Working Together to Increase FAFSA Completion

U.S. Department of Education Blog - Mon, 2014-09-29 10:46

In 2012, 32 percent of Indianapolis’ youth were living in poverty, and 57 percent of school-age youth were receiving free or reduced-price lunch. Yet, despite that high level of need, only a third of Indianapolis’ graduating high school seniors were completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Roderick Wheeler, community impact director for education with the Central Indiana Community Foundation, found those numbers frustrating. He decided to take action, and enlisted the help of the Indiana Youth Institute (IYI).

Wheeler and IYI believed the number of students filing the FAFSA would increase if they could connect schools with resources, information, and tools to help students complete their forms, and if they could change the perception that the FAFSA process was complicated. To test their theory, they worked to put the right pieces in place, and added a dash of competition. They created a county-wide Indianapolis FAFSA Completion Challenge. The Marion County high school with the highest percentage increase of senior FAFSA filing would win $5,000 for college and career readiness initiatives.

During the 2012-13 school year, seven county high schools participated. The schools were connected through the Educash program of EduGuide, a non-profit online training program designed to teach schools how to promote a college-going culture and assist students with FAFSA completion. In addition, IYI connected school counselors to local experts who could assist with financial aid nights, staff FAFSA completion events, and work at “College Goal Sunday” locations.

Through tremendous efforts, every school increased its FAFSA filing numbers – and the results were impressive. For instance, Perry Meridian High School, which had never hosted a FAFSA filing event, partnered with the office of the mayor of Indianapolis to offer both tax preparation and FAFSA filing for families. Ben Davis High School hosted several successful events, increasing its FAFSA completion by 23 percent that year – and winning the competition.

Building on these results, the program was expanded for the 2013-14 school year. Schools from the first year chose to participate again, and several new ones joined. Financial aid experts from ISM College Planning, a local nonprofit, helped families understand the financial aid process and explained the likelihood of qualifying for aid, not loans, while handling a host of other questions to reduce families’ anxiety about the FAFSA.

Indiana’s March 10 FAFSA deadline is the earliest in the nation. Yet, with a combination of federal and state financial aid and other supports, the cost of higher education and the college application process should be less daunting for students in the state. The Indianapolis FAFSA Completion project will keep working with schools and families to ensure the financial aid process is easy and understandable – so more students in the Hoosier State can fulfill their college dreams!

Kate Coffman is the Director of College and Career Counseling at the Indiana Youth Institute. IYI offers the free www.driveofyourlife.org and www.triptocollege.org websites, which allow Hoosier students to explore career and postsecondary options.

Categories: Higher Education News

Kicking Off the Fourth Annual Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge

U.S. Department of Education Blog - Mon, 2014-09-29 09:41

Cross-posted from the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships blog.

Acting on a recommendation by the first Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, President Obama established the Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge to build bridges of understanding across our differences, especially among rising leaders, and to serve our neighbors. Interfaith service involves people from different religious and non-religious backgrounds tackling community challenges together – for example, Protestants and Catholics, Hindus and Jews, and Muslims and non-believers – building a Habitat for Humanity house together. Interfaith service impacts specific community challenges, while building social capital and civility.

This week, the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Department of Education, and Corporation for National and Community Service hosted a gathering to kick off the President’s Fourth Annual Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge. More than 500 college students, chaplains, faculty, and administrators – including over 50 college presidents – participated in the two-day event.

The Challenge has grown by leaps and bounds since 2011 when President Obama first encouraged college presidents to establish or expand programs in interfaith and community service. Currently, more than 400 institutions of higher education participate in the Challenge.

The national gathering this week began with Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, welcoming college presidents and supporters. It concluded with remarks by Treasury Secretary and former member of the CNCS Board of Directors, Jack Lew, and a showing of the award-winning film, Of Many, which follows the friendship and interfaith partnership of New York University’s Imam Khalid Latif and Rabbi Yehuda Sarna. These two sessions bookended a series of fascinating panel discussions, presentations, and community conversations involving a diverse array of academics, students, advocates, governmental officials, and think tank scholars. 

A new step forward for the Challenge this year was the fact that recognition for interfaith community service was included in the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. The Honor Roll, launched in 2006, annually highlights the role colleges and universities play in solving community problems and placing more students on a lifelong path of civic engagement by recognizing institutions that achieve meaningful, measureable outcomes in the communities they serve. The President’s Honor Roll now recognizes higher education institutions in four categories: General Community Service, Interfaith Community Service, Economic Opportunity, and Education. Also for the first time this year, a school was selected as a winner of a Presidential Award for Interfaith Community Service. That honor went to Loras College, a Catholic affiliated school in Dubuque, Iowa. One of the school’s many achievements is partnering with the AmeriCorps VISTA program to recruit and retain volunteers to tackle a range of challenges. This year and every year, the Campus Challenge demonstrates President Obama’s longstanding commitment to expanding and supporting national service, which he recently highlighted at the White House’s 20th Anniversary of AmeriCorps celebration.

