2014 Education Budget: What’s the Bottom Line?

Budget LogoAs Education Secretary Arne Duncan often says, budgets aren’t just numbers in a ledger – they are a reflection of our values. President Obama’s 2014 budget proposal, released today, demonstrates his belief in education as the engine that will keep America competitive in a global innovation economy and grow a thriving middle class.

The proposal builds on momentum for reform and protects the most vulnerable.  Nowhere is this more true than in the president’s historic proposal to make high-quality preschool available to all four-year-olds.

The administration’s request for $71 billion in discretionary appropriations for education represents an increase of more than 4 percent over the previous year. Nearly three-quarters of that funding goes to financial aid for students in college, special education, and aid to schools with high numbers of children in poverty (Title I).

The remaining 28 percent of the budget invests in specific areas that can move major change – particularly through making preschool accessible for all students; funding a set of strategic reforms at the K-12 level; ensuring that college is affordable; and coordinating services that help students living in poverty.

What’s the bottom line?:

Early learning: Making quality preschool available for all 4-year-olds

President Obama has committed to a historic new investment in preschool education that supports universal access to high-quality preschool for all 4-year olds from low- and moderate-income families and creates an incentive for states to serve additional middle-class children.

The President’s budget request includes $1.3 billion in 2014 and $75 billion over 10 years in mandatory funding, along with $750 million for competitively awarded Preschool Development Grants and other funds.

Learn more about Preschool for All.

K-12: Deepening reform in key strategic areas

President Obama’s fiscal year 2014 budget proposes significant new investments in areas where states and school districts face key implementation challenges from earlier investments such as Race to the Top and the Race to the Top-District competition, as well as continuing substantial investments in critical formula programs that support state and local reform efforts.

Learn more about the K-12 reforms.

The 2014 budget proposal also includes:

High School Redesign and Career Readiness

President Obama has called on all Americans to commit to at least one year of postsecondary education. Yet, for too many American students, high school is a time of disengagement that fails to put them on a path to college and career success. That’s why the Obama administration has laid out plans to redesign high schools and career and technical education (CTE).

Learn more about high school redesign and career readiness.

Strengthening Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Education

Economists project strong growth in careers related to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), but far too few American students are proficient in mathematics and interested in a STEM career. The Obama administration proposes an aggressive STEM push that will improve the delivery and impact of STEM education.

Learn more about STEM.

Teachers and Leaders

The Obama administration has laid out a plan to strengthen teaching and school leadership, building on significant investments in the first term.

Learn more about the teachers and leaders plan.

School Safety

The President’s plan to increase school safety and to decrease gun violence includes investments not only to prepare schools for emergencies, but also to create nurturing school climates and help children recover from the effects of living in communities plagued by persistent violence.

Learn more about school safety.

Making College Affordability

The Obama administration has taken major steps to help students afford college, and proposes to build on that momentum with programs that will drive major reforms to reduce the escalating costs of higher education.

Learn more about making college affordable.

Ladders of Opportunity

Through “Ladders of Opportunity,” the Obama administration will establish comprehensive, coordinated approaches to improving support for America’s most vulnerable students.

Learn more about ladders of opportunity.

Additional Budget Resources:

3 Things You May Not Know About Financial Aid For Veterans

3 Things You May Not Know About Financial Aid For Veterans

I recently separated from the Navy after 10 years of active duty service. Shortly after separation, I decided to go back to college. I knew that I had Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits that I could use, but there were a few things I didn’t know.

You still qualify for federal student aid.

Even if you are receiving Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, you can still receive federal student aid as well. I was unaware of this when I started my graduate degree. If you would like to apply for federal student aid, then you will have to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You can save yourself some time by making sure you gather all the documents needed to apply.

You may be eligible for a Monthly Housing Allowance.

Remember the Basic Allowance for Housing you used to get while you were active duty? You can get a Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA) while attending college classes when you use your Post 9/11 GI Bill! Even if you are taking online courses, you can still receive up to $684 a month in MHA. The Post 9/11 GI Bill also covers tuition and fees, and even provides an annual stipend of up to $1000 for books and supplies.

Applying for benefits is easier than I thought it would be.

I won’t say that the application is a short one, but Department of Veterans Affairs has a tool called the Veterans On-Line Application (VONAPP) that you can use to apply for your education benefits and many other veteran benefits as well. Also, by using this tool, your application is sent directly to the VA office with jurisdiction over your application, and processing will begin as soon as possible. Keep in mind that the VONAPP is specifically for aid from the Department of Veterans Affairs. In order to qualify for Pell Grants, Stafford Loans and other forms of federal student aid, you still need to fill out the FAFSA.

