New Efforts to Increase Access to Pell Grants for Incarcerated Students

By: Amy Loyd, Acting Assistant Secretary and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Strategic Initiatives, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education

Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona recently invited students who had attended college-in-prison programs to share their experiences. Their stories were moving; all of the students who attended the virtual roundtable told the Secretary that they truly realized their potential while participating in education while in prison, thanks in large part to the efforts of educational institutions that offered them a second chance. Today, those students have rewarding careers and full lives. Most are also actively engaged, in one way or another, in ensuring that people who are currently incarcerated received a second chance just like they did. Postsecondary educational programs offered in prisons give students who are incarcerated new opportunities to improve their education, obtain employment, reconnect with family, and re-engage with their communities.

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Innovations in Addressing COVID-19 and Promoting Equity: FY 2021 Education Innovation and Research (EIR) Competition Announcement

Written by Jamila Smith, Director, Innovation and Early Learning Programs, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education

The U.S. Department of Education is pleased to announce the $180 million FY 2021 Education Innovation and Research (EIR) Early-Phase Competition. The EIR program provides funding to create, develop, implement, replicate, or take to scale entrepreneurial, evidence-based, field-initiated innovations aimed at improving outcomes for high-needs students. The program also supports the rigorous evaluation of these innovations. The Department expects that early-phase grants will be used to fund the development, implementation, and feasibility testing of a program.

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The American Rescue Plan: Building the Bridge to Education and Beyond for Students Experiencing Homelessness

Written By: Chandler K., SchoolHouse Connection Scholar

I can remember being a young teen, living with my mother and six siblings and being locked out of the house until the early hours of the morning on multiple occasions. Abuse was prevalent in my home and trying to navigate school with honors and AP Courses throughout this experience was next to impossible. Eventually, the abuse became so bad that I had no choice but to flee. I searched for alternative housing options, but the only option I could find was an old RV behind my Grandparents’ home. The RV smelled of mildew, had no power or running water, and though it was safer than my home, the nights spent on the small RV mattress still haunt me to this day. I felt incredibly isolated during this time, because I felt I had to do my best to hide the fact that I was homeless. I sometimes look back and wonder how people didn’t know. I would often have to wear the same clothes multiple days in a row and I struggled to meet my basic needs like having access to food and hygiene supplies.

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We Want to Hear From You: Strengthening the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

By Julie Margetta Morgan, Senior Advisor and Acting Under Secretary, Office of the Under Secretary

Congress created the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program in 2007 to give back to the millions of nurses, police officers, firefighters, public defenders, and other Americans working in public service. Since then, federal student loan borrowers have planned their careers and lives around this program, trusting that if they work in public service for a decade while repaying their student loans, they would see the remainder of their debt forgiven.

Unfortunately, for too many public service workers, the program has not functioned the way they hoped it would. Fixing the PSLF Program has been a priority for the Biden-Harris Administration since day one. While we have identified many opportunities for improvement by talking to experts and borrowers and reviewing our procedures, we want to hear from you as well. That’s why, today, we are issuing a Request for Information about PSLF.

In the last year alone, we took steps to help borrowers pursuing PSLF, including by creating a single application that certifies employment, counts payments, and allows borrowers to check on their status toward forgiveness under PSLF and Temporary Expanded PSLF (TEPSLF). Last year, the Department changed its previous policy and now counts lump-sum payments and prepayments as qualifying payments for the purposes of loan forgiveness through the PSLF Program. We also launched a new PSLF Help Tool to make it easier for borrowers to determine their eligibility, and we continue to make improvements.

But we have more work to do if we want the PSLF Program to live up to its promise. We are asking you to help us identify and resolve challenges with the PSLF Program by answering questions, including the following:

  • What features of PSLF are most difficult for borrowers to navigate?
  • What barriers prevent public service workers with student debt from pursuing PSLF or receiving loan forgiveness under PSLF?
  • For borrowers who have or had loans other than from the Direct Loan) program, what have your experiences been when trying to access or participate in PSLF?  

We want to hear from the people who rely on this program about what is working and, more importantly, what isn’t working. We want to hear from experts across the nation about the challenges public service workers face and their ideas about how the PSLF Program can work better. Most importantly, we want to hear how we can fulfill the promise of this program to ensure that student debt does not prevent individuals from pursuing or staying in public service professions.

We want to hear your PSLF story so we can better understand the problems that need to be fixed. We must do better, and we can with your help.

