The 2016 Budget: Improving Opportunity and Affordability in Higher Education

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Over the past six years, thanks to the hard work and determination of our country’s workers and businesses, our economy is recovering and continues to grow. The steps that President Obama has taken to promote middle-class economics are working—but there’s more progress to be made. In this year’s State of the Union address, the President made it clear that education—including a strong focus on improving postsecondary access, affordability, and student outcomes—remains central to his plan for strengthening and expanding the middle class and securing our country’s economic and civic prosperity for generations to come.

Today, more than ever, every American needs the knowledge and skills to meet the demands of a growing global economy. A postsecondary credential has become a prerequisite for success, and every American should be able to secure a quality education without taking on heavy student loan debt.

The total aid available to postsecondary students has grown dramatically during the Obama administration, helping to ensure that more students are graduating from college than ever before. However, fewer than one in 10 students from low-income families complete college. We need to close the opportunity gap so that all students—regardless of background or circumstance—can succeed in college, careers, and life.

The President’s fiscal year 2016 budget request for education will continue to strengthen the building blocks of success in higher education through initiatives and reforms that will increase aid to students and improve the effectiveness of programs.

For example, the Obama administration is continuing to focus on protecting the value of the Pell Grant; simplifying financial aid forms so more students can take advantage of aid; streamlining income-based repayment plans, and partnering with businesses to create more on-the-job training and apprenticeship opportunities.

The budget also includes an exciting new proposal, called America’s College Promise, to make two years of college free and universal, just as high school is today. Under this initiative, students would be able to secure an associate’s degree or certificate, earn the first half of a bachelor’s degree, and gain skills needed in the workforce at no cost.

This is a concept we’ve tried before in America, with great success. In the 20th century, the decision to make high school free and universal drove decades of economic growth and prosperity. It equipped us to lead on the world stage. But, as the President has said, other nations caught on, and they caught up. Now it’s time to make two, free years of college the norm.

The fiscal year 2016 budget is designed to take bold steps to make college affordable and to modernize and improve federal student aid. Learn more about how higher education fits in the budget below.

Key elements in the President’s budget request:

  • Provides $1.36 billion in 2016 for America’s College Promise, a $60.3 billion investment over 10 years, which will create a new partnership with states to help them eliminate tuition and fees in high-quality programs for responsible students, while promoting key reforms to help more students complete at least two years of college. The proposal asks everyone to do their part: 1) states must invest more in public higher education and training; 2) community colleges must strengthen their programs and improve student outcomes; and 3) students must take responsibility for their education, attend at least half-time, and earn good grades, to stay on track to graduate.
  • Fully funds Pell Grants and ties the maximum award to inflation beyond 2017. This ensures that Pell Grants maintain their value for students and families in the years to come.
  • Simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The Obama administration has taken key steps toward simplifying the FAFSA, but it’s still too complex and discouraging for too many students. An estimated 2 million students who would have qualified for a Pell Grant failed to complete the application. The President’s 2016 budget would eliminate the most burdensome and difficult-to-verify questions. By removing data elements pertaining to assets and additional types of income and by relying primarily on information readily available in federal tax returns, this simplification would make it easier for students and families to access federal student aid and afford a postsecondary education.
  • The request makes income-driven student loan repayment simpler with a better-targeted plan that simplifies borrowers’ experience and helps them better manage their debt.
  • Provides $860 million for the Federal TRIO programs, a $20 million increase, to enable the Department to maintain funding for approximately 2,800 TRIO projects that serve middle school, high school, and college students and adults. TRIO includes programs designed to help low-income individuals, first-generation college students, and individuals with disabilities successfully attain higher education. The budget also will support a new TRIO initiative designed to give existing grantees the opportunity to compete for increased funding to implement, evaluate, and scale additional, evidence-based college access and success strategies.
  • Provides $200 million for the First in the World program, a $140 million increase from 2015. These competitive awards aim to improve postsecondary completion rates through innovative, promising, and evidence-based strategies. The administration plans to set aside up to 30 percent of the funds available for a competition to support the implementation of projects at Minority Serving Institutions.
  • Provides $200 million for a proposed American Technical Training Fund, to expand innovative, high-quality technical training programs that use evidence-based practices, have strong employer partnerships, include work-based learning opportunities, provide accelerated training, and are scheduled so that they accommodate part-time work. These programs would help more high-potential, low-wage workers gain the skills they need to work in growing fields with middle-class jobs that local employers are trying to fill: sectors like energy, information technology, and advanced manufacturing. This initiative would be jointly administered with the Department of Labor to ensure that the projects are well integrated into the workforce system.

We’ve come a long way since the President took office—and 2014 was a breakthrough year. Still, there’s more we must do to ensure that all Americans share in the benefits of our recovery. The President’s fiscal year 2016 budget will speed our progress toward achieving the nation’s North Star goal: for America to again have the world’s best-educated, most competitive workforce.