Transitioning from military to civilian life can be a bit difficult. However, with the help of Federal Student Aid and the Post 9/11 GI Bill, paying for my college didn’t have to be. It doesn’t have to be for you either. You have devoted years of your life to serving your country; now you can take advantage of a few of the benefits that you have earned. Your military service is appreciated. Happy Veterans Day.

Dominique Ramirez is a New Media Analyst at Federal Student Aid and a Lieutenant in the United States Navy Reserve

Institutions Commit to Providing Millions of Students with Easy-To-Understand Information About College Costs

We know that students and their families face a difficult task in deciding where to enroll for higher education, and understanding the cost of college—and how to pay for it—can be daunting. Too often, students are left without a clear explanation of what the costs mean or how they compare to other colleges they are considering, and as a result, many students leave college with debt that they didn’t fully understand at the time they entered school.

Shopping Sheet Example

An example of the information on the Shopping Sheet

While many financial aid award letters provide understandable information, some can be confusing, lacking clear distinctions between grants (which don’t have to be paid back) and loans (which do), as well as important information about outcomes like graduation rates and default rates. This confusion can make it difficult for students to decide which college is the right fit for them, best suited to their needs, priced affordably, and consistent with their career and educational goals.

In July, I sent a letter to college presidents nationwide, asking them to adopt a new Financial Aid Shopping Sheet clearly showing prospective students what a college education would cost. For prospective students, this model disclosure letter for financial aid offers helps explain the total cost of a program—including tuition and fees, the costs that are covered by federal loans and grants, the type and amount of financial aid they may qualify for, their estimated student loan debt upon graduation, and information about graduation rates. This information can help students easily compare financial aid packages offered by different institutions, and ultimately make an informed decision on where to invest in their higher education.

Our goal is to help students arrive at school each fall less worried about how they will pay for college, and more focused on how they will complete college. Institutions of higher education share that goal, and many have shown their support by adopting the Shopping Sheet for use as part of their financial aid award packages starting for the 2013-14 school year.

To date, 316 institutions* serving over 1.9 million undergraduate students, or 10 percent of all undergraduates, have agreed to adopt the Shopping Sheet [MS Excel, 1.4MB]. Of those schools who have signed on, about 43 percent are public institutions, 43 percent are for-profit institutions and 14 percent are private schools. Among the institutions that have voluntarily agreed to adopt the Shopping Sheet are several state college and university systems—including the University System of Maryland, the State University of New York System, the University of Massachusetts System, and the University of Texas System—as well as several institutions with large undergraduate populations, including Arizona State University, Miami Dade College, and the University of Phoenix online campus. All of the systems and institutions that committed to financial aid transparency at the June roundtable with Vice President Biden—including North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, Syracuse University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Vassar College—have also adopted the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet for the 2013-14 school year.

Additionally, to ensure that service members, veterans, spouses and other family members have the information, support and protections they deserve, in April 2012 the President signed an Executive Order establishing Principles of Excellence for Educational Institutions Serving Service Members, Veterans, Spouses, and Other Family Members. This Executive Order requires educational institutions receiving funding from federal military and veterans’ educational benefits to provide prospective students with the financial aid Shopping Sheet to help students understand the total cost of their education. Already, more than 2,900 institutions have agreed to implement the Principles of Excellence.

Students should not have to wait until after graduation to learn the size of their monthly student loan payment. Families choosing a college should have clear and comparable information, in a common format, to guide their choice. And no one should forego college because they think they cannot afford it. We will continue to work with the institutions that have already signed up to use the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet for the next school year, and we look forward to more colleges and universities committing to use this common-sense tool to provide students and parents with clear information about costs.

Arne Duncan is the U.S. Secretary of Education

* Update Nov. 29, 2012: The Department will provide updated figures periodically on its Financial Aid Shopping Sheet website.

Arne on Cost of College and Pell Grants

Secretary Arne Duncan sat down recently to answer questions he received via social media, email and mail. Zack wanted to know if Arne thought the rising cost of college would keep Americans from a post-secondary education.

Arne says that college is the best investment one can make, and explains how the Obama Administration is working to keep the cost of college low, as well as it’s unprecedented investment in Pell Grants, and making repayment options easier.

However, Arne says keeping college costs low is a shared responsibility. States need to invest in education, and colleges and universities need to help keep tuition low and build cultures around college completion.

Arne also answers Jason’s question about Pell Grants, explaining that Pell Grants are the best investment we can make for a young person’s future and for a strong economy.

