Addressing College Costs for Adult Ed Transition Students

Panel shot of Mina Reddy, Vania Estanek, Brenda Dann-Messier at NCTN Conference 2013

Panel at NCTN Conference 2013 with Mina Reddy, Vania Estanek, Brenda Dann-Messier
Courtesy of Priyanka Sharma

What financial aid is available to adult education students transitioning to college and training? Several recent Ed.gov blogs on student loans and federal initiatives, including OVAE’s Adult College Completion Toolkit, are providing guidance.

This was also the question posed to a panel at the recent National College Transition Network conference in Providence, RI.
Adult education students often face steep challenges when transitioning to college: cost of tuition, books, and materials; child care and transportation; loss of income; lack of “college knowledge” of the system and expectations; and weak skills that require developmental education courses. The panelists discussed innovative ideas advocacy groups and adult education programs can do to prepare and support their students’ success in the postsecondary setting.

Mina Reddy, of the Cambridge Community Learning Center, spoke first. Reddy shared how and why her program had established a local scholarship fund to support transitioning students. Last year, they had 15 $1,000 scholarships to award. Reddy spoke of the power of even small scholarships to “validate” students’ efforts and achievements.

Vania Estanek is a graduate of the Cambridge program’s ESOL courses, and a scholarship recipient, and now a postsecondary student in a biotech certificate program. She participated in the panel to share her perspective of the value of the scholarship to propel her to higher levels of achievement and provide flexible funds in advance of any school-based aid.

Loh-Sze Leung, of SkillWorks, spoke of the public-private advocacy ventures she has been engaged with in Massachusetts to address adult education and skill development issues, with some legislative successes that funded aid and projects. Some of her tips from advocacy work were to “mobilize students to tell their own stories to legislators”, and “to track success and use data”, preferably local data.

Nate Anderson, of Jobs for the Future, spoke about Accelerating Opportunities, an effort that is underway in seven states to accelerate students without a high school credential through to post-secondary success.  He highlighted several creative solutions states were employing to fill the gap between adult education and credit bearing college courses, such as “braiding” federal funding streams to support the program, waiving tuition for the first semester of college for adult education students, or working strategically with untraditional partners such as the foster care fund. These ideas and others are in JFF’s Innovative Ideas Database, part of their Braided Funding Toolkit.

Brenda Dann-Messier, Assistant Secretary of OVAE, was a respondent to the panel. She acknowledged the challenges faced by students, programs, and advocacy groups and celebrated the creative and innovative ideas the panelists had outlined. She shared several Administration initiatives that are underway to address some of specific challenges including the proposed College Rating System to make college costs more transparent, proposed loan defaults initiative, and proposed experimental sites for financial aid flexibility.

Watch the Ed.gov blog to stay up to date on these initiatives.

Celebrating Connected Educator Month 2013

Cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Education blog.


Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

In support of President Obama’s ConnectED initiative, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology is proud to announce that October is Connected Educator Month. Throughout the month, educators will have opportunities to participate in online events, build personal learning networks, and earn digital badges by demonstrating technology skills.

Online communities help educators share effective strategies, reduce isolation, and provide “just in time” access to knowledge and expertise. However, many educators are not yet taking advantage of all the benefits of connected learning. Schools, districts, and states can dramatically enhance their professional development by integrating digital learning opportunities into their formal professional development and teacher quality efforts.

“One of the most important things we can do to support teachers and students is to put modern tools in their hands, and give them access to the limitless knowledge and connections that the Internet makes possible,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “That’s why President Obama has made a priority of getting our schools connected to high-speed broadband, and it’s also why I’m so enthusiastic about Connected Educator Month.”

Nearly 200 educational organizations are participating in Connected Educator Month. These organizations will provide a variety of interactive activities, such as webinars, live chats, open houses, contests, projects, and badges for connected educators to earn.

Activities and events will range from a design challenge, in which educators will develop strategies for helping kids develop creative confidence, to a webinar in which five U.S. organizations will team up with UNESCO to share insights about mobile learning around the globe. State and locally focused activities will also engage communities of educators across the nation.

“Connected Educator Month provides an opportunity for all educators across the country to join a vibrant community of teachers and leaders using technology to reimagine learning,” said Richard Culatta, director of the Office of Educational Technology.

Connected Educator Month events can be found at www.ConnectedEducators.org/events. The site will be updated continually to reflect new activities, as they are added throughout the month. You can also follow the conversation on Twitter using the #CE13 hashtag.