Learn more about the entire budget request for education.

Melissa Apostolides is a member of the Communications Development division in the Office of Communications and Outreach

The President’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Request: Building on Priorities for a Strong Elementary and Secondary Education Act

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“For all of our children, for their families, their communities, and ultimately, for our nation, let’s choose the path that makes good on the original promise of this law. Let’s choose the path that says that we, as a nation, are serious about real opportunity for every single child.” – Arne Duncan, January 12, 2015

President Obama’s fiscal year 2016 budget request demonstrates the Obama administration’s priority on education as a means to strengthen America’s middle class, help hard-working families, and ensure that every child has the opportunity to fulfill his or her greatest potential. The budget also emphasizes themes that are critical to a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965. These themes include equity, support for educators, high-quality preschool, and evidence-based innovations, which Secretary Duncan outlined in a recent speech.

In building a new ESEA, we should celebrate America’s real progress toward full educational opportunity and be honest that we have further to go before all students, in all communities, are prepared for life beyond high school. While states, districts, educators, and students across the country are making considerable gains—as demonstrated by the highest high school graduation rate on record—our education system still reflects unacceptable inequities in access to resources, including funding, high-quality teaching, and challenging coursework.

To help address these issues, the 2016 budget provides an increase of $2.7 billion for ESEA programs, including $1 billion for Title I, to ensure that all students—including minority students, students from low-income families, students with disabilities, and English learners—graduate from high school prepared for college and careers. The budget also provides $131 million—an increase of $31 million—for more vigorous enforcement of our nation’s civil rights laws by the Department’s Office for Civil Rights.

Learn more about how themes critical to ESEA are included in the fiscal year 2016 budget:

Providing equitable resources for all students

The 2016 budget includes $15.4 billion for Title I grants—an increase of $1 billion—to help schools and districts better serve students from low-income families—specifically, by implementing new, college- and career-ready standards and assessments, closing achievement gaps, turning around low-performing schools, and using new educator evaluation systems to improve instruction and better support teachers.

The budget includes a new Equity and Outcomes pilot for up to ten participating Title I schools and districts. Applicants would demonstrate a commitment to equitably distributing local, state, and federal funding—and, in turn, would have more flexibility when using Title I and other federal funds to support school districts’ comprehensive plans to improve student achievement.

The budget would also strengthen equity of school funding by ensuring that—within every district—state and local funds provide an equal base upon which federal Title I funds can provide the extra support that students in high-poverty schools need.

Making quality early learning opportunities available to all

Including preschool in a strong ESEA reauthorization will help lay a strong foundation for children’s growth and development—which research shows is critical for success in school and in life.

The 2016 budget includes $75 billion in mandatory funds over 10 years for Preschool for All, a program that will help states implement universal high-quality preschool programs that help prepare all 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families for success in kindergarten and beyond. It also requests $750 million for Preschool Development grants—a $500 million increase—to help states develop and expand high-quality preschool programs and lay the groundwork for universal preschool under Preschool for All.

Accelerating change in K-12 education

To ensure all students have access to a strong education, the 2016 budget includes $125 million for a new Next Generation High Schools program, which would provide students with challenging and relevant academic and career-relating learning experiences. This program would help more students prepare for, and transition to, postsecondary education and careers.

The 2016 budget also asks for an increase of $180 million—to $300 million—for the Investing in Innovation (i3) program, to develop, validate, and scale up proven education practices and strategies. To encourage the innovative use of federal grants to support evidence-based strategies that improve outcomes for high-need students, the budget requests $100 million for a Leveraging What Works competition.

Supporting great teachers and leaders

Teaching is one of the most important and challenging careers, and of all the school-related factors that impact student academic performance, great teachers matter most. Yet teachers today too often don’t have the preparation, support, opportunities for leadership, or autonomy they need to succeed and be fulfilled in their profession. Similarly, principals often report that they require greater autonomy to support teachers and lead successful schools. That’s why supporting teachers and principals is such a fundamental part of a strong ESEA reauthorization, and the 2016 budget request.

The budget asks for $5 billion over five years for a mandatory Teaching for Tomorrow program that would help transform states’ and districts’ approaches to recruiting, training, supporting, retaining, and advancing highly-effective teachers throughout their careers. 

Teacher and Principal Pathways, a $138.8 million program, would provide flexible support for partnerships of institutions of higher education, nonprofit organizations, and school districts to create or expand high-quality pathways into teaching and school leadership.

Secretary Duncan’s vision for ESEA includes providing teachers with fair and reliable systems of evaluation and support. Excellent Educators grants would help to develop, support, reward, and advance teachers and principals based on high-quality teacher and principal evaluations with multiple measures.

And, the budget asks for $200 million for Education Technology State Grants to support models for using technology to help teachers and school leaders improve instruction and personalize learning.

