University Business - July 2009 - (Page 29)

FINANCIAL AID The Push to Retrain Unemployed Workers How the Obama administration is encouraging the unemployed to go to college By Haley Chitty N AN EFFORT TO GET AMER ica’s recently unemployed workers back to work, the Obama administration has implemented several initiatives to encourage them to learn new job skills through postsecondary education. ese initiatives are likely to affect higher education institutions and provide additional opportunities to educate workers who have been negatively impacted by the economic downturn. e administration’s effort really began with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which provided $17 billion to expand Pell Grants for all students. e next step: ensure that unemployed workers could and would access these funds. INCREASING ELIGIBILITY WITH PROFESSIONAL JUDGMENT On April 2, the U.S. Department of Education posted a letter online to remind financial aid offices of their authority to use “professional judgment” to make adjustments to students’ student aid eligibility to accommodate circumstances not reflected in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Written on behalf of Education Secretary Arne Duncan by Daniel T. Madzelan, the letter stated that when families experience a layoff, face a costly medical situation, or lose a house to foreclosure, it is unlikely they will know about their right to request an adjustment to one or more of the components that determine their eligibility for financial aid. “It is for this reason that I encourage you to do more than provide good service to the students who request that you I Families are unlikely to know about their right to request an adjustment to components that determine aid eligibility. make an adjustment,” Madzelan states. “I would ask you to reach out to your students (and prospective students), particularly those who seem to have hit a rough patch, to make sure that they know there may be ways that you can help.” Madzelan noted that the loss of a job, a reduction in work hours or wages, income loss associated with a prospective student’s decision to leave the workforce, or the need to reduce work hours to return to school could all be reasons to adjust students’ aid eligibility. A month after this first letter was posted, Arne Duncan communicated to financial aid officers that they may use a letter from the unemployment agency of the student’s state or other evidence that a student is receiving unemployment benefits to document that the student’s earned income is zero. Duncan wrote that unemployment benefits would not have a material impact on what students are expected to pay for college in the financial aid eligibility formula. “Unemployment benefits can also be considered zero as the Department of Education, in consultation with the Department of Labor and the Office of Management and Budget, has determined that the maximum unemployment benefits available would not have a material impact on the Expected Family Contribution of an independent student. If there are other members of the student’s family for whom you may have evidence of their receiving unemployment benefits, we encourage you to examine the totality of the family’s economic situation and make any appropriate adjustments,” Duncan wrote. NOTIFYING THE UNEMPLOYED ABOUT FINANCIAL AID e U.S. Department of Labor sent a letter on May 8 to state workforce agencies, administrators, liaisons, board chairs, directors, and commissioners urging them to notify unemployment insurance (UI) beneficiaries of their potential eligibility for Pell Grants and other student aid and to help individuals apply for Pell Grants through One-Stop Career Centers. e One-Stop Career Centers are designed to provide a full range of assistance to job seekers under one roof. Established under the Workforce Investment Act, the centers offer training referrals, career counseling, job listings, Haley Chitty is director of communications at NASFAA, July/August 2009 | 29

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of University Business - July 2009

University Business - July 2009
Editor’s Note
College Index
Company Index
Advisory Board
Behind the News
Sense of Place
Financial Aid
Human Resources
The State of Student Aid
Out of the Gym, onto the Desktop
EduComm 2009
Internet Technology
Community Colleges
End Note
SPECIAL SECTION: Annual Directory of Higher EdConsultants

University Business - July 2009