FAFSA Completion Numbers Now Available via Updated Tool


We’ve updated our FAFSA Completion Tool!

Back in March of 2012, ED’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) announced the release of this innovative tool to help guidance professionals, school administrators, and practitioners track and subsequently increase FAFSA completions at high schools across the country.

Over time, we enhanced the Tool to not only provide FAFSA submission and completion totals for high schools during the current year but also totals for the same time the year before and other key benchmark dates.

The 2015 version provides updated information on a weekly basis during the peak FAFSA application period. This means that counselors and administrators will have access to current data so they can more accurately gauge the impact of outreach efforts and identify successful local strategies.

Before we developed the tool, the only source of data on FAFSA completions that high schools had was from self-reported student surveys, which were highly unreliable.

Now, educators have real-time access to reliable data to track FAFSA submission and completion and gauge their progress in increasing FAFSA completion. This is incredibly important because studies have indicated that FAFSA completion correlates strongly with college enrollment, particularly among low-income populations.

We encourage high schools to use this data as one component of a comprehensive college access and completion program within their school. To help educators, counselors, and others with this and other aid awareness and loan repayment efforts, we’ve created the Financial Aid Toolkit.

The Toolkit consolidates financial aid resources and content into a searchable online database, making it easy for individuals to quickly access the information they need to support their students. It also provides counselors with access to valuable resources, such as how to host a FAFSA completion workshop. We’re also encouraging folks to help us get the word out about FAFSA completion on their social media accounts – and we’ve even written some sample posts to help get the conversation started!

The Tool is a critical component of President Obama’s FAFSA Completion Initiative and this year, local completion efforts are getting a boost from Mrs. Obama’s “FAFSA Completion Challenge,” a video competition the First Lady recently launched to encourage more high school students to complete the FAFSA.

FAFSA data isn’t just for determining eligibility for federal student aid. Many states, institutions, and private organizations rely on the FAFSA to determine eligibility for non-federal sources of aid.

Last year, over one million high school seniors did not submit the FAFSA, which made them ineligible for federal grants and loans, as well as most state-based and institutional aid. When students complete the FAFSA, they help themselves and make a positive contribution to their school, communities, and states.

The promise of the FAFSA Completion Tool lies in its simplicity and its use of current data to effectively measure the success of FAFSA completion efforts. Last year, it provided FAFSA submission and completion data for the senior classes at over 25,000 high schools in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and all U.S. territories.

For more information on the Tool and to search updated FAFSA Completion Tool data by high school for the senior class of 2015, visit StudentAid.gov/FAFSA-HS-Data.

Todd May is Federal Student Aid’s Director of Communication Services and Greg Fortelny is the Acting Director of Federal Student Aid’s Customer Analytics Group.

When Should You File Your FAFSA?


The short answer is … it depends.

There are school deadlines, state deadlines, and a federal deadline. An easy rule of thumb to remember is: You should submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) based on the earliest due date possible.

If you plan to attend college between July 1, 2015, and June 30, 2016, and you want to be considered for financial aid, your deadline could be as early as February!

You don’t have to wait until you or your parents file your taxes to submit your FAFSA; you can estimate your tax information and update your FAFSA later.

For college deadlines, visit the school’s website or contact its financial aid office.

Check out the table below for information about states with first-come, first-served programs and information for states and territories that require checking in with your school’s financial aid office. If your state is not listed in the table below, click here to find your state’s FAFSA deadline.

For more specific deadline information from your state of legal residence, use this easy FAFSA deadlines tool.

April Jordan is a Senior Communications Specialist at Federal Student Aid.

American Technical Training Fund: Creating a Strong Training Pipeline to Middle-Class Jobs

Juan Rodriguez is a 33-year-old son of migrant farm workers and the father of three school-aged children. He recently earned an associate’s degree in welding technology from Lake Washington Institute of Technology (LWIT).

Before enrolling in the training program, Juan had been laid off from his job and was relying on unemployment benefits and federal food assistance to support his family. After graduating, Rodriguez was hired as a quality manager at Skyline Steel’s manufacturing mill. He has since moved his family to Texas, where he works as a welding engineer for Kiewit Offshore Services and earns more than $100,000 a year.

