Publication Date: September 2006
DCL ID: ANN-06-10
Summary: This letter announces a series of one-day workshops covering the provisions of the Higher Education Reconciliation Act, with a special focus on Academic Competitiveness Grants and National SMART Grants. This letter also includes a link to Federal Student Aid's "Training for Financial Aid Professionals" web page, where you can view the workshop schedule and register for the one that best meets your needs.
Posted on 09-01-2006
We are pleased to announce Federal Student Aid's upcoming fall training series, entitled HERA Training. The course materials for these one-day workshops will be presented in a lecture format, with time allowed for participant questions.
On February 8, 2006, President Bush signed into the law the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, which included the "Higher Education Reconciliation Act of 2005" (HERA). As well as making a number of changes to the existing Title IV student aid programs, HERA also created two new grant programs for certain students: Academic Competitiveness Grants (ACG) and National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) grants. For both of these programs, students must be Pell Grant eligible, U.S. citizens. Institutions that participate in the Pell Grant program will also participate in these grant programs beginning with the current ('06-07) academic year.
Academic Competitiveness Grants (ACG's) will provide $750 for first year students and $1,300 for second year students who have completed a rigorous high school program of study.
Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grants (National SMART Grants) will provide $4,000 for students enrolled in their third year and $4,000 in their fourth year of study majoring in specific programs determined to be in the national interest.
HERA also created a new loan program for graduate students: The Graduate PLUS loan program is available in both the FFEL and Direct Loan programs. Terms are similar to traditional PLUS loans available to parents of undergraduate students, except that the graduate student is the borrower rather than the parent. Additional changes to the loan programs include deferment eligibility, loan limits, interest rates and loan fees.
A number of other changes were made affecting how institutions determine the Cost of Attendance, changes to elements of the need analysis formula, changes to student eligibility, program eligibility, institutional eligibility, and changes to the Return of Title IV Funds calculation. Many of these changes take effect beginning with the 2006-2007 award year.
Who should attend the training?
It is important that all offices impacted by the changes be made aware of the new HERA provisions. In particular, implementing and administering the ACG and SMART grant programs will require the close working coordination of the Admissions function, the Records and Registration function, the Bursar or Business Office function, and the Financial Aid function.
Federal Student Aid has mailed a letter to the Presidents of institutions participating in ACG/SMART Grants (with a copy to the Financial Aid Director) emphasizing the importance of this cooperation, and of attending HERA training. A link to that letter is attached below.
What will the workshops cover?
Each workshop consists of four modules:
Each participant will receive a Participant Guide with information relevant to the topics being presented, as well as various resources to be used as job aids when returning to the office.
When, where and how long are the workshops?
The workshops will be offered beginning September 26 through December 7, 2006. They will be held at ED Regional Training Facilities, (RTFs) at training facilities at postsecondary institutions, and at some sites associated with a state or regional conferences.
Please note: these workshops will begin promptly at 8:30 a.m. and conclude by approximately 5:00 p.m. In consideration of other participants, and to ensure that you do not miss important information, please plan to arrive before 8:30 a.m.
Do I need to bring anything to the workshop?
We suggest that that you bring a 1 ½ inch 3-ring binder to hold the Participant Guide you will receive.
How do I register for the workshop, and how do I find directions to the workshop sites? To view the schedule of workshops, and to register, go to <http://www.ed.gov/offices/OSFAP/training/index.html>. Registration is on a first-come, first-served basis. Please note that is important to register for these workshops, rather than traveling to a workshop site and taking a chance that space will be available on a last-minute basis for unregistered persons. A workshop may be full, in which case there would not be room for non-registered persons. And when a workshop is held in a federal regional office, security procedures will prevent non-registered persons from entering the facility.
Once registered, you will receive an e-mail confirmation. Be sure to retain this as it contains important workshop information, including how to cancel your registration if you will be unable to attend. If you will be unable to attend, please take the time to cancel so that individuals who wish to attend will be able to register. We expect a high demand for this training and want to accommodate as many as possible at each site.
Directions to each location, including the Regional Training Facilities, can be accessed by clicking on the location name in the registration system.
We hope you find this HERA Training and other available information valuable. Thank you for helping us implement these provisions in a timely manner, and for ensuring that students eligible for the new ACG and National SMART Grant programs receive the benefits now available to them.