Today, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) launches its first developer hub, a dedicated space for centralizing our developer resources, documenting open government efforts at the agency, and celebrating what you have built using ED data and code.
Work began last year to redesign how the Department engages technologists. Partnering with 18F, the federal government’s digital consultancy agency, ED’s open data initiative, InformED, developed a two-pronged approach to better serve developers: (1) establish a presence on Github and (2) create a central location for developer-focused content.
What We’ve Built (And Why)
When we started developing the hub, we wanted to address a few outstanding needs.
First, we needed to organize and grow our selection of open source projects and APIs. For some time, the College Scorecard API and code repository were all that we could feature. To expand our offerings, 18F helped us set up an instance of their open source project, AutoAPI, an API engine that converts flat files into a web service. That technology gives ED a simple and easy way to deliver more APIs. We used it to create a set of My Brother’s Keeper APIs and Civil Rights Data Collection APIs, providing additional access points to compelling student equity data. Now centrally located and documented, these resources (and those to come) will be more discoverable and easier to use.
Next, we needed to consolidate news on how ED is working to improve education’s digital landscape and access to federal education data. The hub’s News section is where we can share information about the progress of open government innovation at ED. By cataloguing our successes here, the public can better understand what we’ve done—and what more we have to do. We hope this cache of stories will support ongoing conversations about the importance of open data and embracing digital technology.
Finally, we needed a space to highlight the work of developers who have used ED’s resources to bring incredible ideas to life. The hub’s interactive app gallery allows you to explore how others are translating federal education resources and data into actionable tools for a wide range of users. Take a look and get inspired!
Development of the hub took several months. By incorporating only openly licensed components, such as the source code for CFPB’s brilliant developer hub, we saved resources and time. It also ensures that internal and external users can repurpose what we have built however they see fit.
We’re Just Beginning… And We Need You!
These are foundational efforts. At launch, our catalog of ED APIs and open source components is limited—but will expand with your help. In launching a developer hub and Github account, ED sees the beginning of a stronger, more collaborative relationship with the developer community.
ED hopes these platforms grow to reflect what you, the user, would like to see from them. We want your feedback. Tell us what APIs you would like to see and your ideas for improving our datasets and documentation. We’re listening. Help us build a better partnership, so that we can build a better world for students—together!
InformED is the U.S. Department of Education’s primary open data initiative whose mission is to establish a world-class open data infrastructure at ED.
Forgives the remaining balance on your Federal Direct Loans after 120 qualifying payments (10 years).
View complete program details at StudentAid.gov/publicservice.
Here are some highlights:
- This program has the broadest employment qualification requirements of the federal programs listed—it doesn’t require that you teach at a low-income a public school, or even be a teacher. Most full-time public and private elementary and secondary school teachers will meet the employment requirements.
- You must have Direct Loans. If you have other types of federal loans, like FFEL or Perkins Loans, you must consolidate in order for those loans to qualify. To check which types of loans you have, log in to StudentAid.gov.
- You should repay your loans on an income-driven repayment plan if you want to get the most value out of the program. You can apply for an income-driven repayment plan on StudentLoans.gov.
- In order for payments to count toward the 120 needed to get forgiveness, they need to be full payments, made no more than 15 days late, and made after October 1, 2007.
- Loan amounts forgiven under PSLF are NOT considered taxable by the IRS.
To confirm whether you qualify for the program, submit this form ASAP.2. Teacher Loan Forgiveness
Forgives up to $17,500 of your Direct or FFEL Subsidized or Unsubsidized Loans after 5 complete and consecutive years of teaching at a qualifying school.
View complete program details at StudentAid.gov/teach-forgive.
Here are some highlights:
- You must have been employed as a full-time teacher at an eligible school for five complete and consecutive academic years, and at least one of those years must have been after the 1997–98 academic year.
- Certain highly qualified special education and secondary mathematics or science teachers can qualify for up to $17,500 in forgiveness. Other eligible teachers can qualify for up to $5,000.
- PLUS loans and Perkins loans are not eligible to be forgiven through this program.
- Any time you spent teaching to receive benefits through AmeriCorps cannot be counted toward your required five years of teaching for Teacher Loan Forgiveness.
- You apply for teacher loan forgiveness after you have completed the five-year teaching requirement.
Print and complete the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Application.3. Perkins Loan Cancellation for Teachers Forgives up to 100% of your Federal Perkins Loan Program if you teach full-time at a low-income school, or if you teach certain subjects.
View complete program details at StudentAid.gov/teach-forgive.
Here are some highlights:
- This program can only forgive your Federal Perkins Loans. Check to see if you have Perkins loans at StudentAid.gov.
- If you are eligible for this program, up to 100 percent of the loan may be canceled for teaching service, in the following increments:
- 15 percent canceled per year for the first and second years of service
- 20 percent canceled for the third and fourth years
- 30 percent canceled for the fifth year
- Each amount canceled per year includes the interest that accrued during the year.
- To find out if a school is classified as a low-income school, check our online database for the year(s) you have been employed as a teacher.
