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ED to Celebrate Constitution Day

September 14, 2017 - 11:35am

In remembrance of the signing of the U.S. Constitution, and in recognition of the Americans who strive to uphold the duties and responsibilities of citizenship, including Federal employees, the Congress enacted a law on December 8, 2004, that requires educational institutions receiving Federal funding to hold an educational program for their students pertaining to the United States Constitution on September 17 of each year, except when it falls on a weekend.  Congress also designated September 17 as “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day,” commemorating the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution. Additionally, Federal agencies are required to provide information about the Constitution to their employees to commemorate that day.

ED will commemorate the day this year with a special program at headquarters in Washington, DC, on September 18.  All employees are invited, and the program will be streamed on EDStream. This year’s Constitution Day program will feature historians who will discuss issues related to the First Amendment during World War I. Our speakers are:  Edward Lengel, Historian for The White House Historical Association, and Tony Williams, a Senior Teaching Fellow at the Bill of Rights Institute.  Julie Silverbrook, Executive Director of The Constitutional Sources Project (ConSource) will serve as moderator. Phil Rosenfelt, Deputy General Counsel for Program Services at ED, will introduce the speakers and provide observations on the relationship of constitutional issues in World War I and their relevance to the constitutional issues of today.

When planning each year’s program, we look to history and current and recent events for themes.  This year marks the Centennial of the U.S. entry into World War I (WWI).  The topics addressed at the time of WWI have great relevance today.

The appropriate role of the Federal government and the curtailment of personal liberties such as freedom of speech were issues in WWI that stand out.  During the war, Congress passed legislation limiting speech and instituted a draft to raise an army to fight the war.

Congress passed the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918. These Congressional actions made it illegal to “utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States or the Constitution of the United States, or the military or naval forces of the United States.” These laws made certain types of protest, for example, punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 or up to 20 years in prison.

In fact, more than 2,000 people were indicted under these laws during the war.  The laws were challenged in the courts, including the United States Supreme Court, and courts generally upheld the restrictions as appropriate during wartime.  So, free speech and our basic freedoms were very much topics in WWI.

The second WWI-related issue was forced conscription. The draft led many to oppose the war.  In fact, a major Supreme Court case, Shenk v. United States, was decided that combined free speech and opposition to the draft.  The Supreme Court said:

A conspiracy to circulate among men called and accepted for military service under the Selective Service Act of May 18, 1917, a circular tending to influence them to obstruct the draft, with the intent to effect that result, and followed by the sending of such circulars, is within the power of Congress to punish, and is punishable under the Espionage Act, § 4, although unsuccessful.

In addition, on August 2, 1917, Oklahoma tenant farmers opposed to WWI and conscription revolted in what became known as the Green Corn Rebellion.  According to the Oklahoma Historical Society:

The men planned to march to Washington and end the war, surviving on the way by eating barbecued beef and roasted green corn, the latter giving the rebellion its name. The rebels began burning bridges and cutting telegraph lines on August 3, but they soon faced hastily organized posses, which halted the revolt. Three men died in the conflict, and more than four hundred others were arrested. Of those, 150 were convicted and received federal prison terms of up to ten years.

Freedom of speech and the press and the right to peaceably assemble, all guaranteed in the First Amendment to the Constitution, were important rights and issues then, and continue to be important now. The discussion of the Constitution issues during World War I will give new insight into the issues of today.


Anthony Fowler is Interagency Liaison at the U.S. Department of Education.

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Categories: Higher Education News

ED Expands Hurricane Help Website

September 11, 2017 - 3:58pm

The United States Department of Education has expanded the Hurricane Help page on its website. Originally created in response to Hurricane Harvey, the site now includes a page for information related to Hurricane Irma as well as a page containing general hurricane information.

The pages for Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma contain links to federal resources, including the latest information from FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security as well as government-wide activities related to each of the hurricanes (from the General Services Administration) and other information for those impacted by these two storms. Each of the hurricane help pages also provides lists of resources specifically related to education.

All of these sites are continually updated so users are urged to continue checking for the latest.

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Categories: Higher Education News

3 FAFSA Deadlines You Need to Be Aware of

September 7, 2017 - 1:00pm

Ah, deadlines. The sworn enemy of students across the nation. When you’re busy with classes, extracurricular activities, and a social life in whatever time you’ve got left, it’s easy to lose track and let due dates start whooshing by. All of a sudden, your 10-page term paper is due in an hour, and you’re only on page 5 (with the help of 26-point type and triple line spacing). We get it.

Nevertheless, we’re here to point out a few critical deadlines that you really shouldn’t miss: those to do with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. By submitting your FAFSA form late, you might be forfeiting big money that can help you pay for college.

Here are those three deadlines:

1. The College Deadline

The first type of deadline comes from colleges themselves, and—spoiler alert—it’s typically pretty early. These deadlines vary from school to school, but they usually come well before the academic year starts. If you’re applying to multiple colleges, be sure to look up each school’s FAFSA deadline and apply by the earliest one.

Many of these FAFSA due dates are priority deadlines. This means that you need to get your FAFSA form in by that date to be considered for the most money. Many colleges have this date clearly marked on their financial aid pages. If you can’t find it, you can always call the school’s financial aid office.

If you’re worried about gathering information to complete the FAFSA form in time to meet this deadline, don’t be. You can apply as early as Oct. 1 (instead of Jan. 1 as you may have done in the past). This earlier submission date will give you more time to complete the FAFSA form before college deadlines approach, which means more time to compare schools. You’ll use earlier (2016) tax information, so there’s no need for estimates.

Didn’t think it could get any easier? The earlier launch date coincides with many college application deadlines, so go ahead and apply for schools and for federal aid at the same time. If you haven’t figured out where you’re applying yet, don’t worry! You can still submit the FAFSA form. Just add any school you’re considering, even if you’re not sure whether you’ll apply or be accepted. You can always add or remove schools later.

2. The State Deadline

The second deadline is determined by your home state. Starting on Oct.1, you can check your state’s deadline here. Some states have hard deadlines and other states have suggested deadlines to make sure you get priority consideration for college money. There’s also a group of states that offer first-come, first-served financial aid. If your state’s deadline is “As soon as possible after Oct. 1, 2017,” you should get your FAFSA form submitted ASAP. Many of these states award financial aid funds only until they run out, so the sooner you apply, the better your chances.

