Higher Education News
Some of them are standard. Others, not so much.
The government's calculation of the rates ignores millions of potential graduates, a worrisome prospect as a controversial college-rating system is about to be unveiled.
Cross-posted from the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs blog.
Last week, Secretary Duncan joined representatives from education and juvenile justice organizations at the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Summit on School Discipline and Climate. There, he spoke about the importance of comprehensively supporting our students – and not just when it comes to raising test scores. Our schools should first, and foremost, be safe places to learn and our students should feel secure and valued.
We’d all agree that acting out in school is both disrespectful and disruptive, but should a minor infraction like tardiness or a dress code violation earn a student suspension or expulsion? For some kids, that’s exactly what happens, thanks to zero-tolerance disciplinary policies in place in school districts across the country. What’s even more troubling, too often these removals from school begin a road to academic failure and even later involvement in the juvenile justice system.
Under a promising effort called the Supportive School Discipline Initiative, the Departments of Justice, Education, and Health and Human Services, in partnership with philanthropies, are helping to foster safe, supportive, and productive learning environments while keeping students in school. As part of the initiative, on Oct. 6 and 7 we held a National Leadership Summit on School Climate and Discipline that brought together teams of educators and justice system professionals from 20 states and the District of Columbia to discuss how to improve school disciplinary practice and reduce student entry into the juvenile justice system. The summit provided the opportunity for states and local jurisdictions to develop strategies and begin taking steps toward disciplinary and juvenile justice reform. We also announced $4.3 million in grant awards to support activities designed to keep kids in school and out of court.
Kids should be held responsible for their behavior, but there are better alternatives to the harsh disciplinary methods being used in too many districts. By working with schools and justice system professionals, I believe we can find ways to keep our kids in school and on the path to learning and success.
Karol Mason is Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs at the U.S. Department of Justice.
Mark your calendars and join Secretary Duncan this week on Twitter during Connected Educator Month.
Duncan and educators across the country will have a discussion about the importance of connected learning and the newly announced Future Ready Pledge this Tuesday, Oct. 14 from 7-8 pm ET. Use the hashtag #ce14 to join the discussion. And be sure to follow @ArneDuncan and @usedgov. (If you aren’t able to join, the conversation will be archived here.)
Connected Educator Month offers a range of engaging online professional development activities for educators at all levels.
Originally developed by ED and our partners, Connected Educator Month focuses on reaching and encouraging educators to try out and explore national and global, online learning opportunities. Its goal is not only to provide access to unique professional development opportunities, but to also to show how educators can stay connected and learn with each other.
In the brief video below, Richard Culatta, Director of the Office of Educational Technology, highlights the value of connecting with other teachers to share ideas and best practices and invites teachers to bring a friend or colleague to the conversations happening during Connected Educator Month.
This year’s Twitter chat with Secretary Duncan will focus on the importance of being a connected educator and Future Ready.
Connected learning opportunities provide teachers with a support network and the opportunity to engage in discussions around teaching and learning. These opportunities will help further initiatives like Teach to Lead, which emphasizes the importance of providing opportunities for teachers to lead from the classroom and involving teachers in the development of policies that affect their work.
Tuesday’s conversation will also focus on the newly announced Future Ready Initiative. At its heart is the Future Ready District Pledge, which establishes a framework for districts to achieve the goals laid out in President Obama’s ConnectED Initiative. In particular, the pledge emphasizes the value of providing personalized professional learning opportunities that empower educators to use technology effectively to improve student learning.
If you have federal student loans, it’s important that you understand your loan repayment options. For example, did you know that you have the option to choose a repayment plan? That’s right. While your loan servicer (the company that handles the billing and other services on your federal education loan) will automatically place your loan on the Standard Repayment Plan, you CAN choose another plan.
The Department of Education offers several traditional and income-driven repayment plans with different payment options. So, make sure to take the time to understand these options and find the plan that works best for you.
Generally, our repayment plans offer three types of payments:
- Fixed Payments: Our Standard Repayment Plan and Extended Repayment Plan offer payments that remain the same amount for the life of the loan.
- Graduated Payments: Our Graduated Repayment Plan and Extended-Graduated Plan offer payments that start out low and gradually increase every two years.
- Income-Driven Payments: Our three income-driven repayment plans offer payments that are calculated based on your income.
Choosing a repayment plan can feel overwhelming. Don’t worry—there are several resources available to help you understand the repayments plans, determine your eligibility for each plan, and make the right decision for you.
- Use our online Repayment Estimator to find out which plans you may be eligible for and to estimate how much you would pay under each plan. (If you log-in, the Repayment Estimator will use your actual loan balance to estimate your eligibility and payment information.)
- Get detailed information about each repayment plan on our website.
- Watch our Repayment: What to Expect video to get a high-level overview of the repayment plans.
- Check out our Repayment Plans infographic for an easy-to-understand visual that will give you some key points to keep in mind as you are choosing a repayment plan.
- Read our Repay Your Federal Student Loans fact sheet for additional information on loan repayment and the repayment plans.
- Contact your loan servicer to discuss your options and choose a federal student loan repayment plan that’s best for you.
Remember, the repayment plans discussed here are for federal loans only. If you have private loans, check with your lender about available repayment options.
For more information on federal student loan repayment plans, visit Studentaid.ed.gov/repay-loans.
Tara Marini is a communication analyst at the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.
When I was honored to be named Nebraska teacher of the year in 2007, almost in the same breath folks said, “Congratulations – when are you leaving the classroom?” Unfortunately, we have built into the American teaching culture this perverse disincentive that only seems to listen to and honor educators who move farthest away from those who need us most – our students.
