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Education Department Announces It Won’t Punish Colleges For Reconsidering Student Aid

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U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos speaks this week during a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP hide caption

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Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

The U.S. Department of Education moved this week to make it easier for colleges to reconsider and potentially increase financial aid for students who have lost jobs or family income in the economic crisis. The move comes after NPR reported in June that the department had shelved guidance meant to encourage college aid administrators to exercise what’s known as “professional judgment” and reconsider aid for students whose finances have changed.

Most students planning to attend college in the fall submitted financial information from 2018 — information that may now be woefully outdated for many families given the current, pandemic-driven recession. But reconsidering financial aid packages for too many students can trigger an investigation from the Department of Education to make sure schools aren’t misusing funds. These reviews can be labor-intensive and lead to costly fines.

In 2009, in response to the Great Recession, the Obama administration assured schools they would not be punished for helping students. In recent months, with job losses mounting, college financial aid administrators began asking if that 2009 guidance was still active, said Justin Draeger, president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.

The Department of Education quietly addressed that question in late May during a call with stakeholders. According to multiple sources familiar with the call, a top department official indicated that, in spite of the downturn, the guidance was no longer active. The official described the unemployment challenges many students now face as “temporary,” unlike the Great Recession, and disagreed with the previous policy of allowing schools to fast-track help for students receiving unemployment benefits.

The department had said little publicly about the apparent shift in policy, which alarmed financial aid administrators. The guidance had been labeled “Maintained for Historical Purposes Only,” though it is not clear when that label was added. The department also amended its Federal Student Aid Handbook on June 12, calling the guidance “outdated.”

“I think financial aid offices are out there doing their best,” Rachelle Feldman told NPR in June. She is associate provost of scholarships and student aid at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “The fear of audit, the change in guidance — it’s all very real and paralyzing.”

On Thursday, the Department of Education clarified its position, saying it “understands that high unemployment nationwide resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic will increase the number of professional judgment decisions performed” and that it “will not negatively view increased use of professional judgment or use it as a selection criterion for a program compliance review.”

In short: Colleges will not be punished for reconsidering many students’ aid packages.

“We’re pleased to see the department taking steps … to provide schools reassurance that they can help students in need without later being unduly penalized,” Draeger said.

The news comes as many schools said they’re already seeing spikes in requests to revisit students’ aid packages. According to Draeger, when his organization surveyed its member institutions in June, 90% of financial aid offices at the nearly 300 schools that responded said they anticipate an increase in these professional judgment requests this year.

The department’s announcement came the same day the four top Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate education committees sent a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos urging her to clarify the department’s position and make clear to schools that they can reopen students’ financial aid files without fear of triggering a federal compliance review.

The bipartisan letter also urged DeVos to affirm that aid offices can zero out income for any student who is receiving unemployment benefits — a powerful step to fast-track financial aid for students who need it most. This provision was also part of the original 2009 guidance but was not included in the department’s Thursday announcement.

Source: https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/07/10/889816881/education-dept-announces-it-wont-punish-colleges-for-reconsidering-student-aid?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=coronavirusliveupdates

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How followers on Instagram can help to navigate your brand during a pandemic

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People around the globe are indeed trying to accept the new norms of social distancing. Even a small business owner and Instagram marketing managers are undertaking pivotal campaigns to make changes on content calendars to launch products or services. They are working on new ideas to ensure the engagement of the audience. It is indispensable to stay connected on Instagram more than ever, as most businesses presently rely on social media.

It is through the proper marketing channels of Instagram that you will be able to connect to the world. You can even use Instagram for entertainment, but you must understand that businesses rely on Instagram’s marketing channels due to a pandemic outbreak. Now the most obvious question that pops up is how to use Instagram in the era of COVID-19?

 Is it necessary to buy followers on Instagram to push your brand?

Just because there is an outbreak of pandemic does not mean you have to stop marketing or selling your brand. You have to continue posting on Instagram to entice the audience consistently. Since your audience is spending more time on Instagram than ever, it is an excellent opportunity for you to grab their attention and convert them into loyal customers. Pandemic brought with itself a unique opportunity for marketers to strengthen the relationship with the audience and increase affinity towards their brand. However, you cannot run the business through the usual channels.

There is a lot of anxiety and sensitivities among the masses. As such, you have to change methods of brand promotion to go with the flow. Change is something that has become constant in the world presently. Brand managers have to devise ways to embrace the uncertainty of present times by consistently dealing with unique challenges. Small business owners are finding it very difficult to juggle between selling and marketing to stay in business. Now the question arises what kind of content to post on Instagram presently?

 

The present scenario exposes a brand new market or territory for all social media managers today in a competent manner. You need to understand that the situation that is confronting the world is something very new and unique. The marketing managers do not have an idea about how to market their products or Instagram during a global pandemic. As such, you cannot find tried and tested strategies for selling your products and services during such a challenging time. However, particular suggestions can help you sustain in the market during a period of crisis.

Guiding principles to market your brand or Instagram during a pandemic.

Learn to accept the new normal

It is not a good idea for marketers to ignore the norms of the new normal. It would help if you inform your followers about the latest social distancing norms and encourage them to abide by it.

It is effortless for you to convey to your audience that you know what is happening around and are concerned about the present situation. Many celebrities have smartly put up that it is very awkward to promote your products and services during such a crisis, but they had plans to do so because they have to provide for their employees.

Many marketers have mentioned that it is an effort to sustain the jobs of their employees. Thus they have to boost their sales on Instagram. Therefore it was a smart move to market products while showing concern for the employees. All you do is acknowledge the current crisis to humanize your brand effectively.

