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Very Special Student Artists Display Vision, Imagination in VSA Exhibit at U.S. Department of Education

December 5, 2017 - 1:03pm

Seventeen-year-old Keevon Howard has mastered one cardinal rule laid down by his high school art teacher, one that resonates beyond the classroom. “Don’t erase,” his teacher counselled — accept the mistake and weave it into your composition. Coping is a vital life skill, she said, so whatever you put on the paper, that’s what you deal with.

Keevon was at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) headquarters in Washington, D.C., for the opening of the 13th annual VSA exhibit, a joint project of ED and the Department of VSA and Accessibility at the Kennedy Center. His collage is on display at ED through December, along with the works of other students with disabilities from five countries. The opening, and the panel discussion, “Changing Lives Through Arts Education,” drew artists and their families, ED staff, representatives from VSA and the Kennedy Center, and arts educators and advocates.

“You can express yourself better with art than with words,” the Rhode Island teen said. In his collage, light and dark scraps of newsletter are crowded around the heads of a nuzzling mother and child. “The dark surroundings symbolize all of the problems in the world,” he explained.

Amid the chaos, however, the mother and child, illuminated by yellow paint, remain connected. Keevon’s mother, Kinya Howard, said her son has behavioral issues and created his artwork during a time when the two often clashed. Struggles notwithstanding, Keevon’s bond with his mother has blossomed.

Keevon Howard and his mother, Kinya Howard, with his collage “Strength in the Face of Hardship”

The exhibit is titled “Ubuntu: Yo Soy … Je Suis … I Am … Because You Are.” A South African concept, “Ubuntu” colloquially translates to “my humanity is connected to yours.” Like Keevon’s work of art, all of the pieces in the show explore this relationship among humans via a variety of visions and of mediums. Click here for photos of the exhibit.

During the panel discussion, the hopes and goals of the student artists and people close to them came through forcefully: to develop a voice, to connect and to communicate.

“The world can be very hard and very harsh on those who are different from the mainstream,” said Jeannine Chartier, executive and artistic director of VSA Arts Rhode Island. Chartier has a personal link to her vocation; the limp with which she walks is the result of childhood polio.

Another panel member, 25-year-old Mara Clawson, a 2016–17 winner of a VSA Kennedy Center Emerging Artists with Disabilities award, has a neurogenetic disorder, as well as developmental delays. “Her first language was sign language, and we didn’t know if we’d get beyond ‘I want more,’” Mara’s mother, Michelle Marks, explained.  When Mara was about 11, however, a teacher placed newsprint and pastels in front of her, “and the world came out in an amazing conversation of stories about eggs falling out of nests and bowling pins flying,” Marks added. “We had no idea that this was inside of her.”

The artistic capacities of special education students are often underestimated, according to panel member Carmen Jenkins-Frazier, a D.C. arts teacher at the School Without Walls at Francis-Stevens. “If you have patience and your children are able to trust and understand that you are there for them, and they feel secure in your space — then anything is possible in that classroom.”

The panel moderator was Mario Rossero, senior vice president of education at the Kennedy Center. From his experience in this role and as a former arts teacher, Rossero offered these thoughts: “When students create artwork it plays a critical role in their learning, growth, development, and ability to make connections; they are often able to communicate complex ideas that would be difficult to say through other means.”

Kimberly Richey, ED’s acting assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitation services, said, “Our partnership with VSA allows us to say to all of our employees and all of our visitors every day that arts education develops knowledge for all people, no matter their differences — cultural, geographic, abilities, age, gender — and that we each have a lot to learn from the artists, not least of which is about having the courage to be creative in our life’s work.”

Following the panel discussion and the ribbon-cutting ceremony by the students, attendees reflected on what they had learned at the opening.

“I liked the focus on artists with disabilities,” Kali Wasenko, an external engagement specialist at the D.C. Commission on Arts and Humanities, remarked. Beyond demonstrating the importance of art as therapy, she added, “the exhibit is very validating of their talents as artists.”

 

Nancy Paulu is a writer and editor in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach.

Chareese Ross is a student art exhibit program associate and editor in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach.

Photo at the top: A ribbon-cutting signaled the official opening of the Kennedy Center/VSA exhibit. 

All photos are by ED photographer Leslie Williams.

ED’s Student Art Exhibit Program provides students and teachers with an opportunity to display creative work from the classroom in a highly public space that honors it as an effective path to learning and knowledge for all. To visit the exhibits or for information about exhibiting, contact Jackye Zimmermann at Jacquelyn.zimmermann@ed.gov or visit https://www.ed.gov/student-art-exhibit.

Click here for a Washington Post article on the exhibit.

Click here to find a teacher resource guide providing visual art lesson plans to engage students with disabilities.

The post Very Special Student Artists Display Vision, Imagination in VSA Exhibit at U.S. Department of Education appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

Proud to Serve Again

November 21, 2017 - 1:05pm

Each year our school hosts a Veterans Day assembly and breakfast. After this year’s assembly, a number of students shared how they were surprised and excited to see my military photo during the slideshow tribute. Some were shocked and amused to see a serious looking and clean shaven Master Sergeant Harris instead of their bearded and smiling classroom teacher, Mr. Harris. I suppose the topic of my 22 years of military service and transition to teaching isn’t something I routinely discuss with students.

Teaching is a family tradition for many educators. That’s not my story.

The Idea Is Planted

Teaching was never on my radar while growing up. The idea to teach was planted many

Elmer Harris

years ago while working within a school but in a different capacity. I was a military recruiter in my early 20s and regularly visited local high schools in an effort to enlist young men and women into the Air Force. During visits to one school, one of the guidance counselors would always walk past my table and casually say, without stopping, “You should consider teaching.” I’d always laugh and reply, “No thanks” to his back as he waved and kept moving to another task in his building.

Fast forward several years and it seems that guidance counselor’s not-so-subliminal messages worked. After retiring from the Air Force I eventually began the process to become a teacher through the Troops to Teachers program.

The Joys And Challenges

While many assume that structure and discipline are key traits that make teaching a good fit for veterans, the ability to be compassionate and relatable have been vital to my success with military students and families. I’m able to engage military parents in the education process because I’ve been in their position of feeling slightly lost while continually navigating new homes, jobs and school environments. I also understand and adjust when children occasionally act out of character when their mothers and fathers deploy or return from war zones.

I’ve never had a student who lost a parent, but I’ve met many on their first day of school accompanied by a parent with a prosthetic limb or cane due to war-related injuries. While some may stare and silently wonder what happened, I’m eager to engage and have them share about their time in service. It’s a simple way to quickly establish relationships with military parents.

The Veterans Day assembly was a success. Parents enjoyed breakfast, and my students walked around with their heads high and chests out after their presentations. I was proud as well.

Despite the upheavals and occasional uncertainty faced by my military students and their families, they continue to show amazing resilience. I’m proud that I get the opportunity to support those who continue to serve, and I’m extremely proud and honored to play a role in shaping the lives of their most precious treasure. While it would feel odd to thank another vet or active duty person for their service, I never have a problem routinely asking a very simple question….Have you ever considered teaching?

Elmer Harris is a 2017-18 School Ambassador Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education

The post Proud to Serve Again appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

FLOTUS, Secretary Visit Highlights Anti-Bullying Efforts

November 8, 2017 - 12:41pm

As a School Ambassador Fellow with the U.S. Department of Education, I had the opportunity to help plan and coordinate a visit for First Lady Melania Trump and Secretary Betsy DeVos to Orchard Lake Middle School in West Bloomfield, MI. The school was selected because they had pledged their commitment to anti-bullying initiatives promoting inclusion and acceptance. Orchard Lake Middle School prides itself on diversity and anti-bullying programs, so the principal and staff knew that they would be a good fit for FLOTUS’s bullying prevention platform.

Breaking Bully Stereotypes

I have spent the last decade focusing on breaking bully stereotypes and shifting the conversation around such a critical topic, so I jumped at the chance to be part of this work at a national level. Most of the bullying I faced as a student occurred in middle school, so I was shocked to see it happen with my third graders. The most surprising part, however, was when I realized which students were doing the bullying. Some of my sweetest, smartest, and most seemingly innocent kids were often the ones doing the most harm. I see the same trends and patterns with every class.

One thing these kids all have in common is that they do not see themselves as bullies since they do not resemble the exaggerated characters in TV and movies. No one is a bully all the time, and this misconception makes it hard for kids to accept their actions as bullying behavior. This problem can be perpetuated in any school lunchroom when kids are left feeling isolated and excluded, while the classmates doing the excluding don’t understand the harm they cause. Effective anti-bullying initiatives can really help change those dynamics, and having the First Lady and Secretary share that message really helps kids pay attention.

Students Realize the Magnitude of the Event

I was able to be at the school for most of the day, hours before the special guests arrived. I could feel the energy in the building as students buzzed with anticipation. It was fascinating to watch all that happened behind the scenes and the planning and manpower it took to execute a one-hour visit. But the students reminded me why this event was so important. While the adults were scurrying around making sure things were running smoothly, the middle schoolers were enjoying the moment, recognizing the magnitude of what was happening. They knew their school was being highlighted and it meant they were doing something right, and that is an empowering feeling.

Sharing a message with kids about the importance of compassion and kindness is something that everyone should stand behind, and that day, everyone did. It is a big deal to have the First Lady and Education Secretary of the United States at their school, and this is something that these kids will remember for the rest of their lives. I am quite sure they will also remember that no one should eat alone either.

 

Melody Arabo is a 2017-18 Washington School Ambassador Fellow.

Photo at the top: A student takes a selfie with First Lady Melania Trump. (Melody: “They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but the picture at the top is worth a million smiles. It perfectly captures the joy that was felt in the room by students who realized they were experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime moment.”)