For more information about Connected Educator Month, visit http://www.ConnectedEducators.org.

Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy at the U.S. Department of Education

Our Teams are Back

Hello! I just wanted to let you know that our teams are back at work in OVAE and stand ready to continue working with the field to provide high-quality services to youth and adults in our CTE, community college, adult education, and correctional education programs. Please reach out to us when you need us–we’re here to assist you.

Brenda Dann-Messier is the Assistant Secretary of the Office of Vocational and Adult Education

Back-to-School Bus Tour – Day 4

Photo of Assistant Secretary Dann-Messier and Division Director Sharon Lee Miller in front of the tour bus.

Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier and DATE Division Director Sharon Lee Miller in front of the tour bus.

This is the fourth in a series of daily updates from Dr. Sharon Lee Miller who is on the Back-to-School Bus Tour currently in progress in the Southwest U.S.

Thursday evening – Local Phoenix Time –

It’s a wrap!

After 10 events in four cities over three days, we have successfully completed our leg of the Secretary’s Back-to-School Bus Tour! We saw many extraordinary CTE, adult education, and postsecondary programs; met hundreds of dedicated administrators, teachers, faculty and business and industry partners; and, most importantly, met the most incredible students! From aspiring high school students to adults seeking a better life for them and their families, our leg of the tour showed us how programs in the Southwest are truly preparing students for a “Strong Start, Bright Future!”

6:22PM Thursday Local Phoenix, AZ Time –

Photo of Assistant Secretary Dann-Messier shaking the hand of a GED student in a classroom.

Assistant Secretary Dann-Messier greets newly enrolled GED students


We arrived at the last stop on our leg of the Secretary’s Back-to-School Bus Tour at the Rio Salado College, in Phoenix. Rio Salado is one of 10 colleges in the Maricopa Community College System. While Rio Salado began predominately as an online community college, it began a “brick and mortar” adult education program. Among the offerings at Rio Salado is the nationally-recognized I-BEST program. Several I-BEST graduates are taking part in the roundtable and sharing their personal stories in gaining their GED, transitioning to college, earning industry-recognized credentials and degrees, and obtain employment.

2:36PM Thursday Local Glendale, AZ Time –

Photo of student at a conference table speaking to Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann- Messier and 8 other participants at the table.

Participants applaud as a student shares her progress and success in the nursing program.

We just began our series of roundtables on college affordability and accessibility with educators and community stakeholders in Glendale, Arizona, hosted jointly by Glendale Community College (GCC) and Northern Arizona University (NAU). GCC has partnered with NAU, which has created an innovative transfer program called 2NAU that works with community colleges like GCC to help students make a seamless transition to a four-year institution and thus dramatically lowering the overall cost of a bachelor’s degree. Among the federal grants administered by NAU is the GEAR UP program, which is funded under the Higher Education Act (HEA). As a college readiness program, GEAR UP works with low-income, first-generation high school students to help prepare them for college. One of the issues being raised at the roundtable is faculty shortages, especially in the health professions, where individuals can earn significantly more in the field than they can in teaching at the college or university. This issue becomes more pressing as the country raises its expectations for college-going by all students.

2:10PM Thursday Local Paradise Valley, AZ Time –

Photo of Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier with CTE Biotechnology teacher, Marni Landry in a biotech classroom.

Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier talks with CTE Biotechnology teacher, Marni Landry, Arizona’s Teacher of the Year about Paradise Valley High School’s Center for Research in Engineering, Science, and Technology (CREST) program


We just completed a fabulous visit to Paradise Valley High School’s Center for Research in Engineering, Science, and Technology (CREST) program. We began with a tour by an amazing group of students to CREST’s three program strands: biotechnology, sustainability, and engineering. Each of these programs exemplify the Department of Education’s vision for high-quality career and technical education (CTE) as provided in the Department’s blueprint for the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Act, which is a major source of funding for CTE across the nation. Among the key features of CREST’s programs are integration of academic and technical education; collaboration among secondary, postsecondary, and business/industry; and work-based learning. During the visit, we had the honor of meeting Arizona’s teacher of the year—a biotechnology (CTE) teacher, Marni Landry

From Wednesday –

Lee Lambert, Chancellor of Pima Community College, reflected on Wednesday’s visit by Secretary Duncan and Assistant Secretary Dann-Messier to Tucson, AZ. Dann-Messier visited students at a family literacy and an adult education program.