Providing strong systems of community support

Finally, the 2016 budget recognizes a school’s power to convene and provide services to an entire community. That’s why the request includes $150 million for Promise Neighborhoods, to provide additional awards to local partnerships that meet the cradle-to-career, educational, health, and social services needs of children and families in high-poverty communities.

The 2016 request also includes $53 million for Native Youth Community Projects, which support community-driven strategies to improve the college- and career-readiness of Native youth.

To move forward as a nation, we must take real action—by funding programs that best support our students and educators, and by reauthorizing ESEA.

As Secretary Duncan has noted, “In making choices for our children’s future, we will decide who we are as a nation. For the sake of our children, our communities, and our country, let’s make the right choice.”

For more information about ESEA and the budget, read this summary fact sheet.

Meredith Bajgier is a member of the Communications Development division in the Office of Communications and Outreach

A Bird’s Eye View of the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Request for Education

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Our nation has made incredible strides in education over the past few years. The national graduation rate is at an all-time high and a million more black and Hispanic students are now in college. That’s progress we can all be proud of.

But we still have critical work to do to ensure that all students in this country receive an excellent education that sets them up to succeed in college, careers, and life. Millions of our children start kindergarten far behind their peers because they lack access to high-quality preschool. And the outcomes of our education system continue to reflect unacceptable inequities in the distribution of resources, funding, high-quality teaching, and access to rigorous coursework.

As Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a recent speech on the need to reauthorize the nation’s education law—the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)—we are at a “crossroads” that will determine whether or not we move forward as a country.

President Obama’s fiscal year 2016 budget request for education aims to ensure that our education system—and our students—continue on a successful trajectory. The budget provides funds to strengthen educational outcomes for all our nation’s students—especially our most vulnerable populations—and to expand the middle class.

The budget focuses on four key areas: increasing equity and opportunity for all students; expanding high-quality early learning programs; supporting teachers and school leaders; and improving access, affordability and student outcomes in postsecondary education.

The budget includes an overall commitment to using and developing evidence to maximize results for taxpayers and students. By encouraging a greater share of grant funding to be spent on approaches with strong evidence of effectiveness and building better evaluations into grant making, we can keep learning about what works.

Here’s a sampling of what’s included in this year’s budget request for education:

Increasing equity and opportunity for all students

Equality of opportunity is a core American value that helps form our national identity, solidify our democracy, and strengthen our economy. All young people in this country must have the chance to learn and achieve. Unfortunately, there are far too many students, especially in disadvantaged groups, that still lack access to a high-quality education. To close these gaps, the 2016 request provides $2.7 billion, or an almost 12 percent increase, for ESEA programs to ensure that all students graduate from high school prepared for college and careers. Key investments include:

  • $15.4 billion for Title I Grants to Local Educational Agencies, a $1 billion increase that would provide much-needed support to school districts that have been serving a greater number of students from low-income families in recent years. Funds would be targeted to districts working to implement new college- and career-ready standards and aligned assessments, close achievement gaps, turn around their lowest-performing schools, and use new educator evaluation systems to improve instruction and provide better support to teachers.
  • $11.7 billion for the IDEA Grants to States program, an increase of $175 million from the fiscal year 2015 level, to assist states and schools in covering the excess costs of providing special education and related services to individuals with disabilities, ages 3 through 21.
  • $773 million for English Language Acquisition grants, an increase of $36 million, to provide increased support to states as they help the significant growing number of English learners in U.S. schools attain English language proficiency and become college and career ready.
  • $150 million for Promise Neighborhoods, a $93 million increase, to support new awards to local partnerships to develop and implement comprehensive, neighborhood-based plans for meeting the cradle-to-career educational, health, and social services needs of children and families in high-poverty communities.
  • A new Equity and Outcomes Pilot for up to 10 participating Title I local educational agencies would give districts that are equitably distributing funding to their highest-poverty schools greater flexibility to use federal funds for district-level reforms.
  • $131 million for the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), an increase of $30.7 million for an additional 200 full-time employees to help ensure that the Department’s OCR has the resources to respond to complaints of discrimination and to ensure that Federal grantees follow civil rights laws.

