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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

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AL nonprofit urges Medicaid expansion to save rural hospitals; Harris skipping Netanyahu address shows daylight with Biden on Israeli leader; Biden to give first speech since dropping out of race; IN students face stricter attendance rules, new reading requirements; New Missouri law ensures medication access.

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Kamala Harris builds momentum toward nomination and vets potential Veeps. She and Trump take aggressive stances, as plans for a September debate continue. Sen. Bob Menendez says he'll resign, but will also appeal his corruption conviction.

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There's a gap between how rural and urban folks feel about the economy, Colorado's 'Rural is Rad' aims to connect outdoor businesses, more than a dozen of Maine's infrastructure sites face repeated flooding, and chocolate chip cookies rock August.

Report: Dept. of Education should improve student loan outreach

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Monday, June 24, 2024   

Policy analysts are concerned the Department of Education is not reaching and engaging with low-income and disadvantaged student loan borrowers in the most effective ways.

Tia Caldwell, higher education policy analyst for the progressive think tank New America and one of the authors of a new report, highlighted more than 40% of low-income borrowers are unaware of income-driven repayment plans.

She said it is concerning because debt collection on defaulted loans will resume in September. While the Biden administration has helped struggling borrowers through its Saving on a Valuable Education plan, Caldwell emphasized some still do not know about its benefits. In Nevada, more than 36,000 federal student loan borrowers have enrolled but Caldwell argued the department should consider new outreach methods.

"The Department of Education is just missing a whole chunk of people and so we really heard from a variety of outreach experts that you need to reach people through multiple mediums," Caldwell explained. "We would love to see more texting and creative ideas like push notifications, things like that; reaching borrowers where they actually are, on their phones."

Caldwell stressed unless the department and its contractors' outreach improves, borrowers from marginalized backgrounds will be at a high risk of default when debt collections resume. She recognizes while the department and its contractors have made improvements, they can continue to make strides but it will take more funding and prioritization from Congress.

Caldwell pointed out the report lays out a number of recommendations to help improve communication, which should first come from the Department of Education, but it also touches on the role other government agencies could play as "trusted messengers" when they come into contact with student loan borrowers.

"We'd love to see, like, an 'all of government' approach so that if a vulnerable borrower or low-income person reaches the government in any way, they'll be screened for a variety of different needs and be directed to a variety of different benefits they need: SNAP, student-loan assistance, all of that through any door," Caldwell outlined. "That is, like, a pie-in-the-sky thing, it is far away."

Caldwell added there is also a significant need for what she called user testing, meaning the Department of Education understands what it is like to be a borrower navigating what at times can be complex systems and subsequently talks with them about what is working and what is not.


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