On the Betsy DeVos Nomination: We Oppose

Education Secretary Nominee Betsy DeVos. Photo: betsydevos.com

Yesterday NCLR sent a letter to Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Chairman Lamar Alexander and Ranking Member Patty Murray opposing the nomination of Betsy DeVos for U.S. Secretary of Education.

One in four children in U.S. schools are Latino, and that number will only rise. It is critical that their needs are addressed by the U.S. Department of Education, but for this to occur, the nominee for secretary of education must be committed to upholding civil rights. However, during her hearing, DeVos was only asked one question about civil rights, related to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and expressed unfamiliarity with the law. Due to the limited questioning, it is uncertain that she would protect the civil rights of minority children.

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ITT Closed Its Doors: What’s Next for Students?

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Photo: Dwight Burdette, Creative Commons

Early this morning, thousands of ITT Technical Institute students across the country received notice that their schools would be closing, effective today. The news comes after several state and federal investigations about ITT’s compliance with accreditation, predatory lending, and fraud.

Over the last two years, ITT Educational Services, Inc. has been under additional scrutiny by the U.S. Department of Education for failing to demonstrate that the institution had the “administrative capacity, organizational integrity, financial viability, and ability to serve students.” With increased oversight and additional requirements to provide funds in the case of a potential closure, ITT decided to shut down all its campuses rather than comply with the government’s requirements.

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The Role of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act in Preparing New Citizens

Labor Day Banner Photo 5_woman airplane maintenance

In 2014, Congress enacted the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to modernize adult education and workforce training. For many years, these two areas had been treated separately in federal policymaking and adults with limited English proficiency were frequently stuck in English classes for years before they could advance to developing any skills. Recognizing this disconnect, WIOA borrowed models from many community groups, including NCLR Affiliates, that combined English as a second language and job training into one program. However, many immigrants want to learn English for reasons other than to find a job, including like becoming a U.S. citizen. Both WIOA and proposed rules from the Department of Education—the agency responsible for regulating adult learning programs—make clear that funding must support workforce outcomes and cannot be used for other adult learning needs.

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Are you ready for the FAFSA?

By Leticia Tomas Bustillos, Associate Director, Education Policy Project, NCLR

It’s that time of year across schools and the countdown has begun. High school seniors have left behind the exciting, panic-inducing college application process and now the wait begins for those eagerly anticipated college letters and, of course, the merriment of the last few months in school. Still others may still be trying to figure things out, not knowing for certain what their path will be post-high school. For everyone, the decided and the undecided alike, I have one question: Have you filled out the FAFSA?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is probably the singular most important document you need to think about today. It will open the doors of higher education by giving you access to federal student aid. For many students across the country, the cost of college is a huge concern. With rising tuition costs combined with everyday expenses, going to college may seem like an impossible dream for students. But it doesn’t have to be. In filling out the FAFSA, students are able to access much-needed aid in the form of grants and loans that will help cover the costs of college.

Unfortunately, too many students leave money on the table. In 2011–12, almost two million students who would have been eligible for a Pell Grant and other state and institutional grants totaling more than $10 billion did not receive aid because they did not complete the FAFSA.

So, let’s begin and get you ready to fill out the FAFSA, change this trend, and get you the aid that will help get you through college.

First, and perhaps the most important: the FAFSA is free. There are no fees involved. Some companies will charge you a “small fee” to help you fill out the form. Stay away from them. Instead, go to a trusted source (teacher, counselor, community center) that will help you navigate the process. The Department of Education has developed many resources and a number of videos that will walk you through the process, which should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.

Second, be prepared. The first thing you will need to do will be to create your FSA ID, which will allow you to access and update the FAFSA as needed. If you are a dependent of your parents, they will also need to create an FSA ID. In addition, you will need a number of documents to fill out the form:

  • Your Social Security number
  • Your Alien Registration Number (if you aren’t a U.S. citizen)
  • Your most recent federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other records of money earned (Note: If you’re eligible, you can transfer your federal tax return information into your FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.)

Third, know the deadlines for submitting your forms. You can apply for federal student aid anytime between January 1 and June 30, 2016. States and institutions have different deadlines that are important to be aware of, as certain grants and other forms of aid may be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. The earlier you submit the FAFSA, the better. However, don’t give up if you’ve missed the deadline. Turn it in anyway and you may still be eligible for funds. Click here for a document with state deadlines that you can print and keep as a reference.

I have talked to many students across the country about their hopes and dreams. They understand the value of a college degree to secure a better future. “Can I afford college?” is the one constant question I get. Filling out the FAFSA is a first step to answering this, as you become more aware of your college financing options. Knowledge is power—knowing your options now will help you make important decisions about your future.

Weekly Washington Outlook — March 7, 2016

By Vinoth Chandar (Flickr: Capitol Hill - Washington, DC) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Vinoth Chandar (Flickr: Capitol Hill – Washington, DC) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

What to Watch This Week: 

Congress:

House:

The House is in recess this week, returning Monday, March 14.

Senate:

On Monday, the Senate will resume consideration of S. 524, the Comprehensive Addition and Recovery Act of 2015. The Senate may also vote on final passage of energy legislation S. 2012. The measure has been stalled as Senators seek a path forward on an amendment that would assist municipalities such as Flint, Mich., clean up tainted drinking water supplies.

White House:

On Monday, the president will host a meeting at the White House with financial regulators to receive an update on their progress in implementing Wall Street Reform. Eight years after the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the participants will discuss efforts to continue to implement the strongest consumer financial protections in history that have afforded millions of hard-working Americans new protections from the kinds of abusive practices that predated the crisis.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, President Obama will attend meetings at the White House.

On Thursday, the president and the first lady will welcome The Right Honorable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P., Prime Minister of Canada, and Mrs. Sophie Grégoire Trudeau to the White House for an Official Visit with a State Dinner. The visit is intended to advance cooperation on important bilateral and multilateral issues, such as energy and climate change, security, and the economy.

On Friday, President Obama will travel to Austin, Texas to participate in South by Southwest Interactive. The President will sit down with Editor-in-Chief of The Texas Tribune, Evan Smith, for a conversation about civic engagement in the 21st Century. In the lead-up to the event, The Texas Tribune will also source questions for the discussion from its online audience. Afterwards, the President will attend DNC events.

On Saturday, President Obama will attend a DNC and DSCC event before returning to Washington, D.C.

Also this Week:

Budget/Appropriations – The Senate Appropriations Committee will continue to hear from Administration officials regarding the President’s budget request for the upcoming fiscal year. Among those scheduled to testify before their Subcommittees of jurisdiction are Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and IRS Commissioner John Koskinen on Tuesday; Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday; Education Secretary John King on Thursday; and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro on Thursday. In addition, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson will appear Tuesday before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to discuss the Department’s budget request.

Health – The Senate Finance Committee plans a hearing Thursday on the HealthCare.gov website. The Health and Human Services Department’s Inspector General released a report last month providing some insight into the site’s troubled 2013 rollout. A member of the Inspector General’s office, as well as an official from the Government Accountability Office, are expected to testify. Elsewhere, Senate Leadership is seeking a path forward to vote on an amendment that would authorize a loan to municipalities like Flint, Mich. to clean up tainted drinking water. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) is blocking the measure arguing “federal aid is not needed at this time.” Finally, the Senate HELP Committee plans to consider legislation (S. 2512) on Wednesday to encourage the Food and Drug Administration to incentivize private drug-makers to develop a Zika vaccine.

Education – The Senate HELP Committee is expected to vote on the nomination of Dr. John B. King to be Education Secretary on Wednesday.  Dr. King’s nomination could be considered by the full Senate before the end of March.

Criminal Justice – The Senate Judiciary Committee approved bipartisan sentencing reform legislation, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, in the Fall of 2015. The legislation’s sponsors, including Sen. Grassley (R-Iowa), Sen. Durbin (D-Ill.), Sen. Cornyn (R-Texas), Sen. Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and others have been asking Senate Leadership to bring the legislation to the Senate floor for a vote. However, some conservative Senators including Sen. Cotton (R-Ark.) have argued that the legislation will result in the release of certain violent offenders.  To address this concern, it is likely that the sponsors of the bill will introduce as soon as this week a compromise to pave the way for floor consideration.