3. The Federal Deadline

This last deadline comes from us, the U.S. Department of Education, aka the FAFSA folks. Our only time constraint is that each year’s FAFSA form becomes unavailable on June 30 at the end of the academic year it applies to.

That means that the 2018–19 FAFSA form (which will be available on Oct. 1, 2017) will disappear from fafsa.gov on June 30, 2019, because that’s the end of the 2018–19 school year. That’s right; you can technically go through your entire year at college before accessing the FAFSA form. However, a few federal student aid programs have limited funds, so be sure to apply as soon as you can. Also, as we said, earlier deadlines from states and colleges make waiting a bad idea.

Why so many deadlines?

All these entities award their financial aid money differently and at different times. What they all have in common, though, is that they use the FAFSA form to assess eligibility for their aid programs. So when a college wants to get its aid squared away before the academic year starts, it needs your FAFSA form to make that happen. If you want in on that college money, you need to help the college out by getting your information in by its deadline. The same goes for state aid programs. Additionally, many outside scholarship programs need to see your FAFSA info before they will consider your application. If you’re applying for scholarships, you need to stay on top of those deadlines, too.

What happens if I miss the deadlines?

Don’t miss the deadlines. Plan to get your FAFSA form in by the earliest of all the deadlines for your best crack at college money. By missing deadlines, you take yourself out of the running for money you might otherwise get. Some states and colleges continue awarding aid to FAFSA latecomers, but your chances get much slimmer, and the payout is often less if you do get aid. It’s just better not to miss the deadlines.

If you miss the end-of-June federal deadline, you’re no longer eligible to submit that year’s FAFSA form. Did we mention not to miss the deadlines?

Across the board, the motto really is “the sooner the better.” So turn in your FAFSA form and that term paper as soon as possible (without the 26-point type). Apply by the earliest deadline. Get your FAFSA form done today!

Drew Goins is a former intern with the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid. Likes: politics, language, good puns. Dislikes: mainly kale.

Nora Onley is a Management and Program Analyst with the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

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Categories: Higher Education News

7 Things You Need Before You Fill Out the 2018–19 FAFSA® Form

September 6, 2017 - 1:00pm

If you need financial aid to help you pay for college, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. The 2018–19 FAFSA form will be available on Oct. 1, 2017. You should fill it out as soon as possible on the official government site, fafsa.gov.

It’ll be easier to complete the FAFSA form if you gather what you need ahead of time. Below is what you’ll need to fill it out.

1. Your FSA ID*

An FSA ID is a username and password that you can use to log in to certain U.S. Department of Education (ED) websites. Each student, and one parent of each dependent student, will need an FSA ID to complete the FAFSA process on fafsa.gov. We recommend creating your FSA ID early—even before you’re ready to complete the FAFSA form—to avoid delays in the process.

For step-by-step instructions, watch How to Create Your FSA ID.

IMPORTANT: Do NOT create an FSA ID on behalf of someone else. That means parents should not create FSA IDs for their children and vice versa. Doing so may result in issues signing and submitting the FAFSA form and could lead to financial aid delays. (Also, it’s against the rules to create an FSA ID for someone else.)

To summarize:

  • Anyone who plans to fill out the 2018–19 FAFSA form should create an FSA ID as soon as possible.
  • If you are required to provide parent information on your FAFSA form, your parent should create an FSA ID too.
  • Because your FSA ID is equivalent to your signature, parents and students each need to create their own FSA IDs using their own, unique email address and phone number. Parents should not create an FSA ID for their child and vice versa.
  • In some situations, you may need to wait up to three days to use your FSA ID after creating it. If you want to avoid FAFSA delays, create your FSA ID now.
2. Your Social Security number*

You can find the number on your Social Security card. If you don’t have access to it, and don’t know where it is, ask your parent or legal guardian or get a new or replacement Social Security card from the Social Security Administration. If you are not a U.S. citizen, but meet Federal Student Aid’s basic eligibility requirements, you’ll also need your Alien Registration number.

3. Your driver’s license number

If you don’t have a driver’s license, then don’t worry about this step.

4. Your 2016 tax records*

In case you didn’t hear about the changes we made to the FAFSA process, beginning with the 2017–18 FAFSA form, we now require you to report income information from an earlier tax year.

  • On the 2018–19 FAFSA form, you (and your parents, as appropriate) will report your 2016 income information, rather than your 2017 income information.
  • Since you’ll already have filed your 2016 taxes by the time the FAFSA form launches, you’ll be able to import your tax information into the FAFSA form right away using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). (No more logging back in to update after filing taxes!)
  • Not everyone is eligible to use the IRS DRT and the IRS DRT does not input all the financial information required on the FAFSA form. Therefore, you should have your 2016 tax return and 2016 IRS W-2 available for reference.

The IRS DRT will return with the 2018–19 FAFSA form on Oct. 1, 2017. The IRS DRT remains the fastest, most accurate way to input your tax return information into the FAFSA form. To address security and privacy concerns related to the IRS DRT, the tax return information you transfer from the IRS will no longer be displayed on fafsa.gov or the IRS DRT web page. Instead, you’ll see “Transferred from the IRS” in the appropriate fields on fafsa.gov.

  • You cannot use your 2017 tax information. We understand that for some families, 2016 income doesn’t accurately reflect your current financial situation. If you have experienced a reduction in income since the 2016 tax year, you should complete the FAFSA form with the info it asks for (2016), and then contact each of the schools to which you’re applying to explain and document the change in income. They have the ability to assess your situation and make adjustments to your FAFSA form if warranted.
  • You cannot update your 2018–19 FAFSA form with your 2017 tax information after filing 2017 taxes. 2016 information is what’s required. No updates necessary; no updates allowed.
5. Records of your untaxed income*

The FAFSA questions about untaxed income may or may not apply to you, but they include things like child support received, interest income, and veterans noneducation benefits. On the 2018–19 FAFSA form, you’ll report 2016 tax or calendar year information when asked these questions. Find specific details for parents and students.

6. Records of your assets (money)*

This includes savings and checking account balances, as well as the value of investments such as stocks and bonds and real estate (except the home in which your family lives). You should report the current amounts as of the date you sign the FAFSA form, rather than the 2016 tax year amounts.

