institutionalfinance

Lon Morris College Calls Off Fall Semester

Lon Morris College, a private, two-year institution in Texas that has been facing severe financial difficulties, has announced that it will not hold a fall semester. A statement from the college said that it is working with Jacksonville College and Tyler Junior College to find places for students admitted to the college. The statement said that the college is looking for a "purchaser" or "financial partner."

 

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GOP Platform's Hard Stance on Undocumented Students

Republican delegates have drafted a preliminary version of the immigration plank in the platform for the party's national convention that would deny federal funding to colleges and universities that allow illegal immigrants to enroll as in-state students, according to The New York Times. The plank reportedly takes a hard line on immigration generally. Delegates will consider the full platform for approval at next week's convention in Tampa, Fla.

$81,000 in the Desk Drawer

Missouri State University officials said Tuesday that they had fired Mark Brixey as bookstore manager after he couldn't account for $400,000 in receipts over the last three years, KY3 News reported. A key clue: Auditors said that they discovered $81,000 in cash in Brixey's desk drawer last week, when he was on vacation. News accounts did not indicate if Brixey has responded to his dismissal or the allegations.

 

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Financial aid directors support better information for students

Let’s get one thing straight: Financial aid award letters can and should be improved to better help students understand the costs of higher education and the aid available to them.

Although Rachel Fishman’s Views article in Monday's Inside Higher Ed would have readers believe otherwise, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) and the 18,000 financial aid professionals we represent are committed to ensuring that students and families have the information they need to make good decisions about planning and paying for college.

Fishman’s opinion article not only oversimplifies and misrepresents NASFAA’s position, it wastes precious time drawing battle lines over a fight that doesn’t exist, instead of moving the policy discussion forward.

Here’s the reality:

  • All key stakeholders agree that improvement is needed in consumer disclosures about the cost of college. That’s why NASFAA convened a Consumer Information and Award Letter Task Force on this subject almost a year ago. In May, that task force released recommendations on how to improve award letters and consumer notification -- recommendations that align with the Department of Education’s recently released Shopping Sheet in several key areas.
  • NASFAA has never opposed or discouraged use of the Shopping Sheet. Rather, we have urged schools to carefully examine the Shopping Sheet to ensure it will effectively communicate important information.  We’ve also encouraged members to – at a minimum – adopt the recommendations NASFAA issued in the spring.  In a recent letter to members, I wrote, “Regardless of whether your institution adopts the Shopping Sheet, I urge you to strongly consider standardizing specific elements of the Shopping Sheet that are in correlation with NASFAA’s recommendations, as set forth by the Task Force and adopted by the NASFAA Board of Directors.”
  • NASFAA has been at the forefront of discussions about how to lead improvement of consumer disclosures. Rather than putting “entrenched institutional interests above students’ financial welfare” (as Fishman asserts) we’ve actually partnered with the Department of Education throughout this process, urging our members to offer feedback on preliminary versions of the Shopping Sheet as well as the final version. We were pleased to partner with key members of the Department of Education and White House to see aspects of our recommendations adopted in the final version.

Ignoring the existence of NASFAA’s detailed recommendations show at best a lack of research (or even cursory glance) on Fishman’s part, and at worst an intentional omission of facts in order to bolster her misguided assertions that do little to move this policy discussion forward.

The truth is that our recommendations align in many places with the goals of the Shopping Sheet. For instance, we concur with mandating the standardization of common terminology to avoid confusion and enhance comparability. We also recommend that self-help aid and student loans be clearly delineated from grants and scholarships. In fact, NASFAA’s recommendations go further than the shopping sheet, advocating for a one-stop online location where students can be shown all of their student loan indebtedness, both federal and private.

However, we do remain cautious about fully endorsing the Shopping Sheet because it hasn’t been consumer-tested against other models, including online and electronic models currently utilized successfully by leading institutions of higher education.  Schools are already required to provide an overwhelming number of disclosures to students and parents. Without consumer testing, no one can assert that the Shopping Sheet is the best way to convey financial aid award information to all types of students. To ensure the Shopping Sheet is based on rigorous research rather than anecdote, NASFAA is planning a consumer test, to be conducted through an independent third-party evaluator.

In the absence of such empirical data, NASFAA encourages financial aid offices to “to carefully review the Shopping Sheet before adopting it to ensure it will effectively communicate this critical information to the students and families they serve.”

