Higher Education News

3 Options to Consider if You Can’t Afford Your Student Loan Payment

U.S. Department of Education Blog - June 26, 2015 - 6:00am

The U.S. Department of Education offers a number of affordable repayment options for borrowers who are struggling to pay back their student loans. The important thing to remember about all the options below is that it’s completely free to apply! Also, if you ever have questions or need FREE advice about your student loans, you can always contact your Department of Education loan servicer.

1. Switch Your Repayment Plan

You may be able to lower your monthly student loan payment by switching to a different repayment plan. Use this calculator to compare what your monthly payment amount could be if you switched your plan.

If you don’t pick a different plan when entering repayment, you are automatically enrolled in the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan. However, many borrowers don’t realize that you can switch your plan at any time by contacting your loan servicer.

One of the most popular options for borrowers who are looking to lower their payments is the income-driven repayment plans.

We offer three income-driven repayment plans:

  1. Pay As You Earn
  2. Income-Based
  3. Income-Contingent

Benefits:

  • Your monthly payment will be a percentage of your income. Depending on the plan, that may be 10% or 15% of your discretionary income, or something else. What you ultimately pay depends on the plan you choose and when you borrowed, but in all cases, it should be something you can afford.
  • Your monthly payment amount will be lower than it would be under the 10-Year Standard Repayment Plan if you qualify to make payments based on your income. In fact, it could be as low as $0 per month!
  • Any remaining balance on your loans is forgiven if your federal student loans are not fully repaid at the end of the repayment period (20 or 25 years).

Income-driven repayment plans are a great option if you need lower monthly payments. However, like all benefits, there are also costs. All of these benefits will ultimately increase the amount of interest you pay over time. The income-driven repayment plans also have tax consequences for any forgiveness received.

Apply for an income-driven repayment plan now

If one of the income-driven repayment plans is not a good option for you, we offer other options. Your servicer can help you identify the best plan to fit your needs.

2. Consolidate your Student Loans

Loan consolidation can simplify your payments by combining multiple federal student loans into one loan. Consolidation can also lower your monthly payment.

Benefits:

  • Can lower your monthly payment by extending your repayment period (spreading your payment out over more years). The repayment term ranges from 10 to 30 years, depending on the amount of your consolidation loan, your other education loan debt, and the repayment plan you select.
  • Will allow you to qualify for additional repayment options. If you have FFEL or Direct PLUS Loans, consolidating your loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan will allow you to qualify for additional repayment plans, such as the Pay As You Earn or Income-Contingent Repayment Plans, that you wouldn’t have qualified for if you hadn’t consolidated.
  • Your variable interest rate loans will switch to a fixed interest rate. It’s important to note that consolidation will lock-in interest rates on variable-rate loans, but will not lower them further. This would be a benefit if, like now, interest rates are low.

The benefits listed could provide relief to some borrowers. However, it’s important that you also weigh the costs before consolidating. For example, because you’re restarting and possibly extending your repayment period, you’ll pay more interest over time. Additionally, you may lose borrower benefits, such as interest rate discounts and loan cancellation benefits, offered with the original loans.

Apply for a direct consolidation loan now

3. Postpone your Payments

Under certain circumstances, you can receive a deferment or forbearance that allows you to temporarily postpone or reduce your federal student loan payments.

Deferment and forbearance may be a good option for you if you are temporarily having a difficult time paying back your student loans. Deferment and forbearance are not good long-term solutions. If you think you’ll have trouble paying back your loans for more than a year or you’re uncertain, you should consider an income-driven repayment plan or consolidation.

Benefits:

  • You do not need to make student loan payments during a deferment or forbearance.
  • The federal government may pay the interest on your loan during a period of deferment. This depends on the type of loans you have.

Again, deferment and forbearance are not good long-term solutions for borrowers who are struggling to pay back their student loans. Some reasons why:

  • With a deferment, interest will continue to be charged on your unsubsidized loans (or on any PLUS loans).
  • With a forbearance, interest will continue to be charged on all loan types, including subsidized loans.
  • The interest you accrue during periods of deferment or forbearance may be capitalized (added to your principal balance), and the amount you pay in the future will be higher.