He credits the education and training he received at LWIT with helping him reach his dream of securing a good job that allows him to support his family without public assistance.

Rodriguez is just one of many Americans who has benefited from high-quality career and technical education (CTE) programs, which is why the American Technical Training Fund is so important.

President Obama recently proposed a bold plan to make two years of community college free for all Americans who are willing to work hard toward graduation. In addition to America’s College Promise, the President’s FY 2016 budget request includes a proposal to create a new $200 million American Technical Training Fund that would expand innovative, high-quality technical training programs that are aligned with the workforce needs of employers in high-demand industries.

This new fund would enable the creation of 100 technical training centers across the country, modeled on the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCAT), which have achieved impressive program completion and job placement rates with many non-traditional postsecondary students.

The President’s proposal comes at a time when earning a college certificate or degree has never been more important. In fact, some level of postsecondary education or training has become a prerequisite for joining the middle class. Labor market projections show this trend is only going to increase. By 2020, economists predict that nearly two thirds of all jobs will require some level of education and training beyond high school. However, less than 60 percent of Americans 25 years and older currently have this level of preparation. We also know that the U.S. needs to dramatically improve the skills of its adult population. In the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD)most recent Survey of Adult Skills, about 36 million working age adults in the U.S. scored at the lowest literacy and numeracy levels. We are risking America’s ability to be economically competitive if we ignore the call to increase the education and skills of our adult workforce.

If authorized by Congress, the American Technical Training Fund will help more community colleges and other postsecondary institutions develop and scale high-quality training programs aligned with the needs of employers in high-demand industries, ensuring more hard-working students will have access to the kinds of life-changing opportunities that Juan Rodriguez and countless others like him have benefited from.

Johan Uvin is the Acting Assistant Secretary of the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) and Mark Mitsui is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges at the U.S. Department of Education.

Teaching is Leading: Takeaways from the Teach to Lead Summits

The room was electric. Just a year ago, back in my own classroom, this scene would have been unimaginable to me.

I watched as hundreds of teachers, overflowing with formidable drive, shared innovative ideas and engaged in deep discussion on teaching and leading in Denver, Co. The same dynamic played out weeks before in another packed venue in Louisville, Ky.

What drove these teachers to Denver and Louisville?

Despite diverse backgrounds, each was prompted by a desire for authentic, meaningful opportunities for leadership in their schools and beyond – without leaving their classroom and students.

And Teach to Lead is the vehicle through which so many teachers are fighting to make their leadership dreams a reality.

Born of a partnership between the Department of Education and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, Teach to Lead is spotlighting and scaling up promising projects across the country to expand teacher leadership opportunities and to improve student achievement.

To accomplish these goals, Teach to Lead is hosting three regional summits – in Louisville, Denver and, soon, Boston. Later this year, local leadership labs will help select projects culled through the summits and the online community at Commit to Lead to develop further.

The moments I experienced in Louisville and in Denver have filled me with certainty: this effort will lead to real change for teachers and kids, and these amazing teachers (alongside principals and advocates who support them) will be the ones to lead it.

I felt this certainty as I watched 2015 Principal of the Year Jayne Ellspermann help teachers at the summit understand how to develop an alliance with their principals as part of their efforts to lead.

I felt this certainty when State Teachers of the Year shared tried and tested advice about how to make their voices heard with administrators and policymakers alike.

And, more than anything, I felt this certainty when I heard the voices of energetic, empowered teachers like Sean from Oklahoma, who said, “It’s so powerful to be in a room with all of you … and to know that we share the same struggles. That gives me the motivation to continue moving forward.”

The expectation of Teach to Lead is not that every idea will be successful. We know that, in some places, the appetite or room for real teacher leadership is lacking.

But, Teach to Lead is not about any single idea. It’s not even about the summits.

It’s about helping teachers build a sense of empowerment and the skills to lead adults as confidently as they lead youth. And it’s about equipping teachers to replicate great leadership in their communities so that teacher leadership is not just an idea in the halls of the Department, in the heads of aspiring teacher leaders, or in forward-looking states and districts like Iowa, Hawaii, Kentucky, Denver, and Long Beach.