This statement of caution should not be misrepresented as opposition. NASFAA does not oppose the Shopping Sheet, but we do wish to circumvent unintended negative consequences, avoid additional confusion, and preserve the ability of schools to deliver information in ways that they have found best serve their particular populations.

Fishman states that “the Shopping Sheet may need to be altered in some circumstances.” We agree. Unfortunately, once a school agrees to use the Shopping Sheet in its current form, it cannot be altered to meet the unique needs of diverse higher education institutions -- and this inflexibility is one of NASFAA’s primary concerns.

For instance, some campuses send a different award letter to returning students than to incoming students. While the Shopping Sheet is designed to inform first-time or prospective students, the vast majority of college students are returning students.

Appropriate consumer disclosures that actually help students and families cannot be developed in a vacuum. Financial aid administrators are a key part of the ongoing dialogue. We agree that change is needed and some level of standardization is warranted, but this process must be deliberative and based on quantifiable data about what works for students and families. Anything less is a disservice to those we are trying to help.

Justin Draeger is president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.

St. Paul's College Suspends Most Operations

St. Paul's College, a historically black college in Virginia, is suspending most operations for the fall semester, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. In the last month, the college has helped many of its students transfer to other institutions. The moves follow the decision in June of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to revoke St. Paul's accreditation. The college is appealing, and is also exploring possible mergers, but decided that suspending operations for the fall was the best course of action for now, officials said.

 

Ohio's Chancellor U. Faces Loss of Accreditation

Four years after investors stepped in to stave off the death of Myers University, which has educated adults in Cleveland since the 1850s, the institution -- now called Chancellor University -- once again faces an existential threat, this time at the hands of its regional accreditor. The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools voted in late June to put Chancellor on "show cause" status, meaning that the institution will be shut down if its officials cannot persuade the accreditor within a year that it has ameliorated the agency's concerns, which relate to weak finances, conflicts of interest and poor student retention.

It has been a bumpy few years for the institution since 2008, when the Higher Learning Commission granted permission for Myers' buyers (led by the high-profile investor Michael Clifford) to transform it into Chancellor. Clifford had grand plans, including the naming of the institution's management school for Jack Welch, the former head of General Electric. (The management school has since been sold to another for-profit institution, Strayer University.) But it wasn't long before the institution was back in turmoil; in February 2010, the Higher Learning Commission gave it a show cause order, but the commission concluded by February 2011 that the institution had addressed its concerns. But quarterly reports filed by the institution triggered new concerns last February, leading to the new show cause order.

Chancellor University officials told Crain's Cleveland Business that the institution would get through the current crisis as it did two years ago. “Every member of the leadership team and the board of trustees would swear in a court of law, on the Bible and the U.S. Constitution that this institution is significantly better than it was when it got off show-cause” last time, President Robert Daugherty told the newspaper.
 

Fund Raisers Project 5.9% Increase in Gifts

Fund raisers for schools, colleges and universities project that final numbers from the 2011-12 year will show a 4.9 percent gain in contributions, while 2012-13 will show a 5.9 percent gain, according to a survey by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. In terms of projections for next year, public four-year institutions are projecting gains of 6.5 percent, while private four-year institutions and community colleges are both projecting gains of 6.1 percent. Private schools are projecting an increase of only 5.1 percent.

Fisk Art Deal Is Final

After years of litigation, Fisk University has finalized a deal to sell a half share in its renowned art collection to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, The Tennessean reported. Fisk will receive $74 million to give the museum the right to display the art for two-year periods, rotating with periods in which the art will reside at Fisk. Many in the art world have criticized Fisk for selling the collection, which was donated by Georgia O'Keeffe in 1949, with a request that it never be sold. Fisk, a financially troubled historically black college, has said that it needs the money to stabilize its budget.

 

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NACUBO agenda for public universities dominated by efficiency and revenue growth

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Potential new revenue sources and “institutional effectiveness” initiatives dominated the agenda for public universities at the annual meeting of business officers.

Urban College Will Stay Open This Fall

Urban College, a two-year institution in Boston that serves low-income and immigrant women, will stay open for the fall, The Boston Globe reported. The college had been on the verge of closing, but has received enough donations to assure operations for the fall semester, while efforts continue to place the institution on a more stable financial footing.

 

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