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

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.

I began to struggle significantly with depression, and I often felt unloved and unworthy. I remember my mantra echoing in my head, “If everyone I ever loved left me alone, why should I care about my future?” My deteriorating mental health made me question everything about high school and if I would ever be able to walk across that stage. In October 2016, I became truant. I was part of the 87% of teens that experience homelessness and drop out of high school.

I did end up reuniting with my family eventually and we secured temporary housing in a new state, but at that point, the trauma and depression were so deep that my mental health had not changed. I saw no purpose in enrolling back in school because I was so overwhelmed. I had a major decision to make for the following school year – would I go back to school? I spent what would have been my freshman year alone, in an unknown city, left with a decision that would change the trajectory of my life.

During this time, my life consisted of me waking up at 11:30 am and watching television until I heard my brother’s soft knock on the door. Seeing my brother’s smile as he told me about his bus ride and what he had learned made me yearn to rediscover subjects I once had a passion for such as creative writing. At the time, I was also witnessing the effects of living ‘paycheck to paycheck’ and I saw the intense labor and extreme hours those without education were having to work just to get by. I realized that I wanted an education and a future that wasn’t filled with the struggles my family had battled throughout my entire life.

It was there in that small apartment that I recognized the strength and resilience I had acquired from my numerous homeless experiences. I learned the importance of my narrative and how I could impact future generations that had similar experiences of homelessness. I dealt with the flaws of the public school system when it came to keeping homeless youth in school and I started looking into a career in social work. When my mental health was stable, I made the decision to enroll back in school as a freshman to ensure that my actions would break the cycle of poverty that encompassed me and my family.

I re-enrolled, and when I finished my freshman year, I had a 4.1 GPA. It was at that moment that I knew that my hard work had been worth it. My key to success that year was that I reached out to my debate coach and disclosed what was happening at home. This was not an easy thing to do, as I used to think I had to keep my home life private, but ultimately it connected me to the support system that helped me stay in school. During this time, I also found a group of friends and extra-curricular activities that I enjoyed and things started looking up.

Unfortunately in May of my sophomore year, I felt a sense of déjà vu. My mother was once again hospitalized, we all were displaced, my brother moved away, and I moved in temporarily with a friend. Even though this experience was jarring and traumatizing, I reacted much differently than I would have two years ago. I accepted and understood the circumstances and coped by calling my mother and brother every single day. To this day, I am still an “Unaccompanied Homeless Youth,” and unfortunately, this year I lost my mother. Though I am doing the best I can, I still struggle with feeling alone as I navigate life, school, and personal struggles.

Throughout everything I went through, my support system at school kept me focused and made sure my needs were met as best as they could. I have excelled academically and I have been involved inside and outside of school. As a student who has experienced multiple definitions of homelessness my entire high school career (living with other people, unsanitary trailers, homeless shelters, with friends), I’m now able to channel my emotions into discussions and plan on using my story to help other high school teens. I want to become a governmental social worker in order to fix the issues prevalent in the education system and create more accessible resources for homeless children and youth. In the near future, I want to write a book and conduct research on how urban cities attempt to solve housing insecurity and the impacts of gentrification. I want to be a voice for those who are underrepresented and left behind.

portrait of Student Jahnee in white cap and gown with 2021

Though I have made the most of my circumstances, I am still experiencing homelessness. I still feel the effects of years of complex trauma, mental health struggles, and financial barriers as I work to afford college. Throughout these struggles, school continues to be a critical support for me. I am thankful for my school system, Project UP-START (the McKinney-Vento Program at my school), SchoolHouse Connection, and my debate coach Ms. Charles for their unending support. Because of them and my perseverance, I will be walking across the stage on June 7th as a high school graduate and attending college in the fall. I would say that if you’re reading this and you work with young people experiencing homelessness, know that what you do matters. By showing empathy and providing a safe space for students experiencing homelessness to learn and have their basic needs met, you can help ensure that they too can pursue their goals and find a way out of an often unbreakable cycle of homelessness.

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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From Sec. Cardona: A Letter to Parents & Students

Click here for a copy of this letter in Spanish

To our Nation’s Parents and Students:  

I write first, as your new Secretary of Education, to acknowledge the extraordinarily challenging year you’ve endured. Between the health crisis, economic hardship, staunch national division, and the struggle to make progress in learning while apart from teachers and peers, the impact of the pandemic is still very real and will be felt for years to come.   

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Finding Teachable Moments on the Field and in the Classroom

This Sunday afternoon, the world will watch the 55th Super Bowl take place in Tampa Bay. While these football professionals play the last game of their season, high school coaches around the country are preparing for their next. Many of these coaches are tasked with balancing responsibilities as leaders on the field and as educators in the classroom. Among them is Chris Davidson of Ridge Community High School, about an hour outside of Tampa Bay .

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