If you can, you should consider making interest payments on your loans during periods of deferment or forbearance

To request a deferment or forbearance, contact your loan servicer

If you need help deciding which of these options is best for you, contact your loan servicer. They can help you weigh the different options based on your unique situation.

Nicole Callahan is a Digital Engagement Strategist at Federal Student Aid.

Categories: Higher Education News

Lessons From the Education Department’s Ratings Reversal

Chronicle of Higher Education - June 26, 2015 - 2:59am

The ratings won't happen, but the two-year debate over the proposal is sure to influence accountability efforts in the future.

Categories: Higher Education News

Louisiana State’s Firing of Salty Professor Renews Worries About Faculty Rights

Chronicle of Higher Education - June 26, 2015 - 2:55am

The university has drawn new scrutiny for dismissing a tenured instructor mainly for using obscene language and jokes around students.

Categories: Higher Education News

Video: It’s On Colleges to Make a Better Pitch for Their Value, One President Says

Chronicle of Higher Education - June 26, 2015 - 2:55am

Timothy M. Wolfe of the University of Missouri system says higher ed needs to do a better job of defending itself when its budget comes under attack.

Categories: Higher Education News

Spurred by Sex-Assault Concerns, Lawmakers Add Disciplinary Infractions to College Transcripts

Chronicle of Higher Education - June 26, 2015 - 2:55am

New York is poised to become the second state to require institutions to note instances of misconduct on a student’s permanent record.

Categories: Higher Education News

Joseph A Smith, Jr. Appointed Special Master

U.S. Department of Education Blog - June 25, 2015 - 1:15pm

I am deeply honored to have been appointed by the U.S. Department of Education to be Special Master. Other activities with regards to alleged predatory activity in the offering of education and training, particularly to low and moderate income Americans. I  believe that working with all the stakeholders in this very important issue, the Department of course, students, people who represent them, state attorneys general and others, we can craft a fair efficient means of giving redress to people who have been wronged. I’m very excited about this opportunity and look forward to working with the Department and others to a good end for all Americans.

I’ve learned through my work as monitor under the National Mortgage Settlement about the importance of public trust and confidence. I undertake to do everything I can in this new endeavor to keep the public informed and to justify that trust and confidence.

Categories: Higher Education News

World Refugee Day: Celebrating the Bravery of our Students and Their Families

U.S. Department of Education Blog - June 25, 2015 - 9:25am

From as far back as I can remember, copies of the National Geographic in my grandparents’ home fascinated me. Unfolding the maps, I placed my finger over cities with names like Yangon, Nairobi, Saigon. I looked at pictures of villages in Africa, in China, and dreamed of meeting the people there. For a girl growing up in the Texas panhandle, this was indeed a dream. Little did I know that the world would come to me in the faces of students from countries as diverse as Burma, Somalia, Kenya, Cuba, Vietnam and Iraq.

The first year I taught refugee students, my co-teacher and I had almost no knowledge of how to work with students from countries other than Mexico. Their families were placed here because so many are able to process beef for wages unheard of in their home countries without the need for much language skill.

My students are the bravest people I’ve ever met. From their drawings, a few photos, and their writing, I know that they’ve come from the kind of trauma most of us will never experience. Children from Africa came from a camp where home was little more than a tarp and a butane burner. Rationed food often ran out before resupply trucks came. Basic survival took most of their energy and school was a dream for other children.

Hawa and Shanna Peeples (Photo courtesy Shanna Peeples)

Hawa, a beautiful Bantu girl who came from the Kakuma camp in Kenya, had never sat in a school until she came to the U.S. Teaching her to write her name in English was a revelation to her and she wrote it everywhere. Her enthusiasm for Texas extended to wearing a Dallas Cowboys jersey over her hijab.

Tin and her family fled warfare in her native Burma (Photo courtesy Shanna Peeples)

Tin, whose family fled warfare in her native Burma, handed her over a razorwire fence into a camp in Bangkok, convinced that she would find a better life in the U.S. In my classes, she tutored other students, hugged those who cried, and was a founding member of her Buddhist youth group. Others from Burma: ethnic minorities from the Karen, Karenni, and Chin cultures, joined the class and offered to share lunches out of their tiffins with their teachers.