Teach to Lead seeks to flip that by allowing teachers to lead from the classroom. We know that the many of the best ideas come from teachers – in fact, the solutions to today’s educational challenges will not be solved without the involvement of classroom teachers in the development as well as the implementation of innovative educational ideas.
Teach to Lead was developed by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to advance student success by expanding opportunities for teacher leadership – in other words, to make sure that teachers were involved in the development and implementation of education transformation.
One of the components of Teach to Lead is our virtual community, Commit to Lead. Commit to Lead is for those who have a seed of an idea, those who are developing their ideas, and those who are deep in implementation. It’s for classroom teachers, administrators, system leaders, advocacy groups – all those who are working to include teacher leadership in their decision making. The platform is a place to discuss and learn from others who may have already been down your path – or who want to learn from your success!
Commit to Lead is easy to use. After you join the community, you can post your own idea (just 300 words or less) and interact with others who comment. Or you can join and then peruse the ideas posted by others, offering your suggestions and giving a “thumbs up” by voting for those ideas that you find most compelling.
Christina from Willamsport, Pennsylvania, has submitted the most talked about idea so far:
“Principals, central office admin, consultants, and state ed departments would be required to teach just one prep or class for a 3-6 month period at least once every two years. The teacher in which they are ‘subbing’ for would then be released during that time to participate in some of the leadership responsibilities of the person assuming their role as teacher. Or they could use their release time to coach a colleague (or new teacher).
An easy idea to implement? Not really. Worthy of discussion? Absolutely! To be done right, this wouldn’t just be a simple schedule change, but a real culture shift that exemplifies the importance of being as close to the classroom as possible. I’ve often heard teachers say that some policies would never happen if administrators had to live by their own rules. I also know many teachers that don’t understand the heavy burdens and isolation faced by many in traditional leadership positions. A change of this magnitude would be great if it was done thoughtfully and with the best interests of students at the forefront.
Commit to Lead isn’t just about posting your own ideas. It’s also about sharing your “teacher wisdom” with colleagues across the country. Meeting the needs of her English Language Learners is what prompted Donna from Virginia Beach, Virginia, to reach out to colleagues through Commit to Lead:
I would like to start a discussion of ways to foster accurate academic participation for ELLs (or other student populations). Currently, I use scaffolds such as posted and practiced academic sentence frames to assist students when reporting out ideas after “Think-Write-Pair-Share.” I would like to collaborate with others to broaden my strategies and increase student use of academic language and structures.
Maybe you are just the person Donna is looking for to help fill her teacher toolbox! The best ideas are stolen or borrowed from other teachers – maybe even you!
Deidra from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, saw a problem in her teaching community and stepped up with a solution:
All teachers benefit from collaborative interaction, so I am starting a collaborative learning group among the CTE [Career & Technical Education] teachers I work with at my high school. Because our planning times do not coincide, I am using Google classroom to share professional readings with my colleagues, opening up discussion threads, and encouraging them to post articles and reading suggestions as well.
I’ve been reading The Teacher Wars by Dana Goldstein and she advises, “…the next step in American education reform may be to focus … more on classroom-up interventions that replicate the practices of the best [teachers].” Christina, Donna, and Deidra – and so many other teachers like them – are doing just that: leading from their classrooms!
Commit to Lead is just a beginning and we know this work isn’t easy, but it won’t be done correctly unless professional educators are key players.
Maddie Fennell is Literacy Coach at Miller Park Elementary in Omaha, Nebraska and a Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow working on Teach to Lead.
Maybe you’re just getting out of school and you got a letter from your student loan servicer about repayment, or maybe you read on a blog or in the newspaper about an income-driven repayment plan. Maybe you’re not really sure what they are, how they work, or what they could mean for you. Let me give you the fundamentals.
First, let me explain the naming. “Income-driven repayment” is an umbrella term for three different repayment plans available to those with federal student loans:
- The Income-Based Repayment Plan
- The Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan
- The Income-Contingent Repayment Plan
Notice how the names of all three plans reference “income” or “earnings”? Well, that’s because, under these plans, your payment amount is based on how much money you make. To really understand the differences between income-driven and “traditional” repayment plans, you must understand how your payment amount is calculated under each type of repayment plan.
How Monthly Payments Are Calculated
“Traditional” repayment plans are those such as the Standard and Extended Repayment plans. These traditionalists take three variables—the interest rate, principal balance, and repayment period—and determine the least amount of money that you can pay each month to pay the loan off by the end of the repayment period (usually 10-25 years, but sometimes as much as 30 years). This means that borrowing more, having a higher interest rate, or having a shorter repayment period will increase your monthly payment (and vice versa). Those three variables are all the traditional repayment plans care about—they don’t care if you can afford that payment, they just want your loan to be paid off within a specific time frame.
Income-driven repayment plans take these variables and stand them on their heads. These plans say, “you’ll pay what you can afford: a percentage of your ‘discretionary income’” (hint: that’s something less than your total income). Depending on the plan, that may be 10%, 15%, 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. Sometimes, it can be as low as $0 per month.
