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Cross-posted from the White House blog.
The single most important investment anyone can make in their future is to pursue higher education. But the one thing I often hear from families is that they are worried about the cost.
Too many students are graduating from college feeling burdened by their student loan debt. The Obama Administration has – and will continue to – make college more affordable through increased Pell Grants and education tax credits, while improving transparency so that students and families have the information they need to select schools that provide the best value. Today, we are building on the Administration’s success helping students manage their debt and stay on track.
My team at the U.S. Department of Education has been working with our federal partners to make sure that student loan borrowers are getting accurate information about how to avoid – or get out of – delinquency and default. And we’ve been doing more to improve student loan servicing and protect borrowers so they receive the treatment and respect they deserve, regardless of the type of loan they have.
But across the Administration, we want to do more.
That’s why today, President Obama has proposed a new Student Aid Bill of Rights that outlines a series of new actions that direct the Department of Education, Department of Treasury, Office of Management and Budget, Office of Science and Technology Policy and Domestic Policy Council, working with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Social Security Administration, to make paying for higher education an easier and fairer experience for millions of Americans.
Working together, the Obama administration will:
- Develop a state-of-the-art – and simple – process for borrowers to file complaints involving their federal student aid, and working with a team across the federal government to figure out the best way to address those complaints.
- Make sure the banks that service federal loans are held to high standards and provide better information to borrowers; and raising the bar for debt collection to make sure that fees charged to borrowers are reasonable and that collectors are fair, transparent, and help borrowers get back on track.
- Use innovative strategies to improve borrowers’ experience and improve customer service. At the Department of Education, we are committed to finding new and better ways to communicate with student loan borrowers and to creating a centralized, easier process for repaying loans. And we will see what changes to regulations and legislation, including bankruptcy law, may be necessary to protect borrowers – regardless of the type of loan they have.
- Work across the federal government to see what lessons can be learned from similar situations, like mortgage and credit card markets and other performance-based contracts, to help us make sure that ultimately, we are continually strengthening consumer protections for students.
It is our responsibility to make sure that the more than 40 million Americans with student loans are aware of resources to help them manage their debt, and that are doing everything we can to be responsive to their needs. The Student Aid Bill of Rights builds on the efforts our Administration has been taking over the last several years to make college more affordable and continues to chip away at the burden of student debt – so no one should feel overwhelmed by their student loans.
Agree with me? Take the pledge for a Student and Borrower Bill of Rights:www.whitehouse.gov/college-opportunityArne Duncan is Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education.
A presidential order directs the Education Department and other agencies to make it easier for borrowers to get information or lodge complaints.
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Nationally, just 18 percent of all 9th graders complete four year degrees within 10 years. There needs to be a real sense of urgency as we move forward in creating and sustaining greater college access and completion for all students, which is why it is so important that we address this issue at the federal, state and local levels.
As we prepare students to succeed as adults, we know that most will need advanced learning beyond their high school diplomas to get good jobs. For some, that may mean completing professional certificate programs. Others will go on to earn advanced degrees. Schools and community partners need to track and support students’ completion of advanced learning beyond high school as the new aspiring standard for public education.
This was the most important message that we took away from the “On Track to College Completion” forum hosted by the U.S .Department of Education’s regional office in Chicago on Feb. 25.
As educators from Rockford Public Schools 205, we had the chance to connect with leaders of other school districts and partner organizations from 17 communities spanning Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. Led by Greg Darnieder, senior advisor for college access to Secretary Duncan, we discussed current innovations and practices for college access and completion.
This forum began with an authentic example of how Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has progressed toward that new standard. The district’s efforts over the past nine years have led to a near-doubling of its percentage of 9th graders earning a four-year college degree within 10 years of starting high school, according to research from the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research (CCSR). Darnieder and Aarti Dhupelia, chief officer for college and career success for CPS, discussed how the district’s progress came about, and what it means for other schools and students throughout the country.
Since 2011, RPS 205 has worked with community partners to redesign our five high schools into college and career academies that are better preparing students for college and the workforce. This effort is beginning to reap great results: More 9th graders are on track to graduate in 4 years, attendance has improved and graduation rates have increased.
The session helped us make some much needed connections. For example, RPS 205 is working with Alignment Rockford, a community partner, to develop a site-based scholarship program modeled after the Kalamazoo Promise, which funds college for Kalamazoo Public Schools graduates. This forum gave us the opportunity to meet Janice Brown, founder of the Kalamazoo Promise and get her direct insights about starting a similar initiative.
The session was also a catalyst for sharing information about effective college access and completion resources. They included data sources like the National Student Clearinghouse and the Illinois Department of Employment Security, which may be used to collect and monitor college completion rates, as well as the federal GEAR UP program, which helps low-income middle and high school students to enter and success in post-secondary education.
This is very rewarding work, but it’s not easy. We’re all experiencing some of the same challenges to prepare our students for success in the 21st century economy. Exchanges like this one are vital to leverage best practices and to collaborate to develop new strategies.
David Carson is Executive Director of College and Career Readiness for Rockford Public Schools 205 and Janice Hawkins is Principal of Guilford High School in Rockford Public Schools 205.
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