Watch the video:

Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

ED’s Wilson Discusses Importance of Historically Black Colleges & Universities

Ed. Note: This post is the first in a series of blog posts that highlights leaders at the Department of Education.

John Silvanus Wilson, Jr.’s heroes as a student were college presidents. As someone who places due importance on brain power, experiences in higher education continue to inform his perspective and mission as Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Born in Philadelphia and raised by a preacher and teacher – his father and mother, respectively – he would go on to get his masters in theological studies and educational administration planning and social policy at Harvard after undergraduate work at Morehouse College. At Morehouse he came to admire the former President Benjamin Elijah Mays, whom many considered a living legend for his social activism and mentorship of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Reminiscing about his education, Wilson loved attending Morehouse and Harvard equally but drew distinct differences between them.

“I contrasted the two and concluded in my mind that Morehouse needs exactly what Harvard has, and Harvard needs exactly what Morehouse has,” he said. “I think that convergence has pretty much been what my career has been about, and explains a lot of the way I think in this position.”

Morehouse was deep into what he calls character capacity – the education to impart a sense of calling and mission in life.  Harvard excelled in capital capacity with an established financial infrastructure.

After Harvard, Wilson served as director of foundation liaisons and assistant provost at MIT. He helped lead two major capital campaigns that raised nearly $3 billion. After 16 years in that position, he left in 2001 and moved to Washington D.C. to work at The George Washington University as an executive dean, then an associate professor in their school of education where he researched black colleges and fundraising.

Then he got the call from the Obama administration. Wilson now assists Secretary Duncan as a liaison between the executive branch and HBCUs, as well as work with 32 federal agencies that offer support through federal grants and contracts.

The White House Initiative boils down to four components: capital enlargement, strategy development, campus enrichment, and perception enhancement.

“We have enlarged the capital flow to HBCUs, federal funding is up, and private sector partnerships through our office with HBCUs are way up. We will soon be launching an arts and HBCUs initiative, and enhance teacher prep,” he said.

According to Wilson, perception is a key area.

“There are still some people who see HBCUs as symbols of the past rather than forces for the future,” he said. “We’re trying to shift those perceptions and trying to get more people to understand they are positive forces. The President and Secretary Duncan have established that they want 8 million more college graduates by 2020. We know that 2 million of those 8 million need to be African Americans. We also know that 167,000 need to come from HBCUs.”

There are currently 105 HBCUs serving approximately 300,000 students. They graduate about 35,500 students per year, but will need to graduate more than 57,000 students per year by 2020 to meet the President’s goal. HBCUs produce half of the African American K-12 teachers in the country.

“Not only are HBCUs necessary,” Wilson said, “but this nation needs them to produce a lot more students than they’ve been producing.”

Solid education is the key to living a rewarding life for yourself and for others around you, Wilson explained.

“There’s no substitute for the life of the mind. I have three kids, so I come at education not just professionally but in terms of my family.”

Natalie Torentinos is a graduate student at The George Washington University and an intern in the Office of Communications and Outreach.

Experts Convene for College Completion Symposium at ED

How do we meet the diverse needs of the 21st century scholar and meet the President’s 2020 goal of once again leading the world in college graduation rates?

College Completion Symposium

Secretary Duncan speaks at the College Completion Symposium. Official Department of Education photo by Leslie Williams.

This is the challenge Secretary Duncan posed to researchers, policy experts, and practitioners from 30 postsecondary institutions from across the country who shared evidence-based best practices and ideas during a one-day symposium on college completion at the U.S. Department of Education on Monday.

“All the good ideas are out there with you guys,” Duncan said. “I urge you to be creative and thoughtful.”

If there was one important takeaway from the presentations and discussions, it was that one size does not fit all.

Tom Brock, Director of the Young Adults and Postsecondary Education Policy Area from the nonprofit MDRC, presented results from studies looking at student services programs to address the benefits of “increasing the amount of counseling and advising students receive and attaching students to tutoring services on campus.”

Regina Bain, Regional Vice President of the nonprofit organization Posse Foundation, said she learned a lot from the various institutions represented at the symposium.

“I appreciated the idea of online coaching tools. I really believe in one-on-one, intensive, multilayered coaching and advising for individuals,” she said.

The symposium is one more step in ED’s commitment to meeting the President’s 2020 goal, and ensuring that America’s graduates are prepared for the jobs of the 21st century.

Click here to read President Obama’s Blueprint for making college more affordable.