Be consistent with your content

You need to understand that your followers are devoting more time to social media than ever before. Thus it has become much easier for you to connect to your followers and market your products and services. Try to upload content that aligns with the values of your brand to engage consumer prospects. The caption that you upload is also essential because it gives a context to your content that would remain forever. Try to use captions that would acknowledge the crisis while proactively giving solutions to sanitization concerns. However, it would be best to encourage your followers regarding social distancing and isolation to abide by the new normal.

Express empathy

As you know, the pandemic is affecting everybody around the globe in various matters. Thus it would help if you extended your sympathy beyond your situation. It would help if you expressed empathy; add compassion for your followers to make a bond. Do not just post engaging memes without showing concern for your followers. You do not need to speak about COVID-19 in all your captions and post, but the tone should express concern about people worldwide.

It would help if you acknowledged that some of your followers might have become jobless, some must have lost their loved ones, some might be struggling to work from home, etc. As such, your content should acknowledge your followers’ struggles and appreciate their efforts.

Some social media managers believe you must buy followers on Instagram to expand your clientele base during the crisis.

 

Source:  Andrew Thompson is a content developer and online marketing guru. Having worked at an SEO expert company for the last three years, He also advises helping on Instagram to expand your clientele base and share effective SEO tips, strategies, and the latest developments and sure-shot strategies people can take to climb SERP rankings.

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Europe Imposes New Restrictions As COVID-19 Cases Soar

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A waiter cleans a table after closing in Saint Germain-en-Laye, west of Paris on Oct. 16, to comply with new COVID-19 restrictions forcing restaurants, cinemas and theaters in the French capital to close. France imposed a nighttime curfew in Paris and other major cities to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Michel Euler/AP hide caption

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Michel Euler/AP

New regulations and social-distancing rules are being introduced across multiple European countries in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus as a second wave of the pandemic accelerates across the continent. Europe reported more than 1.3 million new cases this past week, its highest single week count yet, according to the World Health Organization.

Spain and France each surpassed 1 million cumulative confirmed cases last week, becoming the sixth and seventh countries to do so globally. Italy, Germany, Belgium, the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom are also experiencing record numbers — threatening to overwhelm countries’ abilities to test, trace and contain the virus. Polish President Andrzej Duda tested positive for the virus over the weekend, as cases have doubled there in recent weeks.

Europe’s infection rate has been rising for over 90 days, according to European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. As authorities and experts worry that the situation in Europe may soon spin out of control, governments are imposing curfews and social restrictions in an attempt to avoid full-scale lockdowns that could hurt the economy and dim the upcoming holiday season.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez declared a national state of emergency on Sunday, which included a nighttime curfew and possible travel restrictions between regions. Italy also announced new measures to curb the virus, the harshest since its lockdown in the spring, when the country was the global epicenter of the pandemic.

U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced a move to a “high” alert level for London and other cities as of Oct. 17, banning residents from mixing with people from other households indoors and restricting outdoor gatherings to six people or fewer.

Last week, Ireland became the first country in Europe to reimpose a lockdown in the face of soaring cases.

Wales began a 17-day lockdown this weekend, shuttering all nonessential businesses and requiring people to remain home, with few exceptions. “If we do this now and if we then have a consistent set of national rules, to keep the transmission and the intensity of the virus at a lower level, then we can have a much more normal Christmas season for businesses,” Vaughan Gething, the Welsh health minister, told BBC Radio Wales.

France has become the worst-hit country in Europe’s second wave, with over 40,000 new cases every day the past few days. Nightly curfews have been in place in several cities since mid-October, and this weekend, multiple new curfews were enacted, bringing the total number of people affected to around 46 million, or about two-thirds of France’s population.

“The second wave is here,” said Prime Minister Jean Castex at a press conference when the new restrictions were announced. “The situation is grave.”

Source: https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/10/25/927637746/europe-imposes-new-restrictions-as-covid-19-cases-soar?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=coronavirusupdates

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Universal Mask Wearing Could Save Some 130,000 Lives In The U.S., Study Suggests

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Midshipmen wearing face masks stand and salute before the Navy Midshipmen play against the Houston Cougars on Saturday in Annapolis, Md. Researchers have tried to estimate how many lives would be saved by universal mask-wearing. Patrick Smith/Getty Images hide caption

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Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Universal mask wearing in public could greatly reduce the number of Americans who die by COVID-19 by February, a study published Friday in the journal Nature Medicine projects.

Researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation made estimates based on some assumptions under different scenarios.

In what they describe as the worst-case scenario, they project that COVID-19 deaths could exceed a million between September 2020 and February 2021 if what they call “the current pattern of easing” restrictions continues in states.

In a second scenario that they think is more likely, they say 511,000 could die between September and February under the assumption that “states would once again shut down social interaction and some economic activity” for six weeks once deaths reach a certain threshold per million residents.

But in a third scenario where 95% of the population dons face coverings and social restrictions are in place, the projection is for deaths to be about 381,000 — or about 130,000 fewer than under the second scenario.

If that mask percentage changes to 85% of Americans with restrictions, it could still save some 96,000 lives, they say.

The study analyzed previous COVID-19 deaths and cases between Feb. 1 and Sept. 21. Researchers also pulled information from various surveys — including ones by Facebook and YouGov — to estimate that as of Sept. 21, only 49% of Americans reported always wearing a mask.

The study also assumed a 40% reduction in risk of COVID transmission due to a mask usage. Earlier studies estimated masks can reduce transmission by at least 30%.

Researchers also noted that changes in policies and behavior could affect outcomes and that epidemics progress in a way that is are “difficult to observe directly and at scale.”

“It is unreasonable to expect any model to do everything well, so each model makes compromises to serve a purpose, while maintaining computational tractability,” researchers wrote.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, more than 224,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus.

Source: https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/10/24/927472457/universal-mask-wearing-could-save-some-130-000-u-s-lives-study-suggests?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=coronavirusupdates

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