Press Room NEWSLETTERS
May 29, 2015

ED Review ... ...a bi-weekly update on U.S. Department of Education activities relevant to the Intergovernmental and Corporate community and other stakeholders

What's inside...
Expanding Opportunity
Principals at ED
Protecting College Students
Condition of Education
Head Start Commemoration
Honoring American Soldiers
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Expanding Opportunity

In his May 16 weekly address, President Obama again highlighted the importance of expanding opportunity for all Americans. "Everything we've done over the past six years has been in pursuit of one, overarching goal: creating opportunity for all," he emphasized. "What we've long understood, though, is that some communities have consistently had the odds stacked against them. That's true of rural communities with chronic poverty. That's true of some manufacturing communities that suffered after the plants they depended on closed their doors. That's true of some suburbs and inner cities, where jobs can be hard to find and harder to get to."

"That sense of unfairness and powerlessness has helped fuel the kind of unrest we've seen in places like Baltimore, Ferguson, and New York," he continued. "It has many causes—from a basic lack of opportunity to groups feeling unfairly targeted by police—which means there's no single solution. But there are many that could make a difference and could help. And we have to do everything in our power to make this country's promise real for everyone willing to work for it."

Earlier this month, the President participated in a summit at Georgetown University, where he touched on economic solutions that can broaden opportunity, the political will to support initiatives that expand those opportunities, and the minority communities that are disproportionately impacted by the decision or indecision to make those investments.

Then, last week, he traveled to Camden, New Jersey—a city that has faced one of the highest violent crime rates in America—to meet with local law enforcement, meet with young people, and hear directly about the efforts to build trust between the police and community (fact sheet).

In the same vein, Secretary Duncan traveled to Philadelphia last week for a roundtable discussion with students, parents, and community partners working to expand opportunities for youth. He underscored the need for summer enrichment and employment opportunities that empower students to pursue their interests while building the skills they need to succeed in college and their careers. He further spotlighted nearly $40 million in federal and philanthropic investments in the city since President Obama designated West Philadelphia as a Promise Zone in January 2014.

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Principals at ED

This week's "Principals at ED" event—celebrating 14 principals with events ranging from introductory sessions on federal policy and advocacy to a roundtable discussion with senior officials about how to improve education from the principal's perspective (photos)—is the culmination of a series of three practitioner-driven policy conversations focused on school leadership. The first-ever Principals at ED event was January 20, 2015, with a second event on March 2, 2015. The series builds on the successful Principal Ambassador Fellowship program, with school leaders serving as advisors to the Secretary and Department staff.

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Protecting College Students

The Department recently announced proposed regulations aimed at protecting as many as nine million college students that are receiving $25 billion in federal student aid by providing tougher standards and greater transparency surrounding agreements between colleges and companies in the rapidly expanding college debit and prepaid marketplace. These regulations are intended to safeguard students from excess fees and grant them the freedom to choose how to access their federal student aid funds when paying for college (blog post).

Key changes in the higher education marketplace have led to the proliferation of campus debit and prepaid card accounts offered to students in exchange for monetary and other benefits to schools. Increasingly, students are receiving their Title IV credit balances—money refunded to them after tuition and fees are paid to the school—through these accounts. Yet, reports from consumer groups and government sources have described troubling practices arising from college card agreements. Given the number of students potentially affected by these agreements, the amount of taxpayer-funded assistance at stake, and the expanding breadth of the market, regulatory action has become necessary.

Proposed regulations would:

  • prohibit an institution from requiring students or parents to open a certain account into which their credit balances are deposited;
  • require institutions to ensure students are not charged overdraft fees if they select an account offered directly or indirectly by contractors that assist institutions in making direct payments of federal aid;
  • require institutions to provide a full list of account options that a student may choose from to receive credit balance funds, where each option is presented in a neutral manner and the student's pre-existing bank account is listed as the first, most prominent, and default option; and
  • require institutions to ensure electronic payments made to a student's pre-existing account are as timely as—and no more onerous than—payments made to accounts marketed through institutions.

Interested parties can submit comments on the proposed regulations through July 2.

Also: The Department conducted thorough reviews of the four major federal student loan services to ensure they followed federal law when it comes to loan interest rates for active-duty servicemembers. These reviews found that the companies complied in the vast majority of cases under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), as required by the Higher Education Act (HEA). Indeed, between 2009 and 2014, borrowers were incorrectly denied the 6% interest rate cap required by the laws in less than 1% of cases. (Note: The agency is expanding its review of compliance with the SCRA and the HEA to the seven non-profit servicers, as well as commercial Family Federal Education Loan (FFEL) servicers.)

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Condition of Education

On May 28, the Department's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), part of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), released "The Condition of Education 2015," a Congressionally mandated report to the country on education in America today. The report presents 42 indicators grouped under four areas: population characteristics, participation in education, elementary and secondary education, and postsecondary education. The report also underlines some issues of current policy interest: kindergartners' approaches to learning behaviors and academic outcomes, disparities in educational outcomes among male youth of color, and differences in postsecondary attainment by socioeconomic status.

Also: A new NCES "First Look" report offers nationally representative data on public school safety and discipline for the 2013-14 school year. The report presents information on specific school safety and discipline plans and practices, training for classroom teachers and aides, security personnel, frequency of discipline problems, and number of incidents of various offenses. Among the findings: 65% of schools reported at least one "violent incident" occurred at school (at a rate of 15.8 per 1,000 students); 13% of schools reported at least one "serious violent incident" occurred at school (0.5 per 1,000 students); and 2% of schools reported at least one "physical attack or fight with a weapon" occurred at school (0.1 per 1,000 students).

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Head Start Commemoration

Fifty years ago, on May 18, President Lyndon Johnson announced the creation of Project Head Start, a federal effort designed to ensure at-risk children across the nation receive a quality early childhood experience. Since 1965, Head Start has served 32 million children and their families, providing comprehensive early learning services that prepare children from low-income families for success in kindergarten and set families on the path toward self-sufficiency. In honor of the occasion, the White House released a presidential proclamation, and the Department of Health and Human Services issued a timeline and historic video, an op-ed by Secretary Sylvia Burwell, and a blog post by Office of Head Start Director Blanca Enriquez.

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Honoring American Soldiers

On Memorial Day, President Obama traveled to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia to pay tribute to the men and women of the armed forces who have made the ultimate sacrifice. In doing so, he was continuing the tradition of many past presidents, laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider and delivering remarks to those in attendance. (Note: A Federal Registry for Educational Resources (FREE) web site post outlines five ways to help students understand the significance of world war cemeteries and monuments.)

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Quote to Note

"We now face a crucial opportunity to advance equity, as Congress debates reauthorizing the most important national education law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).... Some proposals under discussion could exacerbate existing inequities by allowing funds to move out of high-poverty schools into wealthier ones. Other, better proposals would take steps to ensure all students have the resources and support they need, closing a long-standing loophole to ensure funding intended for the neediest students actually reaches them. Wise proposals would also help to close opportunity gaps by ensuring an equitable distribution of resources. It's basic: no matter where they are, students should have access to challenging, high-level classes and technology, and teachers should have the resources they need to their jobs. When we adults do our civic duty and take steps to ensure all our children have equal access to a great education, we improve their chances to succeed in college, careers, and life—and our own future as well."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (5/28/15), in a blog post on equally investing in each child's future

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Upcoming Events

On June 3, from 2:00 to 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time, the Department will broadcast live on its USTREAM channel the 2015 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools awards ceremony, recognizing school, school district, and postsecondary institution honorees. (Note: To learn more about the honorees, view the nomination packages and highlights document.)

Do you know someone who has been a role model and mentor to others within the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines? If so, please consider nominating them for the President's Award for Excellence in STEM Mentoring, which recognizes outstanding mentoring efforts that enhance the participation and retention of students and early career investigators, with a special emphasis on those who might not otherwise have considered or had access to opportunities in STEM fields. Nominations, including self-nominations, will be accepted until June 19.

The 2015 Federal Student Aid (FSA) Conference in Las Vegas (December 1-4) will provide the most up-to-date information on Title IV programs and evolving federal policies and procedures affecting customers and partners. It will also cover topics ranging from the technologies associated with FSA's information systems to improved practices for supporting aid applicants and recipients. The event is the largest federal aid conference offered to the financial aid community, hosting nearly 6,000 attendees in 2014.

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Last Modified: 06/02/2015