NEWSLETTERS
July 9, 2010 ED Review
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 July 9, 2010
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Federal Student Aid
Grants Update
Summer Initiative
Accessible Technology
Commencement Addresses
Odds and Ends
Quotes to Note
Upcoming Events

Federal Student Aid

July 1 was a historic day in higher education, as provisions of the recently approved Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act took effect. The biggest and most important change was the elimination of the bank-based Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program. All new federal student loans will be made through the Direct Loan Program, whereby students borrow directly from the U.S. Department of Education instead of banks. This change, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), will save the federal government $68 billion over the next 11 years. "We are one step closer to achieving the President's goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020," Secretary Duncan said. "These changes will expand educational opportunities for millions of students and families and will make it easier for them to pay for college."

The Direct Loan Program operates as a public-private partnership leveraging the federal government's lower cost of capital with the expertise of the private sector. While the Department supplies the capital for all new loans, private sector partners disburse, service, and collect the loans. A majority of the nation's 5,106 domestic schools participating in the federal student loan program have successfully transitioned to the Direct Loan Program; several schools operating on alternative academic schedules may not originate their first Direct Loan for several more months.

Pell Grants remain the foundation of federal student aid. The cost savings generated from the transition to Direct Loans enabled an increase in the maximum federal Pell Grant award for the 2010-11 school year to $5,550, an $800 increase since 2009. Reform will also provide a more reliable and predictable source of future funding, by tying annual increases in the Pell Grant award to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

July 1 also marked the first anniversary of the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) Plan, a payment option for federal student loan borrowers that makes monthly payments more affordable by tying payment obligations to income and family size. New regulations expand eligibility. As a result, borrowers who could not benefit from IBR based upon the size of their initial debt, but whose debt has grown with accrued interest, may now qualify. New regulations also eliminate the "marriage penalty" facing many married couples—by considering the total federal student loan debt of the couple when calculating eligibility.

And, on July 1, the interest rate on new subsidized student loans fell from 5.6% to 4.5%.

Note: The Department has announced $25 million to help loan servicers in the FFEL Program retain and redeploy workers most affected by the higher education changes.

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Grants Update

The Department continues to award grants under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). With the addition of Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming, 40 states and the District of Columbia have received State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) Phase 2 funding. And, with the addition of Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, and Oregon, 38 states and the District of Columbia have received School Improvement Grants (SIG) program funding.

Approximately 339 organizations submitted applications for the Promise Neighborhoods program. The $10 million available in FY 2010 funds will support up to 20 organizations with one-year of funding to plan for the implementation of cradle-to-career services designed to improve educational outcomes for students in distressed neighborhoods. The President's FY 2011 budget includes $210 million to support five-year grants to implement services.

Applications are now available for the Department's Smaller Learning Communities Program (closes 8/6). This program awards grants to school districts to support implementation of smaller learning communities (SLCs) and activities to improve student achievement in large public high schools with enrollments of 1,000 or more students. SLCs include structures like freshman academies, multi-grade academies organized around career interests or other themes, "houses" in which small groups of students remain together throughout high school, and autonomous schools-within-a-school, as well as personalization strategies, such as student advisories, family advocate systems, and mentoring programs.

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Summer Initiative

Last week, Secretary Duncan and his wife, Karen Duncan, kicked-off the Department's summer enrichment series, "Let's Read. Let's Move.," on the outdoor plaza of the agency headquarters building with book readings, various art and writing activities, and games. Children in pre-kindergarten through third-grade from area schools and Prince George's County's Head Start and Judy Center programs received free new books and a lunch tote of healthy snacks. The Department launched this new series to combat summer reading loss and physical inactivity that commonly occur during the lengthy school break. Over six sessions—held weekly between June 29 and August 3—the Secretary, Cabinet members, Administration officials, and other public figures will be invited to read books, promote healthy lifestyles, and participate in fitness activities with children. "Let's Read. Let's Move." is in response to the President's national volunteer campaign, "United We Serve," which challenges all Americans to engage in meaningful service activities in their communities this summer. "Let's Read. Let's Move." also spotlights the tenets of the First Lady's "Let's Move!" national campaign to combat childhood obesity.

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Accessible Technology

Also last week, the Departments of Education and Justice published a "Dear Colleague" letter reaffirming the agencies' commitment to ensuring students with disabilities have equal access to emerging technologies in colleges and universities. Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Departments share responsibility for protecting the rights of students with disabilities. These landmark laws bar institutions of higher education from requiring the use of technology that is inaccessible to individuals with disabilities, unless the institutions provide accommodations or modifications that would permit an individual with a disability to use the technology in an equally effective manner. The letter is in response to the use of Kindle electronic book readers by certain colleges and universities. While many of the devices have a text-to-speech function, which "reads" on-screen print aloud, they lack menus and controls that individuals who are blind or have low vision can fully navigate.

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Commencement Addresses

Concluding the spring graduation season, Secretary Duncan delivered commencement addresses at two California community colleges. "Community colleges are central to building a vibrant economy and resilient workforce," he said, noting that these institutions serve many students who are working, immigrants, raising a family, or the first in their families to attend college. "They are absolutely critical to meeting the President's goal." First, on June 25, in remarks at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, the Secretary discussed the "Protean Career"—the need to manage uncertainty, anticipate change, and adapt to it. "Your ability to adapt, to be creative, and to be pursue your passion are, in large measure, going to determine how you fare in the job market and in life," he stated. Then, on June 26, in remarks at De Anza College in Cupertino, he talked about how education helped two immigrants pursue the American dream: Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. "[Y]ou are part of an amazingly strong chain here," he said. "You are linked both to those who preceded you and those who will follow you. Education connects generation to generation and, in doing so, becomes the key to our social and economic vitality as a nation." Undersecretary of Education Martha Kanter is the former Chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District.

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Odds and Ends

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Quotes to Note

"I was saddened by the death of Senator Robert C. Byrd. He was a legendary figure in the history of the United States Senate and our country.... Among his many legacies, he was a champion for America's children as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. His leadership will be deeply missed. He was not just a hero to the people of West Virginia; he was a hero for all Americans."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (6/28/10), in a statement on the passing of Senator Robert Byrd

"I am deeply saddened by the death of Bill Taylor. He dedicated his career to ensuring that poor and minority children had access to a high-quality education. Whether he was in the courtroom, the halls of government, or in a congressional hearing room, Bill Taylor was a consistent voice for equity and justice—a voice that will be deeply missed."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (6/29/10), in a statement on the passing of Bill Taylor

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Upcoming Events

As noted in several previous issues, the Department will convene the 2010 Reading Institute in Anaheim, California, July 19-21. And, the Department of Education is joining with the Department of Health and Human Services to offer an Early Learning and Development Strand at the Institute. "This Administration is committed to effective literacy instruction developed through comprehensive, standards-based reform," stated Secretary Duncan in his letter of invitation. "The Reading Institute demonstrates that commitment. I encourage you to join your fellow educators from around the country and to share this information with others who may be interested." There is no registration fee for the Institute or its specific strands, and some Department grants permit the use of federal funds for professional development and training activities. However, for those unable to attend, seven of the early learning strand's sessions will be streamed online (registration required):

On July 21, at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., the Department of Education and the Smithsonian Institution will convene experts in education and technology to share effective models and innovative practices for improving teaching and learning in rural schools. Presentations and discussions at the National Rural Education Technology Summit will focus on how rural schools can use technology to overcome the challenges of distance and isolation, while capitalizing on the positive opportunities in rural areas. Also, the day before, the Smithsonian will be hosting behind-the-scenes tours of its most popular museums and a special reception at the National Museum of Natural History.

On July 26, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the Department is offering a webinar entitled "Equipment and Property Management." The presentation will provide agency grantees and subgrantees an overview of federal guidance and requirements for the oversight and management of equipment and property acquired using federal funds, as well as discuss the relationship between these requirements and ARRA funding. Topics include requirements for retaining documentation related to equipment and property purchases, the importance of ongoing monitoring of the use and disposition of this equipment and property, and conducting a regular inventory of items purchased with federal funding.

July is a hot month for conferences! The Department will exhibit at the National Council of La Raza's Conference in San Antonio (July 10-13), the NAACP's Convention in Kansas City, Missouri (July 10-15), the National School Public Relations Association's National Seminar in Charlotte (July 11-14), the School Nutrition Association's Conference in Dallas (July 11-14), the League of United Latin American Citizens' Convention in Albuquerque (July 12-17), the College Board's Advanced Placement (AP) Conference in Washington, D.C. (July 14-18), the National Conference of State Legislatures' Legislative Summit in Louisville (July 25-29), and the National Urban League's Conference also in Washington, D.C. (July 27-31). If you are attending any of these major events, please stop by the Department's booth.

This summer, there will be a break in ED Review's regular two-week cycle. In the interim, please visit http://www.ed.gov/ and scan the headlines and read the blog. Also, the next issue of ED Review will summarize the major activities of the previous weeks.

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Last Modified: 06/13/2012