Note: Misreporting the value of investments is a common FAFSA mistake. Please carefully review what is and is not considered a student investment and parent investment to make sure you don’t over- or under-report. You may be surprised by what can (and cannot) be excluded.

7. List of the school(s) you are interested in attending

Be sure to add any college you’re considering, even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet.

  • Even if there is only a slight chance you’ll apply to a college, list the school on your FAFSA form. You can always remove schools later if you decide not to apply, but if you wait to add a school, you could miss out on first-come, first-served financial aid.
  • The schools you list on your FAFSA form will automatically receive your FAFSA results electronically. They will use your FAFSA information to determine the types and amounts of financial aid you may receive.
  • If you add a school to your FAFSA form and later decide not to apply for admission to that school, that’s OK! The school likely won’t offer you aid until you’ve been accepted anyway.
  • You can list up to 10 schools on your FAFSA form at a time. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, here’s what you should do.

TIP:  To be considered for state aid, several states require you to list schools in a particular order (for instance, you might need to list a state school first). Find out whether your state has a requirement for the order in which you list schools on your FAFSA form.

* If you’re a dependent student, you will need this information for your parents as well.


Nicole Callahan is a Digital Engagement Strategist at the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

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The post 7 Things You Need Before You Fill Out the 2018–19 FAFSA® Form appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

Keeping the Promise in California: The California Affinity Group

September 5, 2017 - 1:00pm

When I wanted to know what an affinity group is, I turned to my affinity for the dictionary. Webster’s definition is “people having a common goal or acting together for a specific purpose.” By this definition, the California Affinity Group (CAG) is perfectly named. CAG’s members work in Promise Neighborhoods, Promise Zones, a Performance Partnership Pilot area, city governments, school districts, community organizations, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and U.S. Department of Education (ED) with the common goal of improving opportunities for people living in some of California’s most distressed communities.

On July 18 and 19, CAG held its first in-person peer exchange, on California State University, East Bay’s Hayward campus. While the group’s members had spoken via conference call, this was their first face-to-face meeting.

Dr. Carolyn Nelson, dean of the College of Education at Cal State, East Bay and principal investigator for Hayward Promise Neighborhood (HPN), said that Cal State, East Bay wanted to host the in-person meeting “because our university is shifting its role to being part of the community.” As Nelson explained, “We’re shifting how low-income, underrepresented communities see universities as inaccessible. We have a responsibility – being the most diverse campus on the mainland of the United States – that our students look like the students in the community.”

Melinda Hall, executive director of HPN, talked about her organization’s goal to “provide equitable opportunities for all the community members that we serve in the areas of safety, education and health.” Building on HPN’s work, Hayward was designated as a 2016 Promise Zone finalist.

HUD, the lead federal agency for urban Promise Zones, provides staff to the nation’s 14 urban Promise Zones. Erich Yost is HUD’s Los Angeles Promise Zone community liaison. “We’re engaged with aligning and targeting federal resources available across the federal government,” Yost said.

The peer exchange included visits to two community programs that receive HPN funding. “They were highlighted for the site visits to emphasize the need to keep middle-school students engaged over the summer in career-exploration,” said Hall.

The first visit was to the Eden Area Regional Occupational Program, which provides career and technical education classes in culinary science, criminal justice, medical careers, and construction.

The second visit was to the Chabot Community College Summer Youth Sports Program, a free program giving low-income youth an opportunity to participate in coached sports.

ED supports both Promise Neighborhood and Promise Zone work. As HUD’s Yost noted, “The U.S. Department of Education’s place-based initiatives team has been an invaluable resource for the Promise Zone initiative.” HPN’s Hall said, “I think U.S. Department of Education funding is important because it speaks to where the department’s priorities are.”

The participants found the peer exchange valuable. “Getting ideas from different parts of the state is really helpful,” said Hall. “There are some things that we could very easily implement here.”

Jaime Ramirez, a part of the technical assistance (TA) team assigned to the CAG, provided planning and facilitation support. After watching the group’s interactions, Ramirez said, “There’s something about getting together in person to get to know each other better. This is going to go a long way to share knowledge, wisdom, and best practices.”

Ramirez and the TA team will continue to facilitate and support CAG’s ongoing collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and application of best practices.


Joe Barison is a public affairs specialist in the Office of Communications and Outreach.

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Categories: Higher Education News

ED Provides Information Site, Activates Emergency Response Contact Center in Response to Hurricane Harvey

August 29, 2017 - 2:04pm

In response to the devastating impacts of Hurricane Harvey, the U.S. Department of Education has activated an emergency response contact center and created an information page on the ED website.

ED’s Hurricane Harvey Information webpage contains relevant information from the U.S. Department of Education as well as links to other Federal resources to assist those impacted by Hurricane Harvey. The website will be updated as new information is received so users are urged to continue checking the site for the latest.

A press release from ED announcing the emergency response contact center stated,

The Department’s K-12 and Higher Education stakeholders who are seeking informational resources as well as those seeking relief from Department-based administrative requirements should contact the Department toll free at 1-844-348-4082 or by email at HarveyRelief@ed.gov.

In addition, the press release offered information for student loan borrowers affected by the hurricane.

The Department has also directed federal student loan servicers to provide impacted borrowers flexibility in managing their loan payments during this time. Borrowers can contact their student loan servicer for more information or call 1-800-4FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) to find out their servicer’s contact information.

Additional information for borrowers is available from Federal Student Aid at https://studentaid.gov/hurricane-harvey.

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Categories: Higher Education News

8 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your College Experience

August 24, 2017 - 12:00pm

Everyone’s college experience is unique—and probably not quite what they were expecting, but here are some tried and true tips on how to get through it.

1. Get involved.

This point may be the most overhyped, but it’s still valid. Go to your school’s activities fair if they have one; otherwise, keep your eyes open for opportunities to join different clubs or teams. Joining a club or team can often provide a much-needed relief from your everyday classes or responsibilities, and it’s a great way to meet new people or to try something new! Many schools even have niche groups such as unicycle clubs, quidditch teams (of Harry Potter fame), and virtual reality clubs. If you don’t find a club that aligns with your interests, you can always start your own!

