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Friday 5: Things To Ponder This Week In Higher Ed 1/8/21

At Innovative Educators, we have and always will stand for non-violence, equality, education and kindness. 


Our Friday 5 Live podcast kicks off again on January 22 when we will discuss mental health strategies for students, faculty and staff in this new year.  As a reminder, Friday 5 Live pairs nicely with a good walk or a warm beverage!



Politics and pandemic dominated the headlines during the winter break.  President-Elect Biden announced that Miguel Cardona will serve as Secretary of Education. Dr. Cardona is the head of K-12 public education in Connecticut.  Penn State University will begin classes online January 19 as a response to increasing rates of COVID; in-person classes resume February 15. Syracuse University is also delaying its spring semester start. The NCAA announced this week that the men’s basketball tournament will be played exclusively in Indiana. As institutions prepare for the spring semester, the American College Health Association is recommending that colleges should test students twice a week for COVID.



Major changes are coming to the FAFSA process for the 2023-2024 academic year.  The online form will be reduced from over 100 questions to 36.  Additionally, most aid applicants will no longer have to self-report income data on the FAFSA.  The Pell Grant will expand allowing for   1.7 million more students to qualify for the maximum award each year while hundreds of thousands of more students will be eligible for a partial award. The creation of a new “lookup tool” will allow families to see if they will be eligible for Pell aid: the goal is to increase the number of households applying for aid. Incarcerated students will no longer be barred from receiving Pell Grants (more below). The streamlined form is designed to  make the process less time consuming and reduce the anxiety around FAFSA filing.


“This is a big achievement for the college-access field and something that will have very real benefits for many students.” - Carrie Warrick, director of policy and advocacy for the National College Attainment Network, on new policy impacting Federal Financial Aid



This week the Hechinger Report examines institutions who are utilizing the pandemic to innovate quickly.  Higher education is notorious for changing slowly, but COVID is providing an opportunity for some universities to quickly transform.  Unity College in Maine has adjusted its academic calendar from a semester system to “eight five-week terms, year-round, during which students can take one or two courses at a time, either in person or online.”  They’ve also lowered the cost of tuition and been able to expand academic offerings.  Other institutions have acquired smaller schools.  Metropolitan State University of Denver quickly created a skills lab to retrain people who lost jobs; the free program is so successful it will continue permanently.


20: The number of vending machines containing COVID-19 test kits the University of California San Diego has installed on campus



This week the Chronicle examines displaced workers and college and university roles in retraining programs.  Nearly a third of Americans believe they would need more education or training if they lost their job during the pandemic. In 2020, displaced workers did not return for training opportunities, but analysts think that 2021 may see an increase in enrollment in retraining programs.  Prior to the pandemic, one in four adults had a nondegree credential indicating the programs are popular.


Follow our Friday 5 Live podcast available now on your favorite podcasting app!


The latest COVID stimulus bill ends a 26 year ban on prisoners being eligible for federal financial aid.  In addition, it overturns a law that barred students with drug convictions from receiving financial aid. Policy experts expect to see more colleges and universities developing courses and degree programs for incarcerated students as a result of this new legislation.  Advocates will now push for state financial aid for incarcerated students.
Author: Meg Foster
January 8, 2021
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