November 30, 2023

Education Department Letter Highlights Effort to Help Americans Pursue Higher Ed During Pandemic

Cindy Marten
Cindy Marten

Following up on President Biden’s Executive Order last week directing all federal agencies to address the current economic crisis resulting from the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Education today announced a special effort to help Americans pursue higher education.

As part of its ongoing response to that order, the department released a letter reminding student financial aid administrators of their ability to make it easier for those who are unemployed or have received unemployment assistance to get federal aid for postsecondary education.

For instance, the letter reminds aid administrators that they have authority under the Higher Education Act to engage in “professional judgment” – a process that allows them to adjust factors that play into a student’s eligibility for federal financial aid, such as their income.

The letter informs administrators that at all times – but especially during the national pandemic – they may set income from work to zero for a student or parent who received unemployment benefits. This, in turn, may make applicants eligible for a Pell Grant or possibly a larger loan award.

“Easing the economic burden on working people is critical in helping America recover from the ongoing pandemic and its effects. Under the President’s leadership, we are working to help families who have lost jobs to get financial support to pursue higher education,” the department stated.

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