Expanding high-quality early learning programs 

Unequal access to education starts early, and too many children, especially those from low-income families, lack the opportunity to benefit from high-quality preschool, which can help to ensure they arrive in kindergarten ready to learn. The U.S. has fallen behind many countries in providing access to preschool education, and currently ranks just 25th in the world in its enrollment of 4-year-olds. The President’s 2016 request continues to propose transformational new investments in preschool. It also includes additional proposals designed to strengthen and expand access to high-quality preschool models. Highlights include:

  • $75 billion over 10 years in mandatory funding for Preschool for All to support the implementation of universal high-quality preschool programs that are aligned with elementary and secondary education systems and help ensure that all children arrive in kindergarten ready for success in school and in life.
  • $750 million for the Preschool Development Grants program, a $500 million increase to build on the successful launch of this program in 2014 with awards to 18 states. This additional funding would support new awards to nearly every state that submits a high-quality application.
  • $504 million for the IDEA Grants for Infants and Families program, a $65 million increase, to assist States in providing high-quality early intervention services to approximately 340,000 infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families. The Obama administration is proposing to reserve $15 million of this increase for Pay for Success pilots to expand early screening and early intervention services.
  • $403 million for IDEA Preschool Grants, a $50 million increase, to provide special education and related services to children ages 3 through 5. Under the current statute, LEAs may reserve up to 15 percent of the funds they receive under Part B of the IDEA to provide coordinated early intervening services (CEIS) to children in grades kindergarten through 12. The Administration is requesting additional flexibility to allow LEAs to provide CEIS to children ages three through five.

Supporting teachers and school leaders

Teaching is one of the most important and challenging careers, and of all the school-related factors that impact student academic performance, great teachers matter most. Yet teachers today do not have the support, the opportunities, or the autonomy they need to succeed. The 2016 request provides significant support for teachers and leaders who are doing the hard, daily work of teaching our nation’s students. The 2016 request includes:

  • $1 billion in 2016, and a total of $5 billion over 5 years, for a new, mandatory Teaching for Tomorrow program that would provide funds to States or districts willing to make meaningful transformations in their approaches to recruiting, training, supporting, retaining, and advancing highly effective teachers throughout their careers. States and school districts would submit high-quality plans including strategies that are based on or build evidence of effectiveness.
  • $350 million for Excellent Educators Grants, an expansion of existing efforts to support comprehensive human capital systems that effectively use teacher and principal evaluation, with multiple measures including student learning, to develop, support, reward, and advance effective teachers and principals.
  • $138.8 million for a proposed Teacher and Principal Pathways consolidation that would support the creation or expansion of high-quality pathways into the teaching and school leadership professions.
  • $200 million for Education Technology State Grants to support models for using technology to help teachers and school leaders improve instruction and personalize learning.

Improving access, affordability, and student outcomes in higher education

Americans need more knowledge and skills to meet the demands of a growing global economy, and every American should be able to secure a quality education without accumulating crippling student loan debt. While the total aid available to postsecondary students has grown dramatically over the past six years, helping to ensure that more students are graduating from college than ever before, a significant opportunity gap remains. To keep America’s economy strong and grow the middle class, the fiscal year 2016 budget would help make college affordable and help more Americans attain a college degree or certificate. Key investments include:

  • $1.36 billion in 2016 for America’s College Promise, a $60.3 billion investment over 10 years, which creates a new partnership with States to help them eliminate tuition and fees in high-quality programs for responsible students, while promoting key reforms to help more students complete at least 2 years of college.
  • Simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid by removing data elements pertaining to assets and additional types of income and by relying primarily on information readily available in Federal tax returns, making it more understandable and easier for applicants to complete.
  • Reforming and streamlining income-driven repayment by creating a single, simple, and better-targeted plan that reduces complexity and simplifies borrowers’ experience, while helping them manage their debt.
  • $200 million for the American Technical Training Fund for career and technical education linked to employers in high-demand fields.

In his speech to reauthorize ESEA, Secretary Duncan said, “Schools need more support—and more money, more resources—than they receive today…Educational opportunity isn’t an option, it’s a civil right, a moral imperative, and the best way we can strengthen our nation and attract and retain great jobs that expand the middle class.”

The 2016 budget request is a bold step in achieving that vision. We owe it to our nation’s learners to invest in their future.

Learn even more information on the 2016 budget.

Patrick Kerr is a member of the Communications Development Division in the Office of Communications and Outreach

How to Easily Transfer Tax Information to Your FAFSA

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January makes me think of holiday parties, tax returns, and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). If you are like me, a world-class procrastinator that agonizes every year at the thought of filing a tax return and submitting a FAFSA, then you are not alone. You also know that it can be time consuming. Now imagine a time-saving process where you instantly transfer your tax information directly into your FAFSA. Actually, there’s no need to imagine; this process exists and you can learn more about it below.

  1. What is the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT)?

The IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) is a tool accessible in the finance section of the FAFSA that will take you to the IRS website. After you log in by providing information exactly as you provided it on your tax return, you will be able to preview your tax information before agreeing to have it directly transferred to your FAFSA. When you return to the FAFSA, you’ll see the relevant questions populated with your information automatically; courtesy of the DRT. You’re welcome.

  1. Why use this tool?
  • It’s so easy that it only takes a click of a couple buttons to transfer all your tax information.
  • It can be used by both students and parents.
  • Most importantly, it is accurate so you don’t have to worry about entering the wrong tax information on your FAFSA.
  1. When can I use the tool?

The IRS DRT is available the first Sunday in February. However, when your information will be available will depend on when you submitted your tax return.