Student Loan Forgiveness and the Income-Driven Repayment Plans
Because your payment under the income-driven repayment plans is not calculated to ensure that your loan is paid off within a specific time frame, the plans have another special feature: loan forgiveness. These plans do have a repayment period—20 or 25 years. However, it’s not the point at which your loan must be paid off; instead, it serves as a counter toward loan forgiveness. Under these plans, if your loan is not repaid in full at the end of your repayment period—20 or 25 years—then the remaining balance will be forgiven. Let me be clear: this is not to say that everyone who selects an income-driven repayment plan will receive forgiveness. You may end up paying your loan off in full before you’re eligible for some forgiveness. Because your payment is based on your income, your payment changes when your income rises (or falls). Your income is the “x” factor, and we don’t know what will happen to it in the future. Under these plans, then, you may pay your loan off in full, or not, but the income-driven repayment plans are happy either way.
What else affects whether you will receive loan forgiveness? Well, it’s those familiar variables of loan balance and interest rate. Remember, interest accrues each day on whatever your principal balance is. The income-driven repayment plans do not change this fact. So, even though your payment isn’t related to how much interest is accruing, that interest still accrues and must still be paid before you can pay down the principal balance on your loan. Ultimately, because your payment is less than it would be under another plan and may even be less than the amount of interest that accrues on your loan, then you will pay down your principal balance more slowly and increase the likelihood of receiving loan forgiveness. This also means that your loan will cost you more over time. Does this mean that you shouldn’t choose an income-driven repayment plan? Of course not! But, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t explain that there was some sort of cost to receiving this benefit.
To be a good bureaucrat, I need to give you a few disclaimers before I wrap this up:
- If you receive loan forgiveness under an Income-Driven Repayment Plan, it may be considered taxable income by the Internal Revenue Service.
- The Income-Based and Pay As You Earn Repayment plans both have an eligibility criteria that tests to see whether you “need” to enter the plan—this test checks how much federal student loan debt you have relative to your income.
- There are loan-based eligibility criteria that I didn’t even mention, but know that these plans are only available for federal student loans—loans made under the Direct Loan and Federal Family Education Loan Programs, to be specific.
- If you are married, how you file your federal income tax return matters; sometimes it matters a lot.
How to Apply
In closing, let me give you some actionable steps that you can take:
- Use the Repayment Estimator to model your eligibility and payment amount for an income-driven repayment plan.
- If you have still questions, call your loan servicer and discuss whether one of these plans is a good fit for you.
- Apply online at StudentLoans.gov. Because this stuff is complicated, check the box that allows your loan servicer to put you on the income-driven repayment plan with the lowest monthly payment amount.
The English language was not marred through the use of acronyms in this blog post. Ian Foss has worked for the Department of Education since 2010, and, thanks to the Income-Based Repayment Plan, has been able to eat more than just ramen noodles since he finished school.
Engaging Families, Ensuring Education Success: A Back-to-School Tour with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics
In Springdale, Arkansas, the Hispanic population grew by more than 150 percent between 2000 and 2011, largely driven by the arrival of mostly Hispanic immigrants. The school district’s public school population is now 44 percent Hispanic, and its English Learner population is also 44 percent of students. The city has done a remarkable job of embracing their newest community members and ensuring that all students and families are supported.
As part of ED’s Back-to-School Bus Tour, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics (WHIEEH) visited Springdale to learn about the city’s community integration efforts. For the visit, WHIEEH collaborated with the Cisneros Center for New Americans, an organization that works to accelerate the integration of new Americans into American society. One stop was at an early childhood center where newly enrolled families pose for portraits that are placed in the classroom, to help ease the child’s transition and alleviate separation anxiety. Coffee sessions between new and veteran parents help familiarize families with the center and the community.
Another stop included the Turnbow Elementary School family literacy program where parents attend English language classes and scheduled PAC or “Parent and Child” time, in which parents join their children in class. They also learn about other subjects, including safety and financial assistance, from community partners such as the police and fire departments and local banks.
A mother described the program’s impact on her and her daughter: “When I signed up for this program, I saw my daughter with a huge smile, so I know it really mattered to her that I was in it,” she said.
At the Language Academy at Har-Ber High School, newly arrived students write their aspirations on classroom walls. These not only remind students to work hard, but they also provide instructors with daily reminders of their own role in helping all students reach their full potential.
The Academy has served to support integration into the larger community.
“The Language Academy helped me communicate with other people,” one student said. “At first, I didn’t know the basics …and now I’m in a regular class. I know all the things that the teacher tells me, and how they teach me and help me so much.”
A town hall for leaders from throughout the community provided context for the school district’s work. Superintendent Jim Rollins provided an overview of the district’s comprehensive efforts and a panel of experts discussed best practices on immigrant integration.
“Education is the great equalizer – quality education is accessible to immigrant families in Springdale,” said Professor William Schwab, University of Arkansas.
Throughout the tour, it was evident that efforts to break down language barriers and motivate students to succeed in and out of the classroom are making a difference.
Springdale’s family engagement and integration vision and efforts were recognized in a Race to the Top-District grant award in 2013. The program helps localities develop plans to personalize and improve student learning, increase educational opportunities, and provide resources that lead to a high-quality learning experience.
The program has enabled Springdale to provide 100 additional preschool slots to the community’s children and draw up plans to expand their family literacy program to each of their 30 schools.
The commitment to immigrant integration through family engagement is in the soul of the Springdale community. Superintendent Rollins put it best: “Those are the kind of things that can happen when you embrace children and help them find their true potential and promise.”
Emmanuel Caudillo is a Special Advisor for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.
Note: U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools recognizes schools, districts and postsecondary institutions that are 1) reducing environmental impact and costs; 2) improving health and wellness; and 3) teaching environmental education. To share innovative practices in these three ‘Pillars,’ the Department conducts an annual Green Strides Best Practices Tour of honorees.