2. Learn how to network.

Networking is something that can seem foreign for high school students (at least that’s how it felt for me). We go to college and are suddenly expected to know how to make professional contacts without any real training. To be successful at networking throughout college, you have to put yourself in settings where you’ll have the opportunity to meet professionals in the field you’re interested in. Look for local networking opportunities or events that are catered to the industry you’re in or the skills you’d like to master. For example, you might find an event that teaches individuals how to run for office, or a training on using LinkedIn to your advantage, or a class that helps you learn photography skills. All of these events will put you in contact with people who can help propel you into a career later in life.

3. Prepare for the cost of college.

If you need to take out student loans to pay for college, borrow ONLY what you need. Many people accept less than what’s offered (myself included!). Borrowing an extra $4,000 now may turn into repaying an extra $7,000 in the future. (Remember, anything you borrow now must be paid back with interest later.) Consider getting a job to help defray costs. College campuses usually have lots of fun jobs to choose from (for example, I was a driver for my campus’s safe ride program). Finally, remember to continue to apply for scholarships, as many can be given only to current students or to students in a certain major.

4. Get an internship.

Paid or unpaid. Local, national, or abroad. Find an internship that caters to your interests or career goals. Internships can help you figure out if you truly want to go into a certain field, and they can make you more marketable to future employers. Completing an internship also gives you professional contacts and references that you can call on for years to come. You can find internship opportunities through your school, an online search, or by attending career fairs.

5. Know where to go for academic (and financial aid) help.

Your school wants you to succeed. Take advantage of their services, especially if they’re free. Some colleges and universities have exceptional one-on-one tutoring programs that can help you pass that seemingly-impossible class. Others have group study sessions with teaching assistants. Attending tutoring sessions like the ones I’ve described has helped me stay on track in my classes. Also, be sure to stay on top of your financial aid situation. Familiarize yourself with the financial aid office. They’re always there to help you navigate the (sometimes complicated) financial aid process.

6. Your major doesn’t determine your future.

College is the time to find yourself and truly discover your own interests. You will have to be intrinsically motivated in order to meet your goals—if you don’t want to do it, nobody can make you, so you might as well choose a major you truly enjoy. However, on that note, a major is just an area of study, not a career path. If you want to study dance and go to medical school, go for it! If you want to study psychology and become an elementary teacher (this is what I’m doing), go for it! Just make sure you know the required prerequisites for obtaining any higher degree/certification/licensure required by your field and be sure to meet those requirements in a timely manner, because classes are not free.

7. Don’t compare your college experience to someone else’s.

Everyone’s experience is different. Remember that what you see on social media isn’t always the full truth. For a lot of people, college is simultaneously the best and busiest time of their life. Remember, it’s okay to not be having fun 100% of the time. College isn’t all Instagram posts of parties, spring break trips, and football games in a VSCO filter. It’s okay not to be having fun 100% of the time—college is about learning, finding your passions, and building relationships. Your college experience is whatever you make it.

8. Learn how to combat stress.

College can be a challenge. It’s not just the schoolwork that’s difficult; it’s balancing schoolwork, a social life, a job or two, housing, grocery shopping, budgeting, and anything else life throws at you. Self-care can help you balance these stressors to improve your overall well-being. Some self-care activities that work for me include deep breathing, coloring geometric patterns, and going on walks. Other people like to go to the gym, listen to music, or watch videos online. Whatever you do, make sure it’s the right thing for you so that you get the most out of this incredible period of your life.

Katie Hannestad is a junior at the University of Minnesota. She is an intern in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Celebrating a Sixth Cohort of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools; Launching the 2017 Green Strides Tour

August 23, 2017 - 12:45pm

U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) began in 2011-2012 by defining “green school” according to three Pillars.  In 2012-2013, ED added a District Sustainability Award and began an annual tour spotlighting the practices of honorees and launched a Green Strides resources portal for all to employ.  The 2013-2014 cycle added an honor for state officials and 2015 brought a postsecondary category and saw the revamping of the Green Strides portal.

Need an occasion for celebration? On Wednesday, July 19th, we recognized 45 schools, nine districts, nine postsecondary institutions, and one state education agency official at a Washington, D.C. ceremony for their efforts to cultivate sustainable, healthy facilities, wellness practices, and authentic place-based learning.

Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education for Management Holly Ham addresses the 2017 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools at a ceremony on July 19th in Washington, D.C.

The Director of the Campaign for Environmental Literacy James L. Elder, Director of the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council Anisa Heming, Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education for Management Holly Ham, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Education Director Louisa Koch congratulated the 2017 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools.  They were also treated to a special briefing with hydrogen fuel car demonstration offered by the U.S. Department of Energy, a National Park Service ranger-led tour of National Monuments, and a reception with their Hill members sponsored by the Center for Green Schools.

As ED-GRS Director, I rejoice in honorees’ achievements each passing year while continuing to look for ways to make this federal communications and outreach tool structured as a recognition award fresh and useful to the school communities we serve.  From tentative beginnings, it has become quite clear to us here at ED that sustainable school practices are here to stay and that our federal agency requires some understanding of school facilities, health, and environment matters, particularly as they affect learning.  I’ve been honored to serve in this evolving role, to read each and every one of our nominations in full every year of this award, and to preside over our annual ceremony — which is always a special event.

Learning from the many national non-profit and federal colleagues who have educated us in these areas over the last five years, I, too, have come to think of healthy, safe, sustainable schools that offer real-world learning opportunities as something that should be the norm in all of our schools.

I’m also thrilled to share that we’ll conduct a fourth iteration of the Green Strides Tour, which spotlights our honorees’ work, this year to Georgia, and focused on the importance of outdoor learning.  You can learn more about that tour here.

To learn more about this year’s U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, District Sustainability Awardees, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees, visit our website and annual Highlights Report.  You may also subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.  Watch the ceremony video and view photos.


Andrea Suarez Falken is Director of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools and Facilities, Health, and Environment Liaison at the U.S. Department of Education.  

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Categories: Higher Education News

How Do Schools Calculate Your Financial Aid?

August 17, 2017 - 9:58am

One of the questions we receive most often is: “Why didn’t I get more money for school? It’s especially frustrating when you have no idea how a school decided on your aid offer.  Hopefully, this information will shed some light on how schools calculate your financial aid.

It all starts when you submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. Once we (Federal Student Aid) process your application (it takes about three days if you submitted it online), we make your information available to all of the schools you listed on it. Each school then uses your FAFSA information to determine how much aid you are eligible to receive at that school. Each school has its own schedule for awarding financial aid. You must check with each school to find out when you can expect to receive an aid offer.