Teacher by teacher, we’re building a movement – one that says our nation’s hard-working educators should undeniably have a voice in the decisions that shape their work and lives; that they should lead their schools, districts, and states; and that their expertise shouldn’t be honored simply with words, but with actions.

And all of this leads me back to my own path as a teacher leader.

I loved teaching. My students constantly amazed me with their intellect, spirit, and joyful approach to learning. But I felt stymied by the limitations of my role. Though my classes and school were high achieving, my ability to make a difference was obstructed by the walls of my classroom and the attitudes of others toward me – that I was “just a teacher.”

So, I left. And, though serving the President and Secretary Duncan is an immense honor, I paid a heartbreaking price.

This is the real power of Teach to Lead. I know there are many teachers out there like me – who yearn to use their leadership skills and to be heard by decision-makers. Our nation is losing an unquantifiable resource as teachers make the tough choice to leave the classroom year after year.

It’s time that we recognize that the toughest problems facing education today cannot be solved without teachers, their input, or their leadership. We must build systems at the federal, state, and local levels to equip teachers with the resources and support to develop as educators and as leaders.

In these efforts, Teach to Lead is undoubtedly moving the needle. And as the movement heads to Boston and beyond, I feel incredibly lucky to play a part.

Kelly Fitzpatrick is a confidential assistant in the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development at the U.S. Department of Education.

The White House Honors the 2015 School Counselor of the Year

Cross-posted from the White House blog.

First Lady Michelle Obama and actor and singer Connie Britton, right, applaud as Counselor of the Year Cory Notestine, a school counselor at Alamosa High School in Alamosa, Colo., delivers remarks during the Counselor of the Year event in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 30, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

First Lady Michelle Obama and actor and singer Connie Britton, right, applaud as Counselor of the Year Cory Notestine, a school counselor at Alamosa High School in Alamosa, Colo., delivers remarks during the Counselor of the Year event in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 30, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

Today, First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher initiative closed out the week with a very special thank you to some of the hardest-working, caring, and critically important adults charged with putting young people on the path to college: America’s school counselors.

In collaboration with the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), the White House, for the first time ever, hosted the Counselor of the Year Ceremony. The First Lady, along with television star Connie Britton, spoke in the East Room to honor the 36 finalists and semi-finalists, and 2015 School Counselor of the Year, Cory Notestine.

This past July, when the First Lady spoke at the ASCA Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida, she declared that “school counseling is a necessity to ensure that all our young people get the education they need to succeed in today’s economy.” She also promised to bring the Counselor of the Year Ceremony to the White House – and this afternoon, that promise became a reality.

Starting things off, Connie Britton reflected on her stint portraying high school counselor Tami Taylor in the hit TV series “Friday Night Lights.” She commended the room full of counselors for their efforts, stressing that “we all owe our school counselors a great debt of gratitude” as they work to support and nurture our students, putting them on the path to higher education.

First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks during a Counselor of the Year event for Cory Notestine, left, a school counselor at Alamosa High School in Alamosa, Colo., in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 30, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks during a Counselor of the Year event for Cory Notestine, left, a school counselor at Alamosa High School in Alamosa, Colo., in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 30, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

Following Ms. Britton, the First Lady took the stage and emphasized that counselors are the ones who “track students down who don’t think they’re college material, or who don’t think they can afford it, and they shake them up and they tell them, ‘You have what it takes, I believe in you, now fill out those FAFSA forms and sign up for those AP classes, get started on those college essays.’”

To close out the program, Cory Notestine, a counselor at Alamosa High School in Colorado, took to the stage. “I know when I started my career,” he said, “I wanted nothing more than to be an advocate for those without a voice, and to collaborate to make systemic changes in my school to provide a more equal educational environment.” 

The Reach Higher initiative believes that terrific, well-trained counselors like Cory are essential if the United States wants to meet President Obama’s goal of once again leading the world in terms of having the highest proportion of young people with college degrees. And with Cory’s help, we’re going to get there. 

To read more about Cory and the exemplary strides that he has made within Alamosa High School’s counseling department, check out the First Lady’s remarks here.

Eric Waldo is Executive Director of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative.

The 2016 Budget: Improving Opportunity and Affordability in Higher Education


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


“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


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


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.