In addition to issuing this request for information, last month we held public hearings about the Department’s regulatory priorities, one of which is PSLF. As we look forward to improving aspects of these regulations, we encourage experts and borrowers to also engage through that separate process with their experiences and expertise.

Open Letter Sessions—Adi

This month’s guest blogger is Adi, a 18-year-old college student from California. He is presently an early education teacher at a preschool, working with 1-2-year olds. In this Open Letter Session, he writes a letter to his past self as a reflection of his journey.  

Dear Adi,  

It’s 5 years in the future and you did it! You are living the life that you dreamed of. You are a teacher. I know there have been times where the obstacles seemed insurmountable and you questioned whether or not you would live to see this day, but you persevered. I know you often felt like you had to make this choice between living your truth and pursuing your passion for teaching, but I’m excited to tell you that you don’t have to make that choice because the future is one of acceptance and equality, where people are judged based solely on their character. 

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A Promise to Students: Improving How We Award Federal Student Aid

As the father of twins who recently graduated from college, I can appreciate what you or your parents go through each year as you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA® form. As you know, completing this form can open the door to your higher education dreams by providing federal student grants, work-study funds, and loans. The FAFSA form can also unlock other opportunities for grants and scholarships from states, schools, and private organizations.

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From World War II to Harvard: the Nisei Soldier who served and taught America

On December 7, 1941, Japanese planes raided the U.S. Naval Base Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The massive surprise attack thrusted America into World War II. Following the attack, government suspicion arose around Americans of Japanese descent. A few months later, on March 29, 1942, Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt of the Western Defense Command issued Public Proclamation No. 4, which forced the evacuation and detention of West Coast residents of Japanese American ancestry. Approximately 120,000 Japanese Americans were sent to concentration camps in the United States between 1942 and 1945.

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Explore U.S. History at our Nation’s Most Hallowed Ground

Arlington National Cemetery  (ANC) is considered America’s most hallowed ground and a sacred shrine to service and sacrifice. More than 400,000 people are laid to rest at ANC including former presidents, astronauts, civil rights activists, medical professionals, and prominent military figures.

ANC recently launched an education program for students, families, and lifelong learners. The program aims to honor the sacrifices and extraordinary lives of American service members and their families, support remembrance of the past and present military conflicts and circumstances surrounding them, and invite personal exploration of connections to America’s diverse history. As the school year draws to a close, this program provides a great summer learning opportunity to explore and discover U.S. history through the unique lens of ANC.

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First-Ever RISE Awardee Announced

Need a reason for celebration? In the Recognition Programs Unit of ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach, we have several of them spread throughout the year.  The newest recognition award joining the family, structured to shine a spotlight good work and ignite more positive contributions, while engaging state and local stakeholders with their federal education agency, is the Recognizing Inspiring School Employees award.

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Moving Forward with a New ED.gov

A new ED.gov is coming. The transformation is already underway and includes a brand-new look-and-feel and a critical rethinking of how we effectively communicate online. The goal: a digital experience where you can find what you need, discover things you did not know, and leave feeling satisfied. 

Step 1: Plan

In the fall of 2019 ED began planning for the redesign of ED.gov, creating a number of internal Innovation Teams charged to lead the effort. The teams rewrote web governance policy, created new standards, and began developing the roadmap for the future. ED also hosted an open innovation challenge calling for input from across the country to help shape the design of the new ED.gov. The result was an ED.gov prototype that would define our path forward.

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Announcing the 8th Annual ED Games Expo: June 1 to 5, 2021

A Free All-Virtual Showcase of Game-Changing Innovations in EdTech
developed through ED and Programs Across Government

The ED Games Expo is an annual showcase of game-changing innovations in education technology (EdTech) developed through programs at the Department of Education (ED) and across the federal government. Since 2013, the Expo has been an in-person event at venues across Washington, D.C. Because of the COVID-19 national emergency, the 2021 ED Games Expo is moving online, from June 1 – 5, for an entirely virtual experience. Hosting virtually provides the unique opportunity to engage a national audience and to present content mindful of the pandemic and useful for educational programming in the summer and going forward.  

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Weeks Become Months: Teaching During a Pandemic

In March of 2020, I said, “See you on Monday” to my students on what I believed to be an ordinary Friday, albeit a Friday the 13th. That would be the last day I would see them for months. There was a period of uncertainty as everyone grappled with our new reality. The unadulterated meaning of pandemic, hit fast and hard. 

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