in an eligible career pathway program (as determined by the Title IV eligible institutions’ staff).
Don’t leave $150 billion on the table! On January 1, the2015-16 FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) became available, and if you’re a student who will be going to college, a parent of a college-bound student, or a counselor, you should know that filling out the FAFSA is key to getting access to $150 billion in grants, loans, and work-study funds.
See these helpful tools compiled by the Department in a series of Mythbusters about the FAFSA.
The LINCS Community of Practice marked an important milestone as it surpassed 10,000 registered users last week. Thanks to all who have helped spread the word about how this vibrant community can support teachers and programs. Keep growing!
New course launched:Integrating Technology self-paced online course is designed for instructors who are at the beginner/intermediate level of technology integration in the classroom. It is available on the LINCS Learning Portal. This course helps teachers understand how technology can support their instructional goals and provides guidance on how to incorporate various popular tools. A certificate of completion for four hours is available.
February is Financial Aid Awareness month. Join the Financial Literacy and Postsecondary Completion groups from February 3- 14 for a special discussion in which adult education program managers, counselors, and teachers from a range of adult education programs will share their strategies and techniques for incorporating financial literacy into their adult education programs.
Teaching Strategies: Easing the Pathway for Adult Learners with Disabilities to Develop Competence in the Classroom and Beyond. Join the Disabilities in Adult Education group for a special discussion from February 3-14.
Digital Learning Day: Four-Part Technology Tools Webinar Series. Celebrate Digital Learning Day on February 5 by pledging to acquire new knowledge about current technology tools used to advance education. LINCS is partnering with the Literacy Assistance Center in New York City to offer a series of 30-minute webinars on how to use technology tools in education, held every Thursday in February, starting on February 13, from 3:00-3:30 PM ET.
If you’re a parent of a college bound child, the financial aid process can seem a bit overwhelming. Who’s considered the parent? Who do you include in household size? How do assets and tax filing fit into the process? Does this have to be done every year? Here are some common questions that parents have when helping their children prepare for and pay for college or career school:
Why does my child need to provide my information on the FAFSA?
While we provide over $150 billion in financial aid each year, the federal student aid programs are based on the assumption that it is primarily your and your child’s responsibility to pay for college. If your child was born after January 1, 1991 then most likely he or she is considered a dependent student and you’ll need to include your information on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSASM).
Who’s considered a parent when completing the FAFSA?
If you need to report parent information, here are some guidelines to help you:
If your legal parents (your biological and/or adoptive parents) are married to each other, answer the questions about both of them, regardless of whether your parents are of the same or opposite sex.
If your legal parents are not married to each other and live together, answer the questions about both of them, regardless of whether your parents are of the same or opposite sex.
If your parent is widowed or was never married, answer the questions about that parent.
When completing your child’s FAFSA, you should include parents, any dependent student(s) and any other child who lives at home and receives more than half of their support from you in the household size. Also include any people who are not your children but who live with you and for whom you provide more than half of their support.
Do I need to wait until I file my income taxes?
In some states there are deadlines for additional monies so you’ll want to complete the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1st. You do not need to wait until you file your federal tax return. If you haven’t done your taxes by the time you complete the FAFSA, you can estimate amounts based on the previous year if nothing has drastically changed. After you file your taxes, you’ll need to log back in to the FAFSA and correct any estimated information. If you’ve already filed your taxes, you can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to automatically pull in your tax information directly from the IRS into the FAFSA.
Do I need to do this every year?
Yes, you and your child need to complete the FAFSA each year in order for your child to be considered for federal student aid. The good news is that each subsequent year you can use the Renewal Application option so you only have to update information that has changed from the previous year!
Panel at NCTN Conference 2013 with Mina Reddy, Vania Estanek, Brenda Dann-Messier Courtesy of Priyanka Sharma
What financial aid is available to adult education students transitioning to college and training? Several recent Ed.gov blogs on student loans and federal initiatives, including OVAE’s Adult College Completion Toolkit, are providing guidance.
This was also the question posed to a panel at the recent National College Transition Network conference in Providence, RI.
Adult education students often face steep challenges when transitioning to college: cost of tuition, books, and materials; child care and transportation; loss of income; lack of “college knowledge” of the system and expectations; and weak skills that require developmental education courses. The panelists discussed innovative ideas advocacy groups and adult education programs can do to prepare and support their students’ success in the postsecondary setting.
Mina Reddy, of the Cambridge Community Learning Center, spoke first. Reddy shared how and why her program had established a local scholarship fund to support transitioning students. Last year, they had 15 $1,000 scholarships to award. Reddy spoke of the power of even small scholarships to “validate” students’ efforts and achievements.
Vania Estanek is a graduate of the Cambridge program’s ESOL courses, and a scholarship recipient, and now a postsecondary student in a biotech certificate program. She participated in the panel to share her perspective of the value of the scholarship to propel her to higher levels of achievement and provide flexible funds in advance of any school-based aid.
Loh-Sze Leung, of SkillWorks, spoke of the public-private advocacy ventures she has been engaged with in Massachusetts to address adult education and skill development issues, with some legislative successes that funded aid and projects. Some of her tips from advocacy work were to “mobilize students to tell their own stories to legislators”, and “to track success and use data”, preferably local data.
Nate Anderson, of Jobs for the Future, spoke about Accelerating Opportunities, an effort that is underway in seven states to accelerate students without a high school credential through to post-secondary success. He highlighted several creative solutions states were employing to fill the gap between adult education and credit bearing college courses, such as “braiding” federal funding streams to support the program, waiving tuition for the first semester of college for adult education students, or working strategically with untraditional partners such as the foster care fund. These ideas and others are in JFF’s Innovative Ideas Database, part of their Braided Funding Toolkit.
Brenda Dann-Messier, Assistant Secretary of OVAE, was a respondent to the panel. She acknowledged the challenges faced by students, programs, and advocacy groups and celebrated the creative and innovative ideas the panelists had outlined. She shared several Administration initiatives that are underway to address some of specific challenges including the proposed College Rating System to make college costs more transparent, proposed loan defaults initiative, and proposed experimental sites for financial aid flexibility.
Watch the Ed.gov blog to stay up to date on these initiatives.
Late last week, Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier issued a “Dear Colleague letter” to Financial Aid Administrators. This letterclarifies that extended foster care payments made by a state directly to foster youth are to be excluded when determining a student’s student aid eligibility and do not need to be reported on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). “Our intent is to reduce barriers in the financial aid process for students in foster care to ensure they are able to maximize their student aid benefits”, said Assistant Secretary Dann-Messier. “We know these students face many challenges as they transition into adulthood—and the financial aid process should not be one of them.”
Parents can start teaching children as young as two about money, and there is no age cutoff. So says the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability (PACFC) in their final report released last week. The report provides recommendations to improve the understanding of personal financial management and underscores the importance of teachers and schools in providing a sound financial education.
The work of the council resulted in numerous products available to educators and the public, including a toolkit for increasing the financial capability of students in K-12 and postsecondary education, and an online resource, MoneyAsYouGrow.org, with 20 things kids need to know to live financially smart lives.
The report from the council includes a recommendation to integrate important aspects of personal finance into the teaching of Common Core State Standards for K-12 education. The release of the report was announced in a March 21 article on the Treasury Department’s website.
OVAE complements the PACFC with an initiative to develop, implement, and evaluate the effectiveness of financial education materials and teacher training in high schools to help students gain the knowledge and skills to make sound personal finance decisions as they transition into careers and postsecondary education.