“When all the gears are meshing, we are capable of great things….it is crucial that all the gears do in fact synchronize. The need for seamlessness between K-12, community colleges and four-year institutions is critical. Students must be able to map out clear roads leading to whatever their education goal might be. That point was emphasized by Dr. Dann-Messier, who recognizes as I do that it is essential for Adult Education and community colleges to partner to provide clear articulation paths, and for Adult Education courses to prepare students for college or careers without the need for remediation.”

Read his entire post “Opening Doors.”

Day 3: Bus Tour Reaches Tucson, Ariz.

This is the third in a series of daily updates from Dr. Sharon Lee Miller who is on the Back-to-School Bus Tour currently in progress in the Southwest U.S.

Photo including from left to right: Dr. Jonathon Reinhardt, Dr. Beatrice Dupay, Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier , Dr. Linda Waugh, and Dr. Kathy Short, at the Center for Educational Resources in Culture, Language, and Literacy (CERCLL).

Photo of Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier at the Center for Educational Resources in Culture, Language, and Literacy (CERCLL) – From the left – Dr. Jonathon Reinhardt, Dr. Beatrice Dupay, Brenda, Dr. Linda Waugh, and Dr. Kathy Short

Our day began with a roundtable on the Tucson campus of the University of Arizona with key staff and graduate students of the Center for Educational Resources in Culture, Language, and Literacy (CERCLL – pronounced “circle”). Partially funded through the National Resource Center grant program, a federal grant offered through ED’s Office of International and Foreign Language Education, this center is one of 15 across the U.S. that is dedicated to developing resources and providing professional development for K-8 foreign language instruction. Roundtable participants are now sharing information about their “Worlds of Words” language and culture book kits that encourage the development of intercultural understandings for K-8 teachers and children.  The kits are available at www.wowlit.org!  To learn more about the National Resource Center grant program and other federally funded programs, which focus on language learning please visit ED’s website here.

10:50AM Local Tucson Time -

Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier with faculty and Students of the Ocotillo Early Family Literacy Center in Tuscon, AZ.

Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier with faculty and Students of the Ocotillo Early Family Literacy Center in Tuscon, AZ.

We just arrived at a family literacy program at the Ocotillo Early Learning Center in Tuscon, AZ. The adult students are introducing themselves to Brenda and sharing the reasons why they have enrolled in the program. Their reasons range from being better parents to helping their children read to getting a job and providing for their families.

Photo of Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier and Pima Community College Chancellor Lee Lambert seated at a table with students. teachers, and administrators

Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier and newly-appointed chancellor of Pima Community College Lee Lambert lead a roundtable of students, teachers, and administrators at El Pueblo Liberty Learning Center in Tuscon, AZ.

12:00PM Local Tucson Time -

We just bade farewell to a wonderful group of students, teachers, and administrators at the Ocotillo Early Family Literacy Center! We have just headed over to El Pueblo Liberty Learning Center, which is housed within Pima Community College, and have begun a roundtable discussion with students and staff. The students–who are all parents–are sharing their stories about why they enrolled in the program and their expectations for the future. One student just described her feelings of isolation and despair as a mother who was unable to speak English and fulfill her responsibilities as a parent and community member. Another student just recounted how she enrolled in the GED program when her son dropped out of high school and indicated that he would go back and finish when she did. Both students have indicated that they are well on their way toward achieving their educational goals and are enrolled in Pima Community College!

Wednesday Evening Tempe, AZ -

We wrapped up our activities for Wednesday at Secretary Duncan’s Town Hall Meeting on Higher Education. Flanked by the presidents of Arizona State University and the University of Maryland, the Secretary focused on college affordability, particularly for Hispanic students who are among the youngest and fastest growing segments of the population. In his remarks, Secretary Duncan reiterated his concerns about the growing costs of college and the debt that many students carry once they graduate, and shared the President’s proposals to address these issues.

Learning Around the World

OVAE is excited to be part of the first alumni conference for international graduates of the Community College Initiative (CCI) program on August 28.

CCI is a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and Community Colleges for International Development (CCID). This program sponsors international students to complete a year of non-degree study in a U.S. Community College. The most heavily represented career clusters engaged in by students are business management, information technology, tourism, media, and allied health care.