Safeguarding the environment for future generations is a laudable goal, but when you’re managing a fast-growing school district’s bottom line, you need to also know that trying to do this makes financial sense. In the Waconia Public School system we’ve learned that going green can be the fiscally prudent path. Providing safe, healthy and sustainable learning spaces does not have to be an expensive choice, but it does require collaboration, creative problem solving, and a shared vision to do what is right for students, staff, community and the planet.
At Waconia Public Schools, we approach resource conservation, environmental education, and wellness with innovative and cost-effective solutions. Our Director of Finance and Operations worked with our school board to approve a financing plan that allows us to use conservation cost savings, energy rebates and other incentives to pay for additional environmental and energy conservation improvements. The Waconia School District qualified for $46,000 in energy rebates, and we’re saving an estimated $117,000 in utility and operations costs annually as a direct result of these improvements. Our district also saves over 1.2 million gallons of water, nearly one million kilowatt hours of electricity, and over 17,000 therms of gas annually.
The success of our conservation initiatives relies not only on smart financing, but on sophisticated monitoring equipment, on careful analysis of resource use, and on always keeping an open mind about lower environmental impact solutions. Our district began by getting a handle on its resource use through auditing, analyzing, and monitoring usage among all of its facilities. We work closely with environmental engineers at B3 Benchmarking to improve conservation and efficient use of resources. We identify opportunities to save money on utility costs by re-tuning existing equipment and installing resource-efficient equipment.
We also actively engage in partnerships to create efficiency in scale and help secure alternative funding. For example, we recently partnered with the City of Waconia and Carver County to secure a grant from the Minnesota Board of Water & Soil Resources to install a water reuse system to capture untreated storm water and reduce pollutants entering Burandt Lake adjacent to Bayview Elementary. This project combined with other water quality initiatives will result in Burandt Lake being “delisted” from the State Impaired Waters list within 5 years. The collected water is also used to irrigate our nearby athletic fields.
Our most recent collaborative project is with Minnesota Department of Commerce, Xcel Energy, JJR Power, and Innovative Power Systems to install solar panels on our high school gymnasium. These solar panels will produce 50,000 kilowatt-hours of energy – or about 5% of total annual energy usage at Waconia High School – without costing the district a dime for their installation. JJR Power will provide the capital to install the system. It is financed through a combination of the “Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program,” Federal tax credit, MACRS depreciation and the execution of a 15-year Power Purchase Agreement.
These are just a few of the partnerships that are helping Waconia Public Schools to develop, improve and sustain programs that reduce environmental impact, promote health, and equip students with a solid foundation of environmental literacy. At Waconia, it’s about being good stewards of all our resources, both financial and environmental. For a school district wishing to save money, environmental conservation simply makes fiscal sense.
Richard Scott is Director of Grants & Development at Waconia Public Schools.
Note: U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools recognizes schools, districts and postsecondary institutions that are 1) reducing environmental impact and costs; 2) improving health and wellness; and 3) teaching environmental education. To share innovative practices in these three ‘Pillars,’ the Department conducts an annual Green Strides Best Practices Tour of honorees.
Recently I was at Edgewood School in Prior Lake, Minn., where preschoolers were sitting on tiny tree stumps in an outdoor classroom custom-made just for them. They loved their little chairs and were completely engaged in the morning meeting with their teacher. Seeing these littlest ones learning so effectively in nature got me thinking about how one small initiative can grow into something much bigger.
The Environmental Education (EE) programs at Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools started out in just this way: one small effort at one school. Yet this year we found ourselves showcasing our districtwide EE programs during the recent Green Strides Best Practices Tour of Five Hawks and Jeffers Pond Elementary.
On any given day in Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools, you will find teachers and students outside, certainly for recreational activities – but also for science, math, reading, even art. Environmental Education is embedded into nearly all curricular areas, districtwide.
Visitors often ask, “How did you make this happen in all of your schools?” The answer is, we started small. Five Hawks Elementary set the stage for EE programming with teachers who are passionate about helping students build critical thinking skills, fostering a love for the environment and getting students outdoors.
One of the first things they did was plan an annual Outdoor Learning Festival, where students do hands-on activities, taking water samples, studying leaf structure and entomology, and much more.
The success of that program got a lot of attention and led staff, parents and school board members to embed environmental education into our district’s Strategic Plan, which will guide the expansion of our environmental focus.
Now EE also takes place through Community Education classes and student clubs in grades 3-12. Yes, students choose to be part of EE outside of the school day! Students will tell you it’s “cool” to be in these clubs. In fact, students have to apply to be in the programs because there is so much interest. At the high school level, students can even earn a varsity letter for their participation in the EcoTeam club.
Today all six of our elementary schools host an Outdoor Learning Festival each year, like the one we showcased on the Green Strides Tour. But beyond the Festivals, EE is truly “embedded” into our curriculum throughout the school day, every day. We have become the first district-wide E-STEM schools in the state of Minnesota.
Throughout all of this, our Strategic Plan has been our guide. We are grateful to the many innovative teachers who have made E-STEM a reality and for the students who are such enthusiastic learners. On the days I witness programs like the one at Edgewood, I am reminded that all big things start out small.
Dr. Sue Ann Gruver is the Superintendent of Schools for Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools in Minnesota
Have you heard or read about student loan forgiveness? Are you wondering what it is or if it is really possible? Perhaps you already know a little about it and you want to find out if you qualify. Well, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll provide answers these questions and tell you where you can go to learn more.
What is loan forgiveness?
