Online game lets students slash, tax their way to balanced budget

Lawmakers were shown the game last week.

University of Maryland (UM) College Park students last week finagled with federal spending and deficit reduction so that, at the very worst, they could delay economic Armageddon in the United States.

UM students, most of them majoring in public policy, experimented with ways to get the country’s fiscal house in working order Sept. 19 during the launch of “Budget Hero: Election Edition,” a web-based game that invites players to find a way – any way – to trim the nation’s debt by raising taxes, doing away with certain tax deductions, raising the age of Social Security recipients, and reining in the defense budget, among dozens of other options.

Even allowing the country to fall off the proverbial fiscal cliff – a combination of economic policies dreaded by both major parties – would keep the government running until well into 2027, according to the game.…Read More

143,000 students to lose Pell Grant funding in 2012

An analyst says Congress 'knowingly' underfunds Pell Grants.

Congress’s latest omnibus spending bill will effectively eliminate federal Pell Grant funding for an estimated 143,000 low-income college students starting in July. The Pell Grant cuts come just a month after budget estimates showed the popular program would run a surplus in 2012.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives and the Democratic-controlled Senate passed a $1 trillion spending measure Dec. 19 that included major changes to Pell Grant eligibility.

Students who take more than six years to earn a college degree no longer will qualify for Pell Grant money, meaning 63,000 recipients will have to look elsewhere for tuition. The former eligibility cap was for students who had taken nine years to finish school.…Read More

Steep education cuts loom as debt-panel deadline approaches

Education, agriculture, and environmental programs could soon be exposed to massive cuts.

Federal education spending could be slashed up to 8 percent in 2013 if lawmakers can’t agree on debt-reducing measures soon, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

Failure by Congress’ debt-cutting supercommittee to recommend $1.2 trillion in savings by Nov. 23 is supposed to automatically trigger spending cuts in the same amount to accomplish that job.

Still, the same legislators who concocted that budgetary booby trap just four months ago could end up spending the 2012 election year and beyond battling to defuse it.…Read More

Students, lawmakers question value of for-profit colleges

A Senate report revealed abysmal graduation rates at some for-profit schools.

Taryn Zychal thought she’d be working as an industrial designer after graduating from the Art Institute of Philadelphia. Instead, it’s the debt collection agencies that are working overtime, calling her nearly 30 times a day from 8:30 in the morning to 9:30 at night.

The 27-year-old says she has around $150,000 due in loan payments from attending the private, for-profit university, but Zychal said she couldn’t get a job in her chosen field, and not one of her credits would transfer when she tried to switch to another school.

With what she says is a useless degree, she can’t pay her loans, which cost $1,500 a month.…Read More

For-profit regulations, Pell Grants survive budget compromise

Experts expect lawmakers to keep Pell Grant funding at its current level.

Washington’s last-minute budget deal did not include a provision that would have killed a stringent for-profit college regulation, and Pell Grants remained intact despite deep cuts in education spending over the next six months.

The for-profit regulations pushed by the Obama administration for more than two years would affect some of the nation’s largest online colleges, such as the University of Phoenix and Kaplan University, by stripping schools of federal loan money if too many of their students maintain high loan debt-to-income ratios, among other provisions.

Read more on for-profit college regulations……Read More

Obama: College affordability a key priority

Education was a key part of President Obama's State of the Union address.
Education was a key part of President Obama's State of the Union address.

Education is one of the few areas of the federal budget that would not see a spending freeze, if President Barack Obama gets his way this year—and making college more affordable will be one of his main priorities.

In his State of the Union speech on Jan. 27, Obama called on Congress to finish work on a measure to revitalize community colleges. And he called for a $10,000 tax credit to families for four years of college, as well as an increase in Pell Grants.

“In the 21st century, one of the best anti-poverty programs is a world-class education,” Obama said.…Read More