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U.S. panel offers draft recommendations for revamping higher education accreditation

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In new draft, U.S. panel endorses specific ideas for reworking higher education accreditation, including keeping link to student aid and defining common data for accreditors to use in judging colleges.

Obama higher education plan signals policy shift

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President Obama lays out details for his plan to hold colleges accountable for rising prices, with ramifications beyond the election this fall.

Obama plan to tie tuition prices to aid eligibility draws criticism

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With Obama proposing to make colleges that increase tuition too much ineligible for some federal financial aid, many say that would only make matters worse.

Education Department Admits Flawed Data in Gainful Employment Analysis

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The Department of Education admits failing to include black students in its calculation of loan repayment rates in run-up to gainful employment. The mistake will fuel for-profit claims of unfair treatment by feds.

Higher education proposals included in State of the Union

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In State of the Union speech, Obama calls for keeping student loan interest rates low and warns colleges to stop raising tuition -- or risk losing federal support.

Gingrich puts forward higher ed ideas in 2012 campaign

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Republican front-runner Newt Gingrich is unique in the field for his academic past -- and for some of the ideas he has put forward.

Education Dept. Proposes New PLUS Loan Standards

The U.S. Department of Education is proposing new eligibility requirements for Parent PLUS loans. Under draft regulatory language sent this week to members of the department’s negotiated rule making panel, parents would generally be barred from taking out PLUS loans if they have any type of debt exceeding $2,085 that is 90 or more days delinquent or that has been sent to a collection agency or charged off. The proposal also changes the look-back period for that “adverse credit” history from five years to two years.

Under a separate policy change that goes into effect July 1, families that are denied a Parent PLUS loan because of an adverse credit history may appeal to the Education Department, which can then provide the loan if there are "extenuating circumstances."

The department’s standards for obtaining a PLUS have been a source of controversy since at least 2011, when officials quietly tightened the requirements. Leaders of historically black colleges and universities and for-profit colleges -- which enroll large numbers of students who rely on PLUS loans -- have said the changes were denying underserved students access to the loans they need to pay for college. Presidents of black colleges, in particular, have pushed the Obama administration to make it easier for families to access the loans. Some consumer advocates and think tanks, on the other hand, argue that the department should keep its credit standards -- or even tighten them further -- so that parents aren’t saddled with large amounts of debt that they cannot possibly repay.

Debit Cards and State Authorization

The department also circulated this week a revised version of its proposal to more tightly regulate campus debit cards. The latest draft keeps in place some of the restrictions on the marketing of campus debit cards as well as the ban on certain account and ATM fees.

In addition, department officials put out a second draft of their rewritten state authorization rule. The proposal would reinstate a requirement -- which a federal judge struck down for procedural reasons in 2012 -- that providers of online education obtain approval from each and every state in which they enroll students.

The new draft of that rule keeps in place a controversial provision that would essentially require states to subject all distance education providers to a formal regulatory review (as opposed to approving the program on the basis of its accreditation or another reason). Some state regulators have said that requirement would impose substantial new burdens on them; it would also likely require many states to change their laws.

The rule making panel will meet in Washington next Wednesday through Friday to discuss the proposals. The department also last week formally added a fourth negotiating session, which will take place May 19-20. 

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Michelle Obama Urges College Attendance in Howard U. Visit

Continuing her push to promote higher education, First Lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday toured Howard University with a group of Chicago public high school juniors and seniors.

The students were participating in the “Escape to Mecca” program, which is aimed at exposing high-achieving Chicago students to Howard University, which is referred to as the “Mecca” of African-American education.

Obama was joined by the rapper and television host Bow Wow for a tour of a women’s dormitory and a discussion session in a campus cafeteria.

“No longer is high school the bar,” she told the 37 Chicago students. “That is not enough in today’s globalizing economy. You have got to go to college, or get some kind of professional training beyond college.”

“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done on our end -- governments, private sector, the folks with money,” Obama said of the administration’s goal for the country to have the most college graduates in the world by 2020. But, she added: “You don’t have time to wait for everybody to fix the system for you.”

Bow Wow -- formerly known as Lil’ Bow Wow and whose real name is Shad Moss -- did not attend college and instead pursued his entertainment career, which began at age 13, according to his manager, Bart Waters. The First Lady on Wednesday praised Bow Wow’s commitment to promoting higher education, and has previously appeared on his BET talk show to discuss the issue. The Obama administration since this past winter has sought to highlight and address the issue of “undermatching” -- the term education researchers use to describe when high-achieving students do not apply to or enroll at the best institutions at which they would succeed.

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Researchers debate changes to federal income-based repayment programs

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Policy makers and higher education researchers grapple with how to reform and overhaul federal income-based repayment programs for student loan borrowers. 

Education Department plans to change how it oversees loan servicers

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Education Department plans changes in how it evaluates student loan servicers. Consumer advocates and some members of Congress have criticized the department's oversight of the companies. 

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