Traditional federal college aid needs overhaul, education group says

The rapid growth of the Hispanic population, among minorities needing better access to higher education, leads an advocacy group to suggest that the federal financial-aid structure is outdated and needs an overhaul, the National Journal reports. The existing structure for aid has long suited traditional students: those who are predominantly white and college-ready, able to secure their degree in four years. Today 25 percent of K-12 students are Latino, and babies of color now outnumber their white cohort, meaning it’s high time to redefine “traditional.” Changing structures is the basis of policy suggestions released this week by Excelencia in Education in support of redesigning the federal-aid system. The organization is one of 16 that has released white papers as part of the Reimagining Aid Design and Delivery project, a $3.3 million grant program funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation…

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The economic implications of not cultivating our top low-income students

The furor over student debt in this country takes aim at a noble cause — quality education at a good price — but obscures an even nobler cause, which is getting more students to take on more debt to obtain more skills in a modern economy that doesn’t pay living wages to uneducated workers, the Atlantic/National Journal reports. Seen in this light, the single most important issue in higher education isn’t cost, it’s really something more like advertising. If we want students from disadvantaged areas to attend good colleges and obtain modern skills, we should be thinking about ways to entice them, not scare them with blaring headlines: “six figures in debt and unemployed at 22.” There’s a quieter, more lower-case crisis that is potentially even more dangerous for the economy: Smart, low-income students who never consider applying to our best colleges — even though the education would both cost less and lead to higher-paying jobs…

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Graphs: American colleges don’t reflect American diversity

In the last 30 years, the country has become steadily more racially diverse–and so have many American colleges, the National Journal reports. In 1980, more than 80% of the country was white, and whites accounted for about eight in ten students at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. Today, less than 65% of the country is white, and it’s non-whites who now account for a majority at all three of those institutions. The four graphs below compare national racial composition averages in 1980, 1990, 2000, and 2010 to six elite universities: three top-flight private schools in the northeast — Harvard, Yale, and Princeton — and three top-flight public schools across the country — the University of Michigan, the University of Texas, and the University of California, Berkeley…

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How California’s budget crisis colors minorities’ college hopes

Changes to the California’s public higher-education system will affect large number of students of color attending any of the Golden State’s approximately 145 public colleges and universities, the National Journal reports. California Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget, released earlier this month, moderately increases state spending on higher ed and freezes tuition for the next four years. The budget also encourages state colleges and universities to rein in costs, increase graduation rates, and reduce the amount of time it takes students to earn a degree. Although Brown’s changes haven’t been framed as a minority issue per se, they will affect many students of color across the state…

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Online initiative launches to aid low-income students

A new initiative in online learning intending to help low-income adults achieve an associate’s degree is set to launch in Colorado and then California before expanding to selected cities nationwide, the National Journal reports. MyCollege Foundation is partnering with Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles in this program that aims to give students who are strong on grit and drive the chance to gain the skills and confidence to earn a two-year degree, without taking on extensive debt before advancing toward a bachelor’s degree. Partly funded by a $3 million grant by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Portmont College at Mount St. Mary’s plans to offer four fields of study: business administration, computer science, liberal arts, and pre-health science. The concept is the brainchild of Portmount President Srikant Vasan, developed in part while he served as entrepreneur-in-residence at the Gates Foundation…

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Why American colleges are failing low-income students

For many students, the U.S. system of higher education works very well. Even with rising tuition, most four-year and community colleges still offer a good — even great — deal for bright young people with the fundamental skills necessary to graduate, the National Journal reports. For others, however, our college system offers more debt than education. More than 13 percent of students who began repaying their loans in 2009 defaulted within three years, according to a recent Department of Education report. Here is a chart showing loan-default rates across different kinds of college — from two-year public colleges to four-year for-profit institutions. Overall, those institutions serving marginal and lower-income students fared the worst. The most miserable performers of all were for-profit schools, shown in green, where around one out of every five borrower defaulted…

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Opinion: The trouble with big name, big priced colleges: They’re not worth it

Vanessa Bertrand always intended to go to a big-name, out-of-state school. She made the decision as a little girl, watching Cliff Huxtable on a rerun of The Cosby Show argue the merits of Princeton, Yale, Howard, and his father’s favored alma mater, the fictional Hillman College, says the National Journal. The conversation that unfolded on that episode of the 1980s sitcom—a show whose run ended before she was even born—left a deep impression on the child, driving her to research universities before even reaching high school. And at 18, it informed the decisions she made about college applications and the way she ranked the most desirable universities.

“A school’s name opens more doors than many others,” Bertrand explains. “Not only did college open doors, but the school’s name did. So if you have Yale on your resume, it felt like an automatic yes, you’ll get a certain job. So I felt like Ivy Leagues would help me out more than certain colleges would.”

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How some colleges are improving black graduation rates

While college-degree attainment for black students remains persistently low, some colleges and universities are implementing programs that are helping boost graduation rates, a new study shows, the National Journal reports. About half of the public and private schools between 2004 and 2010 either improved their graduation rates or closed the attainment gaps for black students by an average of 8 percentage points. The top-gainer universities boosted graduation rates without reducing black college enrollment, according to the report “Advancing to Completion: Increasing Degree Attainment by Improving Graduation Rates and Closing the Gaps for African-American Students.” The modest gains, the authors of the report argue, show that universities can reverse the trend of low academic completion regardless of their starting point…

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Smith offers STEM immigration bill

A group of House members introduced legislation on Tuesday that would make it easier for foreign students who graduate from U.S. universities with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, or math to stay in the United States, the National Journal reports. House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, introduced the bill along with 47 House Republicans, but only one Democrat, Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, has signed on so far. The full House is expected to vote on the measure this Thursday. The bill targets an issue both parties say needs to be addressed. Both President Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney have voiced support for allowing foreign studnets who graduate with advanced STEM degrees from U.S. schools to stay in this country…

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Graphic: Obama vs. Romney: Future of the workforce

SPECIFIC POLICY POSITIONS

HIGHER EDUCATION
Obama says that the United States should lead the world in college-graduation rates by 2020. He has pushed to expand the size of, and access to, Pell Grants for students from low-income families, increasing the maximum per-student amount, the National Journal Reports. In the spring, Obama shifted his attention to student loans, advocating for legislation to prevent the 3.4 percent student-loan interest rate from doubling. He succeeded when Congress passed a one-year delay. Obama launched an aggressive campaign promoting community colleges. He has also warned universities that their federal funding could be reduced if they don’t rein in tuition costs.

K-12
Obama considers the Education Department’s Race to the Top competitive-grant program, which encourages state-level school reforms, to be one of his crowning domestic-policy achievements. His budget for fiscal 2013 includes $850 million for the program, down from its $4.35 billion level in the 2009 economic-stimulus bill……Read More