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Categories: Higher Education News

Longest Serving Sergeant Major of the Army to Highlight ED Veterans Day Program

November 6, 2017 - 1:00pm

Here at the Department of Education, autumn is more than back to school.  In addition to all the back to school activities, we also host significant events each year tied to our nation’s history.  Veterans Day is one of them and is observed at the Department each year close to November 11.

2017 marks the centennial of the U.S. entry into World War I and Veterans Day originated from that war. November 11 marks the date of the armistice that ended hostilities in 1918.

In fact, President Woodrow Wilson signed the following proclamation to commemorate the first Armistice Day, held on November 11, 1919: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”

ED’s 2017 Veterans Day Program

This year’s Veterans Day program theme is “Military members serve with their hearts – We honor them with our thanks.”

The program will be held on Thursday, November 9 at 10:00am in the LBJ Auditorium.  The keynote speaker this year is Kenneth O. Preston, who retired as the 13th Sergeant Major of the Army and was the longest-serving Sergeant Major of the Army.  According to the U.S. Army web page, “There’s only one Sergeant Major of the Army. This rank is the epitome of what it means to be a Sergeant and oversees all Non-Commissioned Officers. The Sergeant Major serves as the senior enlisted advisor and consultant to the Chief of Staff of the Army.”

In that position, Sgt. Maj. Of the Army Preston served as the Army Chief of Staff’s personal adviser on all Soldier and Family related matters, particularly areas affecting Soldier training and quality of life. Throughout his 36-year career, he served in every enlisted leadership position from cavalry scout and tank commander.  SMA Preston holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from TUI University and has earned numerous medals and awards, including the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, and the Bronze Star Medal.

This year’s program will include appearances from representatives of the National Security Council and the Veterans Administration.  The University of Maryland USAF Color Guard and the North Point High School ROTC will participate.

 

Anthony Fowler is Interagency Liaison at the U.S. Department of Education.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Still Ripe after 100 Years; ED Panel Discusses the Constitution and World War I

November 2, 2017 - 2:38pm

To comply with the law that requires all schools that receive federal funding and all federal agencies to observe Constitution Day, September 17, here at the Department of Education, we focused on the Constitutional issues that arose during World War I. We chose to focus on World War I because 2017 marks the centennial of the U.S. entry into that war.

Secretary DeVos introduced this year’s program, held on September 18, by highlighting the importance of the Constitution with the following comments:

You see, the text of the Constitution is about limiting government, not a so-called living document that can suddenly usurp the power of the people on the whim of any politician or social norm. Yet this self-evident philosophy has been lost somewhere along the way. Unfortunately, too many kids aren’t even at the “School House Rock” level. Broadway elevated Alexander Hamilton’s name to cultural fame but too few know the real Hamilton. The author of the Federalist Papers also wrote that, and I quote, “The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments or musty records, they are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself and can never be erased.”

This year’s program featured two distinguished historians; Edward G. Lengel, Chief Historian at the White House Historical Association, and Tony Williams, Senior Teaching Fellow at the Bill of Rights Institute.  Julie Silverbrook, Executive Director of The Constitutional Sources Project, served as moderator.

Although it has been 100 years since World War I, the panelists agreed that World War I and the issues that arose from that era are very much with us today.

“I think the impact of this war on our society was much, much, much greater than people realize,” said Lengel.  “We have tended to view this war from a distance. We have tended to view it through stereotype – that it was simply a brutal slugfest with millions of casualties with millions of people dying and accomplishing nothing whatsoever.  And we have very little understanding in this country – not just of its impact in Europe, but on its impact on every day people in the United States.”

In fact, many of the issues which are contentious today were issues during World War I as well.   Williams took civil liberties as an example.  In his description, the America of 1917-18 would be unrecognizable to us today.

Two pieces of legislation, the Espionage Act and the Sedition Act, were passed in Congress with the intention of limiting free speech.  Williams set the stage by describing President Wilson’s views on opposition to the war:  “Wilson commented several times on dissent against that war and dissenters who voiced their opinions.   He said the opponents of his war policies were ‘pouring the poison of disloyalty into the very arteries of our national life.  Those creatures of passion, disloyalty and anarchy, must be crushed now.’”

“The Wilson administration moved quickly, unfortunately, to suppress dissent and civil liberties,” said Williams.  “The Attorney General, Thomas Gregory, drafted the bill that would become the Espionage Act, which made it a crime to interfere with the operations of the military, or to cause insubordination, disloyalty, rioting, or refusal of duty — or shall willfully obstruct the recruiting or enlistment services of the United States.   The Attorney General on one occasion said, ‘May God have mercy on them for they need expect none from an outraged people or an avenging government.’”

The Wilson Justice Department went into action to enforce the law and “prosecuted 2,000 plus cases under the Espionage Act,” said Williams.  “Congress created the Espionage Act not just to curtail free speech, but more specifically, to prevent interference with the draft or conscription.  Over 1000 convictions were upheld by the courts, including a very famous socialist, Eugene Debs, and leaders of the Industrial Workers of the World, the IWW.”

Mr. Williams quoted a fellow historian, who said that, during World War I, “liberty and justice were compromised in ways more extreme and extensive than at any other time in American History.”

And so, in wrapping the Constitution with World War I, we acknowledged the men and women who have served in the armed services to defend our Constitution. Although they are no longer with us, their descendants and legacies are, and the legal lessons learned during that period are still very much with us.

View the Constitution Day program.

 

Anthony Fowler is Interagency Liaison at the U.S. Department of Education.

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Categories: Higher Education News

A Day in the Life of a Principal

October 30, 2017 - 1:07pm

The principal’s day is a reflection of many complex interactions such as:

  • communicating with multiple types of stakeholders,
  • managing financial resources,
  • connecting daily with students,
  • leading professional development, and
  • being a collaborative team player.

You may be wondering how one person could accomplish all of this in one day, so I welcome you into one of my days at Jackson Hole High School.

7:30 – 8:00 am Read, review, and respond to approximately 33 emails sent between 6:00pm yesterday and 7:30 am today. 8:00 – 8:30 am Assist school district information coordinator in creating communication for all parents and students in our school about a guest speaker who will be visiting. 8:30 – 8:50 am Walk the halls and visit teachers before the first class. 8:50 – 9:15 am Work with the school counselor around a student who needs additional support.

In order to be most effective, timely responses are essential to meet the needs of our stakeholder community, especially when requests to speak to students come in. Trying to match the guest speaker’s goals with the needs of our students while aligning to school and district goals can be hard, but is necessary to supporting our community.

9:15 – 9:30 am Conduct a targeted walkthrough classroom observation around how to engage ELL students in accessing core content. 9:30 – 9:50 am Begin to plan our next teacher professional development day. Review best practices around the benefits of family engagement. Finalize plans for “learning walks” with community members who would like to tour our classrooms. 9:50 – 10:10 am Work with the athletic director to discuss academic eligibility policy and activities handbook. 10:10 – 10:30 am Discussion call with a consultant group that will be visiting our school in order to get our feedback on the state funding formula.

My collaboration with the school counseling department, athletic director, and instructional leadership team fosters reflection and instructional strategies that engage all learners. As the instructional leader of the school, designing professional development and modeling effective practices is absolute necessary.

10:30 – 11:00 am Develop a team of teachers who will meet with a school funding consultant group to provide their perspective of our school, curriculum, vision, master schedule, and students. 11:00 – 11:30 am Walkthrough observations in English, social studies, and science classrooms. 11:30 – 12:00 pm Respond and review 28 emails that have come in since 8:00 am. 12:00 – 12:20 pm Walk through halls and classrooms, connect with students in library, and discuss what classes students are having the most success in and why.

I involve teachers in key stakeholder meetings to gain a better understanding of our school and the instructional program. I must be visible, accessible, and communicating with students on an ongoing basis in order to monitor our school culture.

12:20 – 1:00 pm Meet with teaching team to discuss hosting a Veterans Day lunch for veterans in our community. 1:00 – 1:45 pm Supervise the lunchroom area while speaking with students, simultaneously checking and responding to emails. 1:45 – 1:55 pm Email examples of “unit overviews”, a school wide goal for all classes to allow students to see written summaries of units and assessment criteria. 1:55 – 2:15 pm Communicate with principal peers in the school district to set up our “Principal Professional Learning Community.”

Inviting and hosting community events provides opportunities to directly engage our students and their families. Speaking of engagement, working with other school administrators is critical in self-development and strengthening the profession.

2:15 – 3:25 pm Work with our school resource officer to update emergency evacuation maps. Conduct an evacuation drill with the whole school. 3:25 – 3:50 pm Review Gates Foundation K-12 priorities around school reform. 3:50 – 6:00 pm Supervise volleyball game while connecting with parents.

Ensuring the safety of students and faculty is my primary responsibility and equally important as continuing to develop and improve student learning opportunities through the latest research. This is at the core of being a reflective and adaptive lead learner.

The day of the principal can be both predictable and chaotic. My role requires the ability to situationally pivot on the fly in order to meet the immediate needs of students, parents, faculty, and other stakeholders. I must be sensitive to a variety of immediate and long term demands, while simultaneously balancing the interests and beliefs of the school community. However, regardless of the complexity, keeping student achievement at the core of the work can act as a grounding mechanism to assist in decision making and doing what is best for students. Thanks for joining me in a day of my life.

 

Scott Crisp is Principal at Jackson Hole High School and a 2017-18 U.S. Department of Education School Ambassador Fellow.

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Categories: Higher Education News

A Vocational Rehabilitation Success Story: Joseph Cali

October 26, 2017 - 12:38pm

Note: October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

The New Jersey Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (DVRS), which receives Federal funding from the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services’ Rehabilitation Services Administration, is pleased to share Joseph’s (pictured above) success story in honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM).

Following an automobile accident in 2006 resulting in paralysis, Joseph spent several months in physical therapy and rehabilitation and now uses a motorized wheelchair. Joseph went on to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling in 2014 – both from Rutgers University. Joseph also acquired specialized certificates in physical rehabilitation, supervision, and management.