Their smiles gave no clue to what they left behind: villages burned, family members murdered. Many were separated from parents, most from their best friends. They’ve had to quickly learn to speak and read English so they can translate for family and neighbors. One of our 14-year-olds was gone for a week because she had to translate the breast cancer treatment plan for an older relative.

When I’ve visited students and their families in what appears to be plain homes and apartments, I’ve left amazed at their creativity. The families have put up altars, rugs, tapestries, successfully grafting some of home into their new communities. Within their tightly knit neighborhoods they’ve built temples and mosques, joined churches, and celebrated weddings and funerals. But despite outward differences, these families want what we all want for our children: for the next generation to thrive and prosper.

Our refugee families help to make us a better school and our communities a better place to live because their belief in the American dream is a reminder of why our country is a beacon of hope to the world.

Shanna Peeples is an English teacher at Palo Duro High School in Amarillo, Texas. She was named the 2015 National Teacher of the Year.

Categories: Higher Education News

Helping families navigate their higher education options

U.S. Department of Education Blog - June 25, 2015 - 7:00am

From the start of this Administration, President Obama has charged our team to join him in doing everything we can to make college an affordable reality for everyone. As part of that effort, in August 2013, he asked us to develop a system that will help students compare the value offered by colleges and that will hold institutions accountable for preparing their students to be successful.

Today, I want to update you on our progress as part of that effort.

Since the President outlined this initiative, we have seen even more progress toward these broader goals. The higher education conversation has shifted from simply ensuring access to one that focuses on success – supporting students through completion and readiness for careers, citizenship and life. We’ve recognized that there is great value in the colleges and universities who serve students from all backgrounds and provide them with a quality education at an affordable price – and that spending more money and excluding more students are not necessarily signs of quality. We’re seeing important signs of progress. Some States and colleges are taking bold steps toward lowering costs and improving outcomes. And in addition to a higher-than-ever high school graduation rate, more Americans are completing degrees than ever before, including more Latino and African-American students.

Building on this momentum, consistent with the objectives laid out by the President, it is critical to ensure that we are doing all we can to:

  • Help families choose a college that works for them – and that they can afford – and create a user-friendly tool that supports that selection and comparison process
  • Increase transparency and make information about schools’ outcomes free and useful
  • Improve our measurements of college outcomes so that students and taxpayers get the most for their investment
  • Engage students, parents, higher education leaders, researchers, experts, counselors and advocates about how best to meet these objectives

We are pleased to report that we are making progress toward those goals. And as part of this update, as we have over the course of the last two years, we want to share some of what we have heard as we have continued working on this project:

  • Students of all backgrounds, but especially lower-income students and those who counsel them, are eager for additional information that will help them make smart choices among their college options, and they would welcome the federal government lending its credibility and resources to this effort.
  • Colleges have many missions and serve many different kinds of students. Developing meaningful ways to evaluate them through a rating system is an extremely complex and iterative process that appropriately takes time and thoughtfulness.
  • While no single measure is perfect, and many important elements of education cannot be captured by quantitative metrics, cultivating and releasing data about performance drives the conversation forward to make sure colleges are focused on access, affordability and students’ outcomes.

Taking into account that feedback, and to advance the overarching goals set by the President, later this summer we plan to release new, easy-to-use tools that will provide students with more data than ever before to compare college costs and outcomes. This college ratings tool will take a more consumer-driven approach than some have expected, providing information to help students to reach their own conclusions about a college’s value. And as part of this release, we will also provide open data to researchers, institutions and the higher education community to help others benchmark institutional performance.

Through our research and our conversations with the field, we have found that the needs of students are very diverse and the criteria they use to choose a college vary widely. By providing a wealth of data – including many important metrics that have not been published before – students and families can make informed comparisons and choices based on the criteria most important to them. With assistance from the creative U.S. Digital Services team, we are using feedback from students, parents, college advisors and high school guidance counselors to examine how we can make critical information about college cost and outcomes relevant and useful to guide decisions about college search and selection.

