Colleges: Federal sign up available for competency experiments

Competency-based experiments, once buried, get new life and could be huge opportunity for colleges and universities

experiment-congress-competencyFrom badges to skills pathways, more higher ed institutions are not only feeling the pressure to accept, but realizing the benefits of implementing, alternative credentials for a broad range of students. And in an initiative once slowly decaying, the Department of Education (DOE) is now offering volunteer institutions a chance to sign up for the Experimental Sites Initiative for some regulatory perks.

The Experimental Sites Initiative was created by Congress through the DOE to help develop innovative and effective policies related to federal financial aid. And in what could be a great boon for colleges and universities, those that participate can have waived regulatory and/or statutory financial aid requirements. The perk for Congress is taking what works and implementing those practices on a large scale for future policies.

In other words, these ‘experiments’ “give Congress a way to see how policies might work before they are implemented writ large, hopefully mitigating unintended consequences (Evidence-based policy-making?! Crazy talk),” writes New America’s EdCentral.…Read More

As for-profit college sector grows, employment drops

Higher-education employment saw its lowest increase since 2003.

The for-profit college industry, featuring some of the most expansive online learning programs in the United States, was the only higher-education sector that saw a drop in employment last year despite massive growth over the past decade, according to newly-released federal statistics.

The U.S. Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics on Sept. 25 released its latest higher-education employment numbers, showing that colleges and universities have slowed hiring to rates not seen since 2003.

For-profit colleges, mostly catering to nontraditional learners who earn degrees and credentials online, were the only schools to end 2011 with fewer employees than they started with. The number of for-profit college employees dropped to 288,890 in fall 2011 from 295,495 in 2010, according to the federal report.…Read More

The most expensive 4-year colleges

Students at Penn State pay the highest tuition bill in the country among four-year public colleges according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Education, the Huffington Post reports. The average tuition cost rose 15 percent between 2008 and 2010, which in large part was driven by cuts in appropriations.

“We are seeing some alarming trends,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a Tuesday conference call. “Deep budget cuts are unfortunately helping to drive up the cost of college.”

The department’s “College Affordability and Transparency Center” website details which colleges have the highest and lowest tuition. The website includes the new data released this week and can be sorted by the either tuition price or net cost to attend……Read More

Commission examining federal rule that could ‘impede access’ to online education

The commission will have an adviser from the Education Department.

A group of influential policy makers will review a federal regulation that has drawn the scorn of online college officials who say the government rule could leave students in small states without access to web-based courses.

“State authorization” rules have been at the center of an ongoing debate among federal officials pushing colleges to register online programs in every state in which they operate, and campus decision makers who call the law onerous and overreaching.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) lost a court battle over the state authorization rules last year, but ED officials have continued to push for the regulations. And the U.S. House of Representatives in February voted to eliminate state authorization rules in a rare bipartisan vote.…Read More

Officials target college financial aid letters

Financial aid letters don't always distinguish between grants and loans.

Financial aid award letters can be misleading.

In one common practice, for example, colleges highlight the total “out of pocket” cost for attending. The figure is intended to give students an estimate of how much they’d have to pay after outright awards, such as grants and scholarships are factored in.

But in calculating the “out of pocket” figure, some schools also reduce the total bill by the amount students would have to borrow even though loans accrue interest and ultimately push up a student’s costs.…Read More

ED looks to crack down on misleading college recruiting

Duncan said ED's proposed rules would increase colleges' accountability to students.
Duncan said ED's proposed rules would increase colleges' accountability to students.

Some of the nation’s largest online colleges could be barred from tying recruiters’ pay to the number of students they enroll if the Obama administration’s new list of rules for for-profit institutions becomes federal policy.

The administration’s set of 14 proposed guidelines for for-profit colleges—announced June 16—was created in response to widespread student complaints of deceitful recruiting practices at some of the most profitable institutions.

Many of the proposals aim to ensure that federal aid is distributed only to students who are qualified to take college classes.…Read More