Ask the Experts about…Online Education Resources
José Antonio Rico is the deputy director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans.
My kids are in elementary school, but are not interested in going to college. How can I help my kids realize the importance of college?
RICO: We know that students that graduate from college make more than a million dollars in their life time. High school is critical for students to make sure that they are able to go to college, which will enable them to support themselves, their families and contribute to their communities. We consider college to include: a workplace certificate, a two year associates degree, or a four year bachelor’s degree. College does not have to be a long term investment that requires a lot of debt but can be a small investment of time and resources that would help students better their financial situation. For more information, please visit collegecost.ed.gov.
I know that the President is a big supporter of higher education, the Hispanic community and supporting Hispanic-Serving Institutions, but with the current budget crisis what can we expect to see in the upcoming fiscal year?
RICO: The President knows that the only way we are going to be the most educated country in the world is by significantly increasing the number of college graduates in the Hispanic community. President Obama did the following things to accomplish this 1) approved $1 billion of additional funds for Hispanic-Serving institutions 2) increased Pell grant awards to $5,550, and 3) increased the amount of money for postgraduate fellowships. He is standing firm that there will be no additional cuts to the education budget because he believes that we cannot sacrifice our future by under investing in education.
What are some of the best ways to save or invest for a child’s future college fund?
RICO: Contact your State Department of Education for information about 529 saving plans. In addition, you can take advantage of the American Opportunity Tax Credit that offers a maximum of $2,500 in tax credits for your child’s higher education expenses.
I need help filling out my FAFSA. What sites or tools can I use?
RICO: The Obama administration recently simplified the FAFSA form to make it easier for families to apply for financial aid. We reduced the amount of questions by a third with skip technology and information can now be automatically transferred from the IRS. You can calculate financial aid information by visiting fafsa4caster.ed.gov
Are there federal grants and scholarships especially for Hispanic students?
RICO: Federal Financial Aid is strictly based on financial need. However, there may be scholarship opportunities from the different State Departments of Education or private organizations such as: http://www.HSF.net or www.hispanicfund.org. Please note that we do not endorse these organizations or websites, but provide these links for informational purposes only.
My child is a C-average student and looking to start at a community college. What are the benefits of going to a community college and transferring to a 4-year university?
RICO: Community college is a great place to start your postsecondary education. Not only is it affordable but you can transfer many of the basic requirements to a four-year university or receive a certificate after two years for a well-paying job. Community colleges all have Federal Student Aid programs so students can apply for the Pell Grant.
What resources are available for those students and parents who would like to attend college yet have immigration/legalization issues?
RICO: Federal Financial Aid is only available for permanent residents and citizens, but many states, including California, have recently passed state laws that allow for undocumented students to pay in-state tuition and to be eligible for private scholarships. You can check your State Department of Education’s website for the eligibility requirements for scholarships for undocumented students. The President is still working with Congress to pass the DREAM Act because he knows that those students are an incredible resource to our country.
What successes or difficulties have you encountered with “Race to the Top” and how does the initiative impact Latino children?
RICO: The two major requirements of the $4 billion that states received from Race to the Top are to raise standards and to invest in teachers. Unfortunately, many Latino students are in classrooms with low standards and unprepared teachers. The fact that Race to the Top Grant went to states that have 22 percent of the Latino population will improve that situation and will benefit more than just Latino students.
Are there any plans to make changes to our public education system to help prepare our children to become more competitive in the global market?
RICO: President Obama supports innovation in public education. He recently awarded $650 million to scale up innovative educational programs through the investment in the innovation fund (I3). He also supports students knowing and learning more than one language because we are not competing with students from another state, but we are competing with students from other countries. Another high priority for the President is improving Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education so Latino students can also have access to jobs in the STEM field and be part of the innovations that are driving the 21st century.
We want to thank everyone for participating in the Club Digital web chat. The President believes that we can only improve our education outcomes if everyone, which includes parents, students, educators, business leaders, and non-profits, gets involved. If you have any additional questions, please use the following resources. To learn more about U.S. Department of Education program and policies, please visit our Frequently Asked Questions page at answers.ed.gov, call 1-800-USA-LEARN (Spanish speakers are available), or visit our Spanish website, “Recursos,” at www.ed.gov/espanol.
José Antonio Rico is the deputy director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans. Named to his post on Feb. 1, 2010, Rico helps carry out President Obama’s efforts to improve the academic achievement of Hispanic students. He came to the Department as a senior adviser in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education on April 29, 2009. Visit the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans website at http://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/list/hispanic-initiative/index.html.