When Joseph connected with the Vocational Rehabilitation program at DVRS, he was working part-time as an Adjunct Professor at Brookdale Community College. Joseph sought assistance from DVRS with modifying his van to independently travel to work and obtaining full-time employment. With the support of DVRS, Joseph took part in a pre-driver and behind-the-wheel driving evaluation to assess his driving needs. DVRS also supported the funding of modifications to Joseph’s van along with the necessary driving instruction.

On the employment front, DVRS certified Joseph as eligible for the Schedule A hiring authority with the Federal government. After attending a Federal job fair, Joseph interviewed with the Social Security Administration, who hired Joseph as a Claims Adjuster in Neptune, NJ. Joseph now works full-time and reports being satisfied with his career path and the services he received from DVRS. A special congratulations to Joseph who recently shared that he is engaged and will be getting married soon!

 

Chris Pope is a WIOA Implementation Team Facilitator in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services’ Rehabilitation Services Administration at the U.S. Department of Education.

(Cross-posted at the OSERS blog.)

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Categories: Higher Education News

Vocational Rehabilitation Success Story: George (Burt) Petley

October 18, 2017 - 9:54am

Note: In recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (GVRA), a State VR agency which receives funding from the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services’ Rehabilitation Services Administration, is pleased to share Burt’s success story. 

Burt began his path to employment in a sheltered workshop in 2007, where he did packaging and sorting tasks. Burt’s fellow participants and supervisors said he was dependable and with the support of his sister, Christie, Burt had reliable transportation. While Burt sometimes had difficulty with decision-making, repetitive tasks were an area where he excelled.

In March of 2017, Burt and Christie attended a group meeting at the sheltered workshop with GVRA staff, who presented on Vocational  Rehabiliation  (VR) services. Sherry Harris, from GVRA’s Augusta office, and Janice Cassidy, from the Athens office, explained supported employment and job coaching can be conduits toward competitive integrated employment and greater personal independence. Sherry and Janice explained that, in an inclusive workplace, individuals with disabilities would have the opportunity to earn the same wages as their coworkers and would not necessarily have to sacrifice services they may receive through a Medicaid waiver. Burt also learned about GVRA’s Work Incentive Navigators, who help individuals determine how going to work impacts disability benefits.

George “Burt” Petley

After hearing about the big picture and the spectrum of VR services available, Burt left the sheltered workshop program where he had spent the past ten years. He applied for VR services in June of 2017, first enrolling in a program where he learned socialization and independent living skills and took classes like American Sign Language, pottery, cooking, woodworking, healthy living, social skills and employability. That experience not only proved to be a valuable training opportunity for Burt, but it also led to a job offer when he was hired as a Woodworking Associate. Burt now works 13.5 hours/week earning minimum wage refurbishing furniture and looks forward to working more than 20 hours/week by the end of the year.

According to Burt’s family, he is content as a woodworker. Janice Cassidy shared that “Working with Burt has been a collaborative effort, but in reality, he is truly the star of this story. It began with his simple desire to do something other than continue to work at a sheltered workshop where he had worked for 10 years. Yes, he was certainly given information, told of resources and received supportive services from those helping him. Ultimately though, the person who took the necessary steps to move forward toward achieving his work goal was Burt. He exemplifies GVRA’s definition of true success. He made independent choices for his life, gathered necessary information, sought out potential resources and acted on choices made to realize the goal he was working toward. We wish Burt continued success in his work.”

 

Chris Pope is a WIOA Implementation Team Facilitator in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services’ Rehabilitation Services Administration at the U.S. Department of Education.

(Cross-posted at the OSERS blog.)

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Categories: Higher Education News

Things People Say

October 12, 2017 - 1:00pm

Note: October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.

 

Number One. “Did you know?”

They never complete the thought, as if just looking at him implies what they’re really asking. I ache to play dumb: Know what? That he would almost never cry as a baby and be a champion sleeper? That he would love to swim but hate to play soccer? That I could love him ‘til it hurts and still get so annoyed by some of his antics? As obnoxious as my brain screams for me to be, I simply answer “No. After losing the first one, I didn’t want to take any chances with this very wanted baby.”

The mention of my previous sorrow precludes them from saying anything directly about those tests, so I leave it at that. I resist ranting about warped concepts of perfection or the technologies the medical community pushes that are incapable of measuring the value of those born “dappled.” If I launch into my diatribe, their eyes glaze over as they nod in the faux agreement children give their parents when they just want the scolding to stop. I can always tell when they’re thinking, “I would have the test.” I couldn’t guess what they would do if it were positive.

Number Two. “My sister’s/cousin’s/brother-in-law’s/landlord’s daughter/nephew/classmate/neighbor is ‘like him’.”

What, rakishly handsome? Lucky them. A consummate flirt? Better watch out! The self-appointed town mayor, greeting every person or animal we see on the streets? Good luck getting anywhere quickly with such a gregarious kid.

I suppose it’s an attempt to connect, a way to say “he’s okay” because they know someone who knows someone who… But sharing an extra chromosome doesn’t make anyone like someone else any more than two people having green eyes does. Don’t tell me these six-degrees individuals are “like” each other. They aren’t.

Number Three. “He’s so high-functioning.”

Yeah, far more than I am at 3:00 a.m. “MOMMY!” “urgh…?” “WHY ARE YOUR EYES CLOSED?!” “I’m sleeping, baby.” “WHY?!” “unnnhhh…” “READ TO ME!!!!” (seriously?)

Number Four. “Funny, you can’t see it.”

What’s there to see? His almond shaped eyes that look through me as the spark of laughter flickering within them sears my soul? His cute little hands with that long crease across his palms holding mine, petting the cat, learning to write his name, wiping away tears when he’s mad? The orthotics helping reshape his desperately flat feet?

What exactly are you looking for that will legitimize him in your eyes? Maybe I should carry the envelope with the verdict handed down by some anonymous technician. Perhaps the letter from the state when the lab automatically reported his existence to the county health department “for statistical purposes.” What can’t you see? He’s a kid, growing up loved. What else are you looking for?

Number Five. “I’m sorry.”

You should be. You’ll never hear the thoughts he speaks to me with his smiling brown eyes as he tilts his forehead to rest against mine. You’ll never drink in the heat that radiates from his head or taste his soft hair on your lips. You’ll never be awakened (again) at 3:00 a.m. by the hot air from his mouth on your face as he whispers, “Mommy, I want snuggles.” You’ll never know how it feels to celebrate every jump forward in development that other parents take for granted, but when he finally does it, it’s a very, very large molehill.

You should be sorry that you can only see back in time. This is a new era with new opportunities and new ideas about potential and worthiness. I’m only sorry it’s taken this long and that we still have so far to go.

Number Six. “That’s awesome!”

Thanks, Brian—you are the right kind of friend. May everyone with a kid “like mine” know a man like you.

Number Seven. “I don’t know how you do it.”

I’m his mother. Still confused?

Things I Say:

“I’m so proud of you.” “Boy, you’re handsome!” “Why won’t you let me cut your nails?” “TURN THAT DOWN!” “Wanna go bowling?” “Sweetheart, don’t let the dog beg like that.” “Would you please put this stuff away?” “You’re just too good to be true/Can’t take my eyes off of you.” “No, I don’t want to smell your feet.” “I love you, my sweet angel. You’re my heart and soul, my love and my life.” “You know you drive me nuts, right?”

Number One Thing I Say. I’ve loved my son since before he was ever born. What else is there to say?

 

Jessica Wilson and her son, Jasper (aka Jaz, Jazzy, the JazMaster, or Dude!), live in a cozy house of fur with two crazy dogs and two lazy cats. Their favorite activities include singing movie hits, dancing in the kitchen, snuggling and traveling the world together. Jessica is Director of Communication and Dissemination for the Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR) and Resources for Access, Independence and Self-Employment (RAISE) projects with the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN) in New Jersey.

(Cross-posted at the OSERS blog.)

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Categories: Higher Education News

Learning Outside from the 2017 Green Strides Tour in Georgia

October 11, 2017 - 1:00pm

I had the honor of attending the Georgia Green Strides Tour 2017 with Andrea Falken of the U.S. Department of Education and Keisha Ford-Jenrette of the Georgia Department of Education, and numerous other national, state and local partners.  We rode a van to some of the school sites that had been honored over the years as U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools. This year’s two-day tour focused on the theme “Taking Learning Outside,” and covered a wide range of approaches.

Our first stop, Pharr Elementary, had surveyed its teachers to learn their challenges in teaching and turned those into active, outdoors learning opportunities, which include hands-on outdoors learning modules to learn social studies lessons among the branches of a courtyard tree, various language arts rock gardens, as well as alphabet, word and numbers incorporated into garden pathways and signage.

At our second stop, Mason Elementary students were working toward answering the driving question of “How can we, as entrepreneurs, create a company to consistently produce enough to donate to the local community?”  Students used their extensive hydroponics and aquaponics lab to determine which growing method might yield the greatest output.  They also got dirty in an outdoor classroom pavilion and handicap-accessible raised garden beds.

Our third stop, High Meadows School, demonstrated its commitment to outdoor learning from its founding principles. Students take advantage of a large outdoor play area, “The Meadow,” featuring a tire swing, natural play areas for digging and tree climbing, outdoor boat and dragon constructions, monarch waystations, native plantings, a stick fort, a retired train car turned office space and playing fields in which the various grades learn cooperation and collaboration during all-school outdoors time.  Students also learn to care for goats, chickens and horses under the skilled guidance of a full-time animal husbandry instructor.

Ford Elementary was our last stop on day one and demonstrated a tremendous ability to sustain and even grow an outdoor learning program over more than 20 years.  Teachers explained how by letting students drive learning, there is always something new to discover and add.  Each year, students have studied various areas of their campus and evaluated how to make it a safer and healthier place to learn.  This has led to students creating numerous outdoor classrooms, learning gardens, a compost station, a boardwalk to the site where they test stream water, trails, chicken coops, as well as dozens of other smaller outdoor projects, utilizing nearly every bit of outdoor space.

