Indiana U. Increases Minimum Wage

Indiana University announced Thursday that it will increase the minimum wage paid to university employees to $8.25 an hour, up from the current minimum of $7.25, the federal minimum wage. About 8,750 employees at Indiana campuses -- many of them students -- currently are paid minimum wage. "Indiana University depends on the hard work of many part-time and temporary employees on all our campuses, and this much-deserved pay increase is one way we can recognize their important contributions to the success of IU," said President Michael A. McRobbie. "Many of these employees also are students at IU, and increasing their pay is consistent with our commitment to student affordability and accessibility."

Survey Finds Gender Divide on Students' Financial Literacy

A new survey has found that male students outperformed their female counterparts on financial literacy aptitude questions but reported behavior that was less financially responsible overall.  The results of the survey of 65,000 first-year students at four-year institutions were released in a report on Tuesday. The report, which was funded by Ever Fi and Higher One, calls for more robust financial literacy education programs. 
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Duncan Defends Ratings System to Congress

Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Tuesday defended the Obama administration’s proposed college ratings system to several Republican lawmakers, who criticized the plan. Testifying before the House appropriations subcommittee that oversees the department’s budget, Duncan said that the college ratings system was needed to provide students with better information and to provide more accountability for taxpayer money. The department’s 2015 fiscal year budget request seeks $10 million to help develop the ratings system.

 “I question whether this is the best use of taxpayer dollars and whether higher education resources could be better-focused on federal student aid or other established programs,” said Representative Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee, a Republican.

Representative David Joyce, an Ohio Republican, cited a December poll that found a majority of college presidents doubted the administration’s proposal would be effective in making college more affordable.

Duncan reiterated that the administration’s goal in creating a ratings system is to make sure that federal student aid money is well-spent. “Taxpayers spend 150 billion each year in grants and loans,” he said. “Virtually all of that is based on inputs. Almost none of that is based on outcomes.” Department officials have previously said they plan to produce a draft outline of the ratings system by the end of this spring.

Separately, Duncan also sidestepped a question about whether college athletes should have the right to unionize. Echoing the remarks he made in an interview last month prior to a preliminary ruling in favor of Northwestern football players, Duncan said Tuesday he was concerned that athletic coaches’ salaries do not provide the proper incentives for academic performance. 

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House Democrats Propose Student Loan Refinancing

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representative on Wednesday unveiled their response to the Republican 2015 fiscal year budget released last week by Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

The plan by Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, would, among other things, authorize a student loan debt refinancing program and expanded loan repayment options.

The budget does not include any details about how those programs would be structured, but it would require them to not increase the deficit over the next 5 or 10  years. Both House budget proposals are largely symbolic political documents aimed at rallying voters in an election year, especially since Congress in December already agreed to top-line spending levels for the fiscal year that begins this October 1.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan is set to testify before the House appropriations panel to discuss the administration’s budget proposal on Tuesday. 

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Study shows positive imapcts of government aid on graduation rates

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Study finds that government grants have a positive impact on the graduation rates of low-income students, but unsubsidized loans counter that impact.

Education Department releases default data on controversial Parent PLUS loans

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For first time, the Education Department has released default rate data about the program, as debate continues about how strict eligibility requirements should be. 

Education Department rulemaking panel OKs new set of campus safety rules

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A rule making panel reached unanimous agreement on a proposed update to Clery Act regulations. Under the plan, colleges would have to expand crime reporting and provide sex assault prevention programs. 

Ryan Budget Calls for Cuts to Pell Grant, Elimination of NEH

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House Republicans unveil their 2015 budget proposal, which calls for a 10-year freeze on the maximum Pell Grant and would eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities. 

Education Department official defends agency's loan servicing contracts

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Several Senate Democrats had pointed questions for the Education Department over how it oversees the companies that manage student-loan borrowers’ payments.

Report: Federal Aid Rules Stall Competency Education

Federal student aid is not conducive to competency-based education, according to a new report, because the current system is designed to fund education that occurs within structured, discrete time periods. Mastering competencies, however, can happen outside of the credit-hour standard or through learning that lacks designated start and end dates. Stephen R. Porter, a professor of education at North Carolina State University, wrote the report, which the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funded. In the report Porter calls for "thoughtful experimentation" with federal aid programs to test the promise of competency-based education.


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