The U.S. Department of Education announced today the launch of an online "one-stop shop" aimed at guidance counselors and other advisers, such as staff or volunteers at community-based organizations, who assist students through the process of selecting and financing their higher education. The Financial Aid Toolkit, available at FinancialAidToolkit.ed.gov, 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. Later today, Secretary Duncan will formally introduce the toolkit to more than 6,000 financial aid professionals attending the 2013 Federal Student Aid Training Conference for Financial Aid Professionals.
"By equipping counselors and mentors with financial aid information, we can help to ensure current and potential students are getting the assistance they need to successfully navigate the process of planning and paying for a postsecondary education," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "This toolkit builds on the administration's ongoing efforts to improve college access and affordability, and it is an important step toward meeting the President's 2020 goal of having the most college graduates in the world."
The searchable online database provides access to resources covering the entire financial aid lifecycle from applying for financial aid to repaying student loans. It includes documents such as financial aid night materials, presentations, brochures, videos, and sample tweets and Facebook posts. The toolkit also offers professional development information such as training opportunities and resources for self-instruction.
Additionally, today the Department is furthering its commitment to providing students with information to make informed choices along with more options for high-quality, affordable education by calling for ideas around innovative higher education programs. When President Obama outlined an ambitious plan last August to increase value and affordability in postsecondary education, he directed the Department of Education to shine a light on effective, innovative practices and challenged leaders from across the nation to accelerate innovation and build on success.
Today's announcement follows-up on the President's call for the Department to support new ideas in higher education through a limited number of experimental sites. This authority under Title IV of the Higher Education Act (HEA) allows the Secretary of Education to waive specific Title IV, HEA requirements of the federal student financial assistance programs to allow for responsible innovations coupled with evaluations of their effectiveness. Starting today, the Department is asking the public, the higher education community and other public and private agencies and organizations to send us their ideas for experimental sites that will lead to a better-educated workforce and citizenry. More information about the call for ideas around innovative higher education programs can be found in a new blog post by U.S. Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter, and on the Department’s college affordability website.
While the Department has been traveling to cities across the country listening to hundreds of students, parents, college leaders, state officials, education organizations and many others about their ideas on how to best craft a rating system that would better inform students and encourage institutions to improve, this week the Department is submitting a Request for Information (RFI) to the Federal Register to ask experts and researchers to weigh in. This RFI will complement the ongoing engagement efforts, and the Department continues to encourage the public to share feedback through firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today's announcements build on ongoing efforts by the administration to improve college access and affordability. Recently, the Department announced an outreach campaign to groups of federal student loan borrowers to make sure they know and understand all their repayment options. And thanks to President Obama and Secretary Duncan's leadership, the administration has worked with Congress to end student loan subsidies for private financial institutions and banks and shift billions in savings back to students; keep student loan rates from doubling this year -- saving typical undergraduates more than $1,500 for this year's loans; and cap loan repayments at 10 percent of monthly income for many borrowers who are trying to responsibly manage their federal student loan debt.
More information about the administration’s ongoing efforts to improve college access and affordability can be found here: http://www.ed.gov/college-completion.