The U.S. Department of Education is moving closer to an official announcement of an experiment to allow some prisoners to receive Pell Grants. On Monday Arne Duncan, the education secretary, came close to dropping the details for an experimental sites project, which would grant a limited waiver to the federal rules that prevent prisoners in state and federal prisons from receiving Pell Grants. As Inside Higher Edreported in May, prison education programs at a handful of colleges might be eligible to participate in the experiment.
Duncan said the feds are working on an experimental sites program that would open up Pell eligibility to "incarcerated adults seeking an independent, productive life after they get out of jail," according to a transcript of the major policy speech Duncan gave at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. When asked during a phone call with reporters for more details, Duncan said, "Stay tuned." He is scheduled to appear at a Maryland prison on Friday with Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney general. The event will include a visit to Goucher College's prison education program, and a "major announcement" is planned.
The U.S. Congress banned the use of Pell Grants by prisoners in 1994. Congressional Democrats have called for the ban to be dropped. If the experimental access is successful, it could bolster the case for a full restoration. But opposition appears likely among Republicans.
The Florida Board of Education approved a new performance-funding system for its state colleges that will determine how to award $40 million to the institutions. The plan resembles a larger performance plan that started last year for the state's universities. The colleges are scored in four categories: completion, retention, job placement and continuing education for graduates and entry-level wages for graduates. Completion and retention rates will initially be weighed more heavily than the other two categories.
Seven colleges will receive existing funding and a higher share of new money. They are State College of Florida, and Santa Fe, Valencia, Tallahassee Community, Lake-Sumter State, Gulf Coast State, Manatee-Sarasota and Florida SouthWestern State Colleges. Five institutions will not receive any new funding and will have some existing dollars held back until they show improvements. Those colleges are College of Central Florida, Pasco-Hernando State, Daytona State, Northwest Florida State and Pensacola State colleges. Sixteen other colleges will receive existing and some performance funding.
The University of Wisconsin Colleges, a system of 13 two-year college campuses, on Tuesday announced it would consolidate the leadership jobs for those campuses into four regions, with a single executive officer for each region. Those four leaders will replace the current 13 top posts at the campuses.
The system said it was eliminating the equivalent of 83 full-time administrative positions to cope with its $5 million share of the $125 million state budget cut to the University of Wisconsin System. Another $125 million cut is slated for next year. The UW Colleges, which enroll 14,000 students, will not eliminate any faculty positions, the system said in a news release.
Cathy Sandeen, chancellor of the UW Colleges and UW-Extension, said the budget cuts are the largest in the system's history.
“In making these changes, we are staying true to our key priorities and our mission: to ensure access, to provide the highest level of instruction and services to our students, and to uphold our commitment to the communities that invest in us,” Sandeen said in a written statement. “I have been strongly committed throughout our budget reduction processes to protecting our academic program, which is our core mission.”
Oregon's governor, Kate Brown, a Democrat, on Friday signed a bill to create a free community college grant, several news outlets reported. Oregon follows Tennessee as the second state to fund a statewide free community college program. The legislation includes $10 million for qualifying students, who will each receive at least a $1,000 grant. The state also will spend $7 million on related student success and completion programs.
The news earned a celebratory tweet from President Obama:
Congrats to Oregon on passing two years of free community college! Every hardworking student deserves access to higher education.
New data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center show that 37.2 percent of college students transfer at least once within six years. The research is based on the center's virtually comprehensive database of American college students. It tracked first-time students who enrolled in college in 2008.
Students often cross state lines (which means they don't necessarily show up in state databases of students or graduates). The clearinghouse said nearly a quarter of transfers from four-year institutions left the state. And community college was the top destination for transfer students from four-year institutions, with 53.7 moving to a two-year community college.
The University of California System this week announced a "new academic road map" for community college students in the state who seek to transfer to UC campuses. The transfer pathways include a single set of courses that UC said will prepare transfer students for 10 of the most popular majors at the university's nine campuses. The university said it plans to create pathways for another 11 majors later this year.
Roughly 30 percent of UC's undergraduates are transfer students, with 90 percent of those students coming from a California community college. The university said the transfer pathways will help UC meet its goal of enrolling at least one new transfer student for every two new freshmen. UC and Jerry Brown, California's governor, established the 2:1 ratio as part of a budget deal they struck earlier this year.
A committee of Oregon's Legislature on Monday advanced a bill that would fund a tuition waiver for community college students, the Statesman Journal of Salem reported. The bill, which the State Senate is now considering, would provide a grant to qualifying students that would fill in the tuition gap that is not covered by other state and federal aid, as well as a $50 tuition term fee students would pay. The state also would cap the annual amount it would spend on the benefit at $10 million, which lawmakers conceded likely would not cover tuition for all students who would qualify (maintaining a 2.5 GPA is a requirement).
Lawmakers in Washington, D.C., also are considering a tuition-free community college proposal. Last month the City Council held a hearing on a bill that would create a scholarship to cover tuition and fees for qualifying students who attend the District of Columbia Community College, reported the Community College Daily, a news service of the American Association of Community Colleges.
Trenton Mays, one of the Steubenville High School football players convicted in 2013 of raping a girl, will be playing football again. Hocking College, an Ohio technical college, has enrolled him, The Athens Messenger reported. College policy bars Mays from living in the dormitories, which are off-limits to convicted sex offenders, but not from playing football. A statement from Betty Young, the president of the college, said: “Everyone deserves a second chance. Second chances do not excuse or defend previous behavior. There are a lot of ‘second chance’ stories at every community college, Trenton’s story is just one more.”