  1. If I already completed the FAFSA using estimates, can I use the IRS DRT to update my FAFSA once I filed my taxes?

Yes, if you estimated, you will have to update your FAFSA once you have filed your taxes anyway. So why not use the IRS DRT? It’s the easiest way to update your FAFSA. To update your estimates, click “Make FAFSA Corrections” after logging in to fafsa.gov. Navigate to the “Finances” section and indicate that you have already completed your taxes. If your tax return information is available and if you are eligible to do so, you should follow the prompts that allow you to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to transfer your tax return information into your application.

    1. Why can’t I use the IRS DRT?

If you’re not seeing the IRS DRT, there may be a few reasons why:

  • It is not available for use yet.
  • You indicated that you will file or are not going to file a federal income tax return.
  • Your marital status changed after December 31 of the previous calendar year.
  • The student/parent filed a Form 1040X amended tax return.
  • The student/parent filed a Puerto Rican or foreign tax return.

If you are not able to use the IRS DRT, don’t worry. Although you’ll be required to enter your tax information manually, we have great resources on StudentAid.gov that walk you through the process.

Now that you know the secret to transferring your tax information to the FAFSA, I hope you will enjoy the time you saved!

Zelma Barrett is a Management and Program Analyst at Federal Student Aid.

Because Of Them We Can Celebrate Black History Month

Throughout Black History Month 2015, The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans and the Because of Them We Can Campaign are collaborating to empower and educate by highlighting important African American figures that have supported the learning and development of African Americans of all ages. Beginning February 1st, we will share images and fun facts or teachable moment designed to encourage learning about the hero of the day as well as sharing that information with loved ones, especially children youth.

 

Follow the White House Initiative on Education Excellence for African Americans on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

The Because of Them We Can campaign was the concept of artist, tech expert and entrepreneur Eunique Jones Gibson. Ms. Gibson has previously been honored for her idea to use images of young people dressed as important historical figures as a teaching and awareness tool when she was named a White House Champion of Change for STEM access & diversity in 2014. The campaign includes images ranging from scientists to community activists; Nobel laureates to cultural icons gracing the pages of her 365-page table book. “I am excited and honored to share the Because of Them, We Can campaign and work with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans to ensure the images educate and empower” said Eunique Jones Gibson.

“Through the partnership I hope to further the campaign’s mission of building the esteem of both children and adults, while helping them reflect on a living legacy of greatness.”

The inspiring photos are reminders of the many people who served as groundbreaking leaders, but many times aren’t highlighted in history books.

The team at the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans works to make sure people of all ages and backgrounds can connect excellence to the African American community. “The Because of Them We Can Campaign literally connects young Black children to the heroes and sheroes upon whose shoulders they stand,” said David J. Johns, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. “The Campaign reminds us of the rich legacy of innovators, educators and advocates from which we come while reminding adults of our shared responsibility to protect and encourage dreams.” The collaboration also provides for opportunities to encourage reading while giving viewers the opportunity to dream bigger dreams about what they can accomplish because someone who looks like them or has the same background has achieved something similar.

Know It 2 Own It: Ms. Wheelchair USA 2014 – 2015 Shares Her Story

“Twenty years ago, [people with disabilities] had to adapt to the environment, but because of the ADA, the environment adapts to us. That’s changed thanks to the ADA.”

Yvette Pegues is the current Ms. Wheelchair USA and a disability advocate and author. In September 2014, as part of the Partners in Progress Back-to-School Bus Tour, she met with Secretary Arne Duncan and shared her story about living with a disability.

As Ms. Wheelchair USA, Yvette travels the country sharing her personal story and emphasizing the importance of inclusion and adaptability.

Now, as part of ED’s “Know It 2 Own It” campaign, she talks about what the Americans with Disabilities Act means to her.


The opinions expressed and materials contained in this video are not an endorsement by the U.S Department of Education and herein do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the United States Department of Education.

“Know It 2 Own It,” is a campaign that started in July 2014 to encourage Americans to learn more about the disability rights movement and the history that led to the passage of the ADA in 1990.

We also want to hear from you, please let us know how you are working to bring about positive change in your community by sharing your story on social media with the hashtag #know2own.

Alexis Perlmutter is a Special Assistant in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the U.S. Department of Education.

Create, Share, Empower: January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month

January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month and this year young people are invited to shed light on this humanitarian crisis within a high-risk population – their peers.

#WhatIWouldMiss, a campaign sponsored by President Lincoln’s Cottage, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Department of Education, encourages teenagers to think about aspects of their daily lives that they would miss if they were a victim of human trafficking.

Teenagers are invited to answer this question using social media. Posts must contain a statistic about human trafficking and the hashtag #WhatIWouldMiss.

