Pell grants shouldn’t pay for remedial college

Everyone, from President Barack Obama to U.S. Representative Paul Ryan to Bill Gates, seems to have an idea for improving the Federal Pell Grant Program for higher education, Bloomberg reports. Worthy though some of these efforts may be, none reveals the crux of the problem: A huge proportion of this $40 billion annual federal investment is flowing to people who simply aren’t prepared to do college-level work. And this is perverting higher education’s mission, suppressing completion rates and warping the country’s K-12 system. About two-thirds of low-income community-college students — and one-third of poor students at four-year colleges — need remedial (aka “developmental”) education, according to Complete College America, a nonprofit group. But it’s not working: Less than 10 percent of students who start in remedial education graduate from community college within three years, and just 35 percent of remedial students earn a four-year degree within six years. What if the government decreed that three years hence, students would only be eligible for Pell aid if enrolled in credit- bearing college courses, thus disqualifying remedial education for support?

Read more

…Read More

Obama proposes market-based interest rates for student loans

President Barack Obama on Wednesday proposed shifting federal student loans to market-based rates rather than the current system in which interest rates are fixed by law and subject to congressional whim, the Chicago Tribune reports. The new interest-rate approach is one of several measures included in President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2014 budget proposal to contain growing student loan debt and make higher education more affordable. The president’s budget stands little chance of being enacted into law, but the proposals could help jumpstart congressional debate about reforming student loans. Obama’s plan also calls for making the rate on new federal student loans a market interest rate that would remain fixed for the life of the loan. The proposal calls for expanding repayment options so borrowers do not have to pay more than 10 percent of their discretionary income on student loan bills.

Read more

…Read More

University scientists join Obama’s BRAIN initiative

UC Berkeley scientists attended Obama’s BRAIN initiative announcement.

Scientists from The Rockefeller University and Stanford University are part of a “dream team” assembled to create a real-time map of the human brain after President Barack Obama asked Congress to approve $110 million in new spending for brain research, an investment he said would benefit not just science but the economy.

“Ideas are what power our economy,” Obama said April 2 in announcing the proposal. “When we invest in the best ideas before anybody else does, our businesses and our workers can make the best products and deliver the best services before anybody else.”

The “BRAIN” initiative — for Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies — would start with $110 million in the budget for fiscal year 2014 that Obama plans to unveil next week.…Read More

Republicans pounce after Obama targets diploma mills catering to military

A Florida Republican has called for a hearing on the president's April 27 executive order.

Congressional Republicans and officials from the for-profit college industry have excoriated President Obama’s executive order meant to provide more college information to military veterans with ample federal education benefits, with one influential House Republican calling for a hearing on the order.

Obama on April 27 signed the order at the Fort Stewart Army post in Georgia, after years of complaints about for-profit colleges catering to military service members who have GI Bill benefits. For-profit schools receive about 90 percent of their funding from federally-backed student loans.

The executive order, lauded by many in higher education who have raised questions about the quality of for-profit college courses and the sector’s skyrocketing dropout rate, could allow military veterans to more easily calculate loan repayments on money needed outside of GI Bill benefits, along with a school’s policy on course credit transfers.…Read More

Report: Technology not the answer to bolstering community college access

Almost half of community colleges increased online course offerings in 2011.

More than 400,000 Americans were turned away from community colleges last year not because schools couldn’t keep up with the demand for online courses, but because deep state and federal budget cuts have left two-year campuses without educators to head those online classes.

Community colleges are, by most national measurements, at the forefront of web-based education, with campus administrators looking for any way to keep up with the growing demand for classes that began after the economic downturn of 2008.

But no amount of technological experimentation will compensate for good old-fashioned government investment in community colleges, according to a report from the Center for the Future of Higher Education Policy, which presents a series of arguments against the short-term goal – pushed by President Obama and House and Senate leaders – to arm workers with certificates to fill private sector job openings in the lackluster economy.…Read More

Obama: Community colleges central to economic recovery

Obama spoke to more than 100 community college officials at the White House.
Obama spoke to more than 100 community college officials at the White House. (Courtesy White House photographer Pete Souza)

During an Oct. 5 White House summit, Obama administration officials and community college leaders discussed ways to position two-year colleges as training hubs that could be instrumental in the country’s economic recovery. And technology, they said, would be a centerpiece to enrolling more students and boosting completion rates.

The gathering of more than 100 community college decision makers from across the country was the White House’s first-ever Summit on Community Colleges, where top federal officials lauded two-year colleges as a bridge to jobs and four-year universities, and a way to lead the world in college graduates by 2020.

The Community College Summit was held a day after President Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board announced its Skills for America’s Future program, which aims to connect businesses with community colleges to help better match workers with jobs during the economic recovery and beyond.…Read More

Broadband grants include $63M for 100-gigabit research network

Federal funding will provide more broadband access to BYU students in Idaho.
Federal funding will provide more broadband access to students across the nation.

Colleges and universities will be among the anchor institutions in an ultra high-speed nationwide internet network after President Obama on July 2 announced more than $760 million in grants designed to expand broadband web access.

The Departments of Commerce and Agriculture will dole out the federal broadband funding, which will go to 66 recipients, including municipalities, web service providers, libraries, and colleges, according to the White House.

Federal officials estimate that the funds will create 5,000 jobs in the nation’s slumping economy.…Read More

$20 billion in ed funding slashed from student aid legislation

Funding for an online course program was cut out of the final student aid bill.
$500 million in proposed funding to create open online courses was cut out of the final student aid bill.

In last-minute maneuvering designed to get the measure to pass, lawmakers eliminated $20 billion in proposed education funding from the student aid overhaul enacted by Congress last week—dampening enthusiasm for legislation that K-12 and higher-education officials had lobbied for over the past year. Of that $20 billion, $12 billion was slated for community colleges to boost graduation rates, partly through the development of open online courses, and $8 billion was pegged for an early-childhood education program.

Community college officials cheered the American Graduation Initiative (AGI) when lawmakers introduced the program last fall, but last-minute compromises and worries over the cost of the student aid bill forced legislators to eliminate the $12 billion set aside for AGI, observers said. The program aimed to help community colleges produce 5 million more graduates over the next decade.

AGI had included $500 million for an online skills laboratory modeled after Carnegie Mellon University’s Open Learning Initiative (OLI). The free, open internet classes were to be created by the Departments of Defense, Education, and Labor, according to a White House announcement.…Read More

House boosts college aid for students in need

Obama pushed for legislation that would fill a $19 billion Pell Grant shortfall.
Obama pushed for legislation that would fill a $19 billion Pell Grant shortfall.

Riding the coattails of a historic health care vote, the House on March 21 also passed a broad reorganization of college aid that affects millions of students and moves President Barack Obama closer to winning yet another of his top domestic policies.

The bill rewrites a four-decades-old student loan program, eliminating its reliance on private lenders and using the savings to direct $36 billion in new spending to Pell Grants for students in financial need.

In the biggest piece of education legislation since No Child Left Behind nine years ago, the bill also would provide more than $4 billion to historically black colleges and community colleges.…Read More