Natalie Torentinos is an intern in the Office of Communications and Outreach

Duncan Discusses College Affordability During Florida Town Halls

Secretary Duncan at Florida Town Hall

Secretary Duncan holds a town hall in Pembroke Pines, Fla. Official Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover.

“The way we’re going to bring in and keep the great jobs in this country is by having the most educated workforce,” Secretary Duncan said last week at a town hall in Pembroke Pines, Fla. Speaking with a large group of students, teachers and parents, Duncan explained that the U.S. used to be 1st in college completion and is now ranked 16th. Arne also echoed the President’s State of the Union message that we are facing a “make or break moment” for America’s middle class.

Over the past week, President Obama and Secretary Duncan both described that more than ever, education is essential to helping Americans become full contributors to the American economy. The unemployment rate for Americans with a college degree is about half the national average, and in our knowledge-based economy, our nation’s economic prosperity will be determined by the education of our people.

Before arriving in Pembroke Pines, Duncan stopped in Tallahassee to hold a community town hall around the same theme of keeping college affordable and within reach for all Americans. And while Duncan reminded the audience that college has never been more important, he also noted that it is also more expensive than ever. The Obama Administration has taken significant action in helping students and their families afford college, and on Friday, Secretary Duncan joined President Obama at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor to outline a Blueprint to making college more affordable.

Click here to read more about the President’s Blueprint, and click here to watch a video of Vice President Biden and Secretary Duncan traveling the country addressing the cost of college.

Obama in State of the Union: “America is Back”

President Obama

President Obama delivers his State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol, White House Photo, Pete Souza

“Teachers matter,” said President Barack Obama last night during his State of the Union address. “Instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo” he said,

let’s offer schools a deal. Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones.  In return, grant schools flexibility:  To teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.

The President talked about the great strides that states have made in enacting comprehensive education reform:

For less than one percent of what our Nation spends on education each year, we’ve convinced nearly every State in the country to raise their standards for teaching and learning – the first time that’s happened in a generation.

But challenges remain.  And we know how to solve them.

At a time when other countries are doubling down on education, tight budgets have forced States to lay off thousands of teachers.  We know a good teacher can increase the lifetime income of a classroom by over $250,000.  A great teacher can offer an escape from poverty to the child who dreams beyond his circumstance. Every person in this chamber can point to a teacher who changed the trajectory of their lives.  Most teachers work tirelessly, with modest pay, sometimes digging into their own pocket for school supplies – just to make a difference.

The President called for more training to help fill the millions of in-demand jobs:

Jackie Bray is a single mom from North Carolina who was laid off from her job as a mechanic.  Then Siemens opened a gas turbine factory in Charlotte, and formed a partnership with Central Piedmont Community College.  The company helped the college design courses in laser and robotics training.  It paid Jackie’s tuition, then hired her to help operate their plant.

I want every American looking for work to have the same opportunity as Jackie did.  Join me in a national commitment to train two million Americans with skills that will lead directly to a job.  My Administration has already lined up more companies that want to help.  Model partnerships between businesses like Siemens and community colleges in places like Charlotte, Orlando, and Louisville are up and running.   Now you need to give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers – places that teach people skills that local businesses are looking for right now, from data management to high-tech manufacturing.

President Obama also touched on the importance of graduation and the need to keep the cost of college down, while ensuring that America’s graduates aren’t burdened by student loan debt.

We also know that when students aren’t allowed to walk away from their education, more of them walk the stage to get their diploma.  So tonight, I call on every State to require that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn eighteen.

When kids do graduate, the most daunting challenge can be the cost of college.  At a time when Americans owe more in tuition debt than credit card debt, this Congress needs to stop the interest rates on student loans from doubling in July.  Extend the tuition tax credit we started that saves middle-class families thousands of dollars.  And give more young people the chance to earn their way through college by doubling the number of work-study jobs in the next five years.

Of course, it’s not enough for us to increase student aid.  We can’t just keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition; we’ll run out of money.  States also need to do their part, by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets.  And colleges and universities have to do their part by working to keep costs down.  Recently, I spoke with a group of college presidents who’ve done just that.  Some schools re-design courses to help students finish more quickly.  Some use better technology.  The point is, it’s possible.  So let me put colleges and universities on notice:  If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down.  Higher education can’t be a luxury – it’s an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.

Click here to read the entire speech, click here to read the President’s Blueprint for An America Built to Last, and for additional information about the State of the Union, visit whitehouse.gov/state-of-the-union-2012.