Thanks to all who make the goals of interfaith and community service a priority, and a very special thanks to the Department of Education’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships for its leadership in planning and organizing this week’s event. We are excited about future of the Challenge.

If you’d like to learn more about the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, contact the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Department of Education at EdPartners@ed.gov.

Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell, Secretary Arne Duncan, Wendy Spencer, and Melissa Rogers present Loras College a Presidential Award for Interfaith Community Service through the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll at George Washington University.

Melissa Rogers is the Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Categories: Higher Education News

Helping Federal Student Loan Borrowers Manage Debt, Repay Loans

U.S. Department of Education Blog - Mon, 2014-09-29 07:00

We’ve been telling you that new data shows that a lower percentage of students are defaulting on federal loans.

That’s great news for students, taxpayers and our economy. But we know there is still more work to do. We want every student to leave college without feeling burdened by their debt.

In the past few years, we’ve undertaken several new initiatives to help borrowers manage their debt and repay their loans.

Our financial aid counseling tool is now available. There is also extensive financial aid information on StudentAid.gov, including details on flexible loan repayment plans, which allow borrowers to repay their loans based on their income.

Also, as you probably remember, back in June President Obama directed Secretary Duncan to allow all federal student loan borrowers to cap their monthly payment amounts at 10 percent of their monthly income. We’ve begun to put that directive into effect, with the goal of making the new plan available to borrowers next year.

And thanks to a wide variety of outreach efforts, more than 2.5 million Direct Loan borrowers are currently enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan.

We’ve also recently renegotiated terms of the federal student loan servicer contracts to help federal student loan borrowers better manage their debt. We’ve created additional incentives for companies that service federal student loans to improve counseling and outreach to ensure borrowers select the repayment plan best-suited to their financial circumstances, reduce payment delinquency, and help avoid default.

And we’re taking steps to address growing concerns about burdensome student loan debt by requiring career colleges to do a better job of preparing students for gainful employment.

It is important to remember there are options for those who have defaulted, as well. There are resources and several options for getting back on track at studentaid.gov.

If you need help repaying your federal student loans, you can also always contact your loan service provider to learn about repayment options.

Remember: there is no application fee to consolidate student loans. Do not pay for services that the U.S. Department of Education offers for free!

Dorothy Amatucci is a digital engagement strategist at the U.S. Department of Education.

Categories: Higher Education News

4 Things You Should Do Before Repaying Your Student Loans

U.S. Department of Education Blog - Mon, 2014-09-29 06:00

One perk of having a federal student loan instead of a private student loan is that you are not required to start making payments right away. In fact, many federal student loans have a grace period*, or a set amount of time after you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment before you must begin repaying your student loans. For most student loans, the grace period is 6 months but in some instances, the grace period could be longer. The grace period gives you time to get financially settled and to select your repayment plan.

For those of you who graduated in the spring, you’re probably nearing the end of your grace period. Your loan servicer, a company that works on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education to process and manage student loan payments, has probably contacted you letting you know how the repayment process will work and when your first payment is due.

Here are four things you should do now, before you make that first student loan payment:

  1. Get Organized

Start by tracking down all of your student loans. Did you know that you can view all your federal student loans in one place?

Just log into StudentAid.gov/login using your Federal Student Aid PIN to view your loan balances, interest rate, loan servicer contact information, and more.

Note: Don’t forget to check your personal records to see if you have private student loans.

  1. Contact Your Loan Servicer

Your loan servicer is the company that will be collecting payments on your federal student loan on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education. They are also there to provide support. Your loan servicer can help you choose a repayment plan, understand loan consolidation, and complete other tasks related to your federal student loan, so it’s important to maintain contact with your loan servicer. If your circumstances change at any time during your repayment period, your loan servicer will be able to help.

To find out who your loan servicer is, log in to StudentAid.gov. You may have more than one loan servicer, so it is important that you look at each loan individually.

  1. Estimate Your Monthly Payments Under Different Repayment Plans

Federal Student Aid has a great repayment calculator that allows you to compare our different repayment plan options side by side. Once you log in, the calculator pulls in information about your federal student loans, such as your loan balance and your interest rates, and allows you to estimate what your monthly payment would be under each of our different repayment plans. It also allows you to compare the total amount you will pay for your loan over time and can tell you the amount of loan forgiveness you’re expected to qualify for if you choose one of our income-driven repayment plans. Try it!

