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Duncan back at House to push Obama's budget

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Saying now is not the time to cut back on higher ed, the U.S. education secretary testifies before a House committee.

U.S. data show rate of enrollment growth slowing in 2009-10

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Federal data show number of students in college rose by 3% in fall 2010, less than half as much as in 2009. Gender gap shrinks; for-profit colleges enrolled 11.3% of students.

Another White House Meeting on College Costs

About 25 presidents from state colleges and universities met with White House and Education Department officials Friday for another discussion of President Obama's plans to try to make college more affordable. The presidents, who were in Washington for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities' Council of State Representatives meeting, met with domestic policy director Cecilia Muñoz, Deputy Education Secretary Tony Miller and Office of Public Engagement Director Jon Carson, an administration official said. (President Obama, who spent more than an hour with college presidents in a similar meeting in December, was not present.)

Some public college officials had expressed concern about Obama's plans to lower college cost, which include using campus-based financial aid programs to award or punish colleges who raise tuition too much. The president has emphasized that state legislatures have to play a role in keeping college affordable, a concern the presidents discussed in the meeting, said Nasser Paydar, chancellor of Indiana University East.

"We talked about what kinds of things universities are doing and can do to overcome the financial support [issue] without really raising tuition to put a lot of people out of market," Paydar said, adding that he was impressed by the administration's focus on college  issues. "Sometimes the actual words are not that important -- it’s the fact that there’s an emphasis on higher education."

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Student Borrowers With Highest Debt Loads Uninformed

Some student loan borrowers with the biggest debt loads didn't fully understand what they were getting into when they borrowed the money, a survey of those borrowers has found. The survey, by the advocacy group Young Invincibles and NERA Economic Consulting, asked borrowers who signed a petition about student loan forgiveness what they were told when they took out the loans. About two-thirds of the respondents, who had an average debt load of $76,000, said they didn't understand the difference between private loans and federal loans. Federal loans have more protections and typically lower interest rates than privately offered loans. Two-thirds also said they misunderstood or were surprised by something in the borrowing and repayment process.

Twenty percent said they found the amount of their monthly payments surprising. An additional 20 percent were surprised by repayment terms, and 15 percent were surprised by the amount of interest they would have to pay. Many of those borrowers appear to look back ruefully: "I wish I asked a million more questions than what I did, but at the same time, I don’t think I knew what to ask," one said, according to the report, "High Debt, Low Information."

Borrowers with more than $50,000 in debt are a small fraction -- about 11 percent -- of student debtors over all. The average outstanding student loan debt is $23,300.

Higher education proposals in 2013 Republican budget

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A proposal announced Tuesday would cut Pell Grants and make student loans appear more costly on federal balance sheets.

Multi-state investigation of for-profits stays local, so far

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Multi-state investigation of for-profits includes review of institutional loans and recruiting of veterans. But finding common targets is a problem, and investigators have yet to take on a major for-profit.

Essay challenging article that said Cal State more expensive than Harvard

By now you probably have read in the news that, according to the Bay Area News Group in San Francisco, an average Harvard University education for a family earning $130,000 annually is less expensive than a California State University education.

As an individual who spends a great deal of time delving into the world of higher education finance, I feel compelled to clarify this very misleading report. The published report stated that due to Harvard’s vast $30-plus billion endowment and substantial tuition discounting practices, a student from a family earning an average of $130,000 per year would pay only $17,000 to attend Harvard, not the listed tuition cost of $36,300. This was compared to the overall cost of a Cal State education, which was listed in the report at $24,000 per year, and to a University of California education, listed at $33,000 annually. 

Now for the facts. Despite the fact that we have had to rapidly increase Cal State tuition fees due to unprecedented state legislative budget reductions in previous years, Cal State and CSU-Long Beach remain among the most affordable universities in the nation.

At Long Beach, for example, students in 2011-12 paid $6,240 annually (Cal State average: $6,519) for Cal State system and campus-based tuition fees, plus an additional $10,658 for full campus-based room and board. This means that a full year at CSULB (with room and board) for a student from a family earning $130,000 annually actually costs $16,898 as opposed to the reported $24,000.

Furthermore, when comparing the cost of two different universities, it is common practice to compare tuition and fees of one campus to the tuition and fees of another campus and not to include the additional cost of room and board for only one of the institutions in the report. In fact, in making the basic assumption that a Harvard student also has to eat and sleep and therefore pay room and board, as does a CSU resident student, Harvard’s full price jumps to over $56,000 -- not the $36,300 listed in the report and published in newspapers throughout California.          

Additionally, according to recent Delta Cost Study data, when assessing the average tuition and fees, excluding room and board, collected by both Harvard and CSU campuses for students from all family incomes, CSU institutions actually collect around $5,000 for educational purposes while Harvard collects over $20,000 per student -- despite having the world’s largest university endowment of $30 billion.      

Finally, do not fall victim to misleading and inaccurate reports regarding actual college and university costs. For students and families making difficult college and university cost comparisons, it is important to find out what the average family pays to attend, the “net tuition” charged per family. It is also important to find out the average student debt load upon graduation and the percentage of students graduating in debt.

As a national leader in making this information available, CSULB and the entire CSU have developed websites as part of our College Portrait and “Public Good” pages where this information can be viewed by all prospective students and families. The CSU and CSULB are proud to be among the nation’s best in having the lowest student loan indebtedness upon graduation, and we hope that all Californians will invest in our students to keep it that way. 

Good information in the hands of all consumers will prevent them from falling victim to sensational headlines that have more power to mislead than to educate.

F. King Alexander is president of California State University at Long Beach.

Students Lobby to Stop Interest Rate Increase

Advocacy groups, including Campus Progress, US PIRG, Rebuild the Dream and other student groups, delivered 130,000 letters from students to Congress on Wednesday, asking the lawmakers to stop the interest rate on subsidized student loans from doubling to 6.8 percent in July. President Obama has urged Congress to stop the rate increase, and Congressional Democrats have called for the change as well. Keeping the interest rate for subsidized loans at 3.4 percent would cost about $5 billion.

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Education Department Releases FAFSA Completion Data

The Education Department will track the number of students completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and release the data to the public, sorted by high school,  the department announced Tuesday. The website, which lists the number of students per high school who have completed and submitted the form, is intended to help high school counselors (and others) and uses data from the Education Department's systems, the first time such data has been made available. The numbers will be updated every two weeks.

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Another White House Event Planned on College Costs

Another group of college presidents and chancellors has been invited to the White House for a meeting on college affordability and productivity. Details about the meeting, scheduled for March 23, are scant, including whether President Obama will attend (as he did when another group of  college presidents was invited to White House in December).  

According to an email forwarded to Inside Higher Ed by a person connected to an invited guest, "administration officials will engage presidents and chancellors in exploring constructive solutions to bringing down college costs, making higher education more affordable and attainable, and regaining America’s global leadership in higher education attainment."

The White House has focused increasingly on college costs and productivity as Obama ramps up his re-election campaign, including proposals to tie some forms of financial aid to measures of "value" in higher education.

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