At the same time, we will continue our efforts to identify colleges providing the best value and encourage all colleges to improve. We will share this new data and methodological considerations with institutions, researchers, app developers and other interested players to jumpstart and accelerate efforts across the country to develop meaningful metrics for accountability, and – as the President asked – we will continue to improve these measurements and find ways to make sure that student aid investments are directed to colleges that provide meaningful opportunities and deliver a quality, affordable education for their students.

We are looking forward to unveiling the new tools later this summer, and continuing to work with the community to make sure that we all are helping to make affordable, high-quality higher education a reality for everyone.

Jamienne Studley is the Deputy Under Secretary and Acting Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education.

Categories: Higher Education News

Removing Confederate Symbols Is a Step, but Changing a Campus Culture Can Take Years

Chronicle of Higher Education - June 25, 2015 - 2:59am

The University of Mississippi is striving to shift from its Confederate past. Many colleges want to do the same, but the task can be difficult.

Categories: Higher Education News

Education Department Now Plans a College-Rating System Minus the Ratings

Chronicle of Higher Education - June 25, 2015 - 2:55am

Officials said they would focus instead on a consumer-oriented website that will not include any evaluations of colleges but will provide "more data than ever before.".

Categories: Higher Education News

Sweet Briar’s Activists Turn to the Sober Work of Governing

Chronicle of Higher Education - June 25, 2015 - 2:55am

The new board helped the college avoid closure. Now its members must trade protesting for turning things around.

Categories: Higher Education News

Chinese Universities Told to Recruit a Student 'Army' to Patrol the Internet

Chronicle of Higher Education - June 24, 2015 - 12:35pm

The Communist Youth League wants a legion of undergraduates to help promote Chinese ideology online, a move that could threaten academic freedom.

Categories: Higher Education News

Expanding the Presidential Scholars Program to Honor Students in Career and Technical Education

U.S. Department of Education Blog - June 24, 2015 - 8:12am

This post originally appeared on the White House Blog.

Members of the 51st class of U.S. Presidential Scholars pose for a picture outside of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, June 22, 2015. (Photo by U.S. Department of Education)

Yesterday, President Obama signed an Executive Order expanding the United States Presidential Scholars program to establish a new category of outstanding scholars in career and technical education (CTE).

The announcement of this new award category of CTE Presidential Scholars is fitting because the White House also welcomed and honored the 51st class of Presidential Scholars yesterday afternoon. The Presidential Scholars program is among the nation’s most distinguished honors for high school students, and has not been expanded since 1979.

Established by President Johnson in 1964, the Presidential Scholars Program has honored almost 7,000 of America’s top-performing students. The program was expanded in 1979 by President Carter to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the visual, literary, and performing arts. Each year, the program recognizes two high school seniors from each state and 15 scholars at-large on the basis of excellence in scholarship. An additional 20 scholars are selected for exceptional talent in the arts.

Javier L. Spivey, a member of the 51st class of U.S. Presidential Scholars, speaks at a discussion in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, June 22, 2015. (Photo by U.S. Department of Education)

All Presidential Scholars are honored for their accomplishments in Washington, D.C., where they meet with national leaders in a variety of fields. This year, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan awarded each honoree a Presidential Scholar Medallion in a ceremony on Sunday, June 21.

The Presidential Scholars program is overseen by the Commission on Presidential Scholars and administered by staff at the U.S. Department of Education. This Commission, appointed by President Obama, selects honored scholars annually based on their academic success, artistic excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as evidence of community service, leadership, and demonstrated commitment to high ideals.

Of the 3 million students expected to graduate from high school this year, more than 4,300 candidates qualified for the 2015 awards determined by outstanding performance on the College Board SAT and ACT exams, and through nominations made by Chief State School Officers or the National YoungArts Foundation’s nationwide YoungArts™ competition.

The Administration looks forward to partnering with nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations, to cultivate and nominate the inaugural class of CTE Presidential Scholar nominees for the Commission to consider in 2016.