- Even if you don’t teach at a low-income school, you may qualify if you teach mathematics, science, foreign languages, bilingual or special education, or different subject determined by your state education agency to have a shortage of qualified teachers in your state.
- Private school teachers can qualify if the school has established its nonprofit status with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and if the school is providing elementary and/or secondary education according to state law.
To apply for Perkins Cancellation, contact the school(s) where you obtained the Perkins Loan. Each school has its own process.4. State-Sponsored Student Loan Forgiveness Programs
Tons of states offer loan forgiveness programs for teachers—especially if you teach in a high need area. The American Federation of Teachers has a great searchable database you can use to find state and local forgiveness programs you might qualify for.
You may qualify for more than one of the programs listed above. In some instances though, your decision to take advantage of one program may impact your ability to take advantage of another. For example:
- You must have Direct Loans in order to qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. If you have any Perkins Loans, you may be tempted to consolidate them into the Direct Loan Program in order to make them eligible for PSLF. However, if you do that, you’ll no longer qualify for Perkins Cancellation. You may be better off leaving your Perkins Loans out of the consolidation loan so you can take advantage of both programs.
- You may not receive a benefit under both the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program for the same period of teaching service. For example, if you make payments on your loans during your five years of qualifying employment for Teacher Loan Forgiveness and then receive loan forgiveness for that service, the payments you made during that five year period will not count toward PSLF.
As you’re trying to decide which option(s) are right for you, consult your federal loan servicer. They can give you advice based on your specific situation.
Nicole Callahan is a Digital Engagement Strategist at the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.
Photo by Getty Images.
U.S. Department of Education Announces Final Regulation on Open Licensing Requirement for Competitive Grant Programs
A few months ago, I had the opportunity to meet with Benetech, one of our grantees, and observe some of the tools they have developed under their Department grant to help visually impaired people access the content of graphics in books. The tool has many applications, including giving visually impaired children the opportunity to better enjoy picture books and high school students better access to information in graphics and diagrams in science books. An interesting aspect of Benetech’s approach is that they share the descriptions with everyone wherever they may be in the world who can benefit from them. This is possible because they have voluntarily applied an open content license to all materials created through their DIAGRAM Center, and an open source license to their software.
“As a mission-focused nonprofit, we believe that openness and transparency are the best ways to accomplish our goals of equal access to education for special needs students,” said Benetech CEO Jim Fruchterman. “This has made it easier to work cooperatively with other leading organizations because it was expressly established that the resulting content would be available to all on an equal basis through the open license.”
Similarly, the Department’s First in the World (FITW) grant program has made available more than $135 million worth of innovations in higher education to the public through open licenses. For example, one grantee, College of America at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), created a learning platform and skill-building modules to provide academic assistance for underprepared adults re-entering higher education that any other interested institution will be able to freely use.
“We want the innovations and resources that we create with the Department¹s funding to be available to our colleagues at other institutions so that they can use our work as a basis for their own innovations. This allows them to serve the unique needs of their own students better.” Paul Leblanc, President of SNHU.
Building on the work of these and other grantees who have led the way with open licenses, today we are announcing a rule that will significantly enhance dissemination of valuable educational resources and provide stakeholders with greater access to use, reuse, and modify these deliverables. We expect that this will yield great benefits for educators, students, and their education communities. The final regulation requires, with certain exceptions, that grantees receiving Department funds under a competitive grant program openly license copyrightable grant deliverables created with those funds.
When we first published our proposed open licensing rule in October 2015, Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. spoke of the promise of taking an open approach, “By requiring an open license, we will ensure that high-quality resources created through our public funds are shared with the public, thereby ensuring equal access for all teachers and students regardless of their location or background. We are excited to join other federal agencies leading on this work to ensure that we are part of the solution to helping classrooms transition to next generation materials.”
The rule we have announced today supports our commitment in the Third U.S. Open Government National Action Plan to expand access to educational resources through open licensing. In doing so, we join other federal agencies, including the Departments of Labor, State (including USAID), and the National Science Foundation, that currently administer programs with open licensing requirements.
Regarding the final regulations:
- The open licenses will give the public permission to use and reuse deliverables created in whole or in part with Department competitive grants funds provided by the Department.
- The requirement applies both to grant deliverables (e.g. teacher professional development training modules) and any final version of program support materials necessary to the use or reuse of the deliverables.
- Grantees or subgrantees will provide a dissemination plan and may select the open license appropriate to their grant deliverables.
- Based on feedback from public comments and input from other federal agencies, the Department has added certain categorical exceptions, such as for the Ready to Learn Television grant program.
- The Department will fully implement this rule for all applicable competitive grant programs in FY 2018.
The final regulation can be found here: https://tech.ed.gov/files/2017/01/ED-Open-Licensing-Rule-1.11.17-Public.pdf
I am pleased that many more instructors and students will be able to access learning resources paid for with public funds. By sharing our work openly with each other, we can all benefit.
Joseph South is Director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education.