Schools determine financial aid offers based on three factors:

1. Enrollment Status (full-time, half-time, less than half-time, etc.)

Your enrollment status will impact the amount and types of aid you qualify for. For example, Direct Loans are available only to students enrolled at least half-time, and Federal Pell Grant amounts are partially determined by your enrollment status.

2. Cost of Attendance (COA)

Think of this as your school’s sticker price. Your COA is the estimated amount of money it will cost to go to a particular school. This figure is determined by your school and should be available on the school’s website. If your enrollment status is at least half-time, your COA estimate includes

  • tuition and fees,
  • room and board,
  • books, supplies, living expenses, transportation, loan fees, and more.

Find more details about what’s included in cost of attendance.

Keep in mind that your COA will likely be different at each school, since some schools are more expensive than others.

3. Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

The information you provide on the FAFSA is used to calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is not necessarily the amount of money your family will have to pay for college, nor is it the amount of federal student aid you will receive. It is a number used by your school to calculate how much financial aid you are eligible for at that school.

The EFC is calculated using a formula established by law. The formula can be difficult to understand; just know that many factors are taken into account—not just income. If you have questions about your EFC, contact the financial aid office at your school.

Schools then use this formula to determine your financial need:

Cost of Attendance (COA)

Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

= Financial Need

Once each school has determined your financial need, you will receive aid offers from the schools you’ve been accepted to. Remember that all of your aid offers will be different. Each school has a different ability to meet your financial need—it all depends on the funds available at each school.

The offers will include the types and amounts of financial aid you’re eligible to receive from federal, state, private, and school sources. If you need help comparing the offers you received from different schools, use the CFPB’s financial aid offer comparison tool.

Be sure you understand what each type of aid is and whether or not it needs to be paid back. If you have any questions about an offer, you should talk to a financial aid advisor at the school. No matter how much aid you’re offered, it is always up to you to decide how much of a student loan you want to accept. The rule of thumb is that you should only borrow as much money as you absolutely need to pay for the school year. You can always tell your school that you want to borrow less than what is offered.

You may also be interested in these 7 options to consider if you didn’t receive enough financial aid.

Nora Onley is a Management and Program Analyst for Federal Student Aid.

The post How Do Schools Calculate Your Financial Aid? appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

Celebrating Student Artistry From Fairfax County Public Schools: “The World Through My Eyes”

August 16, 2017 - 10:51am

On July 18, the Department hosted Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) to celebrate the opening of “The World Through My Eyes,” a collection of student achievement in the visual arts. Ninety FCPS students grades one through 12 at 28 schools contributed to the exhibit; the diversity of their chosen mediums—from photography to painting, illustration, printmaking, mixed media, and film—exemplifies the myriad perspectives and concerns of today’s youths.

Among the exhibit’s many outstanding pieces is “Sisters,” a reimagining of Roselle Hellenberg Osk’s famous 20th-century etching of the same name. Jamie Lambkin and Tiana Espinoza recreated the etching’s mien through photography; flanking their photos are two short, inner-monologue prose pieces by Shiva Zarean and Maxmine Ayompe-Mody, both Oakton High School theater students. Espinoza said her aim was to bring Osk’s themes of racial and cultural diversity into the 21st century along with the notion of religious diversity into the work. “Sisters” stands as a testament to the kind of creativity and artistic capacity that Fairfax County seeks to cultivate in its students.

The opening was not content to honor merely the visual arts, however—it showcased the county’s talented and multifarious performing artists as well. Young musicians shared the stage with vocalists, dancers, and even aspiring directors; interspersed between their outstanding performances were cogent and inspiring remarks by students, county officials, and Department staff. In a particularly powerful moment, FCPS School Board member Karen Corbett Sanders highlighted the fundamental importance of arts education by invoking the father of our country:“George Washington believed that the arts should be in the foundation of an enlightened nation. In 1781, he wrote to a friend: ‘The arts and sciences are essential to the prosperity of the state, and to the ornament and happiness of human life.’”

Epitomizing this sense of joie de vivre was the Lake Braddock Orchestra, led by Troops to Teachers educator Clayton Allen. The concert program juxtaposed Scandinavian romanticism with the English musical avant-garde of the early 20th century—the sonorous, arcing melodies of Sibelius took on a new, profound beauty in the context of Holst and Warlock’s robust harmonies. Many in attendance seemed especially impressed by the students’ rendition of Grieg’s seminal Holberg Suite, which delineates (and perhaps rejuvenates) the principal stylistic and compositional forms of the 18th century. The maturity and composure of these young performers were impressive indeed.

First chair cellist Rebecca Kelly performs during Lake Braddock’s orchestral program. Kelly noted that the responsibilities bestowed upon her by the program have motivated her to work harder.

Ally Johnson, student president of the Lake Braddock Orchestra, noted that her time in Fairfax programs illustrates “the extreme importance of arts education . . . [in that it] engenders an otherwise unattainable sense of community between musicians, as well as between musicians and the school community at large.” What explains Lake Braddock’s success? “We owe a lot to our awesome directors,” noted Joshua Cheng. Many musicians also cited their experience in Fourth-Grade Strings as an essential, even transcendental aspect of their education.

A similar example of artistic excellence featured at the opening was “Buzzcut Season,” a short film by four female students from Rachel Carson Middle School; the film illustrates the cathartic power of friendship and relays a significant message concerning the negative impact of bullying in schools.

Students engage in daring acrobatics while performing “Holding out for a Hero” from the film Footloose. This number featured performers from Annandale, Fairfax, Hayfield, Lake Braddock, South County, and West Springfield High Schools.

Other highlights included Sophia Welch’s rendition of “Defying Gravity” from the musical Wicked; a performance of Arcangelo Corelli’s Suite for Strings by the Spring Hill Elementary School Chamber Orchestra; “Art Makes a Difference,” an ardent, heartfelt speech by Deer Park Elementary sixth-grader Purnima Vasistha; and “I am a Photographer,” a presentation depicting recent graduate Matthew Cohen’s maturation as both artiste and entrepreneur.  The program concluded with a climactic song-and-dance performance of “Holding Out For a Hero” by a consortium of theater and drama students from six Fairfax high schools. The dramatic acrobatic maneuvers of this riveting number left many in the audience especially awestruck.