Loan forgiveness is the cancellation of all or some portion of your federal student loan balance. Yes, that’s right—cancellation of your loan balance. If your loan is forgiven, you are no longer required to repay that loan.
Is it really possible to have your student loans forgiven?
Yes. However, there are very specific eligibility requirements for each situation in which you can apply for loan forgiveness. If you think you may qualify, it’s definitely worth investigating.
How do I get my loans forgiven?
There are a number of situations under which you can have your federal student loan balance forgiven, and we’ve provided a few in this post. You will, however, want to research your options at StudentAid.gov/repay and contact your loan servicer for any questions you may have about student loan forgiveness.
A couple examples of situations in which your federal student loans may be forgiven include:
- Teacher Loan Forgiveness: If you teach full-time for five complete and consecutive academic years in certain elementary and secondary schools and educational service agencies that serve low-income families, and meet other qualifications, you may be eligible for forgiveness of up to a combined total of $17,500 on certain federal student loans. For details about this program, see Teacher Loan Forgiveness.
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF): If you work full-time in certain public service jobs you may qualify for forgiveness of the remaining balance of your Direct Loans after you’ve made 120 qualifying payments on those loans—that’s usually about 10 years of payments. Serving in the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps is considered qualifying employment. To benefit from PSLF, you should enroll in a repayment plan that bases your monthly payment on your income. Learn more about income driven repayment plans. For loan repayment and borrower eligibility requirements, see Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
There are additional situations that allow you to apply for cancellation of your federal student loans. For example, if you are totally and permanently disabled, a member of the U.S. armed forces (serving in area of hostilities), a member of the Peace Corps, or a law enforcement or corrections officer, you may be eligible for cancellation of a portion of your federal student loan. Learn more about how you may qualify for loan forgiveness and contact your loan servicer with questions.
Are there other ways in which I can get help repaying my loans?
There are additional government programs that provide student loan repayment assistance for individuals who provide certain types of service. A couple examples include:
- Military Service: In acknowledgement of your service to our country, there are special benefits and repayment options for your student loans available from the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Defense. Learn about federal student loan benefits for members of the U.S. Armed Forces.
- AmeriCorps: The Segal AmeriCorps Education Award is a post-service benefit received by participants who complete a term of national service in an approved AmeriCorps program—AmeriCorps VISTA, AmeriCorps NCCC, or AmeriCorps State and National. An AmeriCorps member serving in a full-time term of national service is required to complete the service within 12 months. Upon successful completion of the service, members are eligible to receive a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award which can be used to pay educational costs at eligible postsecondary institutions, as well as to repay qualified student loans.
Remember, there are resources available to help you repay your loans. In addition to loan forgiveness and other benefit programs, you also have other options (including repayment plans that are based on your income) if you find yourself in a situation where you’re having trouble making your loan payments. Be sure to discuss your options with your loan servicer.
Lisa Rhodes is a writer at the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.
The tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri, on May 22, 2011 lasted 32 minutes and caused damage for 13 miles. At its widest point, the path of the tornado stretched a full mile. The EF5 Tornado — the most destructive on the Enhanced Fujita Scale — left a city nearly destroyed. More than 15,000 vehicles were carried away, nearly 7,000 homes were completely destroyed, and 161 people lost their lives.
The destruction of Joplin High School took place just minutes after a graduation ceremony for seniors. The ceremony was held off campus, at Missouri Southern State University. When the tornado hit, around 150 people were still in the arena, and Dr. Kerry Sachetta, the high school principal, led those individuals into the basement. But others were already on the road or back in their homes. The tornado claimed the lives of seven students (including one of the graduates) and one high school staff member.
In the months following the tornado, Secretary Arne Duncan joined then-Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to tour the city and the destroyed high school, and last week, Duncan returned to Joplin with Vice President Joe Biden for the dedication of the new state-of-the-art Joplin High School/Franklin Technology Center.
Referring to his previous visit three years ago, Secretary Duncan spoke of how he left inspired and full of hope, and that he is not surprised at Joplin’s dramatic recovery. “In that one day [in 2011], I had some sense of the fiber and character of this community,” he said.
“It would have been much easier to build a high school that just built upon what was here in the past. This community decided that the children of Joplin deserved something much better. So they built a high school not for yesterday, not for today, but for tomorrow. In blending vocational education and college education, [and] making sure we’re not tracking children into one path or another, but giving them the option to develop for college and for careers.”
Going forward, many of Joplin’s graduates will enter college with two years of college credit under their belt, saving students and their families thousands of dollars in tuition.
“This is a vision of what high schools all across America should be doing and can be doing.”
The new Joplin High School/Franklin Technology Center isn’t just a new building, but a new vision of education for the community’s students. The opening also marked the launch of the Career Path curriculum. Students attending JHS/FTC can choose one of five Career Paths, which are developed and implemented by school, community, and business representatives, centered on core foundational knowledge and skills, plus the soft skills employers demand from their employees.
“But as powerful and as inspiring as this high school is,” Duncan said during the dedication homecoming. “For me, the building is simply a living symbol, a physical manifestation, of this community’s values.”Cameron Brenchley is a Senior Digital Strategist for the Office of Digital Strategy at the White House.
2014 Scholastic Art and Writing Award Winners Featured at ED: They Gave Their Inspiring Voices and Visions
Each September brings a special day at the U.S. Department of Education: a day when the marble halls and foyers of the agency’s headquarters fill with excited crowds of students, teachers, families, local and visiting officials, and passionate supporters of the arts.
This year was no exception: on Friday, Sept. 19, winners of the 2014 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards were honored for their accomplishments. The Department sponsored the opening of two exhibits, one of awardees from around the country and one of Portland, Ore., awardees, with a total of 80 works of art. Among the honorees were the five newly chosen National Student Poets.
The day began with two workshops — one in the visual arts for the teachers of student winners, and one in poetry for the student winners.
Nancy D. Hoover, art director of the Girls’ School of Austin, had traveled to the Nation’s Capital to honor her student Alabel Chapin, who won a Gold Award for her piece Wearing Her Heart on Her Sleeve. In eighth grade when she made this painting based on a photograph she took, Chapin was inspired, said Hoover, by a third-grade schoolmate named Pippa. When asked why Pippa’s expression is so sassy, Hoover said she had an attitude, perfectly captured in this painting, because she did not want to be photographed in her nightgown. According to Chapin, who was in rehearsal at the Austin Ballet the day of the opening, “Most of the time I don’t like to paint traditional or pretty images. It feels more human to paint people with imperfections.”
Also in attendance were Melvin Butler and Terri Jenkins of Stone Branch School of Art in Rockville, Md., to honor Butler’s student Juneau Kim, the winner of a Gold medal in Comic Art for Kicking Craters. Butler says he asks students to develop a character, story and sketch to show how to express tension, conflict and issues, and how to resolve them using comic style. Juneau, who was also at the opening, explained his work, “In art,” he said, “it’s hard thinking of an idea and way harder getting your idea on paper. … Art-making can be tedious, which is how my character feels on his lonely planet. … But once you get ideas and draw them out, everything starts to come together. … This is how my character felt when he realized he was not alone.”
Acclaimed poet Glenis Redmond, along with the five National Student Poets, led a workshop on writing poetry. She spoke to the level of sensitivity all artists have and how it can be transferred to both their visual art and poetry. “When you see blue,” she said, “you don’t just see blue, you see turquoise, teal, and cobalt.” Redmond taught the students about praise poems, which allow authors to explore themselves through positive connections with their present and past. After facilitating a word-play brainstorm, she showed the class the interesting self-description combinations that can be created. The students then composed their own praise poems.
Nyanna Johnson from Dayton, Ohio, offered her praise poem:
Johnson said she’d been moved by the artistic energy of the other students and Redmond.
In the inspiring company of the Scholastic Art & Writing Award winners, Jamienne Studley, ED’s deputy under secretary of education, reflected that, “Creative thought matters. It matters in peace negotiations, in science labs, in city hall, just as it does on stage or in the art studio.” Reminding the audience that these students practice critical thinking, understanding other perspectives, communication and problem solving, she addressed the students, saying, “Your art and poetry are examples of the highest form of each one of these. Today, you, right here, are the artists and poets who are expanding horizons for your generation.”
Virginia McEnerney, executive director of the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, further acclaimed the students’ work, “What I often hear from judges of the Scholastic Awards is that your work gives them hope for the future of the arts. … [and] the track record of these awards would indicate that you are on a very good path to taking us, as a country, into the future with creativity and innovation, the core of our success.” Rachel Goslins, executive director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, concluded, saying, “Arts education is not something different or separate from education; arts education is a … critical part of education.”
Click here to see additional photos from the exhibit opening.
All photos are by Tony Hitchcock.
Jackye Zimmermann is director of ED’s Student Art Exhibit Program.
The Department’s Student Art Exhibit Program provides students and teachers an opportunity to display creative work from the classroom in a highly public place 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 202-401-0762 or at firstname.lastname@example.org/.
You received a federal student loan and now it’s time to repay it. If you’re like most student loan borrowers, you may find the repayment process a little overwhelming. But you have an important resource—your student loan servicer—to help you navigate the repayment process.
What is a loan servicer?
A loan servicer handles the billing and other services on your federal student loans. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) assigns your loan to a servicer, and the servicer assists you with repayment and any questions you may have about your federal student loan.
What’s so important about my loan servicer?
There are several reasons why your loan servicer is important, including the fact that you’ll make your loan payments to your servicer.
Your servicer will help you:
- select or change your repayment plan;
- understand loan consolidation, forgiveness, cancellation, or discharge options;
- find ways to make your payments more affordable; and
- explore your options if you’re having trouble making payments to ensure you avoid becoming delinquent on your student loan.
How do I get contact information for my loan servicer?
To view information about all of your federal student loans including contact information for your loan servicer, log in to “My Federal Student Aid.” You’ll need your Federal Student Aid PIN, so make sure you have that handy. Once you’re logged in, select “Your Federal Student Loan Summary” to view your loan information. Note: If you have multiple federal student loans you may have more than one loan servicer, be sure to select each loan to see information specific to that loan.
Remember that your loan servicer will help you throughout the loan repayment process, so keep in touch with them, especially if your financial circumstances change.
Lisa Rhodes is a writer at the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.
All of our students deserve equal access to educational resources like academic and extracurricular programs, strong teaching, facilities, technology, and instructional materials, no matter their race, color, or national origin.
That’s why my office, the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education, released new guidance this week to educators to ensure that all students have equal access to the school resources that they not only deserve, but are their right under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Our most recent Civil Rights Data Collection shows that only two out of three Latino high school students and three out of five of black high school students attend schools that offer the full range of math and science courses, defined by OCR as Algebra I, geometry, Algebra II, calculus, biology, chemistry and physics. Since the start of this Administration, OCR has received more than 260 complaints related to resource equity. OCR has also initiated 33 investigations of states, school districts and schools. Here are two recent examples from our investigations to ensure that students of color could access the educational resources that are their right:
- In a New Hampshire school district, black and Latino students were disproportionately under-enrolled in the district’s Advanced Placement courses. In an agreement with OCR, the district committed to consider increasing the numbers and types of courses offered and adding more teachers qualified to teach higher-level courses, among other remedies.
- Earlier this year, in a California school district, OCR found that during the 2010-11 school year, black students in grades 3-6 were more than 4.5 times less likely than their white peers to be identified for the Gifted and Talented (GATE) program. To rectify this, the district agreed to revise GATE criteria and enrollment practices to eliminate barriers to equal access.
We released this guidance to give schools, school districts, and states detailed information on how OCR investigates resource disparities and to set a clear framework for educators on how to comply with the fundamental principle that all students, no matter their race, color, or national origin, deserve equal access to a high-quality education.
In remarks announcing the new guidance, Secretary Arne Duncan described numerous inequities in access to strong teaching, rigorous coursework, and quality facilities. “These facts, and this reality, compels us to act,” he said. “We cannot simply wring our hands and admire the problem.”
This guidance is just one part of President Obama’s larger commitment to equity, including the recently announced Excellent Educators for All initiative. It also builds on recommendations from the Equity and Excellence Commission’s 2012 “For Each and Every Child” report.
We released this guidance to end the tired practice of offering students of color less than we offer other students and to make sure that all of our students have access to the education they deserve.
Across the Department, my colleagues are also working to provide opportunities for students of color. The Department has recently announced grants to support underrepresented students in gifted and talented programs, to develop and evaluate new approaches that can expand college access, to help at-risk high school students prepare for college, and to boost college and career readiness for historically underserved students.
Catherine E. Lhamon is Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education.
It’s been tough for me to come to terms with, but, unfortunately for me, I am not in college anymore. In fact, this spring marked three years since I graduated from college and went into repayment on my student loans. I know, not the most exciting thing in the world, but important. So while I don’t claim to be a student loan expert, I have learned a lot of lessons along the way, mostly through trial and error. In hopes that you won’t make the same mistakes I did, here are some things I wish I had known when I was graduating and getting ready to start repaying my student loans:
- I should have kept track of what I was borrowing
Let’s be real. When you take out student loans to help pay for college, it’s easy to forget that the money will eventually have to be paid back … with interest. The money just doesn’t seem real when you’re in college, and I didn’t do a good job of keeping track of what I was borrowing and how it was building up. When it was time to start repaying my loans, I was quite overwhelmed. I had different types of loans and different interest rates. When I did eventually see my loan balance, I was pretty shocked.
You can avoid this problem. Had I known there was a super easy way to keep track of how much I’d borrowed in federal student loans, I would have been much better off. You can view all your federal student loans in one place by going to StudentAid.gov/login.
- I should have made interest payments while I was still in school
If you’re anything like me, you probably consumed your fair share of instant noodles while trying to survive on a college student’s budget. Trust me, I get it. But one thing I really regret when it comes to my student loans was not paying interest while I was in school or during my grace period. Like I said, I was far from rich, but when I was in college, I did have a work-study job and waited tables on the side. I probably could have spared a few dollars each month to pay down some student loan interest. Remember, student loans are borrowed money that you have to repay with interest and more importantly, that interest may capitalize, or be added to your total balance. My advice: Even though you don’t have to, do yourself a favor and consider paying at least some of your student loan interest while you’re in school. It will save you money in the long run.
- I should have kept my loan servicer in the loop
If you’re getting ready to graduate or have graduated recently and haven’t heard from your loan servicer, make sure you check that your loan servicer has up-to-date contact info for you. When I graduated and moved into my first big-girl apartment, I forgot to change my address with my loan servicer. I found out that all of my student loan correspondence was going to my mom’s address. I hadn’t even thought to update my loan servicer with my new contact information. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Keep your servicer informed of address, email, and phone changes.
- I should have figured out what my monthly loan payments were going to be BEFORE I went into repayment
By the time my grace period was over, I had a decent idea of how much I had borrowed in total, but I had no idea what my monthly payments would be. I thought I was fine. I had started my new job and been paying rent and other bills for about six months. Then my grace period ended, and I got my first bill from my loan servicer. It was definitely an expense I hadn’t fully taken into account.
Don’t make the same mistake. Federal Student Aid has an awesome repayment estimator that allows you to pull in your federal student loan information and compare what your monthly payments would be under the different repayment plans that are offered. That way, you can choose the right repayment plan, know how much you can expect to pay monthly, and budget accordingly … unlike me.
I’ll be the first to admit that this whole process can be a little overwhelming, especially when you’re new at it. But just remember, your loan servicer is there to help you. If you need advice or have questions about your student loans, don’t hesitate to contact your loan servicer. Their assistance is FREE!
Nicole Callahan is a digital engagement strategist at the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.
The progress that America is seeing in our nation’s education system—record-high high school graduation rates, improved student achievement and more young people going to college—is helping to fuel an economy that is stronger now than when President Obama took office during the Great Recession. The President delivered that message Thursday in a speech, fittingly, on a college campus—Northwestern University, outside of Chicago—and he encouraged continued commitment toward building an economy that works for every American and an education system that supports every student.
“We have to lead the world in education once again,” Obama said.
Here’s more of what the President had to say about education, and how it’s a cornerstone of the “new foundation” for America’s 21st century economy:
America thrived in the 20th century because we made high school free. We sent a generation to college. We cultivated the most educated workforce in the world. But it didn’t take long for other countries to look at our policies and caught on to the secret of our success. So they set out to educate their kids too, so they could out-compete our kids. We have to lead the world in education once again.
That’s why we launched a Race to the Top in our schools, trained thousands of math and science teachers, supported states that raised standards for learning. Today, teachers in 48 states and D.C. are teaching our kids the knowledge and skills they need to compete and win in the global economy. Working with parents and educators, we’ve turned around some of the country’s lowest-performing schools. We’re on our way to connecting 99 percent of students to high-speed Internet, and making sure every child, at every seat, has the best technology for learning.
Look, let’s face it: Some of these changes are hard. Sometimes they cause controversy. And we have a long way to go. But public education in America is actually improving. Last year, our elementary and middle school students had the highest math and reading scores on record. The dropout rates for Latinos and African Americans are down. The high school graduation rate — the high school graduation rate is up. It’s now above 80 percent for the first time in history. We’ve invested in more than 700 community colleges — which are so often gateways to the middle class — and we’re connecting them with employers to train high school graduates for good jobs in fast-growing fields like high-tech manufacturing and energy and IT and cybersecurity.
Here in Chicago, [Mayor Rahm Emanuel] just announced that the city will pay community college tuition for more striving high school graduates. We’ve helped more students afford college with grants and tax credits and loans. And today, more young people are graduating than ever before. We’ve sent more veterans to college on the Post-9/11 GI Bill — including several veterans here at Northwestern — and a few of them are in this hall today, and we thank them for their service.
After celebrating the progress that America’s schools, colleges and universities are making, the President then set goals to further strengthen education as a pillar of the U.S. economy, starting with our youngest learners:
If we make high-quality preschool available to every child, not only will we give our kids a safe place to learn and grow while their parents go to work; we’ll give them the start that they need to succeed in school, and earn higher wages, and form more stable families of their own. In fact, today, I’m setting a new goal: By the end of this decade, let’s enroll 6 million children in high-quality preschool. That is an achievable goal that we know will make our workforce stronger.
If we redesign our high schools, we’ll graduate more kids with the real-world skills that lead directly to a good job in the new economy. If we invest more in job training and apprenticeships, we’ll help more workers fill more good jobs that are coming back to this country. If we make it easier for students to pay off their college loans, we’ll help a whole lot of young people breathe easier and feel freer to take the jobs they really want. So look, let’s do this — let’s keep reforming our education system to make sure young people at every level have a shot at success, just like folks at Northwestern do.
Innovation in higher education is key to ensuring that our nation’s colleges and universities continue to serve our nation’s students. As part of an ambitious plan to increase value and affordability in higher education, President Obama called for the First in the World (FITW) grant program to fund innovative practices at colleges and universities.
Yesterday, ED awarded $75 million in grants to 24 colleges and universities across the country to fund innovative thinking that comes from educators working every day to ensure successful outcomes for students.
All FITW projects focus on improving college success among low-income, first-generation, and underserved students. The winning projects represent diverse and exciting approaches to improving student success. Topics addressed by FITW grantees include strengthening the critical transitions from high school to college, improving remediation, and ensuring the accessibility of instructional technology for students with disabilities.
Our nation’s colleges and universities recognize the need for innovation in order to serve students more effectively and with greater efficiency. The large number of applications — more than 500 — for FITW show that there is interest in innovation and the development of supporting evidence. The efforts at the 24 colleges and universities that received grants hold enormous promise, and will help increase momentum in the field toward implementing and testing many of the other innovative ideas that emerged during this grant competition.
Here are just a few examples of how FITW grants will benefit students:
- Southern New Hampshire University will be completely rethinking remediation by developing an online, competency-based remediation tool. It will identify gaps in students’ knowledge and provide targeted, relevant, and engaging modules to help students master competencies as they are progressing through college-level material.
- Hampton University will launch an array of integrated supports for its students, including both technological tools and new ways of organizing on-campus programming. New online programming, using Khan Academy lectures and trainings in a technical computing program called MATLAB, will be combined with redesigned math courses in the emporium model and near-peer and faculty mentoring.
- South Dakota State University will implement an innovative approach to ensuring a smooth transition to college. To serve its American Indian and low-income students better, the university will work with partners, including Black Hills State University and Oglala Lakota College. Their program incorporates experience on the college campus for high school students and allows them to participate in employment or undergraduate research to help pay for their education.
- Gateway Community College in Kentucky will reshape programs for their students to provide a more flexible path to graduation. They are seeking to accelerate completion rates, using approaches such as redesigned remediation programs. Further, they are reevaluating their pedagogy and incorporating technology on campus to engage and support their students.
- Bay Path College in Massachusetts is a two-year institution that will develop an online experience for adult students that allows for flexibility, self-pacing, and social networking. The college will incorporate learning analytics to support a wide array of services, including personalized learning and wraparound coaching.
- University of Southern California will implement and evaluate a game-based tool that gives high school students an understanding of the college search and financing processes for use in mentoring programs.
In addition to providing resources to implement these innovative programs, FITW grants will also support robust evaluation of these practices. We expect this research to add to the growing body of defensible evidence that will guide future investments in higher education and lead to more effective practices and policies intended to support students and increase college completion rates. In addition to helping students become more informed about college, we also want to help ensure that institutions are better prepared to serve them once they arrive.
President Obama has encouraged every student to pursue postsecondary education. By investing in innovation, colleges and universities are finding new ways to increase the quality, affordability, and value of higher education.
James T. Minor is Deputy Assistant Secretary for Higher Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education.