Panel of anthropologists discuss student debt, other concerns about higher ed at annual meeting

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Anthropologists discuss student debt and other concerns about the "commodification" of higher education, and debate role of faculty members in reform efforts.

Jimmy Carter Calls Out Yale Response to Sexual Assaults

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, speaking at Yale University forum on Tuesday, criticized that institution for how it has addressed sexual assault cases. 

Responding to a question about how students should organize to fight racial, economic, and sexual inequalities, Carter said that Yale was one of several institutions that "has been identified by the Department of Education as being a problem" with regard to sexual assault cases. 

He then cited a Huffington Post report from last year that said the university in 2013 found six students guilty of "nonconsensual sex" but did not expel any of them. 

"You can just warn a boy and chastise him. That doesn't help," Carter said. "Expulsion is a very difficult thing for universities to accept as a policy." 

Yale President Peter Salovey, who was moderating the forum, said that the university was "working hard on this issue" and seeking student input. "I think our policies and procedures have changed over the last year or two," Salovey added. 

(An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that President Carter said Yale was under federal investigation for its handling of sexual assault cases. In fact, Yale is not currently being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education for sexual assault. The university in 2012 entered into an agreement with the government to resolve a Title IX investigation relating to sexual discrimination.)


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Report: State Disinvestment Fuels Student Debt

Student-loan borrowing at public institutions has increased the most in states where government support for higher education has declined, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress. In states with the largest per-student decline in funding, for example, median student borrowing increased by $1,781 between 2008 and 2012. The center called for federal investment, matched by money from states, to help curb increasing student debt levels.

U.S. Will Explore New Loan Servicing Models, Official Says

The U.S. Department of Education plans to explore new approaches to how it services federal student loans, a top official said Monday.  Undersecretary of Education Ted Mitchell, addressing a Federal Student Aid conference in Atlanta, suggested that the government may move away from its current system -- or at least elements of it -- of contracting with four companies to manage payments for the bulk of its federal student loan portfolio.

"Given our extensive experience with the current multi-servicer, multi-system, contract model, we are particularly interested in hearing about alternative approaches," Mitchell said in prepared remarks posted on the department's website. The department last week formally solicited public input on its loan servicing system.

He said that the department is considering stopping loan servicing companies -- like Navient (a spin-off of Sallie Mae), Nelnet, Great Lakes and Pheaa -- from promoting their own brands when they manage payments for federal loan borrowers.

The Education Department, which has been under fire from consumer groups, unions, other federal agencies, and some Senate Democrats over loan servicing issues, had previously defended its approach to managing payments for the growing share of borrowers who have federal direct loans.

James Runcie, the chief operating officer of the Federal Student Aid office, told Congressional lawmakers in March that the department was satisfied with the current model of having loan servicing companies compete among themselves for a share of federal loans.

Mitchell also said Monday that the department plans to establish in the coming months a new system for receiving consumer complaints. He said that officials would draw upon existing complaint systems at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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Shift for national free-college group, which wants to bolster local programs

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National "free tuition" group changes its name and pitch with plan to support state and city tuition scholarships while continuing to push on the federal level.

Rep. Kline Will Again Lead House Education Committee

U.S. Representative John Kline of Minnesota, the Republican who leads the House education committee, will keep that post in the next Congress.

As was expected, Kline's Republican colleagues voted Wednesday to officially name him as the committee's chair for the next two years.

Kline said in a statement that "strengthening higher education" was among the "national priorities that will remain at the forefront of the committee's agenda."

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Two Democrats criticize Obama administration for helping colleges avoid default rate penalties

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The top Democrats on the U.S. Senate and House education committees hit the Obama administration over decision to lower some colleges' default rates, allowing them to avoid sanctions.

Research Universities Will Conduct Sex Assault Survey

The association representing the nation’s leading research universities said Friday that it planned to develop and administer a sexual assault climate survey for its members, in part to fend off efforts in Congress to mandate such surveys. The Association of American Universities said that it had hired a research firm to design a survey that its 60 U.S. member institutions may choose to have conducted on their campuses next April. The group plans to then publicly report the “cumulative results” from those surveys.

AAU President Hunter Rawlings said in a statement that the surveys were aimed both at helping inform university decision-making on campus sexual assault issues and also at preempting efforts by the federal government to force colleges to conduct the surveys. “[W]e have been deeply concerned about the possibility of Congress or the administration mandating that campuses conduct a government-developed survey,” he said. “Such an initiative would likely be a one-size-fits-all survey that would provide potentially misleading data, given the extraordinary diversity of higher education in our country, and would not reliably assess the campus culture on this issue.”

A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators, led by Senators Claire McCaskill and Kirsten Gillibrand, have proposed requiring all colleges to conduct such surveys and post the results publicly for prospective students and families to see.

Victims advocacy groups have pushed for campus climate surveys, which they say more precisely gauge the prevalence of sexual violence, which often goes unreported.

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Thurgood Marshall Fund Partners With U. of Phoenix

The Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the University of Phoenix this week announced an alliance through which students at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) will be able to take online courses from the for-profit chain to supplement their on-campus studies. Phoenix and the scholarship fund will subsidize the online courses so participating students at HBCUs will not have to pay more than their usual, semester-based tuition and fees. "This opportunity will give HBCUs access to online learning not previously available,” said Johnny C. Taylor Jr., the fund's president and CEO, in a written statement.

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Average student debt across the country again ticked up in 2013, new report says

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Average debt of college students with loans again ticked up last year; bachelor's degree recipients at public and private nonprofit institutions left with average debt of $28,400, up 2 percent. 


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