Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced a series of college affordability proposals for the state on Monday.
The proposals include legislation that would eliminate caps on tax deductions for student loan interest, a move the governor's office claims would save borrowers in the state $5.2 million annually. Other measures include $500,000 annually toward grants for technical college students over the next two years as well as establishing $450,000 in emergency grants for technical and community college students who find themselves with unexpected financial need.
Other proposed legislation includes two bills that would create more internships in state departments and a bill that would require public colleges and universities to provide financial literacy training for students in their first trimester.
The proposals come after Wisconsin last year adopted a biennial budget that cut higher education funding $250 million. They also come during the fourth consecutive year of a mandatory tuition freeze, which Walker's office says has saved Wisconsin students $6,311 on average.
A University of Missouri at Columbia task force is recommending better pay for graduate assistants, increased access to housing and child care for graduate students, and more shared governance, along with other improvements, theColumbia Daily Tribune reported. The news follows months of turmoil on campus over climate concerns and the news in August that the university was eliminating health insurance subsidies for graduate students because they did not comply with the Affordable Care Act. The health care changes were soon suspended, and a task force on graduate students' concerns picked up the issue.
The task force, formed by Leona Rubin, associate vice chancellor for graduate studies at the request of Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin (who has since resigned), looked at three things: quality-of-life issues for graduate students, nonacademic resources and academic experiences. Its newly issued report recommends the university increase minimum stipends for graduate students with 20-hour appointments to $18,000 annually by 2020, whereas some students currently make as little as $14,000, according to the Tribune.
U.S. Representative Tom Reed, a New York Republican who has been critical of the financial policies of colleges and universities with large endowments, has drafted legislation to act on his concerns. Bloomberg reported that his draft bill would require colleges with endowments greater than $1 billion to spend at least 25 percent of endowment income on financial aid or risk losing their tax-exempt status. There are currently nearly 100 colleges and universities that would be covered by the legislation. Higher education leaders have generally opposed regulation of their endowments, and Reed told Bloomberg he expected lobbying efforts against his bill to intensify.
The Federal Reserve Board and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. last month ordered Higher One to repay millions of dollars to students who had financial aid disbursement accounts with the company and to pay a $2.2 million fine for what the government agencies called deceptive practices. Higher One has been under increasing federal and state scrutiny in recent years for fees it charges to students and for how clearly it makes its fees and policies known to consumers, and the latest findings by the two federal agencies add to its woes.
Legislators in 10 states will announce today that they are introducing bills in their respective legislatures to create debt-free options in public higher education. The effort is part of a push by backers of the idea -- already endorsed by the major candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination -- to demonstrate the state-level interest that would be necessary. The plans of the Democratic candidates all call for state-federal partnerships. Among the states that will see bills are early caucus/primary states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.