Next year, the White House will welcome the inaugural class of 20 CTE Presidential Scholars, who will be selected by the Commission on Presidential Scholars based on outstanding scholarship and demonstrated ability in career and technical education. Yesterday’s launch of the CTE Presidential Scholars program was supported by Senator Kaine, who led a bipartisan effort in the United States Senate to encourage recognition of excellence in career and technical education.

This announcement complements a convening that will be hosted next week at the White House, recognizing outstanding students, teachers, and administrators who have shown exceptional leadership in driving innovation in the field of career and technical education.

Roberto J. Rodríguez serves in the White House Domestic Policy Council as Deputy Assistant to the President for Education.
Categories: Higher Education News

Federal Student Aid PIN (1998 -2015)

U.S. Department of Education Blog - June 24, 2015 - 6:00am

Federal Student Aid PIN, known as PIN to his many friends, died on May 10, 2015, after a long life of public service. Born in Washington, D.C. in 1998, PIN immediately made his presence felt across the country as he helped students complete their FAFSAs electronically on the World Wide Web. For 17 years, PIN reduced the completion time of federal student aid applications by millions of hours. Success with the FAFSA led to an extended career spanning the entire student aid life cycle, ranging from the aforementioned FAFSA and the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, entrance and exit counseling, and signing Master Promissory Notes, all the way to loan history access on the National Student Loan Data System and—more recently—StudentAid.gov. PIN is survived by one child, FSA ID.

On May 10, 2015, we changed the way you log in to Federal Student Aid websites. Students, parents, and borrowers are now required to use an FSA ID, instead of a Federal Student Aid PIN, to log in. If you haven’t logged in to a Federal Student Aid website (such as fafsa.gov or StudentLoans.gov) since May 10, you will need to create an FSA ID before you can log on in the future.

Create an FSA ID here: StudentAid.gov/fsaid

Q: What is an FSA ID and why do I need one?

A: An FSA ID is a username and password you use to access your personal information on Federal Student Aid websites and to sign important documents.

Q: What happened to the Federal Student Aid PIN?

A: On May 10, 2015, after 17 years of dedicated service, the PIN was retired to make way for the more modern and secure FSA ID.

Q: If I already submitted my FAFSA this year, do I already have an FSA ID?

A: The FSA ID replaced the PIN on May 10, 2015. If you submitted your FAFSA before that, you used a PIN. In order to do anything with your FAFSA or any other Federal Student Aid websites, you will now need an FSA ID. You can create one at StudentAid.gov/fsaid

Q: Who needs an FSA ID?

A: Students, parents, and borrowers who need to log in or interact with Federal Student Aid websites need an FSA ID.

Q: Can I make an FSA ID for someone else, such as my child or my parent?

A: No. Only the FSA ID owner should create and use the FSA ID. Why? The FSA ID is a legal signature that should be used only by its owner. If you don’t create your own FSA ID, then you may not be able to access the websites you need to get your financial aid!

Q: How do I get an FSA ID?

A: Go to StudentAid.gov/fsaid to create an FSA ID. If you have a PIN, then you can enter your PIN during the FSA ID registration process so that you won’t need to wait for the Social Security Administration to verify your information. But, if you don’t have a PIN or don’t have it handy, you can still create an FSA ID.

Q: Do I have to wait before I use my FSA ID?

A: You can use your FSA ID to sign and submit a new FAFSA right away. For other tasks, if you didn’t link your PIN when you created your account, you’ll need to wait one–three days for us to confirm your identity with the Social Security Administration. You’ll get an e-mail when this process is complete.

Q: What if I forget my FSA ID username or password?

A: Don’t worry. On our log-in pages, you’ll find links that give you the option of retrieving your username or password through your verified e-mail address or by successfully answering your challenge questions.

For answers to other frequently asked questions about the new FSA ID, go here: StudentAid.gov/fsaid.

Categories: Higher Education News

Reining In a Fraternity Is No Easy Task, One University’s Leaders Learn

Chronicle of Higher Education - June 24, 2015 - 2:58am

A two-year suspension of a chapter at UNC-Wilmington has ended, but tension over the sanction hasn’t.

