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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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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A Letter to America’s Teachers

I never could predict what might happen in Mr. O’Neil’s art classes; I just knew I couldn’t wait for the next assignment.  Back then I didn’t realize all the ways this dynamic educator, a rare man of color leading our diverse classroom of second graders, was serving as a pioneer and role model for me and my peers in John Barry Elementary School.  But I’ll never forget how his teaching made me feel.  As a second grader, I remember looking up — watching him encourage, challenge and guide us – and thinking: “I want to be like him.”

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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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Honoring Teachers’ Commitment to Continual Improvement through Collaboration

Teacher Appreciation Week is one of my favorite times of the school year! Honoring the educators who spend countless hours creating lesson plans, building authentic relationships, and welcoming students into the learning space – whether it be in-person, online, or both – has been such a joy. I think back to my time growing up and fondly remember those who influenced me with their encouraging words, supportive nature, and praise of my efforts. My teachers, Ms. Pendergast, Mrs. Dixon, and Mr. Anderson were just three of many educators that left a lasting impression by showing me how much effort matters. I am grateful to them and to have this incredible opportunity to honor the efforts made by our nation’s teachers.

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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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