A jury of representatives from anti-trafficking organizations, including President Lincoln’s Cottage, will judge all responses posted to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Vine, YouTube, and Tumblr. All posts must be created by Feb. 27, 2015.

One teenager will win a spot at President Lincoln’s Cottage’s third annual Students Opposing Slavery (SOS) International Summit in Washington, D.C., and five additional teenagers will receive awards of recognition.

Join the #WhatIWouldMiss movement! Flyers, graphics, human trafficking resources, and campaign information are all available online at www.StudentsOpposingSlavery.org/WhatIWouldMiss.

ED Seeks Summer Interns

Become a part of the team! ED’s 2014 summer interns participated in a brown bag lunch with Secretary Duncan during their time with the department. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Become a part of the team! ED’s 2014 summer interns participated in a brown bag lunch with Secretary Duncan during their time with the department. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Have you ever wondered about pursuing a federal career? Are you interested in public service? Would you like to gain valuable work experience and help move the needle on education issues in this country?

The Department of Education may have opportunities that match your interests – and we’re currently accepting applications for interns!

Our Department is a place where you can explore fields like education policy, education law, business and finance, research and analysis, intergovernmental relations and public affairs, or traditional and digital communications, all while learning about the role federal government plays in education.

Our interns also participate in professional development sessions and events outside of the office, such as lunches with ED and other government officials, movie nights, and tours of the Capitol, the Supreme Court and other local sights.

One of the many advantages of interning at ED is our proximity to some of the most historic and celebrated sites in our nation’s capital, all accessible by walking or taking the Metro.

ED is accepting applications for Summer 2015 internships through March 15, 2015.

If you are interested in interning during the upcoming term, there are three things you must send in order to be considered for an interview:

  1. A cover letter summarizing why you wish to work at ED and stating your previous experiences in the field of education, if any. Include which particular offices interest you. (But, keep in mind that – due to the volume of applications we receive – if we accept you as an intern we may not be able to place you in your first-choice office.)
  2. An updated resumé.
  3. A completed copy of the Intern Application.

Prospective interns should send these three documents in one email to StudentInterns@ed.gov with the subject line formatted as follows: Last Name, First Name: Summer Intern Application.

(Note: For candidates also interested in applying specifically to the Office of General Counsel, please see application requirements here.)

An internship at ED is one of the best ways students can learn about education policy and working in the civil service. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to develop crucial workplace skills that will help you in whatever career path you choose. And, it’s an opportunity to meet fellow students who share your passion for education, learning, and engagement.

Click here for more information or to get started on your application today.

De’Rell Bonner is a special assistant and youth liaison in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.

Resources to Help You Fill Out the FAFSA

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FAFSA®: An Introduction

If you or someone you know is considering enrolling in college, now is the time to complete the financial aid application – the FAFSA. Students of all ages complete the FAFSA to be considered for financial aid from the federal government, and in most instances, additional money from the state in which they reside and the college they want to attend. That’s why the FAFSA is so important – it is the gateway to three potentially big sources of financial aid from federal, state, and college entities. If you don’t complete a FAFSA, you could be missing out on a lot of financial aid. The data you enter on your FAFSA is used to calculate an Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is the number that’s used to determine your eligibility for federal student aid and is an indicator of your family’s financial strength to pay for college or career school.

FAFSA: Before you file

A wide array of resources is available to help you navigate the college financial aid process. Before you file your FAFSA, you might want to check out some of the most popular sites to get more information. For a comprehensive source of information on preparing, planning and attending college, take a look at StudentAid.gov. This U.S. Department of Education website is a one-stop source of information for students and their families and is designed to help you through every step of the financial aid process.

You can find general information about federal student aid and many of our publications, brochures, and fact sheets by going to StudentAid.gov/resources. Check the above website for the availability of our publications in English, Spanish, PDF, and Braille. Examples of these publications are listed below:

    • Funding Your Education: The Guide to Federal Student Aid helps students and parents understand the financial aid process and directs them to resources.
    • Financial Aid for Graduate and Professional Students helps graduate and professional degree students understand what types of federal student aid are available to them. It tells them how to apply for aid, what to consider when taking out a student loan, and where else they can look for graduate school funding.
    • College Preparation Checklist explains how to prepare academically and financially for college through “to do” lists aimed at elementary and secondary school students and their parents, as well as adult students. This is the primary publication for any student considering college.
    • My Future, My Way: First Steps Toward College is a workbook for middle and junior high school students that explains how to prepare academically and financially for college. The publication includes charts, checklists, and other activities to engage students as they gain more information about college preparation and costs.

You also may want to check out FAFSA4caster – an early eligibility estimator that can help you plan ahead when it comes to paying for college.

FAFSA: Ways to File

There are three ways to complete a FAFSA:

1) Online at fafsa.gov, (This is the quickest and easiest option!)

2) Access FAFSA to print out a FAFSA PDF

3) Call 1-800-4-FED-AID [1-800-433-3243] to request that a paper FAFSA be mailed to you.

