Wayne A. I. Frederick, president of Howard University, last month sent an appeal to alumni on behalf of 180 seniors who were on track academically to graduate this month, but who would be blocked from doing so because they owed money to the university. The Washington Post reported that Frederick described the seniors' circumstances (hometowns, majors, grades and debts) without giving their names. Their balances ranged from $313.50 to $27,871.75. The students collectively owed about $380,000 when Frederick sent out the appeal. So far the university has received $160,000 in response.
For three years, Cheyney University failed to meet its requirements to track federal student aid awarded to its students, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. Colleges and universities are required to do such tracking to make sure students are eligible, and Cheyney could have to repay funds for which it can't document student eligibility. Just under $50 million in aid awards was not tracked, and that process has now started. It is unclear how much the university could owe. Cheyney, a historically black college in Pennsylvania, is already facing significant financial problems.
A California jury has rejected a class action against the California State University System over a 2009 tuition increase, City News Service reported. Students challenged the increase as illegal since they had already paid tuition. But the university argued that it had warned repeatedly of the possibility of tuition increases as the state imposed deep cuts in appropriations for higher education.
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 Newsreported. 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.
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.
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.
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, Newsminer.com 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.
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 Postreported 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.