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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A Renewed U.S. Commitment to International Education

Guest blog by Maureen McLaughlin, Senior Advisor and Director of International Affairs, Office of the Secretary

a renewed U.S. commitment to international education

If it wasn’t already clear before the pandemic, it should be clear now that, in today’s interconnected world, many of our biggest challengesreducing economic and social disparities, building prosperity, supporting public health, addressing climate change, and maintaining peaceare global in nature. To address these challenges, we must work togethernot just within the United States, but also with others around the world.

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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.

Next Steps in OCR’s Comprehensive Review of Title IX Actions: A New Q&A and the Public Hearing Transcript

Title IX next steps: A new Q&A and the public hearing transcript

The following is a cross-post from the Office for Civil Rights.

As the Office for Civil Rights continues our comprehensive review of the U.S. Department of Education’s actions under Title IX, the landmark law that prohibits discrimination based on sex in our nation’s schools, we are pleased to share several recent steps—including two taken today.  

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Students, Immigration Status, and the Right to Public Education

Students, immigration status, and the right to public education

The following is a cross-post from the Office for Civil Rights.

An essential part of ensuring equal opportunity is protecting all students in their access to education free from discrimination. This includes the right of all students in the United States to attend America’s public elementary and secondary schools, regardless of their immigration or citizenship status.

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The Next Decade of Climate Leadership at the U.S. Department of Education: An Exchange of Ideas to Inform the Agency’s Climate Adaptation Plan

On January 27, 2021, the Biden Administration issued Executive Order (E.O.) 14008, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.The order revitalizes past Federal efforts to enhance adaptation and bolster resilience by requiring each Federal agency to devise a Climate Adaptation Plan. The plans are a first step in leveraging Federal agencies to demonstrate climate leadership through both policy and example.

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Standing with Native Communities during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Advancing its commitment to equity, meaningful consultation, and relief for Tribal Nations, the U.S. Department of Education has announced approximately $20 million in grants available to Tribal Educational Agencies (TEAs) through the American Rescue Plan (ARP) to meet the urgent needs of students in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The American Indian Resilience in Education (AIRE) grant program will fund culturally relevant projects designed to assist and encourage Indian children and youth to enter, remain in, or reenter school at any grade level from Pre-K through grade 12. This grant program is a one-time discretionary grant competition to make sure students from across our country have the resources needed to be successful and can come out of the COVID-19 pandemic stronger than ever.

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American History and Civics in Our Schools

The teaching of civics and history – an opportunity to better understand our past and how our government works so we can engage in and influence our future – has long provided the foundation for students to be active participants in society and help our nation live up to its highest ideals. These values have been championed over the years by Americans of all backgrounds, and they are deeply embedded in our commitment to both patriotism and progress.  

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A Summer to Remember

Guest blog by Christian Rhodes

My first “real” job was as a camp counselor at the local Boys and Girls Club in Cabarrus County, North Carolina. I spent the summer ensuring middle school students had fun while learning. I would stay up late thinking of new lessons to teach or a motivating message I would recite during our morning check-ins. I appreciated each high five, smile, and even a few tears as camp concluded as I got ready for my next semester at UNC-Chapel Hill. Occasionally, I would see my “students” when I visited home at the grocery store or church. I was always surprised that they remembered our special handshakes, mostly because I had forgotten them. I loved being a camp counselor. I loved the young people I met and hopefully positively influenced.

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Title VI at 57: Commemorating the Passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Title VI at 57: commemorating the civil rights act of 1964

Today marks the fifty-seventh anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a landmark law passed at the height of the modern civil rights movement and in the midst of entrenched racial discrimination and massive resistance to desegregation. The law came a century after our country fought a war to end slavery, whose vestiges were then codified by Jim Crow and conserved by the de jure protection of separate but unequal spaces. Put simply, the Civil Rights Act’s passage in 1964 was not an end to the struggle, it was a new beginning.

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