There's a new experiment on in the Halls of Washington. The test subject: student lending. The Education Department is looking for "experimental sites" or schools through which to test 8 experiments.
What are they and who would they effect?
The Pell Grant: Students interested in vocational training.
Currently, students who have earned a Bachelor's degree are no longer eligible for Pell Grants. This experiment would allow students to recieve a Pell Grant award if they are currently unemployed and will be entering the vocational program for the first time. The vocational program must provide training to meet local or regional workforce needs. In addition, shorter vocational training programs would become elegible. In order to be eligible for a Pell Grant, students must be enrolled in a program of study that lasts at least 15 weeks. This experiment would extend Pell eligibility to students enrolling in vocational training programs that are between 8 and 15 weeks in length.
Direct Loan Programs: Students taking out unsubsidized loans, studying abroad, or at international institutions.
There are a couple experiments centered around the way the government disburses the Direct Loans students take out through their FAFSA. The first concerns unsubsidized students loans. The experiment would allow schools to limit the amount of unsubsidized federal loans students would be permitted to borrow. It would also allow schools to dispurse the loan in unequal amounts. Currently, schools must dispurse half of a student's loans at the beginning of the first semester, and the second half at the beginning of the second semester. This experiment would allow Financial Aid Offices to dispurse a higher proportion of the student's total loans at the beginning of the first semester, when expenses for things such as housing are higher.
For students who are studying abroad or attend school internationally, the experiments would allow Financial Aid Offices to dispurse student loans for these students 30 days before the start of the academic period. This way, students will be able to use it to cover the substantial costs that are often required at the beginning of the program for things such as travel expenses, foreign housing and visa expenses. Students who are receiving aid for one term of study abroad, would also be able to recieve these loans in one lump sum at the beginning of the academic period.
Direct Loans and Pell Grants: Students with intellectual disabilities
Under these experiments, students with intellectual disabilities would be eligible for federal loans while enrolled in transition programs between high school and college. They would also allow parents of dependant students with intellectual disabilities to receive Direct Loans that could be used to fund their child's higher education.
Keep in mind that these are just experiments. The Education Department is currently looking for institutions of higher education who are interested in participating in these studies. If your school is one of the "experimental sites" you may be able to take advantage of these new tests.
Learn more about recent actions by the U.S. Department of Education to reduce student loan debt.
Even if your school is not one of the sites, if you think these experiments sound like a good idea, don't hesitate to contact the Department of Education here!