  1. Select the Repayment Plan That Works for You

One of the greatest benefits of federal student loans is the flexible repayment options. Take advantage of them! Although you may select or be assigned a repayment plan when you first begin repaying your student loan, you can change repayment plans at any time. There are options to tie your monthly payments to your income and even ways you can have your loans forgiven if you are a teacher or employed in certain public service jobs. Once you have determined which repayment plan is right for you, you must contact your loan servicer to officially change your repayment plan.

* Not all federal student loans have a grace period. Note that for many loans, interest will accrue during your grace period.

Nicole Callahan is a digital engagement analyst at the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

Categories: Higher Education News

California Shifts to ‘Yes Means Yes’ Standard for College Sex

Chronicle of Higher Education - Mon, 2014-09-29 02:57

Under the new law, students must have "affirmative consent" from partners for the duration of sexual activity.

Categories: Higher Education News

How 'Yes Means Yes' Already Works on One Campus

Chronicle of Higher Education - Mon, 2014-09-29 02:56

Grinnell College adopted such a policy in 2012. While it might sound awkward, students say, it opens opportunity for dialogue and confronts assumptions.

Categories: Higher Education News

Academic Experts Lend Credibility to Bogus Claims of Ebola Cure

Chronicle of Higher Education - Mon, 2014-09-29 02:55

The FDA has cited three companies for "fraudulent" statements about their products’ effects on the deadly virus.

Categories: Higher Education News

Trustee Group Responds Tepidly to Presidential-Hiring 'Tool Kit'

Chronicle of Higher Education - Mon, 2014-09-29 02:55

Aspen Institute program’s new guide to developing community-college chiefs emphasizes student success, risk-taking, and a willingness to steer the ship through change.

Categories: Higher Education News

What California’s New Sexual-Consent Law Means for Its Colleges

Chronicle of Higher Education - Mon, 2014-09-29 02:55

A newly signed bill requires colleges to adopt a “yes means yes” standard in handling sexual-assault cases. Here’s how that definition will play out.

Categories: Higher Education News

How One University Became Exhibit A of Marketing Success

Chronicle of Higher Education - Sun, 2014-09-28 22:01

"Don’t be so true to yourself that you are no longer relevant to what people want," says the university’s president.

Categories: Higher Education News

The Upside of Selling Your Soul

Chronicle of Higher Education - Sun, 2014-09-28 22:01

Done wrong, marketing is sloganeering that dilutes a college’s credibility. Done right, it is clear-eyed self-assessment that shores up the bottom line.

Categories: Higher Education News

Transitions: Expert in Islamic Finance Heads to Egypt; Mount Mary U. Chooses New Fund Raiser

Chronicle of Higher Education - Sun, 2014-09-28 22:01

Mahmoud El-Gamal, an economist at Rice University, will become provost at the American University in Cairo. Read about that and other job-related news.

Categories: Higher Education News

Arab-Studies E-Zine Hopes to Counter Mainstream Narrative

Chronicle of Higher Education - Sun, 2014-09-28 22:01

The multilingual, multidisciplinary journal Jadaliyya covers the region "from an inside-out perspective."

Categories: Higher Education News

Expert on African-American Genetics Shifts His Focus

Chronicle of Higher Education - Sun, 2014-09-28 22:01
Rick Kittles has a new post at the University of Arizona, where he will focus on Native American genetics.
Categories: Higher Education News

It's No Joke: Humor Rarely Welcome in Research Write-Ups

Chronicle of Higher Education - Sun, 2014-09-28 22:01

Examples of funny papers are few and far between. That’s a shame, says one scientist.

Categories: Higher Education News

New Campus Leader Fosters Study Abroad in a Repurposed Palace in Britain

Chronicle of Higher Education - Sun, 2014-09-28 22:01

Jerry Seaman left a small college in Wisconsin to lead the University of Evansville’s British campus, housed in an ornate, turreted manor.

Categories: Higher Education News

U.N. Official Will Focus on Global Mission as Public-Policy Dean at U. of Maryland

Chronicle of Higher Education - Sun, 2014-09-28 22:01

Robert C. Orr, who will become dean in October, has worked on issues that include peacekeeping, climate change, and food scarcity.

Categories: Higher Education News

A Small College Sells Marketing to Its Cautious Faculty

Chronicle of Higher Education - Sun, 2014-09-28 22:00

Faculty members at Calvin College had been known to rebuff media attention because they felt too overexposed or too uncomfortable putting themselves forward. In designing a brand, the trick was to include them.

Categories: Higher Education News
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