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It has established tough regulations targeting misleading claims by career colleges and incentives that drove officials to enroll students through dubious promises. It has cracked down on bad actors through investigations and enforcement actions. And, it has issued gainful employment regulations <http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/obama-administration-announces-final-rules-protect-students-poor-performing-career-college-programs>, which will help ensure that students at career colleges do not end up with debt they cannot pay. The agency will continue to hold institutions accountable in order to improve the value of their programs, protect students from abusive practices, and safeguard the interests of taxpayers.
This week, the Department announced new steps in this work, particularly to address the concerns of students who attended schools owned by Corinthian Colleges. The agency has worked to rapidly develop a streamlined process for getting debt relief to Corinthian students. The aim is to make the process of forgiving loans fair, clear, and efficient -- and make sure that students who are eligible to participate know about this opportunity.
/Helping students whose schools have closed –/
When a college closes, students are generally eligible to discharge their federal student loans if they were attending when the school closed or withdrew from the school within 120 days of the closing date. Given the unique circumstances for former Corinthian students, the Department is expanding eligibility for students to apply for a closed school loan discharge, extending the window of time back to June 20, 2014, to capture students who attended now-closed campuses after Corinthian entered into an agreement with the agency to terminate Corinthian’s ownership of its colleges.
The Department’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) has been and will continue to contact potentially affected student borrowers to provide information about their options, including loan discharge applications, as well as providing additional information on the FSA web site <http://studentaid.ed.gov/corinthian>.
The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities is expanding its effectiveTurnaround Arts Initiative <http://turnaroundarts.pcah.gov/> into five additional school districts, as the program continues to successfully help turn around low-performing schools, narrow the achievement gap, and increase student engagement through the arts. The expanded program is funded through a public-private partnership, with more than $5 million over three years from the Department, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ford Foundation, and other companies and foundations to bring arts education into low-performing schools. The program leverages roughly $10 million contributed in local funds over the same period. The money will be used to hire new arts and music teachers; bring teaching artists, art supplies, and musical instruments into schools; and support arts integration with other core subjects (press release <http://turnaroundarts.pcah.gov/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/National-Press-Release-for-Turnaround-Arts-FINAL.pdf>).
Over the last three years, Turnaround Arts has brought intensive arts education resources and expertise into 35 schools and worked with school leadership to incorporate the arts as part of their reform strategy. Research evaluation results <http://pcah.gov/sites/default/files/Turnaround%20Arts_Full%20Report_Single%20Page%20Spread_Low%20Resolution.pdf> show that participating schools are demonstrating improved academic performance, increased student and parent engagement, and value-added culture and climate. On average, Turnaround Arts schools showed a 23% gain in math proficiency and a 13% gain in reading proficiency, as well as sharply increased attendance and reductions of up to 86% in student disciplinary issues.
Note: In addition to its overall work in grades K-8, Turnaround Arts also announced a new focus on early childhood education. The initiative will provide specialized support and resources to Head Start and preschool-through-third-grade classrooms in Turnaround Arts schools to allow them to build creative, engaging, and dynamic learning experiences for their students.
Also, the Department has worked with a group of organizations and institutions as they have established an independent volunteer advising corps that will help students navigate their options. The resource is available at www.NextStepsEDU.org <http://www.nextstepsedu.org/>, where students can sign up and be connected to a volunteer advisor from the field.
/Helping students who believe they were victims of fraud, regardless of whether their schools closed –/
In order to receive loan forgiveness under “defense to repayment” or “borrower’s defense,” students must assert that a college’s actions violated state law and affected their provision of educational services or federal loans. Wherever possible, the Department will rely on evidence established by appropriate authorities in considering whether whole groups of students are eligible for borrower defense relief. This will simplify and expedite the relief process, reducing the burden on borrowers.
Further information about this process -- including the attestation form -- is available on the FSA web site <http://studentaid.ed.gov/corinthian>.
· All former Corinthian students who apply for borrower defense have the option of having their federal loans immediately placed into forbearance, which stops their monthly payments to ensure they do not fall behind or default on their loans while the Department works to resolve the claim.
· The Department will appoint a Special Master to oversee borrower defense issues and charge that person with making sure the process is fair and simple to students and taxpayers. (In coming weeks, there will be an online form for these borrowers, and students can call a borrower defense hotline at (855) 279-6207 to ask about their options.)
· The Department will develop new regulations to clarify and streamline loan forgiveness under the defense to repayment provision, while maintaining or enhancing current consumer protection standards.
Additional resources on these topics include a fact sheet <http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/fact-sheet-protecting-students-abusive-career-colleges> (with press call audio and transcript), blog post by Under Secretary Ted Mitchell <http://www.ed.gov/blog/2015/06/debt-relief-for-corinthian-colleges-students/>, and blog post for students <http://www.ed.gov/blog/2015/06/debt-relief-for-corinthian-students-how-were-working-to-protect-taxpayers/>.
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