Read More

OVAE Salutes the Spirit of the March on Washington

As you know, this is the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, a march which demanded Jobs and Freedom. We are more likely to remember it today for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s moving and profound “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. However, the retrospective coverage and personal stories being shared in advance of the commemorative activities reminds us that economic and social justice issues were the motivations that drew hundreds of thousands of people to Washington, D.C. that summer.

I often echo Secretary Duncan in saying that “education is the civil rights issue of our time.” Adult education and literacy have deep roots in social justice and civil rights movements. We are proud of those roots and the work that educators do to change lives and communities in this country and around the world.

Brenda Dann-Messier is the Assistant Secretary of the Office of Vocational and Adult Education

DOL Resource: Skimming for Skills

If you want to find information on skills and educational attainment, the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration’s guide to the relevant sources will allow you to shed light on labor or skill shortages, skill mismatches, and skill deficiencies.  Skimming for Skills provides links to surveys, reports and customized data tools, and includes more than three dozen sources.

Read More

Making College Affordable for Every American

Cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Education blog.

I’m thrilled today that President Obama is moving forward with an ambitious new plan to make college more affordable for every American. We know that higher education is more important than ever, but we also know it’s never been more expensive. We have heard from students and families across the country who are worried about affording college, and we believe that higher education cannot be a luxury that only advantages the wealthy.

whitehouse_education_better_bargain-506x1024

College must remain an accessible and affordable opportunity that provides a good value for all Americans. We want college to be a secure investment for every student from every background who is willing to work hard, an investment that prepares our nation’s students for a good job and a bright future.

We believe the cost of college is a shared responsibility among the federal government, states, colleges and universities, and our students and families. Since 2009, the Obama Administration and Congress have worked together to make historic investments in higher education. We  raised the maximum Pell Grant grant award by more than $900, created the American Opportunity Tax Credit, now offer additional loan repayment programs that help students manage their debt, and enacted landmark federal student aid reforms that eliminated wasteful bank subsidies and increased by more than 50 percent the number of students attending college from low-income families.

There are remarkable examples of states and institutions across our nation who have taken innovative steps to help American families afford college. New York has committed to restraining tuition growth in its public community colleges and universities over five years, and the University of Maryland system, which operates an Effectiveness and Efficiency Initiative, has saved more than $356 million and helped stabilize tuition for four straight academic years.

But we need to see more innovation and initiative to ensure that college remains a good value for students and families, and that’s what the President’s announcement today is all about. Earlier today at the University at Buffalo, the President laid out a plan with three concise steps to make college affordable. The steps are outlined in this White House fact sheet, and include:

  • Linking federal financial aid to college performance, so colleges must demonstrate they provide good value for the investment students make in higher education
  • Sparking innovation and competition by shining a spotlight on college performance, highlighting colleges where innovations are enabling students to achieve good results, and offering colleges regulatory flexibility to innovate
  • And – because we know that too many students are struggling to repay their debt today – President Obama is committed to ensuring that students who need it can have access to the ‘Pay As You Earn’ plan that caps federal student loan payments at 10 percent of discretionary income, so students can better manage their debt

We need more colleges and universities to keep college affordable while delivering a high quality education, not only for students who are first in line, but for all, especially students who are first in their families to enter college, students from disadvantaged circumstances, students with disabilities and veterans who chose service before completing their education. We need states to increase higher education funding, with proven strategies for student access and success. And we need to make sure that our annual investment of over $150 billion in federal student aid is achieving all that it can to ensure the economic and social prosperity of our nation.

The Obama Administration is going to continue to do everything we can to make college more affordable, and ensure students and families get as much value possible from their investment of effort, time and money in higher education. We’re looking forward to seeing states and institutions do their part, as well.

Additional reading: President Obama Explains His Plan to Combat Rising College Costs.

Martha Kanter is the U.S. Under Secretary of Education 

Are you signed up to receive OVAE’s weekly newsletter?

Did you know that every week, OVAE publishes an electronic newsletter called OVAE Connection? OVAE Connection provides information to state officials involved in adult education, career and technical education (CTE), and community colleges, as well as to practitioners, researchers, education groups and others interested in community colleges, CTE, and adult education. Here are the headlines from this week’s edition: “Results From TIMSS: U.S. Performance in Mathematics is Above Average” and “Model Program for Long-Term Career Advancement of Low Income Adults.”  You can sign up for OVAE Connection and other U.S. Department of Education newsletters by clicking here. You can also access archived versions of OVAE Connection here.