Categories: Higher Education News

Digital Platform Seeks to Match Employers, Job Seekers, and Courses

Chronicle of Higher Education - June 24, 2015 - 2:55am

The initiative, Rework America Connected, aims to prepare workers for careers in a rapidly evolving labor market.

Categories: Higher Education News

Fatherhood Is a Community Value

U.S. Department of Education Blog - June 23, 2015 - 2:19pm

“Goodnight room. Goodnight moon. Goodnight cow jumping over the moon.”

This sentence, said over and over again: night, after night. These words, the halfway mark in Margaret Wise Brown’s very famous children’s story, were among the last words my daughters heard every night at bedtime when they were little, shortly before “good night” and “I love you.” This sentence represents for me many aspects of what it means to be a dad, to show love as a father. Dads can provide warmth, routine, and consistency. Dads can help their children discover a love of reading and the joy of books. Dads can nurture connection, curiosity, and a sense of security. This is fatherhood.

This Father’s Day I was reminded that for many of us, fatherhood can come in many forms — anytime we strive to provide for young people in our lives, spiritually, emotionally, in times of need, and in times of triumph, this is fatherhood. Although my father passed away when I was young, I have been blessed with other father figures in my own life, and I would like to think I have played that role too in the lives of others, sometimes without even realizing it. There are the teachers who never give up on us, the coaches who never let us forget how much they believe we can succeed, the uncles and grandfathers who step in to provide advice and guidance when dad isn’t there, and the moms who are mom, dad, and everybody else. Fatherhood is about consistently stepping up and taking the time to reach out to and support a young person even when that young person does not know how in-need he or she is.

In many communities, this need to reach our youth and be there consistently for those who need guidance and mentoring is vast. So vast, in fact, that President Obama has charged all of us to stand up, reach out and remove barriers that too often prevent boys and young men of color and other young people from realizing their potential. The My Brother’s Keeper initiative has inspired communities across the country who have stepped up to ensure that all of our children, including our young boys and young men, are able to lean on and learn from those who came before them, and those who want to help guide their path forward to success. Mayors and school superintendents in cities all across the country are lifting up all students with their committed support and concrete actions like expanding summer jobs programs and launching mentoring initiatives. Being a young man of color should not mean you are a young man at risk—and a constant and committed figure of support in one’s life can make all the difference.

At ED, we take the President’s charge very seriously. From issuing new guidance to create more inclusive and supportive educational environments, to engaging communities and having honest conversations, from Denver to Chicago to Baltimore to Birmingham, our work has centered around our belief that we are all, in fact, our brothers’ keepers.

Father’s Day allows all of us to reflect on what it means to encourage and inspire “responsible fatherhood,” as the President said—both in our own homes to our own children, and to the millions of children without someone to call dad. Rise: The Story of My Brother’s Keeper, a new documentary, examines this commitment to our children and our next generation of fathers. For me, fatherhood is the nurturing love of a nightly bedtime story; it is words of encouragement, wise guidance, and a helping hand during a time of adversity; and it is the cultivation of confidence, security, and hope through caring and consistent support. My Brother’s Keeper is about building a world with more of all of those things for all young people. We all have a part to play in supporting the many faces of fatherhood and serving as our brothers’ keepers.

What is fatherhood to you? Please comment here, or reply to me on Twitter.

Categories: Higher Education News

‘Let’s Make This Work’: Sweet Briar’s New President Surveys the Task Ahead

Chronicle of Higher Education - June 23, 2015 - 1:46pm

Phillip C. Stone discusses the first steps he plans to take at Sweet Briar — and why he doesn’t want the college to go coed.

Categories: Higher Education News

A Professor Crowdsources a Syllabus on the Charleston Shootings

Chronicle of Higher Education - June 23, 2015 - 2:58am

Chad Williams, an associate professor at Brandeis University, took to Twitter, where his #CharlestonSyllabus hashtag quickly became a valuable resource.

Categories: Higher Education News

Sweet Briar Students and Faculty Members Face an Uncertain Future

Chronicle of Higher Education - June 23, 2015 - 2:56am

The deal to keep the women’s college open has left some on the campus with hard choices to make about whether they’ll stay or go.

Categories: Higher Education News

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