By the event’s conclusion, the astounding capabilities of today’s young artists were manifest; also evident were the critical role of schools in their successes, as well as the vital importance of artistic expression at all levels of the educational experience.

Jason Sandoval, a sixth-grader at Groveton Elementary School, poses with his “Micrography Self-Portrait.” From the Greek for “small writing” (Μικρογραφία), Micrography is the practice of using minute letters to form representational or abstract designs. Jason used ink to create it.

Watch the opening in full here on the Department’s Facebook page. The exhibit will remain at ED through Aug. 24.


Andrew Smith is an intern from Middlebury College in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.

Photo at the top: Everyone’s all smiles at the ribbon-cutting ceremony that culminated the opening of the Fairfax County Public Schools art exhibit. 

All photos are by U.S. Department of Education photographer Paul Wood.

The Department’s Student Art Exhibit Program provides students and teachers an opportunity to display creative work from the classroom in a highly public space that honors their work as an effective path to learning and knowledge for all. To visit the exhibits or for information about exhibiting, contact Jackye Zimmermann at jacquelyn.zimmermann@ed.gov or visit https://www.ed.gov/student-art-exhibit

Continue the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Preparing and Developing Culturally Responsive School Leaders

August 11, 2017 - 10:59am

Standard 3 of the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders (PSEL) reads, “Effective educational leaders strive for equity of educational opportunity and culturally responsive practices to promote each student’s academic success and well-being.” How do we take this important aspiration and realize it through our practices and actions?

In June, our school’s administrative team hosted a two-day Climate Summit for our entire staff. The aim was to collaborate around our school’s newly defined core values; clarify our common practices around creating a safe and positive school climate; articulate our social-emotional learning plans for the upcoming year; and standardize our discipline practices to ensure consistency, fairness, and, most importantly, increase opportunities for our students to be in class, rather than excluded.

As part of this summit, I shared a slide featuring an infographic illustrating the school to prison pipeline. In sharing this slide, I explained to our team that if we do not change some of our practices to be more culturally responsive and engage all of our students in learning, we will be enabling this system to perpetuate, rather than disrupting it.

Engaging teachers and your school team in a conversation about race and equity and disproportionality in discipline data is not an easy task. Every school leader wants to close achievement gaps, serve the whole child and ensure their teachers feel supported and safe. How do we engage in the bold and complex conversations around our data, practices and policies while understanding the role of institutionalized racism in an ever-changing school landscape? Ensuring all school leaders, at every stage of their career are well-prepared, reflective, constant learners engaging in culturally responsive leadership is essential.

On June 27, the Principal Ambassador Fellows hosted the Principals at ED Principal Preparation Summit at the US Department of Education in Washington, DC. This was the third gathering we hosted this year focused on school leaders.

The convening included nearly 40 participants across the education spectrum. The theme of the day was preparing and developing culturally responsive school leaders.

Our students are increasingly diverse and varied in their assets and needs and yet achievement gaps and opportunity gaps continue to persist. School leaders set the tone, the priorities, and the way of being in their schools, and are critical to ensuring access to a quality, engaging, rigorous, and relevant school experience.

The day focused on problem-solving across domains of school leadership, specifically addressing two questions: 1. How do principal preparation programs address developing culturally responsive leadership? 2. What components can be built into programs that address this area for principals that will allow them to personalize and build better learning conditions for all students? The day also included a listening session with Secretary DeVos.

The assembled educators and thought partners collaborated on various strategies that can be implemented by local school districts, principal preparation programs, and more informally through networks of school leaders collaborating together. These include intentionally recruiting teacher leaders to become principals; fostering collaborative networks among principals; and aligning systems of support for administrators across their careers.

One of the day’s participants remarked, “The Summit has forced me to recommit to my mentor work for new principals, and re-energized my view around the value of veteran principals.”

Another participant noted, “It was good to hear multiple perspectives and feel less like we are working in silos.”

Investing in developing culturally responsive principals requires collaboration, time and engagement from a variety of sectors. Most importantly, it requires courageous leaders at all levels who are willing to reflect, model, learn and lead in order to disrupt systems that fail to serve all students.

Dana Nerenberg was a 2016-17 Washington Principal Ambassador Fellow

The photo at the top is from a Principals at ED gathering at the U.S. Department of Education occurring prior to the gathering referred to in this post.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Eight Lessons Learned From Piloting the Rapid Cycle Evaluation Coach

August 9, 2017 - 2:23pm

Mrs. Lowerre’s class” by diane horvath is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

For the last 18 months, the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education, in partnership with the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) at the Department, has been working with Mathematica Policy Research and SRI International to build the Rapid Cycle Evaluation Coach (the RCE Coach). The RCE Coach is a free, open-source, web-based platform to help schools and districts generate evidence about whether their educational technology apps and tools are working to achieve better results for students. The platform was released in Beta in October 2016 and updated in January 2017. The RCE Coach currently includes two types of evaluation designs:

  • matched comparison, which creates two similar groups of users and non-users of an ed tech application already in use at a school site and;
  • randomized pilot, which randomly assigns participants to groups of users and non-users of an ed tech application that has not yet been implemented.

While the tool is free and open for any school or district to use (and many have done so already, with over 1,700 individuals registered), we worked closely with 12 districts to pilot the RCE Coach, and six of the pilots are already complete. The pilots spanned the two evaluation designs and studied how selected math or literacy products affected student academic achievement. Below are eight lessons we’ve learned from these initial pilots.

Lesson 1. The central problem addressed by the RCE Coach — the need for better evidence for making decisions about whether to use ed tech in schools to inform implementation of best practices and procurement — has broad resonance in the field.

In conversations with district staff, we heard repeatedly that people want to know whether the technology they use is making a difference for students and is worth the cost, and that evidence should be more rigorously and systematically generated.

Lesson 2. Moving from broad to narrow research questions is an important part of the process.

Rapid-cycle evaluations — rigorous, scientific approaches to research that provide decision makers with timely and actionable evidence of whether operational changes improve program outcomes — work best for narrow questions that address specific implementations of technology, but most districts start from a different point.

Many of our pilot districts stated their research questions in very broad terms. For example, they wanted to know whether technology in general is moving the needle or whether a school wide technology-based intervention is working. Rapid-cycle evaluations can be most useful in examining whether components of a school improvement plan are having the desired effect on student outcomes or whether the desired effect is coming from one particular technology for a targeted group of students.

Lesson 3. The RCE Coach needs to have the flexibility to meet districts where they are.

Many districts want to know if the technology they are already using is helping students, but they lack the ideal conditions for a causal impact study. For example, a school may have rolled out a new app to all students, but only certain teachers actually used it with their students.

Therefore, it is important that the RCE Coach help users determine what types of analyses are possible and appropriate given their unique circumstances. It’s also important to be clear about the strength of the evidence provided under these different cases so that districts can use the information appropriately.

Lesson 4. Having a champion in the right role at the school or district is crucial.

Rapid-cycle evaluations can fall into the tricky space of being perceived as important but not urgent. Thus, they are susceptible to delays when more pressing tasks arise.

We hypothesize that districts are most likely to complete the evaluations when there are staff dedicated to data analysis or curriculum directors who have less exposure to the pressures of day-to-day school operations. Over the next year, we hope to learn more about the skill sets necessary to successfully navigate the RCE Coach independently and how the RCE Coach can best be embedded into existing operations.

Lesson 5. Large systems may see the RCE Coach as a resource for local capacity building.

A large district with a central data analysis, program evaluation or research unit may choose to train staff in schools to use the RCE Coach in order to build local capacity and enable the study of more technologies than one central team could test alone. Several state departments of education also expressed interest in disseminating use of the RCE Coach into their districts.

Lesson 6. The RCE Coach can support common approaches to evaluation.

At present, within a district, people may use inconsistent approaches to evaluating the effectiveness (and cost-effectiveness) of ed tech. Consequently, weighing the relative effectiveness of different technologies and prioritizing use of resources can be challenging. One pilot district views the RCE Coach as a tool for supporting common approaches to evaluation across a school, district, or state so that decisions can be made based on more comparable information.

Lesson 7. Practices associated with collecting, reporting, and interpreting usage data are still emergent.

In theory, detailed information about whether and how students, teachers, and other users interact with systems, as well as about their performance on embedded evaluations, should be a treasure trove for ed tech evaluations. In practice, several obstacles impede routine use of these data for evaluation purposes.

Key obstacles include the following: (1) There is substantial variation in what types of user interactions are captured and how they are presented by developers; and (2) With usage data, there is wide variation in terms of availability and ease of use.

From a policy perspective, it may make more sense to encourage developers to invest in standardized reporting functionality than to encourage responsiveness to requests for customized reports. For the RCE Coach, we have developed several templates with common indicators of use, progress, and performance. However, we recognize that the development of standards for system data reporting is likely to be a long-term, more organic process.

Lesson 8. Ed tech developers are important partners for RCE.

Districts can in theory conduct RCEs without developer assistance, provided that they have information about who is using the technology and who is not. However, RCEs will often provide more meaningful insights about effectiveness and strength of implementation with the cooperation of developers. Moreover, a productive partnership can facilitate the process of assembling data sets and make best use of usage data.

A number of developers have shown interest in getting involved with the RCE Coach in order to demonstrate the value of their products and deepen engagement with districts. However, we have also encountered reluctance from a number of developers to participate in RCEs, primarily due to the risk of unfavorable results, the potential drain on time and staff, and their lack of control over implementation.

We hope that these fears will abate as RCEs become more established. We also hope that developers will come to view RCEs as an opportunity to learn how and when their products are most effective and to build their evidence base.

In the coming months, we are soliciting more districts to pilot with us. We are also collecting and building resources aimed at helping schools and districts determine concrete outcome measures for ed tech applications that fall outside of the student academic achievement realm. These include identifying outcomes for student non-academic achievement (like grit, motivation, self-awareness, engagement, etc.), and outcomes for ed tech that facilitate teacher professional development and staff productivity.

Additionally, as we continue to pilot the RCE Coach, we are planning to document, in detailed case studies, the areas that cause the most confusion in the rapid-cycle evaluation process. For example, be on the lookout for an upcoming resource that will be embedded directly in the RCE Coach that details how to design a successful pilot. This resource covers topics like randomization, number of participants, unit of assignment, data availability, and selecting meaningful probability thresholds. Additionally, we’ve added a facilitator’s guide on how to demonstrate the platform for those school and district leaders who would like to lead their own trainings on the RCE Coach.

We hope to see more schools and districts pilot the RCE Coach and continue to help us learn and grow from the lessons we’ve already gleaned. For those interested, you can fill out a brief survey here.

Jackie Pugh was a research fellow in the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education for a year, through May 2017.

Alexandra Resch is an associate director and deputy director of state and local education partnerships at Mathematica Policy Research, specializing in rapid-cycle evaluation and evidence-based decision making.

Rebecca Griffiths is a senior researcher in SRI International’s Center for Technology in Learning.

Cross-posted at: https://medium.com/@OfficeofEdTech/eight-lessons-learned-from-piloting-the-rapid-cycle-evaluation-coach-1f7f681af96f

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Categories: Higher Education News

Join Education ‘Taking Learning Outside’ on the 2017 Green Strides Tour!

August 1, 2017 - 1:32pm

As my toddler son grows, I’ve become intrigued by the outdoor and forest preschool movement. In fact, so convinced have I become of the benefits of outdoor play and learning at his age that I’ve made a point to get Íñigo out every day of his first two years — swimming, hiking, running, biking, camping, climbing, and skiing.  There’s not a day or a temperature at which I don’t bundle him up and get him out, and Íñigo absolutely loves it.

This is just one of many reasons I’m especially thrilled to share that we’ll conduct a fourth iteration of the Green Strides Tour, which spotlights our U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools honorees’ work, this year to Georgia, and focused on the importance of outdoor learning.

As background, U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) and its Green Strides outreach initiative share promising practices and resources in the areas of safe, healthy, and sustainable school environments; nutrition and outdoor physical activity; and environmental and sustainability education. To bring additional attention to honorees’ practices, ED-GRS has conducted a Green Strides Tour since 2013, allowing schools, school districts, and postsecondary institutions to share their work with community leaders and policymakers and celebrate their achievements.

The following is the tentative tour schedule for this September’s tour in the state of Georgia. Updates will be shared through our newsletter.


September 19th
8:15 a.m.—9:45 a.m. Pharr Elementary School, 1500 North Rd, Snellville, GA 30078
10:15 a.m.—11:15 a.m. Mason Elementary School, 3030 Bunten Rd, Duluth, GA 30096
12:00 p.m. —1:30 p.m. High Meadows School, 1055 Willeo Rd, Roswell, GA 30075
2:30 p.m.—4 p.m. Ford Elementary School, 1345 Mars Hill Rd NW, Acworth, GA 30101


September 20th
8:15 a.m.—9:15 a.m. Morningside Elementary School, 1053 E Rock Springs Rd NE, Atlanta, GA 30306
9:20 a.m.—10:20 a.m. The Paideia School, 1509 Ponce de Leon Ave., Atlanta, GA 30307
10:35 a.m.—11:45 a.m. Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School, 688 Grant St SE, Atlanta, GA 30315
12:00 p.m.—3:30 p.m. Georgia Institute of Technology, North Ave. Atlanta, GA 30332


All are welcome to join the tour. Past participants have included federal, state and local agency officials and elected officers, such as governors, state legislators, mayors and city council members.  Members of the press are also invited to attend and amplify honorees’ promising efforts, many of which leverage free resources that are available to all interested parties.  Moreover, neighboring schools, districts and colleges and universities are invited to come and learn from the examples on the tour.

This year we’ll be focusing on how schools are teaching effective environmental education, stewardship and civic values through learning outside school walls, using experience to breathe life into standards, in addition to making positive contributions to our communities and planet.

Visitors will see how innovative outdoor learning in its many forms — from school gardens, to field studies, to citizen science and forest schools — provides opportunities to expand traditional learning into the real world to create real change for the betterment of our society and the environment.

I look forward to meeting many representatives who are just beginning their green schools journey and to celebrating the school communities that we have already honored with our award. With a little elbow-grease, strong partnerships, resourcefulness and leadership, I’m confident that I’ll have the opportunity to read about visitors in a coming awards cycle of ED-GRS.

Come prepared to get a little dirty with us while learning outdoors!


Andrea Suarez Falken is Director of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools and Facilities, Health, and Environment Liaison at the U.S. Department of Education.  

The post Join Education ‘Taking Learning Outside’ on the 2017 Green Strides Tour! appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

3 Ways to Get Out of Student Loan Default

July 31, 2017 - 11:42am

If you didn’t make payments on your federal student loans and are now in default, don’t get discouraged. It may seem like an overwhelming situation, but you have multiple options for getting out of default. Remember, it’s in your best interest to act quickly to resolve the default, because the consequences of default can be severe.

If you have a defaulted federal student loan owned by the U.S. Department of Education (ED), immediately contact ED’s Default Resolution Group. They will help you figure out the best way to resolve the default based on your individual circumstance.

Default Resolution Group
1-877-825-9923 TTY for the deaf or hard of hearing

Options for Getting Out of Default

You have three options for getting out of default: loan rehabilitation, loan consolidation, or repayment in full.

1. Loan Rehabilitation

To rehabilitate most defaulted federal student loans, you must sign an agreement to make a series of nine monthly payments over a period of 10 consecutive months. The monthly payment amount you’ll be offered will be based on your income, so it should be affordable. In fact, your monthly payment under a loan rehabilitation agreement could be as low as $5! Each payment must be made within 20 days of the due date.

Get more information about loan rehabilitation.

Note: You can rehabilitate a defaulted loan only once.

2. Loan Consolidation

Loan consolidation allows you to pay off your defaulted federal student loans by consolidating (combining) your loans into a new Direct Consolidation Loan.

To consolidate a defaulted federal student loan into a new Direct Consolidation Loan, you must either

  • agree to repay the new Direct Consolidation Loan under an income-driven repayment plan or
  • make three consecutive, voluntary, on-time, full monthly payments on the defaulted loan before you consolidate it.

Learn about which repayment plans will be available to you, and get additional information about loan consolidation.

3. Repayment in full

Repayment in full is exactly as it sounds; you can repay the full amount that you owe at any time.

We understand that repayment in full is not a viable option for most people. If that’s the case, you should focus on deciding between loan rehabilitation and loan consolidation.

Comparing the Benefits You Regain After Rehabilitation and Consolidation
Now that you have a better understanding of what rehabilitation and consolidation are, you can determine which option is best for you. Once your loan has successfully been removed from default, you will regain eligibility for certain benefits, depending on whether you chose rehabilitation or consolidation.

Loan Rehabilitation Loan Consolidation Regained eligibility for deferment, forbearance, and loan forgiveness Yes Yes Regained eligibility for additional federal student aid Yes Yes Choice of repayment plans Yes Yes (but there may be limitations—see below**) Removal of the record of default from your credit history Yes (but see below*) No

*If you rehabilitate a defaulted loan, the record of the default will be removed from your credit history. However, your credit history will still show late payments that were reported by your loan holder before the loan went into default. If you consolidate a defaulted loan, the record of the default (as well as late payments reported before the loan went into default) will remain in your credit history.

**Unless you make three voluntary, on-time, full monthly payments on a defaulted loan before you consolidate it, your choice of repayment plans for the new Direct Consolidation Loan will be limited to one of the income-driven repayment plans. If you make three voluntary, on-time, full monthly payments before consolidating, you can choose from any of the repayment plans available to Direct Consolidation Loan borrowers.

Staying Out of Default

There are a number of things you can do to keep yourself on track and out of default:

1. Enroll in an income-driven repayment plan.

If you haven’t already, you should consider enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan. Learn more about income-driven plans.

2. Consider setting up automatic payments.

Sign up for automatic debit through your loan servicer, and monthly payments will automatically be made from your bank account. You may also get a 0.25% interest rate deduction just for enrolling.

3. Track your loans online.

Log in to “My Federal Student Aid” to find information about all of your federal student loans.

4. Keep good records.

It’s helpful to keep important documents such as records of monthly payments, payment schedules, and notes about phone calls to your loan servicer in an organized file.

5. Stay in touch with your loan servicer.

As soon as you think that you’ll have trouble making your monthly payment, contact your loan servicer to discuss your situation—they are there to help you. Additionally, if you enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan, your loan servicer will let you know when it’s time to recertify your income and family size.

Nick Dvorscak is a Management and Program Analyst for Federal Student Aid.

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Categories: Higher Education News