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.

Over the years, Federal Student Aid (FSA) has taken steps to make it easier for you to fill out the FAFSA form. For example, we’ve simplified the process so you only see questions that pertain to you, and we continue to partner with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) so you and your parents can retrieve tax return information for the FAFSA form. We also made it easier to fill out the form on your mobile device. And, speaking of mobile devices, we continue to update the myStudentAid mobile app, where we guide you through the process with helpful prompts and checklists that remind you about important actions you need to take to apply for federal student aid.

Still, more improvements are coming, and there are big changes ahead. You deserve every opportunity to pursue your higher education dreams, and I promise that FSA will provide you the best possible FAFSA experience. Recent legislation passed by Congress will:

  • expand your access to Federal Pell Grants and subsidized loans, including making incarcerated students eligible for Federal Pell Grants;
  • change the methodology we use to calculate how much federal student aid you and your family receive;
  • improve the exchange of tax data to help you file an accurate FAFSA form; and
  • eliminate any negative consequences related to questions about drug convictions and Selective Service registration for federal student aid.

FSA is excited about these changes to create a better FAFSA form both now and in the future!

To deliver on these new opportunities, FSA first needs to update the technology system that the FAFSA form is built on. Believe it or not, the current system is 45 years old, and though we have made it work all these years, it’s just too limited to support these new changes.

As you can see, we’re already hard at work modernizing the FAFSA system. But we’re taking care to ensure you can apply for and receive federal student aid at any point. That’s why we’re breaking up this extensive work into bite-sized pieces. As early as Oct. 1 of this year, some of these improvements will begin to show, and we will add more improvements as soon as we can over time. With each step we take, we’ll always ensure that you remain at the center of our focus.

Our mission is to help you pursue your higher education dreams. And we pledge to keep you updated every step of the way, so you know exactly what to expect from FSA.

Rich Cordray
Chief Operating Officer
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Federal Student Aid

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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Financial Literacy Education and Paying for College

President Biden issued a proclamation deeming April 2021 as National Financial Capability Month. This communication emphasizes the benefits of financial capability, the value of financial literacy, and the importance of access to financial resources. Understanding personal finance topics such as savings, loans, and investments is seldom a straightforward task, especially in the context of paying for college. Subjects, such as borrowing, can be complex for incoming postsecondary students to fully grasp. With the notable year-over-year rising cost of pursuing higher education, some students may be left with a large amount of debt and regrets about how they chose to finance their college education. According to Teach for America, a recent survey suggests that 53% of college students said that they felt less prepared to manage their money than to face any other challenge associated with college. So, how can postsecondary student’s financial literacy be improved and regrets about financing their education minimized? One solution to consider is effective financial literacy education.

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Education’s Role in Second Chance Month and National Reentry Week

By:
Sean Addie – Director of Correctional Education
Dr. Amy Loyd – Acting Assistant Secretary

This week we are joining our colleagues at the U.S. Department of Justice, agencies across the federal government, and our partners across the country to mark National Reentry Week and lift up the important work being done to support individuals reentering society from incarceration. The week also bookends Second Chance Month, and here at the Department of Education, we understand the pivotal role that education plays in helping people rejoin and contribute to society.

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Supporting First-Generation and Low-Income Students Beyond the College Acceptance Letter

Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that pursuing a college education is not just about getting accepted and enrolling in a college. First-generation and low-income college students were burdened with the struggle to pay expensive college fees for a virtual education while being separated from on-campus resources and in-person support from students and faculty. For first-generation and low-income college students, being accepted into a college is a major accomplishment that opens the door to numerous possibilities, such as having higher average salaries and healthier lifestyles. However, there needs to be more support for first-generation and low-income students throughout college, not just to the acceptance letter, for them to enjoy the benefits of obtaining a college degree.

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The Pursuit of Education: A Story of Homelessness, Perseverance, and the Impact of Caring Educators

The pursuit of education: a story of homelessness, perseverance, and the impact of caring educators

By: Jahnee S.

I was 8 years old when I first experienced homelessness. Homelessness then became a struggle that my family and I couldn’t escape. I experienced standing in the snow, hoping my family and I had a place to sleep on a church floor; how packed and unsanitary emergency shelters are, as I got lice within two days of staying there; how “The Florida Project” brought me flashbacks to the many months my family lived in motels, and how I viewed peers with “the basic necessities” with such envy. Constantly moving and being disappointed led me to become extremely detached and avoid relationships of any kind out of fear of abandonment. Eight years later, at 16 years old, I was still experiencing homelessness. Though homelessness was not new to me, this experience as a 16-year-old was the most difficult because I was on my own without a family.

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A Decade of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools!

A Decade of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools blog graphic

On April 22, the U.S. Department of Education named the 2021 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS), District Sustainability Awardees, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees. Across the country, 27 schools, three early learning centers, five districts, and five postsecondary institutions are recognized for their innovative efforts to reduce environmental impacts and utility costs, improve health and wellness, and ensure effective education.

The honorees were named from a pool of candidates nominated by 20 states. The 2021 cohort include 24 public schools – among them, five charter schools and one magnet school – as well as three nonpublic schools. More than half of the honorees are in communities where more than 40 percent of the student body are eligible for free and reduced lunch.

Curious as to what it takes to be named a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School? Here are a few of the initiatives that the 2021 honorees are taking.

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Let’s Talk about Title IX

What is Title IX?

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”) is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on sex in any federally funded education program or activity. In other words, schools that receive federal funds are legally required to protect students against sex discrimination. Experiencing sex discrimination in any form can derail a student’s opportunity to learn, participate, and thrive in and outside of the classroom. Sex discrimination, including sexual harassment and sexual violence, is a threat to equal access to educational environments for students of all ages.

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Celebrating Heroic Women Breaking Glass and Winning Gold

celebrating heroic women breaking glass and winning gold

Women have made history, shattered glass ceilings, and forged paths in an array of fields spanning from STEM and space exploration to the arts and sports. Through their achievements women have fought for and advanced equality. Some of these remarkable women and their achievements are featured in a new special exhibit housed in the White House. In partnership with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History (NMAH), the U.S. Department of Education, and the Office of the First Lady, the White House is honoring and celebrating the achievements of women during and beyond Women’s History Month. Celebrate their legacies and lasting impact with us.

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Let’s Urge High School Seniors to Complete the FAFSA® Form Today

By: Federal Student Aid

As students and families prepare for education beyond high school, cost is a critical consideration. At Federal Student Aid, we know students and families often have to make tough decisions about higher education, and we know the COVID-19 emergency has made some of those decisions even harder.

In typical times, submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form is the first step students and families should take to access federal dollars for college or career school; this is especially true during this challenging period.

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