Minnesota Town Halls Focus on College Affordability and FAFSA

Secretary Duncan speaks at a town hall

Secretary Duncan at South High School. Official Department of Education photo by Leslie Williams

Secretary Duncan travelled to the Minneapolis area last Friday to host two town hall meetings with teachers, parents, students, and national, state and local leaders. Arne started the day speaking with students at South High School in Minneapolis about the importance of higher education and college affordability. “College isn’t just for the rich or someone else,” he said. “We need to raise expectations so all students know college is within their reach.”

The Obama Administration has taken extraordinary steps to make it easier for students to get financial aid and understand the true cost of college, including:

    • The biggest investment in college since the G.I. Bill
    • $40 billion for Pell Grants
    • Simplifying the FAFSA
    • Pay as you Earn” income-based repayment
    • Know Before You Owe” financial aid shopping sheet

Duncan also announced the launch of the @FAFSA Twitter account, and explained how important it is that students fill out the FAFSA. For many students who think that higher education is out of reach, the FAFSA will explain many of available aid and loans that can help a student pay for college.

Click here to get started on the 2012 FAFSA.

Keeping College Within Reach

VP Biden and Arne Duncan in Ohio

Vice President Biden speaks to students about college affordability at Lincoln High in Gahanna, Ohio. (Official Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover)

“What college you go to may be one of the least important decisions in your life,” said Vice President Joe Biden yesterday in Ohio. “It’s deciding to go that is the most,” he said.

Secretary Duncan joined Biden at Lincoln High School in Gahanna, Ohio yesterday to speak to students and parents about the importance of college and college affordability, and to answer questions from the audience. “The jobs of the future are going to require some type of higher education,” Duncan said, explaining that it could be college, community college, trade school, or technical or vocational training.

The Vice President and Secretary Duncan described the steps that the Obama Administration is taking to ensure that college stays within reach of the middle class, including:

  • Increasing the maximum size of Pell Grants by $800 to $5,550.
  • Increasing the number of students who receive Pell Grants from 6.1 million in 2008 to over 9 million today.
  • Enacting a tuition tax credit worth up to $10,000 over 4 years.
  • Ensuring that future graduates won’t have to spend more than 10% of their discretionary income on student loan payments.

Duncan also explained that ED has simplified the FAFSA form, making it easier for students to apply for aid in the first place.

While Vice President Biden encouraged the students in attendance to commit to higher education, Secretary Duncan said that the next step is finishing. “Whatever it takes to get you across the finish line,” he said.

Teaming Up to Support Rural Community Colleges

It’s no secret that community colleges are leading the way to achieving the President’s goal for the United States to once again have the highest college attainment rate in the world by 2020. Community colleges are hubs for career-training, re-training, adult education and for recent high school graduates seeking a pathway into the careers of their choice.

Secretary Duncan, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and their agencies are working together to support community colleges as they provide postsecondary education and career training in rural areas. Photo courtesy of USDA.

For many residents of rural areas, community colleges also provide the closest access to postsecondary education and a way to obtain the skills needed for existing jobs.  However, like some of their students, many rural community colleges are doing more with less as state budgets are being cut and new resources are becoming harder to find.

During the 2011 rural community colleges conference in Oklahoma, many attendees asked about funding and resources available from the Department of Education but few were as familiar with opportunities in other federal agencies. Some rural community college administrators were unaware of the significant infrastructure of support available through their USDA Rural Development state and local offices.

As the American Jobs Act languishes in Congress, preventing an infusion of $5 billion for modernization from reaching community colleges, the U.S. Departments of Education and Agriculture are working together to guide campuses serving high-poverty rural communities to existing federal resources.

During a recent conference call with members of the Rural Community College Alliance and the American Association of Community Colleges, nearly 100 participants learned about USDA Rural Development programs and funding opportunities that can be used to improve facilities, support distance learning, and provide home ownership assistance as a recruitment and retention tool for faculty.

The USDA Community Facilities Program can be used for construction and renovation of classrooms and dormitories, and even to purchase transportation vehicles to serve campus facilities. The USDA Single Family Housing Programs provide homeownership opportunities to low- and moderate-income rural Americans through several loan, grant, and loan guarantee programs.

USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine grants can cover the cost of equipment for video conferencing and other distance learning equipment. USDA’s Community Connect program provides grants to build broadband Internet infrastructure and establish community centers to offer free public access in rural areas where broadband service is least likely to be available, but where it can make a tremendous difference in the quality of life for citizens.

These are a few of the ways that USDA can support rural communities, and the Department of Education is working to increase awareness of how college leaders can access these opportunities.

John White is Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach