NEWSLETTERS
October 28, 2011 ED Review
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 October 28, 2011
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Student Loan Relief
American Jobs Act
Early Learning Grants
Recognition Weeks
Pathways to Opportunity
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Student Loan Relief

This week, as part of a series of executive actions to put Americans to work and strengthen the economy, the Obama Administration announced it is taking steps to increase college affordability by making it easier to manage student loan debt. The Administration is moving forward with a new "Pay As You Earn" proposal that will reduce monthly payments for about 1.6 million current college students and borrowers. For many who struggle to manage their student loan debt—such as teachers, nurses, public defenders, and others in lower-paying positions—this plan could reduce payments by hundreds of dollars each month.

Current law permits eligible borrowers to limit loan payments to 15% of their discretionary income and forgives all remaining debt after 25 years. But, few borrowers are taking advantage of this option under the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) Program. Borrowers can learn more about IBR here.

Last year, the President proposed, and Congress enacted, a plan to ease student loan debt repayment by lowering IBR loan payments to 10% of discretionary income and the forgiveness timeline to 20 years. This change is set to go into effect for all new borrowers after 2014—primarily impacting future students.

However, recognizing that many borrowers need relief even sooner than that, the new proposal will allow eligible borrowers the ability to cap their IBR loan payments at 10% of discretionary income beginning next year and will forgive the rest of their debt after 20 years. Moreover, starting in January, the estimated 5.8 million borrowers who have both a Direct Loan (DL) and a Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) will be able to consolidate their loans, reduce their interest rates, and benefit from the convenience of a single payment to a single lender. These changes carry no additional cost to taxpayers.

Also, as part of the "Know Before You Owe" project, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Department released a Financial Aid Shopping Sheet—a draft model financial aid disclosure form. The form is a tool that colleges and universities could use to help students better understand the type and amount of financial aid they qualify for and compare the aid packages offered by different institutions. This form would also make the total costs and risks of a student's loans clear before they enroll by outlining their total estimated student loan debt, monthly loan payments after graduation, and additional costs not covered by federal aid.

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American Jobs Act

Early last week, President Obama embarked on a three-day bus tour through North Carolina and Virginia to spread the word about the American Jobs Act. On the way, he visited West Wilkes High School in Millers Creek, NC, Bluestone High School in Skipwith, VA, Greensville County High School in Emporia, VA, and Guilford Technical Community College in Jamestown, NC, to specifically discuss his proposals to keep hundreds of thousands of educators in the classroom and put hundreds of thousands of construction workers back to work rebuilding and modernizing aging public schools and community colleges. Throughout the tour, he pressed Congress to take action by passing the American Jobs Act—either as a whole or piece-by-piece.

Meanwhile, carrying the same message, Vice President Biden visited Central High School in Grand Rapids, MI, and Goode Elementary School in York, PA.

Also, Secretary Duncan highlighted the American Jobs Act in town halls with students, teachers, parents, and community leaders in Pico Rivera, CA, Portland, OR, and Raleigh, NC, and during a panel discussion at Richmond's Community High School in Virginia. According to a new report released by the Council of the Great City Schools at the event in Richmond, 77% of major city school systems need funding for repairs, renovation, modernization, and new construction to meet 21st century educational needs. Indeed, the report avows that the total facilities needs a 50 urban school districts amount to more than $61 billion.

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Early Learning Grants

On October 20, the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services announced that 35 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico submitted detailed applications for the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, a $500 million competitive grant program to improve early learning and development. "I'm thrilled to see so many states taking advantage of this opportunity," Secretary Duncan stated, "and advocacy groups and policy experts have shown tremendous leadership in supporting states' efforts to coordinate their early learning systems. Their collaborative work is helping ensure that all children enter kindergarten with the skills they need to be successful in school—and beyond." During the next few weeks, applications will undergo peer review by early childhood experts from across the country. In mid-December, the Departments will award the highest-ranked applicants within funding availability. Awards will range from around $50 million up to $100 million, depending on a state's population of children from low-income families and proposed plan.