In some cases, you might be able to apply directly through your school. You should check with the financial aid administrator at the school you are interested in attending to see if the school can assist you with your application.

If you need help understanding a specific question on the FAFSA, this guide . Online filers who need additional assistance with a particular question can use the online help or the “Help and Hints” box on the right-hand side of the screen for each question. Keep in mind that filing a FAFSA online is faster and will enable you to benefit from multiple checks to make sure your form is fully complete. (The paper versions, obviously, don’t have this benefit.)

FAFSA: Next Steps

Wondering what happens next? Here are 5 Things To Do After Filing Your FAFSA.

Adam Essex is a Management and Program Analyst at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid.

Let’s Read! Let’s Move! at the White House

Cross-posted from the Let’s Move blog.

Let’s Read! Let’s Move! hosted their first White House event on Wednesday to educate and entertain a group of local DC students on healthy and active living. The typically grandiose ballroom was transformed into a kaleidoscope of color with life-sized balloons, Seuss characters, and Cat-in-the-Hat accouterments to match! Forty students from Seaton, Kendall Demonstration, and Drew Elementary schools (DC Public Schools) participated in the event with the First Lady, Michelle Obama.

Let’s Move! Executive Director, Deb Eschmeyer, welcomed students and was joined by a student from Kendall Demonstration Elementary school to introduce the First Lady. Mrs. Obama treated students to a rousing read of the brand new Dr. Seuss book titled, Oh, the Things You Can Do That Are Good for You.  The First Lady was also joined by Dr. Seuss characters and local volunteers from the YMCA and AmeriCorps.

 

First Lady Michelle Obama, as part of her Let's Move! and Let’s Read! Let’s Move! initiatives, hosts local students for a special reading of Dr. Seuss's "Oh, The Things You Can Do That Are Good for You: All About Staying Healthy" during an event in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 21, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

First Lady Michelle Obama, as part of her Let’s Move! and Let’s Read! Let’s Move! initiatives, hosts local students for a special reading of Dr. Seuss’s “Oh, The Things You Can Do That Are Good for You: All About Staying Healthy” during an event in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 21, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

The team partnered together to lead students in interactive read-along exercises, and challenged students to incorporate physical activity into a traditionally sedentary story time. Throughout Oh, the Things You Can Do That Are Good for You, The Cat in the Hat explains the importance of eating right based on the latest USDA My Plate recommendations; staying active; getting enough sleep, and a host of other daily activities.

Following the story, students reenacted the highlights of the book with the First Lady, which included an impromptu limbo contest and plenty of dancing. Afterwards the students were treated to healthy snacks crafted from recipes in the back of the book and prepared by the White House Kitchen.  These tasty treats, and room with flare, demonstrated to the students that food can be healthy and still taste good.  

This book was made possible with the help of Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) who worked with Dr. Seuss Enterprises (DSE) and Random House Children’s Books (RHCB) to celebrate reading and healthy lifestyle choices for children and families, anchored by a newly updated edition of The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library™ title, Oh, the Things You Can Do That Are Good For You. Thanks to the expertise of PHA, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to make healthier choices easier for busy children and families the book was updated with 15 pages of brand new content.

“Let’s Read! Let’s Move!” is the Let’s Move! sub-initiative that aims to increase awareness about the critical importance of summer learning, nutrition and physical activity. The U.S. Department of Education launched “Let’s Read! Let’s Move!” in 2010, following an Administration-wide effort by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency which administers AmeriCorps and other service programs. These events bring together hundreds of early learning students—pre-kindergarten through third grade—across a diverse demographic stretching from the Washington D.C. metropolitan area and beyond. To promote community service, volunteers from AmeriCorps and the YMCA assist at Let’s Read! Let’s Move! events.

Check out video from the event:

ED Celebrates Award-Winning Student Art in the National PTA’s Exhibit ‘Believe, Dream, Inspire’

Travez Bradford, recipient of a National Award of Excellence for Music Composition/High School Division, performs his winning rap Believe, Dream, and Inspire. (Photo credit: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

Travez Bradford, recipient of a National Award of Excellence for Music Composition/High School Division, performs his winning rap Believe, Dream, and Inspire. (Photo credit: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

On January 13, 2015, more than 200 teachers, family members, arts education leaders, PTA members, policymakers, and local-area students came together to honor student artists from 21 states at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) auditorium and art gallery. The young artists – and winners of the 2014 National PTA Reflections program — came to celebrate their works of visual art, film, dance, music, and creative writing based on the theme Dream, Believe, Inspire.

Two dynamic artists performed their winning pieces. Travez Bradford, recipient of a National Award of Excellence for Music Composition, performed his rap Believe, Dream, and Inspire. With a whirlwind of energy, Jillian Miller, winner of a National Award of Merit for Dance Choreography, performed her lyrical dance You Can Be Anything.

