November 13, 2014 - OCTAE Connection - Issue 219

OCTAE Newsletter

November 13, 2014


First Lady’s Reach Higher Initiative Supports Higher Education 

Late last month, President Obama proclaimed November 2014 to be National College Application Month.  The President wrote that “with hard work and determination, a great education should be within everyone’s reach,” and that “a college degree is the surest path to a stable, middle-class life.” 

As the proclamation recognizes, “Applying to college is hard work, but it is only the beginning of a journey that requires persistence and focus.”  Too many students become discouraged when applying to college and do not complete the process, and many who do successfully apply and are admitted do not persist in completing a degree or certificate.  That is why, according to the president, “As a Nation, we must lift up our students, help them achieve their greatest potential, and work together toward an important goal: to lead the world in college completion.” 

To do this, first lady Michelle Obama is leading the Reach Higher Initiative, which she announced in two videos, to inspire all students in America to take charge of their futures by completing a post-high school degree or certificate. This could be done through a training program, at a community college, or at a four-year college or university.  According to a press release accompanying the first lady’s announcement, “In today’s economy, a high school diploma just isn’t enough.  Students have to reach higher.”  

The initiative contains two challenges:  the FAFSA Completion Challenge and the Near-Peer Mentoring College Challenge.  The FAFSA Completion Challenge urges every high school senior to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form*.  The completion of this form enables individual students to access more than $150 billion each year in grants, loans, and work-study programs that help students and their families pay for college.  For an entry form, and for additional information, please go to

The Near-Peer Mentoring College Challenge urges higher education institutions to increase and enhance mentoring and college experiences for high school students. Evidence suggests that high school students who connect with other students, or “near-peers,” are often motivated to pursue higher education.  This can be facilitated by having college students host high school students on campus and visit high schools, or through college alumni community outreach efforts.  As the first lady points out in her video, “initiating contact with more high school students, especially those from underserved communities can help them get the encouragement they need to enroll in college.”  Please visit the above link for an entry form and for additional information.    

Finalists in these competitions could have the opportunity to hear from the first lady at their commencement ceremonies in spring 2015.

On a similar note, and in support of the president's agenda, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is inviting institutions to participate in the Experimental Sites Initiative, which includes the Federal Work Study (FWS) for Near-Peer Counseling experiment. This experiment waives the requirement for institutions to pay a portion of Federal Work Study wages to students who are employed as near-peer college counselors to high school students, particularly those who are at-risk and underrepresented.

For more information regarding this and other new experimental sites, please click here. 


*The next edition of OCTAE Connection will address the FAFSA form in more detail.

National Science Board Releases New Online STEM Education and Workforce Resource

The National Science Board (NSB) recently released an online, interactive tool on its STEM Education Resource website. According to the press release, the site features “new and updated data and graphics about STEM education and workforce in the U.S.,” and gives “answers and facts on topics such as student proficiency, college degrees in STEM fields, and jobs in science-related occupations.” Entities providing and coordinating services for adult learners may find this new resource useful to their work. 

This new tool allows the user to connect to the data, trends, and analyses from the NSB’s Science and Engineering Indicators report, a biennial publication to Congress and the president on the state of science and engineering, containing the latest unbiased, high-quality research.  The resource highlights 60 key questions that are arranged by level of education and the workforce, along with various statistics, charts and diagrams that offer responses to each of the inquiries. Consumers are able to view and download the most recent data and illustrations, study developments, and share material via email and/or social media. There are also links to additional analyses for each topic.

Eligibility for 2015 Grant Competitions 

On Monday, Nov. 3, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) published a notice in the Federal Register offering institutions of higher education the chance to become eligible to apply for the following Title III and Title V programs of the Higher Education Act of 1965: 

  • Strengthening Institutions Program (SIP)
  • Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions (ANNH)
  • Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISI)
  • Native American Serving Nontribal Institutions (NASNTI)
  • Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI)
  • Hispanic-Serving Institutions STEM and Articulation (HSI STEM)
  • Promoting Postbaccalaureate Opportunities for Hispanic Americans (PPOHA)
  • Predominantly Black Institutions (PBI)

    Applications for eligibility are due by Thursday, Dec. 18.  More information on the eligibility process can be found here. Program information can be found on OPE’s Institutional Service Home Page.Click to edit this placeholder text.