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Recognition Weeks

Three worthwhile recognition periods are scheduled in the coming weeks:

  • National Veterans Awareness Week (November 9-15) encourages schools to invite veterans into their classrooms in the days leading up to and following Veterans Day (November 11). Veterans are asked to share their experiences and teach students lessons about the history and significance of Veterans Day, helping students reflect upon the importance of the ideals of liberty, freedom, and democracy. (Note: A teacher resource guide is available online.)
  • American Education Week (November 13-19) celebrates teachers and school staff. The 2011 theme, "Great Public Schools: A Basic Right and Our Responsibility," is a call for all Americans to do their part in making public schools great for every child. During the week, education support professionals will be honored on Wednesday, and substitute educators will be honored on Friday.
  • International Education Week (November 14-18) promotes educating students about people throughout the world in preparing students to live in a diverse and tolerant society and succeed in today's global economy. The 2011 theme is "International Education: Inspiring Students Locally to Succeed Globally." Secretary Duncan has recorded a welcoming message that can be shown at events.
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Pathways to Opportunity

This month, the White House released "Creating Pathways to Opportunity," a report highlighting steps the Administration has taken to restore and preserve opportunity for all Americans. Both the report and a blog entry stress education reform in general and the Race to the Top, Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, Investing in Innovation (i3), Promise Neighborhoods, school turnaround, and Pell Grant programs in particular. The report concludes with an overview of American Jobs Act proposals.

Note: Summary documents on the applications received for the latest round of i3 and Promise Neighborhoods grant competitions are posted here and here, respectively.

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Odds and Ends

  • The September 2011 edition of "School Days," the Department's monthly video journal, features news on what the American Jobs Act means for schools and teachers, a report on Secretary Duncan's Back to School bus tour throughout the Midwest, and the winners of the 2011 Broad Prize.

  • On the Department's blog, Deputy Press Secretary Daren Briscoe recaps the first official visit by a U.S. Secretary of Education to Puerto Rico in nearly two decades.

  • The Secretary praised public-private school partnerships at a Private School Leadership Conference recently hosted by the Department's Office of Non-Public Education.

  • According to "Merit Aid for Undergraduate: Trends from 1995-96 to 2007-08," the proportion of merit aid recipients currently exceeds that of need-based grant recipients at public four-year institutions and is the same at private, not-for-profit four-year institutions.

  • Further, the College Board has released its annual studies on trends in college pricing and trends in student aid, as well as the benefits of postsecondary education.

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Quote to Note

"Washington is currently engaged in a great battle over two competing theories of education and its relationship to economic growth. The outcome of this debate has enormous consequences for our children, job creation, and economic competitiveness. The first theory—which I absolutely believe is right—is that the path to prosperity lies in investing judiciously in education, modernizing schools and providing targeted tax cuts for small business and on payroll taxes to accelerate job creation. Education, in other words, should not be just an expense. It's an investment.... But this is not a Democratic theory. In fact, the vast majority of governors from both parties subscribe to that view. Moreover, it's a view shared by many business leaders.... Today, unfortunately, an alternative theory is taking hold in some quarters of Congress. Proponents of this theory have a self-described, three-word prescription for job creation and economic growth: cut, cut, cut. Cut government spending, cut regulation, and cut taxes.... They don't view education as a necessary investment to sustain economic growth, and they simply don't believe that the federal government has a key role to play in encouraging states to pursue educational innovation and academic rigor."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (10/12/11), in remarks at the Oregon Business Association's Stateman Dinner

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Upcoming Events

On a weekly basis, the Secretary's public schedule is posted online.

On November 1, at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time, the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) will release the results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in reading and math for grades 4 and 8. The 2011 report cards will include detailed state-level data on students' knowledge within these crucial subjects. The report cards will also spotlight long-term trends in student achievement.

The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, with the White House Office of Public Engagement, has been hosting a series of Hispanic Community Action Summits across the country on the accomplishments and priorities of the Administration with Latino leaders. Summits have already been held in Orlando, Las Vegas, New York City, and Las Cruces, NM. Future summits are scheduled for Denver (tomorrow—October 29), Riverside, CA (November 5), and Albuquerque (November 12).

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Last Modified: 11/02/2011