Morningside Elementary kicked off day two, a day which featured the more urban schools in Atlanta. Students at this school demonstrated their mindful, sustainability learning through their drum circle, work with a master gardener and learning from local business partners who offer cooking demonstrations and taste testing in the outdoor amphitheater cooking station.

On limited land in an historic neighborhood, The Paideia School demonstrates a useful model for urban farming at campuses constrained by space.  The full-time urban gardener and several part-time staff lead students to farm neighbors’ who volunteer their unused lands and successfully produce food in the city.  How waste fits into this work is kept on the minds of these students with compost and recycling bins placed throughout the campus.  The school hosts an annual zero-waste dinner for the community and features an amphitheater, fire truck climbing structure, monarch waystations and fairy garden, among other outdoor learning tools.

Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School leverages its outdoor space to teach about healthy, local foods and cooking. The dedicated chef and school farmer work with students to learn about how food is grown and prepared, the benefits of local purchasing and how sustainable, healthy nutrition impacts students’ bodies and minds.  Students’ palates are thoughtfully broadened and the menu is coordinated with the curriculum. Students took part in the publication of a cookbook with some of their favorite recipes.

At our last stop, Georgia Institute of Technology, a 2016 Postsecondary Sustainability Awardee, we learned more about GIT’s Serve-Learn-Sustain initiative, which is engaging students from all of the colleges on campus to give back to their community. Students have focused learning beyond the boundaries of their college campus and are using the skills they have of collecting data to engage the community in the solutions, such as how to reduce carbon emissions and study population diversity in the area.

 

Suzanne Haerther is Community Project Manager at the U.S. Green Building Council – Georgia.

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Categories: Higher Education News

ED Releases Secretary’s Proposed Priorities for Competitive Grant Programs

October 11, 2017 - 9:50am

Today, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released the Secretary’s proposed priorities for ED’s competitive grant programs and launched the 30-day public comment period. Once we consider the comments received and issue the Secretary’s final priorities, the Secretary may choose to use one or more of them in competitions for new grant awards this year and in future years. These priorities align with the vision set forth by the Secretary in support of high-quality educational opportunities for students of all ages.

The proposed priorities are:

  1. Empowering Families to Choose a High-Quality Education that Meets Their Child’s Unique Needs.
  2. Promoting Innovation and Efficiency, Streamlining Education with an Increased Focus on Improving Student Outcomes, and Providing Increased Value to Students and Taxpayers.
  3. Fostering Flexible and Affordable Paths to Obtaining Knowledge and Skills.
  4. Fostering Knowledge and Promoting the Development of Skills that Prepare Students to be Informed, Thoughtful, and Productive Individuals and Citizens.
  5. Meeting the Unique Needs of Students And Children, including those with Disabilities and/or with Unique Gifts and Talents.
  6. Promoting Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Education, With a Particular Focus on Computer Science.
  7. Promoting Literacy.
  8. Promoting Effective Instruction in Classrooms and Schools.
  9. Promoting Economic Opportunity.
  10. Encouraging Improved School Climate and Safer and More Respectful Interactions in a Positive and Safe Educational Environment.
  11. Ensuring that Service Members, Veterans, and Their Families Have Access to High-Quality Educational Choices.

 

For more information about these priorities and to submit comments, please follow this link to the Federal Register: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/10/12/2017-22127/proposed-supplemental-priorities-and-definitions-for-discretionary-grant-programs.

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Categories: Higher Education News

The Path Begins: Forest Kindergarten

October 10, 2017 - 1:00pm

It’s a rainy day in Walker County, Georgia. In most schools, this would mean a day indoors with children and teachers wishing they could be outside. At Gilbert Elementary, you can look out the window and see a group of kindergarteners, in lime green rain suits, splashing their way across the playground on their way to the forest. These students will spend the next two hours making mud pies, building boats from found materials and observing the differences rain makes in their environment.

Gilbert is home to two Forest Kindergarten classes. Rain or shine, hot or cold, the students spend half of their instructional day in the 300 acres of forest. The concept is not a new one. Kindergarten after all means “children’s garden,” but in the days of high-stakes testing and ever-changing standards, the name has come to mean something very different. Forest Kindergarten is a return to the original intent. Students learn to be creative, solve problems and build relationships with their classmates and their environment.

The Forest Kindergarten program at Gilbert is in its third year. The students are performing above their peers on grade level assessments, and they leave the program with the relationship skills, creativity and grit necessary to be successful in the future.

When these students leave Kindergarten, they continue to have opportunities for outdoor and environmental education. The Gilbert Elementary curriculum is built around year-long research projects at each grade level. Kindergarten students raise chickens. First grade has a pollinator project with the Tennessee Aquarium. Second grade does a native plant study with partner schools from around the state. Third graders are organic gardeners. In fourth grade, students manage the forest. They use trail cameras to track wildlife and work with an arborist. Fifth grade focuses on energy conservation and alternative energy. There is also an indoor aquaponics lab, the SPLASH Lab, and a school-wide recycling program.

Gilbert Elementary is proof that change can be made in a traditional public school. The school is 25 years old. There were no grants or outside benefactors, no changes in requirements from the state and no overhaul of the staff. With 87 percent of students qualifying for free and reduced priced lunch, the staff relied on hard work and small donations to make the vision for the school a reality. Gilbert was named a 2017 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School, earned STEM certification from the state of Georgia and been recognized as a Title I Reward School for High Growth, all while moving away from the teach-to-the-test mentality that is so prevalent in education today.

The vision is expanding across Walker County. Other Forest Kindergarten programs are being planned; outdoor education and gardening programs are sprouting up at several elementary schools; and Ridgeland High School’s STEM academy incorporates agriculture in their program. The goal is to create a cohesive vision across Walker County that begins with Kindergarteners splashing across the playground on a rainy day.

 

Matt Harris is Principal of Gilbert Elementary School.

Damon Raines is Superintendent of Walker County Schools.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Student Artists and Writers Spark a Celebration of Creativity; 2017 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Winners Exhibits Open at ED

October 5, 2017 - 1:47pm


On Sept. 15, 2017, for the 14th year, the U.S. Department of Education opened the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards exhibit of works by students from across the country, with a special exhibit this year of winners from Harris County (Houston), Texas. Presented by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers and founded in 1923, the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards is the longest-running and most prestigious award program for teenagers in the U.S. This year, 330,000 pieces of art and writing were submitted, and only 2,700 students were selected as national winners. Of those national winners, the Department has the honor of exhibiting 66 for the entire year, along with an additional 30 artists from Harris County, Texas, through Oct. 31, 2017.

A standing-room-only audience of 230 students, family members, educators, arts leaders, and ED staff joined in the celebration. Featured ED speaker Jason Botel, acting assistant secretary and principal deputy assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, summed up the value of arts education from his perspective: “Through these exhibits at the Department of Education, and the opportunities your schools provide, we can gain a better understanding of each other.”  Virginia McEnerney, executive director of the Alliance, pointed out that many past winners are contributing immensely through their talents in other fields because of their success in the Scholastic competition: “If you want to be a human rights activist or an educator or an entrepreneur,” she said, “we talk to lots of people in those fields who also point to this experience of winning a Scholastic Award as having been seminal and essential to them.” 2016 National Student Poet Joey Reisberg, now a senior at the George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology in Towson, Maryland, recited two of his poems, giving us perhaps a reason for the arts: “So much in this life is so unnoticeable— ” (from Lamedvovniks, The Thirty-Sixers).

2017 Scholastic winners in art and writing, with, in front row (l to r), Virginia McEnerney, Joey Reisberg, and Jason Botel.

Following the ceremony, the Herb Block Foundation, which awards Scholastic winners for their editorial cartoons, held a workshop for the students.

The student artists and writers made clear that their educators were instrumental in helping to define themselves as artists. Mt. Vernon (Virginia) High School’s principal Dr. Anthony Terrell and art teacher Sally Gilliam, along with 25 current students, came to celebrate award recipient Jaron Owens. Gilliam shared that, when the award announcement was made, “[Jaron] jumped out of his chair and told me that he didn’t realize that he could be a serious artist. At that moment he realized that he did have artistic talent.” Terrell spoke of the impact of the event on the students from his school: “These students are now inspired to make more meaningful artwork because next year their work could be featured here.”

The parents noted that, without great teachers, their children may not realize their talents. Grace Sanders, artist of an untitled photograph, confessed that she didn’t think her photo would win because, to her, she was just splattering paint on her face. But she submitted the photo because her teacher saw something special in it. Grace’s mom said, “Grace likes to hide all her power and beauty in the dark” and that she was grateful this award gave her the confidence to talk about her work.

We had the opportunity to talk with other student award winners in the shows, who shared these reflections about their works:

“I had a vision and just went for it. It took me about three or four months to create the piece. The wiring took me four hours.” Virginia Dragoslavic, NSU University School, Davie, Florida, on her ceramic vase.

“My friend had a hard childhood. The bottom [of my drawing and illustration] represents her broken past filled with depression and darkness. As you move up, the piece starts to lighten. It is the representation that she could finally see her beauty.” Edward Bustos, Langham Creek High School, Houston, Texas

“My [writing portfolio] was heavily influenced by my environment. It is about race, identity, and who you are and who you have become.” Zainab Adisa, Pittsburgh CAPA School, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

“My [editorial cartoon “A”] was inspired from a prompt from a literary arts magazine looking for pieces about what holds people back. I thought about stress from pressures of homework, grades, college applications, and student life. ” Evie Polen, Gaston Day School, Gastonia, North Carolina

Evie Polen won a Gold Medal for her editorial cartoon, “A,” portraying the stress of high school.

“My [drawing and illustration] is based on a Scottish proverb, “You can’t keep the birds of sadness from flying above your head but you can keep them from nesting in your hair.” Allison Maeker, Klein Oak High School, Spring, Texas

The national show will remain at the Department through July 2018, and the Harris County exhibit will remain through October 2017.

Franklin Nwora, Kipp Academy Middle School in Harris County, with his winning digital art piece, “Heaven’s Rain,” pictured on the right.

 

Morgan Bassford is an intern from American University in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.

Chareese Ross is a student art exhibit program associate and editor in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.

Photo at the top: 2017 Scholastic winners cut the ribbon to formally open their exhibit.

You can view additional photos from the event here. All photos are by U.S. Department of Education photographer Leslie Williams.

 

The Department’s Student Art Exhibit Program provides students and teachers an opportunity to display creative work from the classroom in a highly public space that honors their work as an effective path to learning and knowledge for all. To visit the exhibits or for information about exhibiting, contact Jackye Zimmermann at Jacquelyn.zimmermann@ed.gov or visit https://www.ed.gov/student-art-exhibit

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Categories: Higher Education News

Understanding Teachers Make “All the Difference” for a High School Student with Dyslexia

October 4, 2017 - 1:00pm

Note: October is Learning Disabilities/Dyslexia/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Awareness Month.

A teacher can make the difference between a good day and a bad one.

Actually, they can make or break a child’s entire school year by understanding what accommodations in a 504 Plan or an individualized education program (IEP) can do to help a person like me who works every day to overcome the impact of dyslexia, dysgraphia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

I think I am lucky to have been surrounded by teachers who worked hard to make sure I was able to be as successful as my peers.

I have had a 504 Plan since the fourth grade. It’s supported me through elementary school, middle school and now into high school.

At the beginning of the year, I introduce myself and my accommodations through email. I think it’s important for my teachers to know why I benefit from something that most of the other kids in my class don’t use. The game changers for me include:

  1. Extra time
    Dyslexia makes me read slowly and work hard to decode words. This means that it takes me more time to take tests. Knowing that I can work hard and answer the questions correctly at my own pace is very helpful for me. I would like to be able to show my teacher what I know.
  2. Read on demand
    Reading and spelling are harder for me than my classmates. I can decode almost any word after my remediation; it just takes me some time to do it if it’s a harder word. If I am really stuck, I would like to ask for help to have the word or phrase read to me. It makes me way more comfortable in class to know that if I get stuck, my teacher will know that I really need the help.
  3. Small group testing
    It helps to be on my own or in a smaller group. If I am taking a test with the class I might get to the third question and someone next to me is finished with the test because they can read it faster. I’d like to be able to focus on the content and do my best.
  4. Technology
    I use my iPad to ear read (text to speech) everything I can. Eye reading is tiring for me. Sometimes, I use an app to change a handout to a readable PDF and then ear read it, if I need to. Normally, I just eye read the handouts. My iPad also has an app that will let me record the classroom lecture, if I need it. I don’t access the curriculum exactly like my peers, but the system in place right now works really well for me.
  5. Teacher notes
    I am dysgraphic, too. That means it is hard for me to put my thoughts onto paper, quickly. I learn best by listening to the teacher first and then practicing what I have learned. It is very hard for me to listen and copy things from the board or write things down as the teacher is talking. I take notes, but I miss a lot. The teacher’s notes help me make sure that I don’t miss anything when I am studying.
  6. Advanced notice when called on to read in class
    This accommodation makes me feel comfortable in class. It feels terrible if I think I might be called on to read out loud without knowing what I am going to read. If my teacher wants me to read something, they’ll just tell me the night before and I will practice first. I am a good reader now, but I still get nervous when I have to read out loud. Messing up on a word like ‘began’ feels really bad in a classroom full of my classmates. That’s what dyslexia will do to me.

With the help of my parents, my teachers and my accommodations, I’ve created a successful learning environment for myself. Because I need to work very hard to achieve the academic success I’ve had, I don’t take anything for granted. I appreciate my teachers who have made an effort to understand me and my accommodations.

Teachers really do make all the difference!

 

Carter Grace Duncan is a freshman in a Northern Virginia public high school. She is a youth advocate for Decoding Dyslexia Virginia who enjoys sharing her knowledge with students with disabilities about how accommodations in school can help create a pathway to academic success.

(Cross-posted at the OSERS blog.)

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Categories: Higher Education News

12 Myths About the FAFSA® Form and Applying for Financial Aid

October 2, 2017 - 8:00am

There’s so much information available about financial aid for college or career school that it can be hard to tell the facts from fiction. We’ve got you covered! Here are some common myths—and the real scoop—about financial aid and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form.

MYTH 1: My parents make too much money, so I won’t qualify for any aid.

FACT: The reality is there’s no income cut-off to qualify for federal student aid. It doesn’t matter if you have a low or high income; most people qualify for some type of financial aid, including low-interest federal student loans. Many factors besides income—such as your family size and your year in school—are taken into account.

TIP: When you fill out the FAFSA form, you’re also automatically applying for funds from your state, and possibly from your school as well. In fact, some schools won’t even consider you for any of their scholarships (including academic scholarships) until you’ve submitted a FAFSA form. Don’t make assumptions about what you’ll get—fill out the application and find out!

MYTH 2: The 2018–19 FAFSA® form launches on Jan. 1.

FACT: The 2018–19 FAFSA form launched on Oct. 1. You should submit a FAFSA form as early as possible because some states and schools have limited funds.

MYTH 3: I should use my 2017 tax information to fill out the 2018–19 FAFSA® form.

FACT: You must use your 2016 tax information to complete the 2018–19 FAFSA form. (The requirements changed last year.) It doesn’t matter if you or your parents haven’t filed 2017 taxes yet, because the 2018–19 FAFSA form doesn’t need that information. You won’t have to update your FAFSA form after filing 2017 taxes either, because 2016 information is what’s required. If your financial situation has changed since 2016, complete the 2018–19 FAFSA form using the tax information it requires (2016), and then contact your school’s financial aid office to discuss the change in your situation. They can make updates to your FAFSA information if warranted.

MYTH 4: I support myself, so I don’t have to include my parent’s info on the FAFSA® form.

FACT: This is not necessarily true. Even if you support yourself, live on your own, or file your own taxes, you may still be considered a dependent student for FAFSA purposes. The FAFSA form asks a series of questions to determine your dependency status. If you’re independent, you won’t need to include your parents’ information on your FAFSA form. But if you’re dependent, you must provide your parents’ information.

If you’re a dependent student, find out who is considered your parent for FAFSA purposes. (It’s not as obvious as you might think.)

MYTH 5: I should wait until I’m accepted to a college before I fill out the FAFSA® form.

FACT: Don’t wait. You can start now! As a matter of fact, you can start as early as your senior year of high school. You must list at least one college to receive your information. You SHOULD list all schools you’re considering even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet. It doesn’t hurt your application to add more schools; colleges can’t see the other schools you’ve added. In fact, you don’t even have to remove schools if you later decide not to apply or attend. If you don’t end up applying or getting accepted to a school, the school can just disregard your FAFSA form.

You can add up to 10 schools at a time. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, here’s what you should do. If you want to add another school after you submit your FAFSA form, you can log in at fafsa.gov and submit a correction.

The schools you list will use your FAFSA information to determine the types and amounts of aid you may receive.

MYTH 6: If I didn’t receive enough money for school. I’m just out of luck.

FACT: You still have options! If you’ve received federal, state, and college aid but still find yourself having to fill the gap between what your financial aid covers and what you owe your school, check out these 7 options.

MYTH 7: I should call “the FAFSA® people” (Federal Student Aid) to find out how much financial aid money I’m getting and when.

FACT: No, you’ll have to contact your school. Federal Student Aid does not award or disburse your aid, so we won’t be able to tell you what you’ll get or when you’ll get it. You will have to contact the financial aid office at your school to find out the status of your aid and when you should expect it. Just keep in mind that each school has a different timeline for awarding financial aid.

MYTH 8: There’s only one FAFSA® deadline and that’s not until June.

FACT: Nope! There are at least three deadlines you need to check: your state, school, and federal deadlines. You can find the state and federal deadlines at fafsa.gov. You’ll need to check your school’s website for their FAFSA deadline. If you’re applying to multiple schools, make sure to check all of their deadlines and apply by the earliest one. Also, if you’re applying to any scholarships that require the FAFSA form, they might have a different deadline as well! Even if your deadlines aren’t for a while, we recommend you fill out the FAFSA form as soon as possible to make sure you don’t miss out on any aid.

MYTH 9: I only have fill out the FAFSA® form once.

FACT: You have to fill out the FAFSA form every year you’re in school in order to stay eligible for federal student aid.

MYTH 10: I can share an FSA ID with my parent(s).

FACT: Nope, if you’re a dependent student, then two people will need their own FSA ID to sign your FAFSA form online:

  1. You (the student)
  2. One of your parents

An FSA ID is a username and password that you use to log in to certain U.S. Department of Education (ED) websites. Your FSA ID identifies you as someone who has the right to access your own personal information on ED websites such as fafsa.gov.

If you’re a dependent student, your parent will need his or her own FSA ID to sign your FAFSA form electronically. If your parent has more than one child attending college, he or she can use the same FSA ID to sign all applications. You’ll need a unique email address for each FSA ID.

Your FSA ID is used to sign legally binding documents electronically. It has the same legal status as a written signature. Don’t give your FSA ID to anyone—not even to someone helping you fill out the FAFSA form. Sharing your FSA ID could put you at risk of identity theft and could cause delays in the FAFSA process!

MYTH 11: Only students with good grades get financial aid.

FACT: While a high grade point average will help you get into a good school and may help with academic scholarships, most federal student aid programs do not take grades into consideration when you first apply. Keep in mind that if you want to continue receiving aid throughout your college career, you will have to maintain satisfactory academic progress as determined by your school.

MYTH 12: It costs money to submit the FAFSA® form.

FACT: Absolutely not! You NEVER have to pay to complete the FAFSA form when you go to fafsa.gov. If you’re paying a fee, you’re not on the official government website.

So what’s next?

Go to fafsa.gov and fill out the application. If you applied for admission to a college or career school and have been accepted, and you listed that school on your FAFSA form, the school will calculate your aid and will send you an electronic or paper financial aid offer telling you how much aid you’re eligible for at the school.

 

Mia Johnson is a Management & Program Analyst at the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

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Categories: Higher Education News

How to Fill Out the FAFSA When You Have More Than One Child in College

September 29, 2017 - 8:00am

Having one child who is heading to college can be stressful, but having to help multiple children at the same time can feel like too much to manage. While I can’t save you from a forgotten application deadline or the “how to do your own laundry” lessons, hopefully, I can help make the financial aid part of the process run more smoothly with these tips:

How many FSA IDs will my children and I need? How many FAFSAs do we have to complete?

An FSA ID is a username and password combination that serves as your legal electronic signature throughout the financial aid process—from the first time your children fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid ( FAFSA®) form until the time their loans are paid off. You AND each of your children will need your own FSA ID. Parents and students can create their FSA IDs here.

Note: Your FSA ID is associated with your Social Security number and is equivalent to your legal signature; therefore, each person can only have one FSA ID. If you are a parent, you will use the same FSA ID to sign each of your children’s FAFSA forms.

Each student and one parent need an FSA ID and each of your children will need to fill out a FAFSA. Your children will need to provide your (parent) information on their 2018–19 FAFSA forms unless they are going to graduate school, were born before January 1, 1995, or can answer “yes” to any of these questions.

Example: You have three children who are going to or who are in college. You’ll need four FSA IDs—one for you as the parent (only one parent needs an FSA ID) and one for each child. You’ll need to fill out three FAFSA forms, one for each child.

Can I transfer my information from one child’s FAFSA form to another so I don’t have to re-enter it?

Yes! Once your first child’s FAFSA form is complete, you’ll get to a confirmation page. On the confirmation page, you’ll see a hyperlink that says, “transfer your parents’ information into a new FAFSA.” Make sure you have your pop-up blocker turned off and click that link.

TIP: If you want the process to go as smoothly as possible, your second child should have his/her FSA ID handy so you’re ready for the next step.

 

You’ll then see the alert below confirming that you want to transfer your information to another FAFSA.

 

Once you click “OK,” a new window will open allowing your other child to start his or her FAFSA form. We recommend that your child starts the FAFSA form by entering his or her FSA ID (not your FSA ID) using the option on the left in the image below. However, if you are starting your child’s FAFSA form, choose the option on the right and enter your child’s information.

IMPORTANT:  Regardless of who starts the application from this screen, the FAFSA form remains the student’s application; so when the FAFSA form says “you” it means the student. If the FAFSA form is asking for parent information, it will specify that. When in doubt, refer to the left side of the screen. It will indicate whether you’re on a student page (blue) or a parent page (purple).

 

After you select the FAFSA form you’d like to complete and create a save key, you’ll be brought to the introduction page, which will indicate that parental data was copied into your second child’s FAFSA form.

Once you reach the parent information page, you will see your information pre-populated. Verify this info, proceed to sign and submit the FAFSA form, and you’re done!

NOTE: If you have a third (or fourth, fifth, etc.) child who needs to fill out the FAFSA form and provide your information, repeat this process until you’ve finished all your children’s FAFSA forms.

I have education savings accounts (529 plan, etc.) for my children. How do I report those on the FAFSA form?

You report the value of all education savings accounts owned by you, your child, or any other dependent children in your household as a parent investment. (Read “What is the net worth of your parents’ investments?” for more information.) If you have education savings accounts for multiple children, you must report the combined current value of those accounts, even if some of those children are not in college yet or are not completing a FAFSA form.

Example: Child 1 and 2 are filling out the FAFSA. Child 3 is in 8th grade. They each have 529 college savings plan accounts in their names.

  • Child 1 account balance: $20,000
  • Child 2 account balance: $13,000
  • Child 3 account balance: $8,000

You would add $41,000 to any other parent investments you’re required to report and input it when asked, “What is the net worth of your parents’ investments?” on each of your children’s FAFSAs.

How does having more than one child in college impact the amount of financial aid my children qualify for?

Having multiple children enrolled in college at the same time could have an impact on your children’s eligibility for need-based federal financial aid.

TIP: We often hear about families who choose not to fill out the FAFSA form again because they believe that they won’t qualify for grants or scholarships, especially if they did not qualify the previous year. This is a huge mistake, especially if you will have additional children entering college. Read on to learn why.

Schools use the following formula to determine a student’s eligibility for need-based financial aid:

Cost of attendance (COA) – Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = financial need

Let’s break down this formula:

Cost of attendance: This will vary by school, so if you have two children attending different schools with different costs, their financial need may be different, even if their EFC is the same.

Expected Family Contribution: The information you provide on the FAFSA form is used to calculate your child’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is a combination of how much a parent and student are expected to contribute towards the student’s cost to attend college. The EFC is not necessarily the amount of money your family will have to pay for college, nor is it the amount of federal student aid you will receive. It is a number used by your child’s school to calculate how much financial aid he or she is eligible to receive. Since we recognize that a parent’s annual ability to pay doesn’t change as you have more children enroll in college, we divide the expected parent contribution portion by the number of children you expect to have in college.

Example: Let’s assume that all of your dependent children have identical financial information and that the calculated EFC assuming one child in college would be $10,000. Here’s how each child’s EFC would change depending on the number of family members attending college full-time.

Number of dependent children in college full-time Each child’s EFC 1 $10,000 2 $5,000 3 $3,333 4 $2,500

Financial need: Please note that schools differ (sometimes greatly) in their ability to meet each student’s financial need. To compare average school costs schools based on family income, visit the CollegeScorecard.ed.gov.

Nicole Callahan is a Digital Engagement Strategist at the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

Photo by Getty Images

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The post How to Fill Out the FAFSA When You Have More Than One Child in College appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

Lifelong Learning: A Roadway to Success

September 28, 2017 - 12:54pm

Photo credit: Heidi Markley Photography

National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week (September 24-30, 2017) is a big opportunity to come together as a field to celebrate adult education and to raise awareness of the 36 million adult learners across the nation who are in need of assistance.

Of the 36 million adult learners, the U.S. Department of Education’s Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA) program, enacted as Title II of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), serves 1.5 million adults each year under. WIOA is the primary federal program that provides foundation skills to those who are below the postsecondary level and English literacy instruction for out of-school youth and adults over the age of 16.

Education is and continues to be the pathway to success. The Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) supports programs through WIOA funding that assist adult students in acquiring the skills and knowledge necessary to become productive workers, parents and citizens—and that help them transition to postsecondary education and lifelong learning and training.

Among its many efforts, OCTAE has long participated in visits to programs across the country that exemplify the work of programs that support the diverse needs of adult learners.

Highlighted here are two students whose stories represent both their successes and those of programs that supported them.

Paul “Reggie” Bryant (Photo credit: Heidi Markley Photography)

Paul “Reggie” Bryant, age 68, shown at left and with his diploma at the top of this post, attended the Academy of Hope Adult Public Charter School (AoH), and recently gave the keynote address at his graduation, in which he recognized his peers and their accomplishments. In his address, Reggie shared with the audience that he had spent most of his life just miles away from the Academy of Hope but “the journey to graduation was a long one.” Like many adult learners, Reggie has exceeded the age of a typical high school graduate. But his story—which includes serious battles with addiction, brief periods of incarceration, and a misdiagnosed learning disorder—are not unfamiliar to the teachers supporting these students’ efforts and the students enrolled in the Academy, many of whom share similar journeys and accomplishments.

When Tiffanie, age 62, who graduated from the Goodwill Excel Center, was a senior in high school she experienced a family tragedy leading her to isolating herself from her regular life routines. She left high school and began working. She struggled to subsist, living paycheck to paycheck. Now a mother, Tiffanie has emphasized the value of an education to her daughter—and returned to school. She shared the following: “I wanted to provide more for her and I knew education was the path for that.”  She has since graduated from the Goodwill Excel Center and is now attending the University of the District of Columbia, studying Early Childhood Development—with the goal of becoming a teacher.

As these two student stories exemplify, the work of programs across the nation are making a profound difference in the lives of adult learners. These learners are able to be more solvent financially and to care for their families, be more actively engaged in their communities and as citizens, and are better able to continue to sustain their competitiveness and employability in a changing marketplace. Unfortunately their successes are the exception since one in six adults in the U.S. lacks basic reading skills and cannot read a job application, understand basic written instructions, or navigate the Internet.

Tiffanie’s decisions and her accomplishments will continue to affect her daughter. Large-scale international and national surveys of student achievement reveal that children with parents who have lower levels of educational attainment tend to have fewer socioeconomic advantages and score lower on academic assessments and those whose parents have higher levels of educational attainment often have greater socioeconomic advantages and score higher on academic assessments. Non-traditional students, like Tiffanie and Reggie, serve as powerful role models and exemplars for the power of lifelong learning.

As these two adult students’ stories suggest, individuals have a diverse range of opportunities available to them in which they can explore leaning opportunities, whether it is through the completion of a degree or via libraries, online courses, such as massive open online courses (MOOC), professional development programs, podcasts and other types of learning options.

In sum: “[E]ducation is life—not merely preparation for an unknown kind of future living… The whole of life is learning, therefore education can have no endings. This new venture is called adult education not because it is confined to adults but because adulthood, maturity, defines its limits…” (Lindeman The Meaning of Adult Education. 1926: 4-5).

Are you a lifelong learner with a story to share? OCTAE would appreciate hearing from you, and possibly featuring your story in a future blog post.

Joseph Perez is a Management and Program Analyst in the Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education.

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Categories: Higher Education News

5 Things to Do After Filing Your FAFSA® Form

September 28, 2017 - 8:00am

Congratulations! You submitted your 2018–19 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form! Wondering what happens next? Here are a few things to look out for:

1. Review Your FAFSA® Confirmation Page

After you complete the FAFSA form online and click “SUBMIT,” you’ll see a confirmation page like the one below. This is not your financial aid offer. You’ll get that separately from the school(s) you apply to and get into. Your school(s) calculate your aid.

The confirmation page provides federal aid estimates based on the information you provided on your FAFSA form. It’s important to know that these figures are truly estimates and assume the information you provided on the FAFSA form is correct. To calculate the actual amount of aid you’re eligible for, your school will take into account other factors, such as the cost to attend the school. Additionally, these estimates only take into account federal aid and not outside scholarships or state and institutional financial assistance you may also be eligible for.

TIP: Each school you are accepted to and include on your FAFSA form will send you a financial aid offer. Until you receive this notification, it may be difficult to know exactly how much aid you might be eligible to receive from a specific school. To get an idea of how much aid schools tend to give depending on your family’s income, visit CollegeScorecard.ed.gov and type in the school(s) you want to look up.

2. Review Your Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

The information you report on your FAFSA form is used to calculate your EFC. It’s very important to note that the EFC, in most cases, is not the amount of money your family will have to pay for college.  Instead, the EFC is an index number used by financial aid offices to calculate your financial need. The formula they use is:

    Cost of attendance
 Expected family contribution
    Your financial “need”

Each school will do its best to meet your financial need. Some schools may meet 100% of your financial need, and other schools may only meet 10%—it just depends on the school and the financial aid they have available that year. You should complete the FAFSA form annually because there are many factors that can change from year to year.

NOTE: Contrary to popular belief, the EFC formula considers more than just income. Factors such as dependency status, family size, and the number of family members who will attend college are just a few of the additional factors considered. 3. Apply For as Many Scholarships as You Can

As I mentioned previously, many schools won’t be able to meet your full financial need, so you’ll need a way to pay the difference between the financial aid your school offers and what the school costs. Scholarships are a great way to fill the gap. (Who doesn’t like free money?)

But don’t wait until after you receive your financial aid offer to start applying for scholarships. There are thousands of scholarships out there, but many have early deadlines. Set a goal for yourself; for example, maybe you aim to apply to one scholarship per week. There’s tons of free money, but you can’t get it unless you apply. Make scholarship applications your focus while you wait for your financial aid offer. The applications may take some time, but the possible pay out makes it all worth it.

If you still don’t have enough money to pay for school after financial aid and scholarships, consider these options.

4. Be On the Lookout for Your Aid Offer(s)

The 2018–19 FAFSA form is available on Oct. 1, 2017. Even if you submit it early, that doesn’t mean you’ll get an aid offer right away. Each school has a different schedule for awarding and paying out financial aid.

Remember that your school disburses your aid, not the “FAFSA people” (Federal Student Aid). Contact your school’s financial aid office for details about when they send out aid offers. If you want to see an estimate of your school’s average annual cost, use the College Scorecard. If you want to report significant changes in your family or financial situation, contact your school’s financial aid office.

TIP: After your FAFSA form has been processed successfully, it’s a good idea to make sure the schools you listed on your FAFSA form have received everything they need. You should find out if your school requires additional applications or documentation and submit any required documentation by the appropriate deadlines. 5. Make FAFSA® Corrections If You Need To

Lastly, after your FAFSA form has been processed (which takes about 3 days), you can go back and submit a correction to certain fields. This includes correcting a typo or adding another school to receive your FAFSA information. Log in with your FSA ID, and then click “Make FAFSA Corrections.” You can add up to 10 schools at a time. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, follow these steps.

NOTE: Parents of dependent students cannot initiate a FAFSA correction. Students have to begin the correction process by logging in with their FSA ID, clicking “Make FAFSA Corrections,” and creating a Save Key they can share with their parent.

Sandra Vuong is a Digital Engagement Strategist at Federal Student Aid.

Photo by Andrew Jones, Department of Education.

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The post 5 Things to Do After Filing Your FAFSA® Form appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

The Parent’s Guide to Filling Out the FAFSA® Form

September 27, 2017 - 8:00am

While the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form is the student’s application, we know that parents often play a large role in the process. After all, students who are considered dependent have to provide parental information on the FAFSA form anyway and must have a parent sign it. While we recommend that the student start his or her own FAFSA form, we know that’s not always what happens. With that in mind, we wanted to provide instructions for parents who are starting the FAFSA form on behalf of their child so you can avoid running into issues completing the form.

If you are a parent completing the FAFSA form for your child, follow these steps:

1. Create an account (FSA ID).

An FSA ID is a username and password you use on Federal Student Aid websites such as fafsa.gov and StudentLoans.gov. If your child is considered a dependent student, two unique FSA IDs are needed to complete the FAFSA form online:

  1. Parent’s FSA ID
  2. Student’s FSA ID

We recommend that you and your child register for FSA IDs ahead of time, so you don’t experience delays later in the process.

IMPORTANT: Your child must create his or her own FSA ID. You cannot create an FSA ID for your child.Also, when you register, you’ll be asked to provide an email address and mobile phone number. This is optional, but highly recommended. These two items must be unique to each account. In other words, your email address and mobile phone number cannot be associated with more than one FSA ID.

You and your child should create your FSA IDs now at StudentAid.gov/fsaid.

Your FSA ID serves as your legal electronic signature throughout the federal student aid process. Do not share your FSA ID with anyone, not even your child. Your child should also not share his or her FSA ID with you. Keep your FSA ID information in a safe place. You’ll need it to renew your FAFSA form each year and to access federal student aid information online.

2. Start the FAFSA® form at fafsa.gov.
  1. Go to fafsa.gov and click “Start A New FAFSA.”
  2. Once on the log-in page, you will see two options. If you are starting the FAFSA form on behalf of your child, choose the option on the right, “Enter the student’s information.” Do not choose the option on the left, “Enter your (the student’s) FSA ID.”
  3.  

  4. Enter your child’s name, Social Security number, and date of birth. Then, click next.
  5. Choose which FAFSA form you’d like to complete.
    2018–19 FAFSA form if your child will be attending college between July 1, 2018, and June 30, 2019.
    2017–18 FAFSA form if your child will be attending college between July 1, 2017, and June 30, 2018.
    Both: If your child will be attending college during both time periods and hasn’t completed the 2017–18 FAFSA form yet, complete that first, wait until it processes (one to three days), then go back in and complete the 2018–19 FAFSA form after.

    Were you given the option to submit a FAFSA® Renewal? If your child is present, you should choose this option. If you do, a lot of the demographic information required will be pre-populated. Your child must be present because he or she will need to enter the student’s FSA ID to continue. If your child is not present, you should “Start A New FAFSA.”
  6. Create a save key. A save key is a temporary password that allows you and your child to “pass” the FAFSA form back and forth. It also allows you to save your child’s FAFSA form and return to it later. Once you create a save key, share it with your child. He or she will need it to complete later steps.

IMPORTANT: The FAFSA® form is the student’s application, not yours. When the FAFSA form says “you” or “your,” it’s referring to the student. Pay attention to whether you’re being asked for student or parent information. When in doubt, the banner on the left side will indicate whether you’re on a student (blue) page or parent (purple) page.

3. Fill out the Student Demographics section.

Here’s where you’ll enter basic demographic information about your child, such as name, date of birth, etc. If you chose the FAFSA renewal option in step two, a lot of his or her personal information will be pre-populated to save you time. Make sure you enter your child’s personal information exactly as it appears on his or her Social Security card so you don’t encounter any errors. (That’s right, no nicknames.)

4. List the schools to which you want your FAFSA® information sent.

In the School Selection section, you’ll add all the schools you want to receive your child’s information. It is important that you add every school your child is considering, even if he or she hasn’t applied or been accepted yet. It doesn’t hurt to add more schools; colleges can’t see the other schools that have been added. In fact, you don’t even have to remove schools if your child later decides not to apply or attend. If your child doesn’t end up applying or getting accepted to a school, the school can just disregard his or her FAFSA form. You can remove schools at any time to make room for new schools. You can add up to 10 schools at a time. If your child is applying to more than 10 schools, here’s what you should do.

5. Answer the dependency status questions.

In this section, you’ll be asked a series of specific questions to determine whether or not your child is required to provide your (parent) information on the FAFSA form.

  • These dependency guidelines are set by Congress and are different from those used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
  • Even if your child doesn’t live with you, supports him or herself, and files taxes separately from you, he or she may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes.
  • If your child is determined to be a dependent student, he or she will be required to report information about you. If your child is determined to be an independent student, you can skip step six.
6. Fill out the Parent Demographics section.

This is where you’ll provide your own demographic information.

Are you divorced? Remarried? Here’s a guide to determining which parent’s information needs to be included on your child’s FAFSA form:

For specific guidance, visit the “Reporting Parent Information” page on StudentAid.gov.

________________________________________

7. Supply your financial information.

In this section, you’ll first be asked to provide parent financial information. This step is incredibly simple if you use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT), which will return with the 2018–19 FAFSA form on Oct. 1, 2017, with additional security and privacy protections added. The IRS DRT allows you to import your IRS tax information into the FAFSA form with just a few clicks. Using this tool also may reduce the amount of paperwork you need to provide to your child’s school. So if you’re eligible, use it!

To access the tool, indicate that you’ve “already completed” taxes on the parent finances page. If you’re eligible, you’ll see an option to “Link to IRS.” Choose that option and follow the prompts.

NOTE: Beginning with the 2018–19 FAFSA® form, the information transferred from the IRS will no longer be displayed, but you will get a confirmation message letting you know that the transfer was successful. You’ll also know which items have been transferred from the IRS because you’ll see “Transferred from the IRS” in place of the answer fields. You’ll still need to answer all other required questions.

Next, you’ll likely be asked to provide your child’s financial information.

  • If your child filed taxes, the easiest way to complete this section is to use the IRS DRT. Your child would need to be present because he or she needs to provide his or her FSA ID to use the tool. If your child is not present, save and exit the application and instruct your child to log in with his or her FSA ID, retrieve the FAFSA form using the save key, and then use the IRS DRT to complete the FAFSA form and sign it.
  • If your child did not file taxes, you can enter his or her financial information manually (if you have access to the required information). If you don’t have access to the information, save and exit the application and instruct your child to log in with his or her FSA ID, retrieve the FAFSA form using the save key, complete the FAFSA form, and sign it.

NOTE: If you need to save and exit your dependent child’s FAFSA form so he or she can complete the remaining information, you’ll need to log back in and sign your child’s FAFSA form before your child can submit it.

8. Sign your child’s FAFSA® form.

You’re not finished with the FAFSA form until you and your child sign it. The quickest and easiest way to sign your child’s FAFSA form is online with your FSA ID. If your child is not present, after you sign your child’s FAFSA form with your FSA ID, save and exit the application and instruct your child to log into fafsa.gov to sign and submit his or her FAFSA form.

Sign and Submit Tips:

  • If you or your child forgot your FSA ID, you can retrieve it.
  • Make sure you and your child don’t mix up your FSA IDs. This is one of the most common errors we see, and why it’s extremely important for each person to create his/her own FSA ID and not share it with anyone.
  • Make sure the parent who is using his/her FSA ID to sign the FAFSA form chooses the right parent number from the drop-down menu. If you don’t remember whether you were listed as Parent 1 or Parent 2, you can go back to the parent demographics section to check.
  • If you get an error saying that your FSA ID information doesn’t match the information provided on the FAFSA form, here’s what you should do. Note: This is often the result of mixing up the student and parent FSA ID.
  • We recommend signing the FAFSA form with an FSA ID because it’s the fastest way to get your child’s FAFSA form processed. However, if you and/or your child are unable to sign the FAFSA form electronically with an FSA ID, you can mail in a signature page. From the sign and submit page, select “Other options to sign and submit” and then choose “Print A Signature Page.” Just keep in mind that your child’s FAFSA form will take longer to process if you go this route.
  • If you have multiple children who need to complete the FAFSA form, you can use the same FSA ID to sign FAFSA forms for all of your children. You can also transfer your information into your other children’s applications by choosing the option provided on the FAFSA confirmation page.

 

 

________________________________________

You’re finished. What’s next?

Congrats on finishing! Your child is one step closer to getting money for college. With the hard part over, learn what your child should do next after submitting the FAFSA form.

 

Nicole Callahan is a Digital Engagement Strategist at the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

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The post The Parent’s Guide to Filling Out the FAFSA® Form appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

8 Steps to Filling Out the FAFSA® Form

September 26, 2017 - 8:00am

Need to fill out the 2018–19 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form but don’t know where to start? I’m here to help. Let’s walk through the process step by step.

TIP: Ready to fill out the FAFSA form? Make sure you avoid these 12 common FAFSA mistakes.

1. Create an account (FSA ID).
  • Student: An FSA ID is a username and password you need to sign the FAFSA form online. If you don’t have an FSA ID, get an FSA ID here ASAP. It takes about 10 minutes to create an FSA ID. If this will be your first time filling out the FAFSA form, you’ll be able to use your FSA ID right away to sign and submit your FAFSA form online. If this is not your first time filling out the FAFSA form, you may need to wait one to three days for the account verification process before you can use your new FSA ID to renew your FAFSA form and sign it online.

IMPORTANT: Some of the most common FAFSA errors occur when the student and parent mix up their FSA IDs. If you don’t want your financial aid to be delayed, it’s extremely important that each parent and each student create his or her own FSA ID and that they do not share it with ANYONE, even each other.

2. Start the FAFSA® form at fafsa.gov.

The 2018–19 FAFSA form will be available Oct. 1, 2017! Even if your state and school deadlines aren’t for a while, you should complete the FAFSA form as soon as possible because some states and schools run out of financial aid early and have limited funds for financial aid. Don’t wait until the last minute to apply!

Go to fafsa.gov or click on the button below to get started.

TIP: We recommend that the student start the FAFSA form using the instructions below. It makes the application process much easier.

  • If you are the student: Click “Enter your (the student’s) FSA ID.” Then enter your FSA ID username and password, and click “Next.”
  • If you are the parent: Click “Enter the student’s information.” Then provide the student’s name, Social Security number, and date of birth, and click “Next.”

 

Choose which FAFSA form you’d like to complete:

  • 2018–19 FAFSA form if you will be attending college between July 1, 2018, and June 30, 2019.
  • 2017–18 FAFSA form if you will be attending college between July 1, 2017, and June 30, 2018.
  • Both: If you will be attending college during both time periods and haven’t completed your 2017–18 FAFSA form yet, complete that first, wait one to three days until it processes , then go back in and complete the 2018–19 FAFSA form.

TIP: If you are given the option to complete a “renewal” FAFSA form, choose that option. When you choose to renew your FAFSA form, your demographic information from the previous year will roll over into your new application, saving you some time.

Remember, the FAFSA form is not a onetime thing. You must complete a FAFSA form for each school year.

Create a save key.

  • Unlike the FSA ID, the save key is meant to be shared. A save key is a temporary password that allows you and your parent(s) to “pass” the FAFSA form back and forth. It also allows you to save the FAFSA form and return to it later. This is especially helpful if you and your parent are not in the same place.
3. Fill out the Student Demographics section.

This is information such as your name, date of birth, etc. If you have completed the FAFSA form in the past or if you log into the FAFSA form with your FSA ID, a lot of your personal information will be prepopulated to save you time. Make sure you enter your personal information exactly as it appears on your Social Security card. (That’s right, no nicknames.)

Parents: Remember that the FAFSA form is the student’s application, not yours. When the FAFSA form says “you” or “your,” it’s referring to the student. Pay attention to whether you’re being asked for student or parent information. When in doubt, the banner on the left side will indicate whether you’re on a student or parent page.

 

4. List the schools to which you want your FAFSA® information sent.

In the School Selection section, add every school you’re considering, even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet. It doesn’t hurt your application to add more schools; colleges can’t see the other schools you’ve added. In fact, you don’t even have to remove schools if you later decide not to apply or attend. If you don’t end up applying or getting accepted to a school, the school can just disregard your FAFSA form. But, you can remove schools at any time to make room for new schools. You can add up to 10 schools at a time. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, here’s what you should do.

5. Answer the dependency status questions.

In the dependency status section, you’ll be asked a series of specific questions to determine whether you are required to provide parent information on the FAFSA form.

The dependency guidelines are set by Congress and are different from those used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Even if you live on your own, support yourself, and file taxes on your own, you may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes. If you are determined to be a dependent student, you’ll be required to report information about your parent(s). If you’re determined to be an independent student, you won’t have to provide parent information and you can skip the next step.

6. Fill out the Parent Demographics section.

This is where your parent(s) will provide basic demographic information. Remember that it doesn’t matter if you don’t live with your parent(s); you still must report information about them if you were determined to be a dependent student in the step above.

Start by figuring out who counts as your parent on the FAFSA form.

Read specific guidance about reporting your parents’ information as a dependent student. Learn what to do if you are not able to provide parent info due to special circumstances.

7. Supply your financial information.

Here is where you and your parent(s) (if applicable) will provide your financial information. This step is incredibly simple if you use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT), which will return with the 2018–19 FAFSA form on Oct. 1, 2017, with additional security and privacy protections added. The IRS DRT allows you to import your IRS tax information into the FAFSA form with just a few clicks. Using this tool also may reduce the amount of paperwork you need to provide to your school. So if you’re eligible, use it!

To access the tool, indicate that you’ve “already completed” taxes on the student or parent finances page. If you’re eligible, you’ll see a “LINK TO IRS” button. Choose that option and follow the prompts.

 

Note: Beginning with the 2018–19 FAFSA form, the information transferred from the IRS will no longer be displayed, but you will get a confirmation message letting you know that the transfer was successful. You’ll also know which items have been transferred from the IRS because you’ll see “Transferred from the IRS” in place of the answer fields. Please make sure to answer all other questions.

8. Sign and submit your FAFSA form.

You’re not finished with the FAFSA form until you (and your parent, if you’re a dependent student) sign it. The quickest and easiest way to sign your FAFSA form is online with your FSA ID.

Note: If you (the student) logged in to the FAFSA form with your FSA ID, you won’t need to provide it again on this page, but if you’re a dependent student, your parent will still need to sign before you can completely submit.

Sign and Submit Tips:

  • If you or your parent forgot your FSA ID, you can retrieve the FSA ID.
  • Make sure you and your parent don’t mix up your FSA IDs. This is one of the most common errors we see, and why it’s extremely important for each person to create his or her own FSA ID and not share it with anyone.
  • Make sure the parent who is using his or her FSA ID to sign the FAFSA form chooses the right parent number from the drop-down menu. If your parent doesn’t remember whether he or she was listed as Parent 1 or Parent 2, he or she can go back to the parent demographics section to check.
  • Here’s what you should do if you get an error saying that your FSA ID information doesn’t match the information provided on the FAFSA form.
  • If you have siblings, your parent can use the same FSA ID to sign FAFSA forms for all of his or her children. Your parent can also transfer his or her information into your sibling’s application by choosing the option provided on the FAFSA confirmation page.
  • We recommend signing the FAFSA form with an FSA ID because it’s the fastest way to get your FAFSA form processed. However, if you and/or your parent are unable to sign the FAFSA form electronically with an FSA ID, you can mail in a signature page. From the sign and submit page, select “Other options to sign and submit” and then choose “Print A Signature Page.” Just keep in mind that your FAFSA form will take longer to process if you go this route.

I’m finished. What’s next?

Congrats on finishing! You’re one step closer to getting money for college. With the hard part over, check out this page to learn what you should do next.

Continue the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

The post 8 Steps to Filling Out the FAFSA® Form appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

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