Sanders enters presidential campaign and touts free tuition plan

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Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent, enters Democratic presidential race with a pitch for his free tuition plan, possibly putting some pressure on Hillary Clinton's left flank.

Performance-Funding Bill Advances in Texas

The Texas Senate on Thursday passed a bill that would require public colleges to meet several performance standards in order to increase tuition rates beyond the rate of inflation. Performance-based funding formulas, while controversial, are becoming more popular among state legislatures. The bill in Texas, which now goes to the state House for consideration, likely will draw national attention.

The 11 performance requirements in the proposed legislation include measures of graduation rates, student completion milestones, the number of degrees earned by at-risk students and the institution's administrative costs. 

In 2003 the Texas Legislature ceded its ability to set tuition rates at the state's public institutions. That move was a response in part to deep budget cuts, The Dallas Morning News reported. But tuition has risen quickly since then, said lawmakers who support the bill.

“The cost of college education has skyrocketed to where students are being priced out of higher education altogether or required to take out exorbitant student loans to finance their education,” said State Senator Charles Schwertner, a Republican, according to the Dallas newspaper.

Job Cuts at Concordia Moorhead

Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., is cutting its workforce by 5 percent to respond to declining enrollments, Forum News Service reported. The cuts are a mix of faculty and staff positions, and a mix of “separation agreements” and of not replacing people who have left the college.


LSU Prepares Financial Exigency Plan

The Louisiana State University System is drafting a plan to declare financial exigency, The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported. Governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican, has proposed massive cuts for higher education and the Legislature's various versions of his budget have added to the cuts, which now appear to total more than 80 percent of state funds for LSU. While various plans have circulated to restore some of the money, those plans haven't advanced, which has prompted the financial exigency plan. Under financial exigency, it is generally easier for a university to make deep cuts. And because such statements mean that the survival of an institution is in danger, the American Association of University Professors permits layoffs to include tenured professors.

F. King Alexander, president and chancellor of LSU, said that declaring financial exigency would send a terrible message about the state of the institution. “You'll never get any more faculty,” he said.

Alaska-Fairbanks to Cut Several Academic Programs

A monthslong review by the University of Alaska at Fairbanks has concluded with a decision to eliminate six degree offerings in an effort to cut $14 million, reported. The philosophy, engineering management and science management degrees will be eliminated, and certain degree offerings in chemistry, music and sociology will also be ended.

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State budget projections for higher education look bleak thanks to Medicaid costs

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Medicaid costs will lead to a bleak decade for state spending on higher education, a new study predicts.

Senate Democrats Push Debt-Free Public College

A group of three Senate Democrats, including Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, this week introduced a resolution promoting debt-free public college. Several Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives put forward an accompanying proposal. The brief Senate resolution describes a plan to help states pay more for higher education, to increase financial aid to cover students' living expenses and to encourage innovation that would make college more affordable.

“A student at a public university today faces tuition prices that are more than 300 percent of what his or her parents faced just 30 years ago, and total outstanding student loan debt now stands at a staggering $1.3 trillion,” Warren said in a written statement. “Our country should be investing in higher education and working with colleges and universities to bring down tuition costs so that students don't have to take on crushing debt to get an education.”

The Washington Post reported that the push, which two liberal groups are supporting, is intended to encourage Hillary Clinton to make the plan part of her campaign proposals. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Demos released a policy paper this week that attempts to flesh out the plan. The groups are arranging events at 10 college campuses this week to promote it.


U of Wisconsin at Madison to Cut 400 Jobs

The University of Wisconsin at Madison plans to cut 400 positions and drastically trim its budget, a response to Republican Governor Scott Walker's plan to cut $300 million from the UW system over the next two years. In a blog post on Friday, Madison Chancellor Becky Blank said the university is facing a "structural deficit that may be as much as $96 million as a result of state budget cuts in the upcoming year." Meanwhile Walker, a possible contender for the Republican presidential nomination, said earlier this week that the state might reduce funding less than originally planned, according to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Catholic U of America Orders Layoffs and Buyouts

Catholic University of America has eliminated 37 positions through buyouts and layoffs, The Washington Post reported. The university is trying to cut costs in the wake of declining enrollment in its law school and architecture school.


Report: Wealthiest Colleges Get More Wealthy

A report being issued today by Moody’s finds that the wealthiest American colleges and universities are getting wealthier at a faster rate than other institutions, The Wall Street Journal reported. This is largely a continuation of a longtime trend. The wealthiest institutions are elite universities that attract large donations and use sophisticated investment strategies that rarely are available to institutions with small endowments. The new Moody's report says the wealthiest 10 universities in fiscal 2014 held almost one-third of cash and investments at four-year colleges and universities, while the top 40 had two-thirds.


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