Jillian Miller, recipient of a National Award of Merit for Dance Choreography/Intermediate Division, performed her lyrical dance You Can Be Anything. (Photo credit: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

Jillian Miller, recipient of a National Award of Merit for Dance Choreography/Intermediate Division, performed her lyrical dance You Can Be Anything. (Photo credit: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

Prior to the start of the ceremony, Travez, who had traveled with his grandfather from Natchez, Mississippi, talked about his musical inspiration: the gospel rap he experienced at church. His winning composition is in response to his classmates’ fear of performing poorly on tests and failing to graduate, “Believe in yourself when other people doubt you. Dream big, even when some dreams don’t come true. Inspire yourself when others don’t.” Travez now attends community college in Mississippi.

Secretary Duncan launched the celebration by championing arts education, “The arts should be — must be — part of a well-rounded curriculum for every single child.” The National PTA’s Reflections program, he noted, “helps students gain core knowledge — in areas like history, geography, and math — alongside 21st-century skills like critical thinking and problem solving. This program prepares students for success not just in school but in life as well.”

Echoing the secretary, Dawn Small, chair of the Reflections program, observed, “These students … have gained … the ‘arts advantage.’ Their creativity is alive. … Their mind’s eye is awake. … We look forward to great things from them.”

Robert Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts, underscored the value of the exhibit and audience to help decision makers learn about the transformative power of arts education. To demonstrate that, he presented an information tool developed by Americans for the Arts, a national nonprofit organization for the advancement of arts and arts education. “If we do it right,” he charged, “the return on investment is a better child … a better nation and a better world.”

Otha Thornton Jr., National PTA president, stressed the importance of promoting arts education, observing that, “our children’s education is our future … we are their advocates. We are the conduits of their dreams.”

After the ribbon cutting, Vy Nguyen of Texas talked about her acrylic painting Dream with Eye Wide Open. A recipient of an Award of Excellence for Visual Arts, she developed her skill through sheer determination. Blinking away tears of joy, she shared her dream to graduate from high school and attend college. The silhouetted figure depicted in cap and gown represents this dream amid a class of graduating seniors in an eye full of awareness and hope.

Vy Nguyen, recipient of an Award of Excellence for Visual Arts/Intermediate Division, shares the inspiration for her painting Dream with Eye Wide Open. (Photo credit: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

Vy Nguyen, recipient of an Award of Excellence for Visual Arts/Intermediate Division, shares the inspiration for her painting Dream with Eye Wide Open. (Photo credit: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

One of the most exciting sights of the day was the middle school class from Jefferson Academy of Washington, D.C., critiquing student art. Their art teacher Michelle Green explained their presence, “It’s been a long and arduous process of getting them comfortable with the [art criticism] vocabulary. This is a great opportunity for us to see other kids their own age from around the nation looking at artwork” and to get the desire to “join in these competitions!”

Students from Jefferson Academy in Washington, D.C. critique artwork in the student art gallery. (Photo credit: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

Students from Jefferson Academy in Washington, D.C. critique artwork in the student art gallery. (Photo credit: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

Isadora Binder is on the staff of the Office of Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education.

All Department of Education photos are by Paul Wood. More photos from the event may be viewed on the Department of Education’s Flickr

The Department’s Student Art Exhibit Program provides students and teachers an opportunity to display creative work from the classroom in a highly public space that honors their work as an effective path to learning and knowledge for all. To visit the exhibits or for information about exhibiting, contact Jackye Zimmermann.

Help Us Get the Word Out About the FAFSA

FAFSA-complete

For us at the U.S. Department of Education, the start of a new year provides a fresh opportunity to remind parents, students, educators and others about the importance of submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA ®). The Department’s office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) provides more than $150 billion in grants, loans, and work-study funds each year to help students pay for college or career school. Completing the FAFSA is the primary step for determining eligibility for federal student aid and subsequently accessing these funds. With the 2015-16 FAFSA having gone live on January 1, FSA is requesting your assistance in promoting FAFSA completion.

We are asking for your help in getting the message out through your social media channels about the importance of completing the FAFSA early in the year. To help you do that, FSA has developed some resources for you to use. They include sample Facebook posts, tweets, blogs, informative videos, photos and infographics. These and other great resources can be found on FSA’s Financial Aid Toolkit. These resources can be tailored to best fit your needs. If you’re new to social media or just looking for ideas on how to easily use these resources or how others are using them, view this presentation.

In addition, over the next few months, FSA’s Digital Engagement Group will be actively managing our own presence on social media with a strong focus on FAFSA completion. We highly encourage you to use and repost our content whenever applicable. Here are the places you can find us:

facebook      twitter     youtube     storify
Thanks for your support and commitment to advancing the higher education goals of students and families across the country.

Susan Thares is the Digital Engagement Lead at the Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid.