ED Review (04/29/22)

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April 29, 2022


Student Loan Fixes 

Last week, the Department announced steps to bring borrowers closer to public service loan and income-driven repayment (IDR) forgiveness by addressing historical failures in the administration of federal student loan programs.  The Federal Student Aid (FSA) office estimates that these changes will result in immediate debt cancellation for at least 40,000 borrowers under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.  More than 3.6 million borrowers will also receive at least three years of additional credit toward IDR forgiveness (see press release, Twitter thread, and explanatory video). 

“Student loans were never meant to be a life sentence, but it’s certainly felt that way for borrowers locked out of debt relief they’re eligible for,” Secretary Cardona explained.  “Today, the Department…will begin to remedy years of administrative failures that effectively denied the promise of loan forgiveness to certain borrowers enrolled in IDR plans.  These actions once again demonstrate the Biden Administration’s commitment to delivering meaningful debt relief and ensuring federal student loan programs are administered fairly and effectively.” 

Specifically, FSA is ending forbearance steering and tracking progress toward IDR forgiveness. 

Department regulations require that borrowers facing difficulty making loan payments get clear and accurate information from loan servicers about their options for staying out of delinquency, including IDR plans, and the financial consequences of choosing short-term options like forbearance.  However, FSA reviews suggest that servicers placed borrowers into forbearance, even when their monthly payment under an IDR plan could have been as low as $0.  These findings are consistent with concerns raised by both the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and state attorneys general.  A borrower advised to choose an IDR plan can get a reduced payment, remain in good standing, and make progress toward loan forgiveness.  A borrower advised to choose forbearance can see their loan balance and monthly payments grow due to interest capitalization and lead to delinquency or default. 

To tackle forbearance steering, FSA will conduct a one-time account adjustment that will count long-term forbearance of more than 12 months consecutively and more than 36 months cumulatively toward forgiveness under PSLF and IDR.  It will also restrict servicers’ ability to enroll borrowers in forbearance by email or text, conduct a review of patterns of forbearance use and servicers’ practices to identify other potential changes to end steering, and work with CFPB to do regular audits of forbearance use.  FSA will begin implementing these changes immediately, though borrowers may not see the effect in their accounts until later this year. 

Meanwhile, borrowers on most IDR plans are entitled to forgiveness after 20-25 years of payments, yet FSA reviews of IDR payment-tracking procedures suggest borrowers are missing progress toward relief. 

To fix this problem swiftly and permanently, FSA will conduct a one-time revision of IDR-qualifying payments for all federally eligible loans.  Any months in which borrowers made payments will count toward IDR, regardless of repayment plan, and any borrower who has made the required number of payments for IDR forgiveness based on this revision will receive loan cancellation automatically.  Also, FSA will release new guidance to servicers to ensure accurate and uniform payment counting practices, and it will track payment counts within its own data system.  (Next year, it will begin displaying IDR payment counts on StudentAid.gov, so borrowers can view their progress after logging into their accounts.)  Furthermore, the Department plans to revise the terms of IDR through rulemaking to further simplify payment counting.  Again, FSA will begin implementing these changes immediately, though borrowers may not see the effect in their accounts until later this year. 

These actions complement steps the Administration has taken to cancel more than $17 billion in debt for 725,000 borrowers, as well as extend the pause on student loan repayment. 

In other student loan news, the Department announced relief for some 28,000 borrowers harmed by pervasive and widespread misconduct at Marinello Schools of Beauty.  Borrowers enrolled in the schools from 2009 through its closure in February 2016 will receive discharges totaling approximately $238 million based on Borrower Defense findings.  This is the first group discharge for defrauded borrowers to be approved since 2017 (see press release, Twitter thread, and explanatory video). 


From Recovery to Thriving 

This week, the Department announced major actions and investments from government, non-profit organizations, and the private sector to support student academic and mental health recovery as part of a broader effort to help students, schools, and communities recover from the pandemic and reemerge stronger.  The announcements highlight how the American Rescue Plan (ARP) has funded efforts to help students recover academically through summer learning and enrichment and enhanced educational and mental health supports in school districts across the country; how philanthropic partners are investing additional resources to help ARP funds stretch further; and how the Department is leveraging more than $160 million of its own grant funding to propel academic and mental health recovery.  These announcements were made at the Department’s ARP Summit, “From Recovery to Thriving,” broadcast online and held in partnership with the National Public Education Support Fund. 

“As we move beyond reopening, the Biden Administration and the Department…will remain laser-focused on helping students recover from the pandemic and access the academic, mental health, and other supports they need to thrive,” Secretary Cardona stressed.  “We are already seeing the impact the ARP is having on schools, students, families, and educators, from increased access to academic and mental health supports to expanded summer learning and enrichment programs funded by federal pandemic relief funds.  With additional investments from the Department’s grant programs and the philanthropic community, we can scale our recovery efforts, make ARP dollars have an even greater impact, and ensure every student -- no matter background, family income, or zip code -- has the academic and mental health supports they need to succeed.” 

ARP directed $130 billion to states and districts to help K-12 schools reopen during the pandemic and recover.  The Department acted swiftly to release these funds to states and has called on states to act with the same urgency to ensure ARP funding is reaching districts and schools to meet the immediate needs of students, families, educators, and communities.  ARP required at least 5% of state funds and 20% of district funds be used to invest in evidence-based practices that address lost instructional time, at least 1% be used to support after-school programs, and at least 1% be used to support summer learning and enrichment programs.  Consistent with President Biden’s Unity Agenda from his State of the Union address, the Department has also strongly encouraged districts to use ARP funding to support the health and well-being of students and educators by hiring mental health professionals and has called on states, districts, and higher education institutions to use ARP funding to address the educator labor shortage by investing in educator pipeline programs.  All three of these priorities were discussed at the ARP Summit, with examples of districts using ARP funds for these efforts spotlighted (web page). 

Notably, the Department will focus this year’s Education Innovation and Research (EIR) program on projects that develop, implement, replicate, and scale-up strategies to support learning recovery and student well-being related to the impact of COVID-19, including projects that address accelerated learning. 


Santa Fe High School 

Secretary Cardona recently traveled to New Mexico. 

In Santa Fe on April 21, he joined U.S. Senator Ben Ray Lujan at Santa Fe High School for a conversation with students and school counselors about the importance of mental health supports in schools, especially following disruptions to in-person learning.  He also learned about the school’s restorative justice program, which supports students in managing conflict (photos and video). 

That same day, he joined U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich and Pueblo of Jemez Governor Raymond Loretto at the Pueblo of Jemez, a federally recognized tribe.  They discussed increasing broadband access through federal funds, toured the Walatowa Head Start Language Immersion Program, and underscored the tribe’s approach to educational sovereignty (readout). 

Then, in Albuquerque on April 22, the Secretary joined U.S. Representative Melanie Stansbury to visit Atrisco Heritage Academy High School, learning more about the community schools model and wrap-around services offered to students and families.  They toured the school’s health clinic and stopped by a culinary arts classroom, where students demonstrated and discussed how they are learning about Indigenous and traditional foods, healthy diets, and sustainability (photos and video). 

Separately, Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten continued her #ARPStars tour in Washington State (1 and 2). 

The Secretary tweeted (1 and 2) about the Deputy Secretary’s trip. 


Celebrating Second Chance Month, the Department announced it has invited 73 colleges and universities to participate in the third round of the Second Chance Pell Experiment, an initiative first launched during the Obama Administration to expand access to federal Pell Grants for incarcerated individuals enrolled in participating programs.  The expansion raises the total number of schools in the initiative to 200.  Also, the Department announced changes to policies assisting incarcerated individuals with defaulted loans, including affirming that incarcerated individuals qualify for a “fresh start” -- returning borrowers with defaulted loans to repayment in good standing -- and allowing incarcerated individuals to consolidate loans to help them exit default in the long term (see press release, Homeroom blog, and Twitter thread). 

Secretary Cardona and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Amy Solomon noted these announcements during a visit to D.C. Central Kitchen, where they conversed with individuals who participated in education while incarcerated (photos). 

In December 2020, Congress expanded access to Pell Grants to once again include students who are incarcerated, as long as they are enrolled in prison education programs approved by their state agencies or the Federal Bureau of Prisons and that meet other requirements.  The expansion of the initiative will allow for further opportunities to study best practices for implementing the reinstatement of Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated individuals.  The Department intends to fully implement the legislative changes starting on July 1, 2023 (see also White House fact sheet and roundtable discussion). 


On April 22 (Earth Day), the Secretary announced the 2022 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, District Sustainability Awardees, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees.  A total of 27 schools, five districts, and four postsecondary institutions -- nominated by 19 states -- were selected for their progress in reducing environmental impact and utility costs, promoting better health for students and staff, and offering effective environmental education.  To learn more about the honorees, review the nomination packageshighlights document, and Homeroom blog.  (Note: There are resources for all schools at all levels available through the agency’s Green Strides portal.) 

On April 25, the Secretary and Deputy Secretary met with 2022 National Principal of the Year recipients, as well as National Honor Society scholarship finalists, to kick-off their Trailblazing Leadership Week in Washington, D.C. (tweets 1 and 2). 

On April 27, the Secretary joined the President and the First Lady for the 2022 National Teacher of the Year program in the East Room of the White House, congratulating Ohio high school history teacher Kurt Russell as this year’s honoree (tweets 1, 2, and 3).  (Note: Earlier, all the 2022 State Teachers of the Year visited the Department for an engaging meet and greet.) 


  • The White House welcomed many special guests for this year’s Easter EGGucation Roll (photos).
  • Secretary Cardona testified before the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee on the President’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget request on April 28.
  • The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) recently released the latest round of findings from the School Pulse Panel.  (Note: Nearly 90% of public schools have heard concerns from staff about getting their students to meet the school year’s academic standards.)
  • Another NCES report, “Use of Supports among Students with Disabilities and Special Needs in College,” investigates whether students informed institutions of their needs and who received accommodations and services for them.
  • The Department published the list of semifinalists for the 2022 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, which honors some of the nation’s most distinguished graduating high school seniors.
  • According to the “2021 State of Preschool Yearbook,” released by the National Institute of Early Education Research (NIEER), the pandemic intensified existing problems with access to high-quality early learning and led to drastic declines in enrollment and state funding in the 2020-21 school year.
  • The Department issued a letter outlining the Higher Education Act (HEA) requirement for institutions to make a good faith effort to distribute voter registration forms to their students (tweet).
  • The Department also reaffirmed its commitment to protect military-connected students through guiding Principles of Excellence (tweet).
  • And, the Department updated its international strategy to prepare today’s students for the hyper-connected world.
  • On April 19, the Peer-to-Peer Jazz Quintet -- featuring some very talented student musicians and Secretary Cardona on the bongos! -- presented a live Jazz Informance. 


“Today, as the nation shifts from school reopening to school recovery, and as we work to reimage schools equitably, we must likewise move from dreamers to doers.  Acknowledging inequities is insufficient.  Analyzing inequities is insufficient.  Maintaining the status quo and expecting different results is insufficient.  The work being done across the country to address educational disparities before and during the pandemic has been nothing short of inspiring.  But this next chapter in our education history must dwarf those efforts.  I’ve said before, and I will continue saying -- this is our opportunity for a reset.” 

-- Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona (4/18/22), from an op-ed published in EdSurge 


The Administration will celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week (May 2-6) with a variety of activities. 

Schools and communities are encouraged to celebrate College Signing Day virtually on May 7 by posting on social media using #CollegeSigningDay. 

During the STEM for All Video Showcase (May 10-17), one can view short videos depicting federally funded projects improving science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and computer science education. 

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